Good morning dear one,
Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?
The funny thing about self-care is that you do it all the time even if you don’t call it that. If you’re a living adult not hooked up to life support you’ve been engaging in self-care every day, and like a lot of people you may suck at it.
In your case of course there are considerations beyond being too busy. Having a chronic illness, invisible or otherwise, makes positive self-care way harder just like it makes everything way harder.
Like I said last time, you’re not “normal,” and can’t be. Comparing your own level of self-care to those who are able to function at “normal” levels is not just pointless, it’s toxic; and even if you were of average ability there are always going to be people who can accomplish a thousand things before breakfast and seem to float around the planet in a state of perfect health.
I guarantee those people have problems you can’t see – even the most “together” person gets the shit kicked out of her by life now and then. But you can’t know what other people are dealing with any more than they know what you’re dealing with, so there’s no use in feeling like a failure if your life isn’t an endless Instagram feed of vintage-filtered adventure and kale smoothies that somehow don’t taste like bong water.
You have to pick your battles, especially when things are bad. For a fully able person self-care might include hours of exercise and fresh home-cooked meals every night and weekly mani-pedis. But that’s not you. Besides, you don’t like people touching your feet.
Those Pinterest-friendly lists of “10 ways to practice self-care” aren’t gospel. Fuck spa night! You can barely get out of bed! Again – don’t set yourself up to fail using someone else’s standards.
However, even on bad days, there are ways to do better by yourself.
Start with the absolute basics.
Say you’re lying in bed, paralyzed by the relentless gravity of your own mind, and you know it’s going to be one of those days.
You know what? That’s okay. The world will not end. Forget the rest of the world and focus on keeping your heart beating another day so that when the weight on your chest begins to lighten you’re still here to see the color come back into the world. You don’t have to try and force it – you know that won’t work anyway. All the “positive thinking” in the world won’t turn the planet faster. It’s okay.
It really is okay.
Eventually you’re going to have to pee, though, and that’s a good place to start. After you’re done, wash your hands, then wash your face. Just a bit of water – it’ll help get the sleep gunk and tear residue out of your eyes. That’s it. Just wash your face.
It’s possible this will make you want to brush your teeth. If so, go ahead. If not, that’s fine too, go back to bed. You might not do anything else today, but you did do that.
Next time you get up, eat something. Screw “healthy,” just find something to put in your belly; I’d recommend keeping a stash of something that you know will be there if all else fails. Don’t try to cook – sometimes even the microwave is too much to deal with. On days like this having too many options or too many steps is only going to get you stuck. Find something you can open and eat.
The idea isn’t to try and make yourself feel “better” so much as to make the day a little more bearable.
So don’t choke down a salad or some cardboard-ass tasting protein bar if you don’t enjoy those things. Don’t punish yourself with things you “should” want. Don’t make some “happy thoughts” playlist to force on yourself when you’re drowning. Don’t force yourself to list things you’re grateful for and then feel like a shitty person when you realize you don’t feel grateful for anything right now.
Days like this suck giant hairy goat balls, and you don’t have to feel grateful. Don’t worry about trying to magically shift your mind into a better place. This isn’t a self-help problem. If you had the flu would you consider yourself a failure of a human being? Well, your brain has the flu.
Don’t punish yourself for being ill.
Don’t think “transform” or “fix”.
Think “be gentle.” Think “be kind.”
When you’re feeling better you can work on bigger changes. Like I said, there are things you can do that will help bad days like this come less often, and ways to support your body and mind to give you more resilience when they do come. Wellness is holistic and depends on the interaction of a lot of moving parts, some of which are beyond your control and many of which are not. But those are not concerns for the bad days themselves.
You can be as pissed at yourself as you want for putting off that flu shot, but once you’re actually sick your focus is no longer on prevention, but treatment.
You know those days will happen again – instead of living in constant dread, think of how you can prepare for them better, minimize their disruptive power. You probably can’t stop them, and even predicting them can be a fool’s errand, but you can prepare.
Remember: Kindness. How can you be just a little kinder to yourself on bad days?
Let’s not overcomplicate things – you don’t need some 5-step plan or even a plan, per se, at all; start with just one thing. Think of one thing you could do to make a bad day feel less awful. Wash your face. Put on warmer clothes. Light a stick of incense to make the room smell nicer.
Seem pointless? Look at it this way:
When you’re at your lowest, how do you feel? You feel abandoned, alone. Like the entire world and God above have all left you to bleed to death slowly in the corner of a cold, dark room. Worst of all you feel like you deserve it. Like there’s something so fundamentally broken about you that nothing good or loving should touch you.
Of course none of this is true. But it’s not logical thought that got you here and it’s not logical thought that will get you out. What you need is to feel loved in a way you can accept. We’re not talking hugs and therapy sessions. We’re talking a tiny concrete gesture that tells you, “I love you, and I will not abandon you.” Just a small something to get you through.
Sometimes just that one thing will start a chain reaction that will make a huge difference. Sometimes it won’t and you’ll just go back to bed. But the important thing is that you made it clear to yourself that you were worth caring for, and that you do care.
As they say, if you don’t think tiny things make a difference, try sleeping in a tent with a mosquito.
Buzz buzz buzz…