Self-care means different things to different people.
Soaking in a bubble bath with candles all around the tub, while classical music plays softly in the background used to come to mind when I heard self-care. That thought used to make me cringe. Now I see the term as a catch-all for activities that I choose, which give me joy and relief from anything bothering me.
How can self-care stand up to depression when it’s pushing me towards the abyss?
It is becoming clear that the act of choosing to do something for myself, is the most important part of self-care. Using the one thing I can control, namely my attitude towards events, makes self-care possible and therapeutic. By engaging in activities of my choosing, I am demonstrating to myself that I value myself. I am saying to myself, “you are important, and I need to show you the same love and care that I give to others.”
Valuing myself is not something that comes easy to me.
Worse, depression figured out how my early life of service to others could be used against me. Depression turned my compassion for others into an unhelpful thinking style designed to keep me from appreciating myself. Devaluing myself has been one of depression’s best tools to keep me in line.
Depression tells me that I am less important than others.
I should not expect to have friends, because they will double-cross me. Depression is always reminding me that it has figured out the best course of action for me. And secrecy, and isolation from others is the best way for me to go.
And for all my life, I have substituted chasing money for my own self-care.
Now depression says that there is some logic to that. Once I have sufficient money, then I can engage in proper self-care. Until then, I must forgo taking care of myself. I end up trading my immediate self-care for action that is supposed to generate self-care in the future.
On 5 East, the head psychiatrist asked me “when is enough, enough?”
Just one more certification, or one more side business? It is all the same. Depression gets me on that train of thought to distract me from my own self-care. If, then thinking, can ruin my today and make me feel guilty for even thinking about my own self-care.
Once I make more money, then I can afford to think about my own self-care.
Last night during my therapy session, I discovered that I have always tried to monetize things I have done. If it brings me some sort of satisfaction, then I should be able to monetize it. And once the business is successful, then I can think about myself. Until then, I escape from my life into whatever side business I am running at the time.
Doing something just for me, without trying to make money doing it, has not been a thing for me.
I love writing. And I am using my writing to work out my relationship with depression. When I began this over 2 1/2 years ago, I promised myself that I would not hold anything back. That I would honestly write about my struggles and successes.
And I have written out my feelings, not just recorded the facts.
The fact that my “journal” is written as a public blog on my own website has not kept me from writing what I feel. Only once or twice over the past 440 posts have I had to remind me that my goal is to work out my relationship with depression. It is not just to report the facts.
Sharing how depression makes me feel has not been easy.
Yet doing so has helped me to discover strengths that I did not know I even had. If I had continued to listen to depression, I would have swept this last episode under the rug and gone ahead as if nothing had happened. The day I went to the emergency room, I advocated for myself to be admitted, while the ER doctors thought I should just go home.
My high-functioning depression almost kept me from getting professional help.
Occasionally I get comments from readers about my writing. They see themselves in what I have written. Almost always, they indicate that they thought they were the only person to ever feel that way. Encouraging others was not the reason I started writing.
But I am grateful that others can get some benefit from my sharing.
My self-care is writing. I am not doing it to make money. While I have a few ads in one column of my website, I am not hawking the latest and greatest pill or treatment, or snake oil medicine that will miraculously cure your depression. I am just writing out my personal work to understand my relationship with depression. This is very new to me, doing something for myself only because it gives me satisfaction. But I am learning to appreciate it.