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Self-care is not selfish

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to take care of yourself. About how important it is, how to do it, but also about the fact that self care is, in actuality, an act of selflessness.
For the longest time I, like many others, would always put others before myself. As a child I taught myself that perhaps that was the right thing to do. I would put myself last so that they may benefit. Even if it meant I would miss out or that I would suffer for it. I would do this everywhere. I would put others first in every relationship. In a class room or learning environment. At work. Even with strangers. Often times I would tell myself that I was simply being courteous or kind. When in fact I was only depriving myself of my own love. I was leaving myself wide open and vulnerable.
There were times when I tried to stand up for myself or put myself first in a situation in which I rightfully should have. But it always felt wrong. I felt as though I was the ‘bad guy’. I was always uncomfortable with confrontation. So much so that I would back down just to avoid it. This still happens. Even as a grown man, when I know that I am not in the wrong, I will surrender and apologise just so I didn’t upset the other person.
However in order to build the confidence to stand ones ground we must first look at how we treat ourselves at a more basic level. We must look at our surroundings. I recently did a survey of my bedroom and realised just how much stuff I had accumulated that I simply don’t need anymore. So I began a culling of my possessions. I had to be ruthless and decisive. All the while becoming regularly distracted by what I found. I also decided to treat myself. I have been working hard and often and felt as thought I deserved a treat. So I went and bought something which I’d had my eye on for  a while. I changed my diet and began exercising more.
In changing my environment, my lifestyle and my internal health I began to notice that my mood picked up and that my depression began to alleviate slightly. Even something as simple as allowing myself a night to kick back and eat something naughty has made a marked improvement in my overall happiness and stress.
But the largest, and most important, change is how much more and can help and be there for those around me. In caring for myself I am now able to care for others. As such it is possibly one of the kindest things you can do for others.
You can not pour from an empty cup.

Milly

I got you know you from the periphery, like a blog follower, or a fan learning about a singer through their songs. We were young- myself barely a teenager- and it was Karen’s party, my mother’s best friend.  You stood alone in the crowd. You were as silent as a flame and you wore only the colour of night, yet you stood out to me. An air of mystery surrounded you. Beauty. Look but don’t touch, you screamed, without words.

The next time I saw you was at the house of some people Karen knew. I don’t know who these people were to you, but you were staying there. Longer than they had expected. You didn’t have a home. I learnt that you were deaf, but unlike some deaf people, you did not speak.

Your name often came up at the table when Karen came round. You were the crazy friend. You did not like it when people left, and you had threatened to blow up your psychiatrist’s house. But when I turned nineteen and began therapy myself, I suddenly understood why. I understood what love can do to people. I understood what it is like to lose your only connection to the world. I understood how the mental health system can kill rather than save us. We were the people who the system could not help. We were looking for love and security in all the wrong places. We had been sucked in by a system built on glass and then spat out on the doorstep with our hearts clenched in our hands.

I was twenty two when we found ourselves in the same room once again, and you were in your late twenties. I trembled as I arrived at the Centre for Adult Education and pressed number four on the lift. My therapist also worked on the fourth floor of a building. Four was my number.  I found the room the support group was in but paused at the door before entering. Finally I took the plunge and quickly grabbed one of the chairs which were lined in a U-shape around the facilitator at the front. I wished I could just crawl into a hole and not come out. I didn’t know whether I wanted to wear the badge of BPD, and still wondered whether it was mine to wear. We were all strangers, united only by our insanity. Then you arrived in a wheelchair with your interpreter.

We sat together in the support group each month but we never acknowledged each other. I wasn’t sure if you recognised me. Then one day, just as unexpectedly as you popped into my life, Karen died. I went to the funeral and, once again, watched you from a distance as you, too, arrived.

I finally approached you at our support group and revealed that I knew you. You remembered my dad and his distinctive beard which makes him a natural candidate for Santa Claus at Christmas gigs. I wrote to you online. I told you I had found out where my therapist lived and wanted to go to her house. You were the only person who truly understood. You told me the local police knew you and warned me not to go down the same path.

You told me that you were unwell. I told you I hope you get better soon, as is our automatic instinct. You told me that you were not going to get better. You had tumours the size of golf balls all over your body, though to me you never lost your beauty. It was a degenerative illness that took your hearing and was soon going to take your life.

I still think of you and feel the urge to contact you sometimes. “Milly will understand”, I think. Then I realise you are probably dead.

The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, Lao Tzu said. I don’t know how long my own life will last. I have long felt I’m going to be someone who dies young too. People don’t understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness. We think people get unwell sometimes but then return to a normal baseline of wellness. Some people, though, sometimes get well but then return to their normal baseline of unwellness. There are many things I want to do, but my days are never as productive as I hope. It is exhausting just to get something out of the cupboard. I try to go to bed early and have a good night so I wake up ready to tackle the new day but I do not wake up refreshed. I start my day behind the minute I wake up. Some people just don’t get better. You, Milly, understood that. You, Milly, understood how meaningless the words “get well soon” are.

Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. That’s – that’s just an awful feeling.

Elijah Price (From the movie Unbreakable)

Although the character saying this is the antagonist of the story he makes a compelling point. Very few of us have the fortune of knowing our purpose.

I often think to myself that perhaps I don’t have a purpose. Even knowing that would offer me a freedom I don’t yet understand.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been feeling a professional sense of being lost. Rudderless in this ocean of darkness and confusion. Unable to glimpse even a beacon of hope. I drift through life without direction. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of what I think is light, but it always turns out to be a mirage, a reflection upon the water’s choppy surface. Whenever I see such a glimmer I also swim towards it, fighting against the current, wearing myself out, all the while knowing it’s just another reflection on the water. But I ignore myself. Tell myself I’m a liar as nd that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That this is the real thing. That it’s that direction, that purpose or sense of self-worth that I seek, that companionship or at least the ability to be happy in my own company. But my lesser self always wins. He always ends up clutching at the nothingness in the distance. Leaving us no more found only now all the more disappointed. Exhausted from fighting. Drained and burned out. The other me knows deep down tha tv if I knew there was no direction to find, no light to look for, then I could embrace my state of being perpetually adrift. I could no longer invest myself in these foolish ideas of finding something that doesn’t exist. Then perhaps I could stop being afraid of who I’m not or where I might end up.

But first I must convince him. The other me. The one who is constantly searching for a reason to exist.

Lost in time

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Everybody experiences depression differently. I know this. I don’t know how many others experience what I am about to talk about. But if they do then perhaps it may provide some sort of temporary comfort.
I feel as though time has simply just forgot about me. Either that or it no longer holds any relevance. One day just blurs into another. Even with my schedule of work, study, work, train, work etc. I try to make the most of my day. I try to be productive and make my day mean something. But to no avail. Continue reading “Lost in time”

Intellectual Connection

I’ve been isolated lately. I can handle being alone for long periods but eventually it begins to grate on me. It’s not so much an emotional connection that I am missing when I isolate myself but an intellectual one. That’s not to say that a sense of friendliness or comraderie is not appreciated when I interact with people but there is a greater need at my core. Continue reading “Intellectual Connection”

People pleasing does no one any good

I have long believed that I am helping other people by telling them what they want or expect to hear. I will show them emotion that I do not truly feel, and constantly give them validation while I meanwhile invalidate myself and my own feelings. It has left me sadder, lonelier and angrier than ever, but what I have not realised until now is that, in the end, it often just hurts them as well. This is the truth that never occurs to many people pleasures. While well-intended, people pleasing really does no one any good.

Six years ago I was in a very unrequited relationship with a man I met when I started university. I made the mistake of telling him I loved him, when really I didn’t know the meaning or impact of those words. He ran with those words and they propped up all his fantasies about us. He got more and more attached to a closeness that wasn’t really there and to a person who didn’t really exist, and in the end it broke his heart terribly. I now find myself in a similar situation where I am hanging onto words and promises I don’t know whether this person meant. It is cruel to get your hopes up over something that is not going to happen. I’d rather people not be nice to me than say flowery things which have no substance. Realising what people pleasing does to both parties, I’m hoping I will be better able to speak my true feelings and resist the temptation to say things I don’t mean. I am starting to really admire people who are blunt, make it clear right from the start where you stand with them, and are bold enough to speak their truth, even if it risks offending others. They may not get credit for it but their bluntness is, in many ways, one of the kindest things they can do for us.

I’m no poet. I can’t paint with words. Can’t cast imagery or create art out of pain. All I can do is write it how it is.
I’m not an easy person to befriend. I have a constant need for validation. To know that I’m still doing things right. It’s my own flaw. A deep flaw. As ingrained into my character as a scar in flesh or a gorge where a river once flowed.
All my life I’ve been so afraid that I would drive away my friends that I would cling to any I had. Constantly trying to engage.
I would send texts after texts for fear that if I remained silent and distant that they would forget about me. Or perhaps that they would think I didn’t care.
I would over think every little thing that I did. If I were to receive a reply I would scrutinize it to the point of paranoia. “What were they feeling when they wrote it?” “Are they mad at me?”
I tried so hard that I drive people away. Ultimately I end up driving everybody away.
I have become a burden. A nuisance. I’m so enveloped by my fear of failure that I have lost my ability to consider what others might be feeling or need.
Now I’m here.

“Favourite people”, self-love & empowerment

I want to know if you can bear the throb of abandonment,

And not abandon your own soul.

I want to know if you can be your biggest cheerleader,

Your own knight in shining armour,

When no one is by your side.

Continue reading ““Favourite people”, self-love & empowerment”

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