Self Care has been a constant theme throughout my life. Obviously, as a child, I was a natural at self care, most privileged children are. Growing up, I had a wonderful self care role model. My mother always “looked after herself”, dressing her best and taking care of her skin, she was, and still is, an avid reader and foodie who loves a bit of indulgence here and there. Don’t get me wrong, my mum probably sacrificed way too much for us. As a born nurturer, she loves to take care of others, but there were moments when I was young that she would have “me time”, or treat herself, and I’m so grateful that I grew up witnessing that.
Self care is different for everyone. Personally, I’ve got a pretty extensive and varied repertoire when it comes to self care… journaling, meditation, crystals, baths, cups of tea, nature walks, skincare routines, regular exercise, nourishing food, and a pamper session whenever the budget allows. For my partner, self care consists of television, sleep ins, red wine and the odd KitKat. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to self care, as long as the person is doing what feels right for them.
My self care has changed throughout the years, depending on my budget, but I’ve usually been able to find creative ways of making it happen, making my own face masks from ingredients at home, long baths with candles and dreamy music, or taking a book and some homemade food for a picnic by myself. It wasn’t a constant routine, or dedicated time, just when I felt like it, really, so I didn’t really notice when it started to drop off.
I met a man who made me feel beautiful, treasured, special. I was a muse to him, fuelling his creative flow. He praised me constantly, marvelling at my beauty, my unique personality, building me up so high. “You don’t need to wear make up, you’re beautiful without it”, he’d say, and I’d think “wow! here’s someone who loves me for who I really am”. He’d praise me when I’d put on weight, saying there was “more of me to love”, that I could be any weight and he’d still love me, in fact, he preferred it. These probably sound like lovely, kind things to say, perhaps they would’ve been if it’d stopped there, but it continued, and I began to wear less make up, eat more food, and exercise less. According to him, the oracle cards I played with, and other spiritual activities I loved indulging in were silly “mumbo jumbo” stuff, so I hid them until I forgot about them. The friends I cherished “didn’t really have my best interests at heart”, so I would spend less and less time with them. He would tell me how much he loved my cooking, and would always come around for dinner, until it became a habit that I would cook for him, according to his taste, not mine. It got darker and more sinister, but I’m not ready to go into that just yet, other than to say that I was a big old mess.
I don’t blame him entirely, I was definitely responsible for allowing him into my life, and for giving him so much say over what I did. But as a young, impressionable woman who didn’t understand what gaslighting, manipulation, or emotional abuse were or how to avoid them, I don’t blame myself entirely either. It took many attempts for me to leave that relationship. He was an expert at reeling me back in, he’d done this before. Eventually, I managed to make the final break. For years afterwards I tried to repair the wounds, upping the self care so I could reconnect to the person inside that I’d lost sight of. I revelled in exploring the ends of myself, trying out different things, tuning into how I felt about each one and empowering myself in any way I could. I revisited old things I loved, things I’d forgotten about, and I got even deeper into the “mumbo jumbo” stuff than before.
I was feeling strong, powerful, centred. Until the next relationship. I fell into old patterns quickly and allowed myself to be dominated. All the parts of myself that I’d reunited with fell away and I became a shell of myself, catering to each and every whim of my partner. Unable to make any decisions for myself, from what I should do for a career, down to what I should wear, I consulted my partner. And then I became a mother. Self care was even harder then, I barely had any time for it, and with the pressure of being everything all at once for my baby and my husband, there was no time or space left for me. Mummy guilt was a serious and wretched thing, and self care just felt plain selfish. I fell quickly into a deep depression, became suicidal, and tried to check myself into a hospital. At that point, it was clear that something had to change.
Luckily I had a great network of friends, I’d also been working on my own business and as I gained confidence and “permission” from my friends to start looking after myself, I began the journey back to Casey. Self care became a huge priority… regular exercise, nourishing food, nights out with my friends… cafe time, alone with a book. Sometimes I had to fight for it, particularly a trip away with friends, but the more time I spent practising self care, the stronger, and healthier I became.
Self care enabled me to feel worthy. At first the feeling was guilt, not worth, but with enough practise and support from my friends I was able to overcome that. Nowadays, I know that if I’m feeling crappy it’s self care that I need to look at first, and usually I find that it’s dropped. It’s a constant juggle, a balancing act, meeting all my commitments and finding time for self care. Sometimes it feels impossible to manage, but whenever my self care drops too low, everything seems to fall to pieces and I can’t get anything done. I’ve made the mistake of reducing my self care enough times to know how important it is, and I’m really good at getting back on track with it now.
Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I’d not practised self care in my darkest days, whether I’d still be here today. I honestly believe that self care saved my life, so if you see someone who’s struggling, or if it’s you that’s finding it hard to hold on, please take the time to consider if a lack of self care is a factor.
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