Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Self-Care Looks Different for Everyone

Self-care gets derided for it’s fluffy, privileged, often spa-specific references in the media. I want to talk about how self-care looks different for everyone. Because it does! You can be flat broke and still practice self-care. It’s way more than facials and blowouts, it’s more about the here and now and what gets you through and soothes your soul. What helps you feel grounded and calm in the face of stress or when you’re too exhausted to cook for yourself, that’s self-care!

Self-care is often things we know we need to do, for ourselves, but gets put on the back burner over and over until everything is simply overwhelming. Work, offspring, partners, housekeeping, and caretaking for others, but what about you?!  How do you stay in touch with friends, build or maintain meaningful relationships, pursue your hobbies or passions, or even just cut your damned toenails?! I mention that last one because there is a big difference between going to a spa or salon and getting a full-service pedicure, and keeping your own personal hygiene up to date. I was putting on some socks the other day and got a look at my toes and just felt sad. I didn’t have time to do anything about them being longer than was comfortable as I was getting ready for an interview. Once I did have some time, later in the week, I took care of my tootsies and I felt so much better!

Everyone is different and I am in no way suggesting you ignore medical recommendations. Always check with your doctor or other care providers before starting something new or changing your current treatment plan. I have PTSD, anxiety, depression, and who knows what the heck else, but I am self-diagnosed and thus unmedicated. I have found things that help me feel calm and grounded over the years. I also now can recognize the signs of a panic attack before it happens and have even been able to prevent them if I can act in time. For a long time, I didn’t know what was happening, though, and it’s terrifying. A panic attack is your brain telling you you’re dying or in severe danger, usually at very inconvenient times or places.

A big factor in my self-care is staying mindful of how I’m feeling in body and mind and doing what I can to stay calm, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. Something that has helped at work, when things really start to hit the fan, is to go to the restroom or a private conference room (so no one can see in) and doing power poses. Think superheroes and Olympiads! It sounds silly, but it does work. Scientifically, these poses trick your brain into shifting away from the tension and stress you’re feeling at the moment. A former colleague was famously walked in on whilst mid-posing by their interviewer (they got hired).

Self-care can also be taking a mental health day when the world feels overwhelming. Self-care can be using a mobility device to help you on a tough physical pain day. Self-care can be turning off all digital and internet-connected devices for a few hours before you go to bed. Self-care can be eating comfort food, or eating a more balanced and colorful meal to entice your senses. Self-care can be anything that soothes you, calms you, gives you space to breathe, to feel more grounded and ultimately, more yourself. Self-care isn’t a uniform thing, it’s anything! Self-care for me is often just talking to my best friend, or lately, it’s been writing for this blog.

When I was suddenly, unfairly, and unexpectedly fired in October, I was in shock and forgot to take care of some vital things. I let my driver’s license expire. I also let my medical cannabis recommendation expire. My unemployment benefits payments were greatly delayed (over a month!) and thus I had to prioritize my driver’s license, obviously, over the medical recommendation. The result of which I hadn’t truly considered or even recognized the impact until just last week. I had been using a cannabis oil based vaporizer cartridge to medicate myself when things felt overwhelming. I know there is a lot of stigma around cannabis usage, but I am well-informed and work hard to educate others on its benefits and uses. I am not a “stoner” in the traditional sense by any means.

(Please note: The word Marijuana has racist roots used as propaganda in order to outlaw Cannabis and Hemp use in early 20th century America, because of this I do not use the word and insist that others stop, too.)

Cannabis has helped me in more ways than I’d previously realized. For one, I only medicate using Sativa based strains, as Indica strains make me feel paranoid and self-hating and too tired to do anything but chill out. Sativa strains allow me to focus, feel more calm yet motivated, without feeling high or sluggish. I used to explain it this way, my brain is often like a browser with sixty tabs open and running all at once. Sativa strains allow me to close at least half (if not more) of those tabs so that I can remember to take care of myself and get the things in my life done. This became unbearably clear to me when I was going through my “stash drawer” (really it’s where I keep my dog’s ear medicines and my spare checkbooks). I came across a jar of cannabis flower bud (about an 8ths worth) from over a year ago that I’d forgotten about. I had had a long and draining, though overall positive, day and needed to rally to get some things done around the house. With only a small amount I felt so much better and even took my dog for a walk.

That probably sounds pretty normal, like why would I even need cannabis for such a small thing. Well, the truth is, I hadn’t taken my dog for a walk in two months! We have a yard and he runs around there a bit, but other than picking up his poops, I hadn’t spent that type of quality time with him. That first walk was magical for us both, he looked like the kid who found the golden ticket, and I felt like my old self again! When we got back home we both felt great! Cannabis, specifically Sativa for me, allows me to be calm enough to not let the paranoia my PTSD has created as part of my mental foundation to function where it would otherwise interfere. I was staying home, avoiding the world, feeling like I needed to protect myself from “outside”, but that isn’t the real me. That’s trauma still fucking me up over twenty years later! I have since walked my dog every day for the last week!

The trouble is that while I’m only using a tiny amount of cannabis each day, and even though I no longer need a medical recommendation as it’s now legal in California, I’m still broke as a joke and cannot afford to continue once I’ve run out. That will be the end of this week, most likely. I have taken him on walks in the past without medicating, of course, but it is a very different experience for both of us. I’m naturally overly cautious and suspicious of all strangers, thanks to my PTSD. Our walks are shorter and far tenser, without either of us really enjoying it. I am really hoping I can find a job very soon so that I can regain control over my symptoms, not only through cannabis but also by having and maintaining a regular schedule in my life that a job would require.

When I am working and feeling my best it is often because I have found a balance in my work and personal life. What that looks like is different for everyone, but as I also struggle with not eating and falling into unhealthy behavioral patterns relating to that, a job forces me to eat at certain times every day and to interact with people. These are vital for most humans, but for those healing from trauma, it feels doubly so. While my PTSD symptoms are mostly gone or under control, no matter how much time passes, some things can come up or come back. I no longer wake up in the night not knowing where I am or expecting to see my abuser laying next to me, but I do still have nightmares and can wake up near panic. Other times it’s a constant sense of needing to look over my shoulder, avoid being in public or crowded spaces, or just needing to be alone for awhile.

There is no timeline for healing from trauma, there’s no one way to practice self-care, and only you know what is best for you. Trust in yourself, be mindful of how things and people and substances make you feel. Even social media can feel like too much, it’s okay to unplug for a while, unfriend people, or to delete your accounts. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the people you’ve connected with there. It just means that it isn’t something you need in your life right now. Everything is temporary, no need to hold onto things that make you feel bad or gross. You’re an adult (I’m assuming, forgive me!) and can choose what is and isn’t allowed into your life, even the digital one. That is also self-care!

I think we’re so afraid of appearing weak or needy or bothering others and it’s ridiculous! Asking for help, let alone accepting it, is so hard! I am still struggling with this, so much. Even if you haven’t experienced severe trauma or don’t have a diagnosis or condition you’re living with, the responsibilities and stresses of life are enough for most of us to feel run down and overwhelmed. Prioritizing your self-care is so important for your health, mental and physical. There is a myriad of ways and resources on the subject, but I hope you find something that works for you. You deserve to feel like your best self, or at least supported in that pursuit, at the very least. You’re worth it!

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,

<3
S

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