On the surface, the term self-care seems straight-forward.
I Googled® the definition just to be sure my assessment of self-care was in line with general notions. Based on this definition, I feel I understand what the idea of self-care is all about.
- the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
“autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
- the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
“expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”
So why do I struggle with self-care?
Last year, as I first learned how to think about and practice self-care, I struggled with the concept. The term self-care seemed so selfish and counter to how I was brought up. I thought my role was to take care of others. I still struggle with the idea. And this way of thinking has built walls that separate me from my true feelings about always taking care of others.
Taking care of myself sounds more positive and less needy.
Maybe that is my issue with the whole self-care idea. It is not that I do not believe in it or that I do not practice self-care. Since I was 12 years old, I have been playing golf. I have fished since I was old enough to hold a fishing rod. My Uncle and I would get up early when we would go to his brothers’ cabin. He would row up the lake and back, with the early morning mist clinging to the surface of the lake.
Having a largemouth bass hit my lure after exploding out from under a lily pad, was the highlight of these trips.
Self-care obviously takes many forms. “Taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” Being less than ten years old, and being allowed to fish with the adults, certainly improved my health. I was on top of the world. Today I would classify this as a form of self-care. At the time, it was just a marvelous thing to be able to do. “Expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care.”
Depression always thinks I should dampen my expression, reduce my enthusiasm, and lessen my happiness.
It resents my efforts to take care of myself. Depression wants me to see the road ahead as one continuous struggle, where there is no time allowed for self-care. And while I have relented and given in to depressions demands over the years, I have also railed against them.
Exercising by running was a way I combated depression.
During my lost year, and within 30 days of starting, I was running several miles every day. My daily running was not unlike Forest Gump running. I think I even had a beard then, although it was not as massive and unkempt as Forest Gumps. Running, combined with yoga, was the key reason I was able to push depression into the background.
Practicing self-care then, ultimately pushed depression into a 15-year hiatus, where it wasn’t coming to visit.
These days, I am struggling to make the time for self-care. After being in the hospital for major depressive disorder, MDD, I am acutely aware of the importance of self-care. It’s that whole concept of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Growing up I thought I should just hold my breath and help as many people as possible before I ran out of air. Stopping even for a few seconds to put on my own oxygen mask seemed selfish. Heck, I still struggle with this. Selfish versus selfless. This leads to priorities and what should I do first?
This morning, my self-care challenge is whether to protect my own happiness.
I have wanted to take a road trip to purchase fireworks to set off over Labor Day. Even with COVID, my local family members can gather outside around a bonfire, roasting hot dogs and making smores. Capping the evening off with fireworks is a treat I thoroughly enjoy.
So, heading out for a good part of the day is one form of self-care.
Staying home, forgoing the fireworks shopping, could be another. This would allow me time on the tractor to mow the property. Recent rains have rekindled the growth of my grass. During the dry times this summer, mowing once every 10 days was plenty. With all the recent rain, I am getting on the tractor twice a week to mow.
If I go on the road trip, I will feel guilty, but staying home will still generate guilt.
There may be more going on than just self-care. Getting out my Change Triangle worksheets may be helpful to better see what is going on. In the end, I think I will go to get fireworks. The grass will still be there later today, and if I’m going to feel guilty anyway, I might as well have pyrotechnics for Labor Day.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn.
If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I very much appreciate your comments. I learn from them and respond to everyone.