Hi lovely readers,
I’m up early today, for the first time in a week in a half! I was starting to wake up naturally around 11 everyday and dragging myself out of bed around 12. It did not feel good. I’ve been in a depressive episode for the past 2 weeks, and it’s been brutal. I couldn’t find joy in almost anything, I didn’t even feel like eating, or doing any of the lovely self-care routines I try to incorporate everyday. Everything seemed like a colossal effort and I didn’t even want to see friends or go outside. I was feeling so down that I decided to do what I know a lot of people do to cope with their depression, and cut myself some slack. I skipped class once, I didn’t go to meetings, I didn’t even take a bath at night like I always do. I watched movies and barely checked my phone and just rested, mostly in bed.
Then I went to see my therapist. I recounted what I’d been doing and exclaimed “And I don’t feel any better! I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything and I’m even more sad.” He seemed to find this somewhat funny. I was perplexed. He tells me all the time to be gentler with myself and to not value myself solely based on my accomplishments. But what he said next truly changed my perspective on self-care. “Elizabeth, you are not that kind of depressed person. Your mood is strongly based on all of the productive, purposeful, and helpful things you do for others and your school, work, and personal life. Your kind of self-care is continuing to do the things you need to do, adding in things with therapeutic value so you take care of your emotional wellbeing, and being social. that’s not everyone’s self-care, but you’re not everyone.”
What a novel idea! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all version of self-care. Perhaps if you’re someone who feels really drained by being active on days when you wake up feeling unlike your happy self, a few hours in front of the TV with a glass of wine or some food and a pet to cuddle is exactly what you need. Maybe you do need to sleep in and get to bed early, and maybe you shouldn’t push yourself to go to your workout. But, if you’re someone who really chemically (as in you need that boost of serotonin and dopamine) and emotionally needs to feel like everyday was fulfilling in some way, perhaps taking time off from your routines isn’t the solution to a more depressed mood.
I dreaded working out yesterday, and I dragged my feet to go help clear out my apartment, but when I got into the swing of accomplishing things again, my mood was significantly boosted. I decided I would go to bed early and I set my alarm for 8 am this morning. I hit the snooze button once, because my mood is still going to be low as a baseline while my brain recovers from the episode, but I used my determination to have a better day to get out of bed. I ate a healthy breakfast, because lord knows your body isn’t going to make any happy chemicals if it isn’t being fed, drank a cup of coffee, took a long shower and even shaved and moisturized (that really goes by the wayside when I’m depressed). Then I posted the pictures I took of my furniture on Kijiji and started going through offers. I sold my couch and now I’m finishing this blog post. I also made a point of journalling to track the improvement I felt in my mood from getting those things done.
I’m not by any means saying you shouldn’t take a break when you need to, but I am recommending that you base how long that break is, and what’s included in your kind of ‘break’, on the kind of person you are. You know yourself best, and if you’re not sure you do, keep written track of what happens when you try different forms of self-care. Getting shit done and moving and feeding your body in a healthy way is still self-care, just as getting a pizza and eating it under some blankets in front of netflix can be self-care for someone else.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a wonderfully either relaxed or productive day.