Recently, I experienced one of those tragedies that has the potential to undo a person. It’s the sort of thing that lands like a fog, inhabiting every empty space in one’s life. Clients said things like, “How are you still working?” and friends said things like “How are you still functioning?” And the honest answer was that I had no idea.
A few times in this process, a health care professional or good friend would say, “What are you doing to take care of you?” To be honest, this daunting question was even more irritating. To me, self-care has always had an undertone of pedicures and bubble baths. I haven’t run a bath for myself in at least a year, and the idea of parting with a full hour of a working day for something as silly as my pores was horrifying.
But I did emerge into a new routine, my life and my family in a completely new shape. As my daughter and I attempt to find our sea legs in these new waters, I’ve found that self-care is often about the tourniquet you place on the wound, so you can have time to heal later.
That means that sometimes self-care is the shower you spend in tears. Sometimes self-care is deciding to check your bank account and make sure it still reads positive. Sometimes self-care is deciding to do a load of laundry so you feel great tomorrow.
Certainly, there’s long term self-care, serving to help a mostly-well person not lose their energy and passion. But sometimes you’ve already lost it, and crawling out of that hole can be terrifying. Here are some things I did to survive, that can help you too:
1) Choose one thing. What one simple thing could you do today to save you time and energy and worry? Do you spend countless time sorting through you file cabinet looking for a particular file? Maybe spend ten minutes organizing your folders.
2) Be kind to future-you. It’s easy to sink deeply into the big, awful hurt. But if you do nothing tonight, you’ll wake up to an empty fridge tomorrow. That won’t make future-you happy. So take a moment to think about future-you as someone worth your care and concern. You are, after all.
3) Be honest with someone. If you’re like me, there are few spaces where you don’t want to feel confident and in control. But you need advocates right now. You need people to check in. You need people to drop off soup and offer hugs. Go ahead; you’ll be that person for them next time they need it.
4) Be honest with a professional. Sometimes counseling, medication, or another therapy may be needed to push over the hump. There’s no glory in avoidance and there’s not heroism in silence. Reach out.
5) Do one nice thing. Do you love tea? Make a cup. Make it, and then just sit down and drink it. Don’t drink tea? Pour wine, water, beer, juice, coffee, or (my fave) a Pellegrino. Remember you deserve nice things. Remember you deserve the pause. Steel yourself. This isn’t getting easier just yet, but you’re tough, and you’ll survive.