This year has been incredibly intense. In just the last four months I’ve lost a job, left a very secure home, left my dearest people and started on a new and unexpected chapter. Maintaining some sense of mental stability has been incredibly difficult and one which I still don’t feel like I am successfully achieving.
This article has been brewing for quite a while. I’ve been very distracted the last few months but also afraid of actually writing. Putting my thoughts out into the world is really overwhelming and I struggle to not see it as self-indulgent and useless. What is the point when there are so many people out there who could say it better? Well for the final two months of 2019 I have decided to say fuckit. I’ve paid for the annual subscription so I may as well use it!
With so many different changes taking place in my life right now I’ve been thinking a lot about change and self-care. Change can happen in different ways obviously but how can you look after yourself and respond to change? How should your self-care and self-compassion change to support yourself through change?
I’ve been given a number of different mental health diagnosis in the past but I don’t know how much that information has really helped me look after myself. This move has made me realise the work I need to put into really understanding what I need during times of emotional change. Having a term can be useful for speaking with medical professionals or explaining things to your close ones, but ultimately you have to learn how to handle yourself.
New things will always be there to blind side you on a random Tuesday but working out healthy ways to respond to them will always be crucial. Having a regular routine is important but I’ve found that my existing routine has not only been harder to stick to (due to moving) but also didn’t work as effectively as it had before once I had kind of settled down. Changing up your self-care is intimidating and a lot of work. I definitely opted for the “ignore it and hope it goes away” route for a few weeks in the hope that I wouldn’t need to put the work in. Even after years of work on my mental health there is still that little voice encouraging me not to try, that same voice convinces me I am going to win the lottery but isn’t much use when I find myself crying in the shower and unable to stop. It takes consistent effort to combat that voice.
Don’t let yourself be convinced that you aren’t worth the effort.
I’ve seen a lot of memes in the last few months along the lines of “there are only 3 months 2019 left, don’t let anyone waste your time” or “There are only two months till a new decade, make it count.” Every time I see them I think, ‘fuck you! I’ll sit on my ass and not achieve anything just to spite you are your judgey little meme’
Now that isn’t the healthiest or most rational response to an Instagram post but they do really annoy me. People are obsessed with time and achievement. From my own experience time is completely useless when thinking about mental health or self-care. I spent six months in therapy and left feeling worse than I did when I went in. Other people I know went to three sessions and felt great. When it comes to self-care, mental health and time the only thing you need to do is give yourself as much of it as you need.
Use your time wisely yes but if part of your self-care routine is coming home and watching Netflix for six hours that is perfectly valid. My critical voice is constantly telling me to be more productive but it never works. I always end up re-watching old TV shows but then just feeling shite about it, I may as well just watch series four of ER and enjoy it and appreciate the time and ability to do it.
My most recent bout of depression actually scared me, I felt so hopeless I didn’t know what would happen. Rather than continue to wallow in it I reached out for help. Having to pay for counselling was also scary, I didn’t think I should spend that much, but knowing that I was far from my usual support network I had to convince myself. Rather than dwelling on the fact I don’t have more money or trying to keep struggling on my own, I found an online counselling service that worked for me and got a small discount after explaining my financial situation.
One of the lowest points in my mental health was when I was living in an utter shithole of a flat. It was cheap and I had no money but I could have made it a better space for myself. Having a sanctuary is so important when you are stressed. Making that sanctuary isn’t about getting Queer Eye in to rebuild your house and paint your walls grey and teal (though that would be pretty awesome) but about making your space nurturing in any way you can.
Make the most of what you already have. The new flat I have is far from my dream space but as soon as I moved in, I made sure to put my photos and pictures all over the walls. I’m working on the rest but the photos are the important bit for me.
Making a nurturing space isn’t about buying £35 scented candles or 100% agora blankets. Start with one area and build from there. I realised my bed isn’t doing me any favours, the pillows are uncomfortable and it doesn’t feel snug. So, I will be spending money on this area (bedsheets, pillows etc) before moving onto the bathroom, kitchen, living room etc.
Don’t Judge Yourself
Even though I thought I was doing much better in terms of self-compassion I realised that I have been incredibly hard on myself throughout this move. Telling myself I am not being productive enough, not moving fast enough, not achieving anything, basically making myself feel like shit.
It took a long time for me to realise what an absolute dick I can be to myself, even if I have improved I realise now it is still my default. I judge myself for being too tired to “do things”, I obsess over my productivity, I write to do lists and then get frustrated that I don’t finish them in an hour! I’m working towards a place where I can just be, be ok with being too tired to do much, be ok that sometimes I just want to watch TV and not read a book, be ok that I ate a lot and didn’t do a huge amount of exercise or whatever other thing I feel like I don’t deserve.
Whatever you are doing to relax or numb out for a little bit, don’t judge yourself for it, be honest about why you are doing it and why you feel like you need that thing. Reflect on it
Ultimately self-care isn’t a static thing, it needs to be flexible to meet your needs but your needs will change. When your needs change the process of working out how to respond can be really frustrating. The key thing is to be honest about what you need for yourself and don’t let yourself feel guilty about it.