When Self Care is not possible
When Self Care is not possible – (this is a part of the 6 steps to wellness series ) – A few years ago during a particularly anxious phase in my life, if someone had told me to think about self care I may have just cried my eyes out and run out of the room. I didn’t have the capacity to focus on self care and I didn’t want to add yet another thing to what felt like an already burgeoning list of things to do. Life already felt overwhelming enough.
You see, self care during times when you can barely get out of bed is not a thing. My priority when I was ill, was just muddling through the day in whatever way I could. At that time, what I needed more then anything was community. I desperately needed a support network and I really wanted people to care.
The simple truth was that I just wasn’t well. I was battling what felt like an uphill battle with the worst depression and anxiety. Whilst I was in that bubble, there was no space for self care. It didn’t even cross my mind.
I recently wrote this post about being kind to yourself and a lot of Self Care articles look like this. There are a list of suggestions for things you can do to give yourself some love. I feel said articles aren’t for this stage. They came in handy after the ‘just surviving’ stage because when I was already feeling overwhelmed, lost, tired and just done with life, adding yet another thing to my to do list felt like too much. However kind those things were. I mean Self care and Self love is fantastic if and when you can do it, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Nowadays, when I envision myself at my best and really enjoying life, I always have the energy to feed myself, I am never chained to my bed wallowing in self loathing. I make myself healthy food and have enough money to go out and do the things I love. Most importantly, I can take care of myself. The ill version of my self couldn’t.
That version of myself needed help via a strong community behind me.. and what is community? People who hold you when you can’t hold yourself. A network of people who care enough about you to just be there and check in on you instead of thinking that you will call them to tell them that you are drowning.
People who are struggling physically or mentally, hardly ever reach out for a variety of reasons such as, they don’t want to be a burden, they don’t feel anyone will understand, they are embarrassed. The more they isolate themselves, the worse it gets because understandably people can take it personally when you are repeatedly not turning up to their events.
The guilt around anxiety is intense. You want so badly to go to places and be involved but can’t and then you are confronted about it or made aware that people are talking about you, that then exacerbates the problem and the cycle continues making the anxiety even worse. I can’t think of a word that describes it better then ‘crippling’. Anxiety is very very physical. This really is a time where outside help is essential.
‘As a result of this cycle of anxiety and guilt, people living with anxiety overthink things, read into expressions, tones, gestures, and words. This can be wearing, increasing the symptoms of anxiety:
- Physical symptoms — Anxiety and guilt can cause headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, and more.
- Emotional symptoms of guilt as an effect of anxiety can involve feeling on-edge, defensive, irritable, sorrowful, and a feeling of desperation to apologise and make things better.
- Behavioral symptoms of anxiety and its effect, guilt, can include clinginess, over-apologising, trying to take action to compensate for the supposed transgression, and other attempts to please others, avoid judgment, and other actions meant to right perceived wrongs and/or repair relationships.’ www.Healthyplace.com
Sadly, it feels like the self care movement comes with hidden small print. That being ‘don’t be a burden to others’. This is the movement that teaches us that we are all we need and I think that can be the case when you are well enough to look after yourself. In my view a part of self care is reallllly knowing yourself, learning how to love yourself and adopting a routine that is suited to you when you are ready to do so.
With the added pressure of the stigma attached to feeling like you are a burden, people end up not asking for help. So people with mental health issues or disabilities are often left fending for themselves in whatever ways they can and suffering as a result. Society expects the family and friends of said person to rally around them, but what if they have no one? What if they are all alone?
This is when a supportive community is crucial. What does that help look like? Drop off some food, help tidy up and just be there, are some suggestions.
A loving community usually provides short term help, just until a person is able to get back on their feet. In turn, when said person is in a position to do so, they can give back to the community that propped them up when they needed it. One of the kindest ways to help someone who you know is struggling is to ask them what they need. They may not be able to answer straight away but eventually, they may feel brave enough to open up.
In short.. if self care feels overwhelming or like a burden, it probably means that you need help from others at this stage in your life. It will pass. For those struggling, when self care feels like too much of an ask, lean on people around you if you can. These people could be people from your friend and family circle, people from the community, therapists or even people online. Take all the help you can get until you are you again.
And to those who can see your fellow community members in pain, reach out and give them a helping hand.
**This post is written with those who are struggling with mental health issues in mind (such as depression or anxiety). Please feel free to comment with any relevant advice below and seek help if you need it. A great place to start is via the Mind website.