The good news is that my psychiatrist supported my decision to taper off one of my medications immediately. The bad news is that in order for her to get behind discontinuing the other, maybe a month from now, she wants me to increase my (don’t throw up now) self-care *gag*. Damned holes in my pants totally sabotaged my plans.
I hate the word self-care. I feel about it the way lots of people feel about the word moist.
It’s not because I do not believe in it. I do. I’ve learned its necessity over the years of managing my illness and, you know, being a human being — but because it has the word self in it. And that word makes me think selfish, something I am terrified of being called, mostly because I am. I hate the word self-care because I am afraid I will be found out, accused, and all the things that make my life feel tolerable will be snatched away. I prefer the word the “maintenance”, but it’s not catching on.
Self-care with children feels especially shameful. Here you have these tiny, helpless people, forever hungry, damp, and half clothed, and you are supposed to take the time to put on a new outfit? I frequently cannot get all my own children’s faces free from carrot stains and boogers at the same time, how am I ever to rid myself of guilt long enough to exfoliate my own?
I am excellent at telling other people what they need to do in order to feel better, to do their work, to be present to themselves and the people in their lives. But for whatever reason I seem to require multiple professionals and post-it notes to drill it into my own head. My husband has pushed me hard on self-care over the last year, since we had our third daughter. I try not to let myself believe it is because I have become a disgusting slob. He looks me in the face and says, “You are as important as our children.” My therapist, and now my psychiatrist, have to shove me hard in this direction, too, and so I try very hard to listen.
Here are some of the things I know that I need:
As an attachment parenting, co-sleeping, homeschooling mother of three little girls, this is the most stretching thing for our family. When my mental health fell apart earlier this year, it became abundantly clear that we needed to devote more resources to SPACE for my mind and physical body. We rearranged our mornings to allow for me to have a solid hour alone (which is how this blog exists) and our finances to give us our favorite babysitter for two hours three times a week so that I can sit in my burgeoning studio and go to therapy.
Pen and paper.
A permanent fixture in my life. I need to have a notebook on hand day in and day out. I write to think, to communicate, to relieve stress, to plan, to process, to entertain myself. I would call writing my primary form of self care.
A clean face.
Sometimes I feel like my face is shrinking and will swallow my entire body. This sensation is incredibly unpleasant, so avoiding it is nice. Also, sunspots that look like a map of the world on my forehead. This is actually one of the hardest things for me to do every day. It feels like pampering, but I know my future self will be so pissed if I don’t do this. Unless my future self is a sailor lost at sea with with only a mirror.
We have covered this in depth, and I’m sure I will never shut up about it, so maybe I’ll spare you today.
Like many other mothers of little kids, and busy people in general, I frequently go all day without sitting down to eat. I require my kids to sit at the table. I make healthy, multi course meals for their sweet little bodies and often light the candles on the table and put on fancy music while I stand in the kitchen scooping almond butter out of the jar with my fingers, eating olives out of the can. Then I wonder why I cry and shove bars of dark chocolate in my face while chugging almond milk out of carton at 4pm, like a fine lady.
Every human is sensitive to the type and amount of food in their bodies. As a person trying hard to maintain a very strict nutritional protocol in lieu of medication, advance planning and thoughtful execution is an extremely important part of my self care. I’ve done this for many years and like to consider myself an expert, so it feels like I should be able to just wing it, but you know what? THAT IS SO DUMB.
A clean kitchen.
Nothing makes a person want to just eat out of jars and give up on domestic life more than a sink full of day old dirty dishes.
And so, these, along with my ever present Life Rules (which yes, I am linking to again because I need permanent reminders of those, too), are the things I am continuing to work on while my brain and body (forever and always) heal.
What do you do for “maintenance”?
Also, where am I going to get a new permanent outfit?