(Please note: I’m sure a lot of this applies if you’re not single, but I am, so I’m talking about me. Neener, neener, neener, and stuff. Also this is a little ranty and a little rambling, but I promised myself that if I let myself blog about what’s on my mind when it’s on my mind that maybe, just maybe, I’d actually stay up to date on blogging. So, yeah.)
If anyone follows me on social media, I’m fairly open about my struggles with depression. When I’m not actively on all my social media, it pretty much means I’m not doing well. But I’m rarely gone. I’ll post every now and again on Twitter (even though I’m starting to really question the purpose of being on there as it seems like nothing but noise anymore), but I won’t hang out there for any length of time. I’ll pretty much abandon Pinterest and Tumblr entirely to hide on Facebook where I may or may not post. And when I do post, a lot of it will be about depression.
But sometimes (like the last oh…two years) I will find myself sinking into depression so slowly that I don’t really notice how bad it’s gotten until I’m nearly in over my head. And of course, at some point in there, my stupid brain will suggest taking on more things because clearly I’m having issues because I’m not doing enough.
Thankfully, my slow realization got a slap onto the fast track when a new guy broke off our first date (for good reason, but then he didn’t bother rescheduling, so…whatever.) That situational depression piggybacked on the slow-growth depression to really mess with a girl’s head. But that’s okay because it spurred me into action.
It was time for some hard-core self-care.
The thing is I’d been off the self-care wagon…for two years. During that time, the only thing I “gave” myself was adequate sleep. (I am a sleeping pro.) No matter how much I know all the things to do, it is hard as hell getting up and doing them. Not to mention, I’d forgotten that I kind of have to do them in a certain order. You see, I tried to change my diet a couple times. It would last a few weeks and then it wouldn’t. I was not solidly on the road to health enough to cling to my diet. I wanted my comfort foods, damn it. And the tanner (no lectures–it works for me) and the gym were like a pipe dream that would involve giving up actual dream time.
But I had to do it. And making the time to do it and finding the ability to make the move was a lot harder than it should be–primarily because I like to help people and do “what I’m supposed to”. A friend asks me to critique something? Odds are I’ll do it without another thought. Someone wants to go to lunch to talk about their problems? I go, because that’s what friends do. And I will not miss deadlines. I might kiss them as I turn stuff in, but if something needs to be done, I feel like a failure if I don’t get it done.
Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be my time with my kids.
The first step of self-care is building a protective barrier around yourself while you “indulge” in self-care. It means not taking on other people’s problems. It means not being available (to anyone) 24/7. It means putting yourself first (or, if you have kids, maybe second). It took a solid week to build that wall to a place where I could take the next step and get my ass out to the tanner. But I did it. And hopefully in another week I’ll actually hang out at the gym and work out for a while after tanning. Because that’s the next step for me. Then, when I feel solid and right in my own head, I can re-address the diet thing.
If building that wall is the first step to self-care, the most important thing to remember other than that is to know what works for you and not to let other people tell you you’re wrong. You know yourself better than anyone else, but depression can be an evil bitch that inserts doubts about everything into your head. Learn your steps. Figure out what brings you joy and what brings you down. Write all of it out so that if someone makes you question your path, you have it in writing that this works. Because inevitably, people (likely well-meaning) will sabotage you.
Make sure you’ve built your wall high enough and strong enough to withstand that.
Why did I title this as “and the single author”? Because if you have a partner, they are (hopefully) the person who knows you second best. That means they will (hopefully) help you get on your path to self-care by building that wall with you (saying no to people for you when possible) and reminding you that you know what you need. When you’re single, you don’t likely have that close a support system. And as an author, you are likely rather sequestered from the rest of the world because that’s what we do…
So let this post serve as your support. You know what you need (and it’s probably not the same things I need). You have every right to take as much time as you need to heal. And you have every right to shut down people who try to stop you (though try to do it kindly because it’s likely they mean well and have no idea they are doing more harm than good).
You can’t care for anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
But you know that.
So take care of you.