i write about self-care a lot and think about it even more but my execution of the same is intermittent and difficult, which i suppose is why it remains on my mind.
as my eating disorder progressed, i drifted further and further away from taking care of myself. not only in the more surface-based categories of skincare, fashion, and hygiene, but with respect to the more impactful categories, such as nutrition, rest, community, and healthcare.
my eating disorder had me giving up everything that was not directly connected to it. they steal away your external life, like family, friends, study, and meaningful work. they steal away your internal life as well. all that remains is the disorder. it slides in and takes over.
eating disorders lie like seasoned politicians. they tell you that you are small, pathetic, hopeless, useless, and fat. they tell you that last one frequently, often on the minute. they tell you it’s wrong to try to change, that it’s pointless to try and meet your long-denied needs. they tell you that you don’t deserve it, whatever it is that “it” happens to be.
self-care is not selfish. looking after yourself is not selfish. putting yourself first is not selfish. i repeat these phrases ad nauseum to counteract my contrarily inclined inner monologue and i will continue to do so until i believe it in my bones.
looking after yourself must be a priority. if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot succeed not matter what goal you are pursuing. you’ll falter in your efforts. you’ll fail mentally, physically, and spiritually. you’ll be no good to anyone, not to yourself and not to the other people you encounter in your life. you’ll stumble but lack the resources necessary to climb back up. you’ll call yourself names for not accomplishing the things you’ve planned, even though you sabotaged your efforts by ignoring your own needs.
self-care is an act of love. numerous people have told me this and while repetition is not always indicative of truth, it is in this regard. looking after ourselves and our needs is vital; it’s necessary for survival. it’s like the safety and rescue instructions that you receive on airplanes or in first aid training: you have to take care of yourself first and ensure your own safety before you reach out to others. you have to put yourself first sometimes.
caring for myself is an act of rebellion. it is part of my revolution. it is a way to hit back at my eating disorder, which encourages self-centeredness but not in any positive, self-caring kind of way. looking after myself, even in those areas that my brain judges as indulgent, is part of healing. you can’t fix what you don’t value.
there’s a voice in the back of my head that disagrees, logic be damned.
i do not come from a family line that prioritizes self-care. you put other’s needs before your own, always; that has been bred into my bones. self-care seemed to be regarded as nothing more than mere vanity if it was discussed at all.
there was no direction and no education regarding looking after myself beyond the basics of “wash your face and brush your teeth”. no instructions on how to guard and feed the subtler needs of body and soul.
thus, i possess an inside voice that cheers when i neglect myself. it’s gleeful when i choose actions that are harmful. it’s thrilled when i step away from self-care and towards self-harm.
“see”, it says, “you can’t do it. you’re hopeless. you aren’t worth it.”
“shut up,” is what i’m starting to say in response. not terribly witty but on point. the voice that tries to keep me down, sick, and small is persistent but i’ve discovered something: i can be stubborn. i used to use that characteristic in unhealthy ways, i’m trying to make it part of my healing now. i’m not as stubbornly committed to self-care yet as i might wish, but i’m stubbornly committed to getting better.
i wonder how many times i’ll have to ignore the voice and rise above it before it gives up and goes away? how many times do you have to repeat something before it becomes habitual? is it related to how long you embraced the opposite? how long before you really believe you’re worthy?
not worthy when you’re better, not worthy in spite of your flaws, but worthy already, now, just because, the lack of consistent daily moisturizing notwithstanding.
(march 14, 2018)
photo credits: inspired living affirmations; PixTeller; xxbimmer