I was raised around self-help culture. Which, no dismissal of that, self-help books have taught me immense amounts of healing tools and I am grateful for them. I consider myself a self-help connoisseur! But the way it was tossed around and talked about in my home, I naturally associated anything sad or imperfect as wrong, and something that needed to be eliminated. All these books and motivational talks became a cheap band-aid. “Self help” even seems now, too broad of a thing to put in a box.
I’ve seen a lot of pieces lately where I think, YES!! People are getting it! The culture is evolving in ways I am rooting alongside. But in my personal experience, it hasn’t always been this way; it wasn’t deep. It was ways to forget about feelings, to drop them without having any genuine deep work to grow through and alongside them. “Choose happiness,” and “You are in control of your emotions.” As if it was that easy and applicable.
I didn’t understand what sad really was, I just knew it was wrong. Being sad meant I was flawed, and I spent a lot of years wondering what was wrong with me.
I didn’t realize it until I was a couple years into therapy, after my mom died, and I felt no progress. In fact, my physical health started to decline. I relied on my therapist for the entirety of my well-being. And she is an angel, served as my lifeline for three years. But when I was alone, I felt helpless. I needed myself; it felt like I was sitting beside a stranger I had nothing in common with. It got to the point where I had to drop out of University for a year. It was either be alone with myself and start the emotional work, or getting professional treatments for my eating disorder.
It was the messiest, most healing year of my life. I traveled, learned how to cook, cried and journaled every day. And just let myself feel, forcing myself to detach shame from grief. There is no shame in taking a break. There is no shame in going against societal norms. There is no shame in sadness. I let myself be a mess, and I found victory in equanimity.
Since then, self care for me has looked like waking up at 6:30AM every day to write for a few hours before class. It’s giving myself grace on the days I sleep in. It’s forcing myself to eat when I haven’t all day and it hurts to. It’s calling to check in on my friends when I’m out of energy. It’s allowing myself to be alone and say no to plans when i’m out of energy. It’s knowing what I want, and forcing myself to make progress amidst doubt and tiredness. It’s being honest with everyone, including myself. It’s making it to plans I don’t really want to go to, and canceling plans I don’t want to go to. It’s dressing up on certain days, and dressing down on certain days. It’s balance, which I know can be like duh, but it’s one thing to throw around the term “balance” and another to genuinely understand it and practice it.
There’s an unconditional love that is necessary for healing. The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself. Give it attention and tend to it as you would your deepest love. Give yourself grace. It’s freaking hard work, it’s nonlinear, but it’s so worth it. Embrace the messy.