Self care. It's the hot millennial thing now, according to countless articles and think pieces. Some of them will talk about how silly it is, but honestly I'm a huge believer in self care. I think it's really important and one of the things that has helped me when dealing with grief, depression, and anxiety. However, for a long time, I was doing what I call "fake self care".
I wasn't taking care of myself, but I thought I was. It was like I was doing all these things in the guise of self care but they were not really "caring" things that helped me. I was drinking all the wine after work and eating my feelings (food is a big emotional comfort to me) and never doing anything active. I was crying on the way home from work thinking that everything wrong was external. My job sucked, my mom was dead, I was depressed, I was having panic attacks, I was gaining weight. Through all of this I was still buying these 3 packs of cookies at Walmart (700 calories for all 3 of them) and eating multiple packs a day. I was secretly eating Taco Bell or stopping for food on my way home from work and then still eating a big dinner. I was taking long baths and sleeping more and taking "mental health days" from work. None of it was working.
It wasn't until I was actually taking care of myself that I noticed how destructive my behaviors were and how I was chalking it all up to practicing self care. I was using the phrase "self care" as a way to justify eating junk all the time and not working out. I've been tracking my calories and working out consistently for about 6 weeks now. I run in the dark after work (and occasionally in the morning but I'm not a morning person so that's rare). I drink more water and less alcohol. I still indulge in sweets but not as often and if I do, I log it in MyFitnessPal. I practice daily gratitude and have started confronting things I ignore (I also like to ignore my problems. Who knew that was also an unhealthy mental behavior? *eye roll*). I have been in therapy for about 6 months now and it's literally changed my life.
I still think things like wine and eating cookie dough with my sister while we watch The Bachelor can be a form of self care, but not when you do it every day. I've noticed how much better I feel when I stick to my routines and how off I feel when I don't run for 3 days in a row. I think there's a balance there that I wasn't doing before. For a long time, I felt so hopeless. I didn't know how to make things better, how to feel better. I realize now that it's taking one small step at a time and being consistent with it. I've learned to be more resilient, more driven, and more kind to myself. This is what worked for me, I am in no way saying the same things will work for you. I know that for me I was being so dishonest with myself and indulging in a lot of negative self talk. Once I recognized this and made small tweaks, it made all the difference.
At the beginning of the year, I could not have imagined I'd find myself on the other side (or at least closer to the other side). I didn't know how to not feel hopeless and worthless, but it all starts with me. The way I talk to myself and treat myself has changed. I feel so good approaching 31, like I'm finally getting where I want to be. I'm not there yet, but now that I've ditched the fake self care, I'm so much closer than I dreamed.