I thought about waiting until next week to post this, but since I didn’t have a Mindful Monday post for you yesterday…I have decided to give it to you today, on Tuesday. This won’t be the norm, but I’ve been trying to write this particular one for months and I was finally able to do so last night.
If you follow the online mental-health community at all, I’m sure you’ve seen the debate:
Self-Care is bubble baths and soft music and wine and makeup.
#1 is bullshit, because when you’re depressed you don’t even want to brush your teeth, let alone put on pretty striped socks and write pastel quotes in your journal.
I’ve seen both arguments–and the fights can get pretty intense. So who is right?
What IS Self-Care?
To me, there are two separate types of self-care: Desperation and Maintenance. They look very different, but both are important for our mental health.
For those of us with depression, absolutely–sometimes #1 up there is definitely bullshit. (But only sometimes. We’ll get to that later.) We play a game with our bladder to see who can hold out the longest…and we never ever win. We go days without brushing our teeth or hair. And when we do go into the bathroom–hell NO are we turning the lights on because there is a MIRROR in there. Showers are either our enemy or best friend. The energy it takes to get in might kill us…but once in we are never getting back out again–SHIT, the hot water just ran out…meh, who cares?!
Bottom line, Self-Care is hard when depressed, but that is when we need it most. How do we make ourselves do it, then?
I was lucky–my husband checked on me constantly. I also have a supreme sense of obligation and routine. For others, I’ve seen trails of Tumblr reminders simply saying “drink water” or “take your medicine.” To outisders of our community, it probably seems silly, but those posts do help. Watch out for them. Set reminders on your phone. Take a gulp of water every time a Netflix episode ends.
And don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to stay hydrated, and eat something. But if you don’t shower today, it isn’t the end of the world–there’s always tomorrow.
Congratulations! You have recovered from your episode and are now healthy. Everything will always be sunshine and rainbows forever, right? Psh, come on. We know better. Even during our good cycles, we are going to have bad days, and sometimes long weeks. Everyone does–even so called “neurotypicals.” That’s where maintenance Self-Care comes in–that’s right, #1. It’s not actually bullshit.
In fact, #1 is where I am right now. At least once a week, I try to take an hour for “Self-Care” time. I draw a bath, pop in a LUSH bath bomb, pour a glass of wine, and just soak. It’s my meditation. Sometimes I will read, or sing Hamilton at the top of my lungs. All of it works.
We all have stress in our everyday lives, and it is important to find ways to deal with them. If I did not deal with my anxieties in a soothing manner would build until I hit crisis point again. The longer I can hold that off, the better.
You might already have a maintenance method, but here are a few other suggestions I’ve picked up:
yoga, adult coloring books, walks in the park, window shopping (just be careful with your budget, esp those with spending addictions), reading (of course) in a quite coffee shop or pub (again, careful for those of you with addiction), running or other forms of exercise (I’m not a runner, but my husband loves this one), journaling
Self-Care is about getting you back to zero, to neutral, to where you can perform as you need to. Sometimes that care may be basic, sometimes it may be a treat. Either way, it should be all about YOU.