When Self Care is not possible – 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.
Self Care Lists
I recently wrote this post about climbing out of rock bottom and 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.
What I needed
When I envision myself at my best and really enjoying life, I always have the energy to do things. 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 effective systems.. and what does that look like? A group of people who hold you when you can’t hold yourself. It is a network of people who know you well and care enough about you to just be there and check in on you when they notice you are not around.
Not everyone has a support network though and not everyone around an anxious person, knows how to or feels like they can reach out. In this scenario I would say that if you know someone has no family or friends nearby and you notice that they are not around much, reach out. They may resist, brush you off and avoid you at first but eventually they will open up because they need to be heard. The first time someone noticed me and asked how I was doing, I spilled my guts out and it was one of the things that started me off on my healing journey.
We need communities to connect, because all of the self care in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that we are social beings and heal and grow in community. We need people!
Self care is fundamental in our fast paced world but we don’t live in isolation. We also need systems that support us in caring for our basic needs. Communities and systems that meet the needs of women (like childcare that is accessible for all). During this stage n my life, I could not access childcare because the cost was astronomical. We did the sums for various possibilities and it was more cost effective for me to be home with the kids whilst I worked on my business.
Why people isolate themselves
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, They have been shut down previously.
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 gatherings.
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.
Symptoms of Anxiety
‘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 – headaches, stomach aches, chest pains, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, and more.
- Emotional symptoms – feeling on-edge, defensive, irritable, sorrowful, apologetic.
- Behavioral symptoms 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
The problem with Self Care at this stage
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. Sometimes that just isn’t possible.
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
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.
Being with a person in pain
Knowing what to do
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.