Trying to find joy in self-care.

(December 16, 2017)

self-care-kitty

I used to love fashion magazines. I compared myself in an unhealthy way to the images therein, but I loved them all the same. Pretty pictures of pretty people wearing pretty clothes, living pretty lives. What’s not to like?

Once upon a time, I used to try out the things from the pages. I followed the bits and pieces of advice, and experimented with different looks. I wasn’t particularly successful in my recreating – no one mentioned blending, so eyelids adorned with purple stripes was my grade eight look – but I made the effort. I liked caring for myself that way. It made me feel good.

I stopped doing things that made me feel good a long time ago. The disappeared one at a time.

I used to wear quirky clothes. I used to do fashion. I wore clothes that made me happy, even in the face of criticism (where did that courage go?) I found pleasure in my individuality, and in standing against the pressure around me. I wasn’t all-the-way lost yet.

I used to wash my face. I used to exfoliate my body. I used to shower regularly and shave the hairy bits. I used to brush my teeth and floss (I swear). I used to buy creams that promised perfect skin (and happiness) was only half your disposable income away.

The pleasure has disappeared, the joy I once felt is gone. Self-care seems pointless. Doing anything in the mornings beyond slapping water on my face is a struggle (unless I’m covering up damage I’ve done to my face). Wearing clothes that aren’t track pants or old pajamas with stretched-out t-shirts on top seems bizarre. My cool shoes are gathering dust, and my accessories lie neglected.

The little voice inside my head that hates me calls me shallow and vain when I try to re-engage with self-care. It tends to go with “who do you think you are?” criticisms. That way it can attack both my character and my choices.

Part of its attacks are habit, I’m sure. We’re habitual creatures. We fall into routine easily, and breaking free is usually a challenge. Even good change is viewed with suspicion.

My efforts at self-care slowed down when my eating disorder gained strength, and vanished completely when my depression decided a nervous breakdown was called for. My time in the pit of extremes was long: I got out of the habit of doing nice things for myself. Even when my mood improved, actions that fell under the banner of “self-care” seemed perhaps a touch selfish, considering what my mental illness had inflicted. Some things are harder to bring back. A sense of value is one of them.

I go through motions, but I’m disconnected from any good-feels about it. At least I remember to wash my face morning now. That’s a good early step (that I need to congratulate myself for something so basic makes me sad. How did I get to the point where I need props for accomplishing the expected?)

Sometimes I style my hair. Mostly I don’t. It still makes me feel like all work and no play. I miss not the tasks themselves, but the happiness these rituals and acts of self-care used to bring.

Even if I never mastered a cat’s eye.

I keep doing. I’m using the “if you build it they will come” plan. I keep doing things that used to make me feel better about myself in the hope that one day they will again.

It’s undoubtedly related to my eating disorder recovery. Perhaps my efforts to move beyond judging myself for my appearance lead me to underestimate the importance of taking care of myself. Treating myself well to keep myself well is not something my inside voice should object to.

Self-care is more than vanity.

How much esteem are we holding ourselves in if we neglect ourselves?

I feel ashamed (and a little jealous) when I see people who are well-dressed and kempt. Why do I still choose to go in a different direction? I say we should treat ourselves well, but my actions disagree. Do I really think I deserve so little?

I want to feel the joy that comes with self-care again.

photo credit: organic groove

december 14, 2017 – anti beauty routines, trying to find joy in self-care

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

11 comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I think this is a very prevalent problem especially among women. It’s hard to discern what is and what isn’t obsessive and/or vain. The added disadvantage of ED’s and all the problems they pose is quite a big one. Personally (not trying to say I understand exactly but I experience this on and off again) I think there is so much confusion surrounding beauty and what is and what isn’t acceptable. I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you that it is more than OK to want to take care of yourself in that way again. I think it is healthy and shows a great deal of self care and appreciation. With ED’s the fixation on looks is something survivors try to stray away from so their relationship with their looks is a love/hate one. Honestly just opening up this discussion does wonders (it has for me at least) and I am appreciative you took the time to share. I hope to hear good things in the future but regardless I applaud you for doing your best even if it feels opposite of that.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have mixed thoughts on that. I definitely encourage you to go back to doing the things that brought you joy but I am somewhat surprised to hear that you enjoyed spending a lot of money and time on certain products (face cream) and actions (makeup). Why is it that those things brought you joy?

    Like

    1. I think ecause for me, part of depression and the eating disorder is such self-hatred. Hatred of the body and a rejection of doing nice things. And an embrace of torturing it. So looking in the mirror, caring for myself, this made me feel like I was making good progress.

      Liked by 1 person

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