Why I'm Not Adding Self-Care To My To-Do List
I’m publishing this post because I just needed to write to you today. I needed to sit here with my mug of tea and check in. For years blogging has been the space in which I process things and work them out. Lately, my writing has taken new directions which has been incredible in lots of ways. I just miss this space.
So here I am.
I guess I got creatively blocked in a very specific way. I lost confidence in myself and I just stopped writing in a personal, free form kind of way. I practiced a little over on my Instagram and my monthly newsletter is pretty vulnerable but I realised today that all my writing had become deadlines. Deadlines are good because deadlines mean that someone like me is getting paid to write. I write as a queer woman. I write as a survivor. I write as someone who was too damn poor to feed herself some days as a single parent. So while I’m jumping for joy that I’m getting my words out there, the therapeutic hug I have always felt from pouring words into my blog just stopped. Abruptly.
So I started writing just for the sake of writing again this week and the reason is really simple: I need it. If I want a body of work that best represents the stories only I can tell? I need to exercise that muscle and write, write and write. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this but sometimes, fulfilling our greatest dreams and just committing to getting it done isn’t enough. We have to overcome personal obstacles, barriers and unforeseen bumps in the road. I guess if not, the world would be full of achingly rich, emotionally aware folk who smashed their personal goals in their early twenties. What I see instead is a lot of us still floundering around in our 30, 40s and beyond. Getting to grips with yourself is hard work it turns out.
I have been holding a mental health condition for the best part of 8 years now so words aren’t always my friend. Sometimes there’s an oppressive silence that I can’t find my way out of. Sometimes words are so in my face I can’t pick one at all. Processing the impact of depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder has meant that I finally understand why my brain does that- I’m in survivor mode. Of course I can’t concentrate on anything else! If I manage a deadline I should be patting myself on the back like I just ran a marathon to be honest. I’m wrangling myself back into a place of continuity and stability after years of my brain offering me the only viable option: hide under your bed until the scary goes away. Then possibly pick up a pint of milk.
You Can't Manifest Your Way Out of a Mess (I tried)
All too often we think if we just are mindful enough, we can heal ourselves and fix all our funny quirks and painful little ways. I’ve come to realise that after almost 9 months of therapy, it’s not mindfulness that’s going to heal my wounds. That’s ok. I will continue to do the long walks and bake the cakes and just enjoy those for what they are: pleasantness at a time when everything else is a mess. I don’t need to add feeling like I’m not doing enough mindful activity to achieve my dreams to my to-do list each day as well. My to-do list is kind of long enough already. Cake is a friendly bonus.
Healing is a mess and it’s certainly not linear. It’s not the bath we run or the candles we light. Sure, that may well be a part of my self-care but mostly my self-care is squirming uncomfortably in a room every week with a woman who pulls things out of me that need to be laid bare. It’s reading some pretty challenging books. It’s getting it wrong and being sad that I grazed my knees when I did. It’s learning to say things out loud. It’s also learning to hold things in. It’s also trashing the phrase self-care if it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough to ‘save’ myself. No amount of journaling or affirmations are going to make me manifest myself into a place of awesome mental health. For me, that requires medication and a specialist. The rest is just a supporting structure that nourishes me enough so that it might actually stick.
All of that is tiring so how do you even write down something coherent at a time like that? How do you write something that isn’t gazing adoringly at your own navel because focusing inwards is probably a fairly good survival strategy in that moment? I guess we all need to allow ourselves that indulgence momentarily and trust we will come back. We have to get to a place where we can accept that humans are just messy and contradictory and sometimes disappointing. They’re also magical and inspiring too so trust the journey I guess. If I want to be a better human, a little centering is going to be necessary to get me to a place where I can be empathetic to another. (I like that sentence so much I should write that in a journal somewhere.)
So, hi. I’m checking in. I’m letting you know that this processing and figuring things out is something I’m doing very consciously. I’m also sharing it in spaces so maybe we can all start to understand that staying grounded can be tough and we will get it wrong. Let’s touch base again soon ok?
If you’re missing my writing here, you might wish to check out what I’m hosting on Patreon- there’s even an essay collection on its way. Both this month and next month, I’ll be releasing one essay from this body of work. The body of work is me forming a writing habit again so I can write more substantial pieces of work. I’m not sure if I’m going to publish it publicly right now but I have decided that every Patreon subscriber gets access to it should they wish. People request more from me all the time- more info, more resources, more writing and that’s cool. I just need to be cautious that in delivering that, I don’t devour my time to build a writing career that I get paid for. So hop on over if you want more. More is good not greedy. Let’s be indulgent.