Self-Care is Not What People Make it Out to Be.
Something I’ve been dealing with a lot recently is the topic of self-care.
In the modern world of social media, you can often find yourself taking advice where you never even asked from it, from people you’ve never met. The #selfcare trend is a very popular one, and I have to admit, on a superficial level, it hasn’t got the wrong idea. Treating yourself really can be nice, especially if you’re in a slump! Doing a fun activity or your skin routine can really cheer you up. And you shouldn’t deny yourself the simple pleasures in life. By no means is this post in any way trying to say that.
I noticed, when I started doing these little things under the hashtag #selfcare , that it made no real difference to how I felt. It felt like trying to use a rubber on biro pen – absolutely useless. No doubt that having a hot chocolate with a cookie was nice, but my state of being, mentally as well as physically, didn’t change in the slightest.
That’s because (something it took me an incredibly long time to realise) self-care as a disabled person and someone with mental health problems is messy. It’s so far from this rainbow-and-sunshine image that is portrayed online.
Because what really is self care for me? What does looking after myself mean?
For me, it means taking my meds, despite my vicious hatred for their side-effects. It means going to therapy, a process which I find endlessly difficult and refused to begin until very recently. It means cancelling plans when I’m drained and watching my friends go out without me, more often than I’d like. It means postponing replying to my emails or texts until I feel like I can talk. It means using my mobility-aids (crutches) and reducing my work-load even when I’m determined to prove myself and get the work done, at the cost of my health.
All of these things are boring, and hard, and annoying, and what kind of teenager (chronically ill or not) wants to go to bed at 9pm for goodness’ sake? None of us! But that’s what real #selfcare looks like.
#selfcare is a trend that works well for people who haven’t got the same underlying issues as #spoonies or people with mental-health problems. But I know that many of us see these trends online, this advice given to us through a screen by complete strangers, and get frustrated when it doesn’t help us. I, for one, get pissed when ‘conventional’ methods for making yourself feel better – a cup of tea, reading, listening to music, painting your nails (all things I do and enjoy greatly) do nothing to improve my well-being.
We need to dismantle the notion that looking after yourself is something done in five minutes. No matter how anyone’s online presence makes it seem, a one-minute long Instagram video about which skin-care routine to use will not improve your life.
What I’m asking of my readers, I suppose, is that you ask yourselves, honestly and deeply, what you can do to improve your quality of life. Take a good hard look at the way you’re living, and ask yourself if you’re really taking care of yourself. Because when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, self-care is one of the most difficult, ugly, sometimes upsetting and boring things you’ll ever have to do.
But I promise you, you’ll feel better for it.
(Title photo credits to @natashalipman and @thisthingtheycallrecovery on Instagram)