This past week has been full of ups and downs (and pretty extreme ones, at that). When the downs first hit, I thought they were just a sign that I’d be getting my period, and that they’d go away (which is what usually happens). Instead, they were just the beginning of an emotional roller coaster–one that I’d like to get off.
Lately, things have been going well. I like my new job, I love my fiancé, I have great friends and family, I’m enjoying coaching
Team Challenge Brooklyn, and my own running is going well. I’ve also got a few really exciting projects in the works. In spite of these things, though, I’ve been on a bit of an emotional decline for a while. Hence the ups and downs–external things are great. Internally, though, things aren’t as rosy. Part of the problem is the expectation I’ve always had that as soon as all the external pieces of the puzzle fell into place, I’d be happy. You know, that it would just happen the moment the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was put in. I’m sure it doesn’t come as a great surprise to anyone that this has not been my experience. If anything, the fact that things are going so well externally might actually be aggravating the way I’m feeling inside. More and more I catch myself thinking, “Everything is going so well, but I’m not happy–it must be because there’s something wrong with me. I’ll just never be happy.”
Stating it that bluntly, I can identify that sort of thinking as irrational, and characteristic of the negative mind-set I fall into during periods of depression. Identifying the thoughts is a good first step, but it would be better if I could actually do something about them, and that’s where things have been increasingly difficult. I usually get stuck at that point, and end up overwhelmed and miserable. And so this week has been a combination of enjoying the things that are going on outside of my head, and fighting a major battle with what’s going on inside. I avoided most of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week because I was busy trying to keep my own ED in check; I had a few days where I actively restricted, and genuinely missed the days where I was able to do it all the time; I spent the majority of the weekend either in bed sleeping, or crying. It makes me feel like there’s a huge disconnect between the person I present myself as being to the outside world, and the person I actually am. And at the end of the day, am I really either of those people? I feel completely unable to answer the question.
One thing has become clear, though: I have been consistently unable to find a way to do things for myself that feel good, and I think that’s what creates a lot of the turmoil, confusion, and emptiness that I end up feeling when I’m not engaged in some kind of external activity. I am really bad at basic self-care, and it’s really starting to catch up with me. The only things I’ve done lately that have benefitted me have been connected to outside events or activities–even the running I’ve been doing has been with a partner or group. I love running, but would I be as quick to do something so good for me if I weren’t being pushed to do so by an outside party? My yoga practice has fallen entirely by the wayside, which makes me think that the answer to that question would be no.
Most days lately, I don’t feel that I have the intrinsic motivation that I need in order to care for myself. This manifests itself in a variety of ways from the basic to the complex. I ran out of shampoo and conditioner recently, and I haven’t even bothered to go get more, I’ve just given up on my hair and started using Nat’s 2-in-1. My hair feels crappy, and I feel crappy about it. Going to the drugstore would be an easy way to practice some self-care. But I haven’t done it. This is just one example of quite possibly hundreds.
I know that I can’t stand the way it feels to be so internally unhappy. But I also don’t know where to start when it comes to taking better care of myself, as silly as that sounds. Over the years, I threw a lot of my self-care routines out the door as I became gradually more depressed and succumbed to my eating disorder. Now, trying to break free from both of those burdens, I find myself lost when it comes to getting the routines back. I’m not even entirely sure I could define self-care at this point.
Help me out: what does self-care mean to you? How do you make it a priority in your life? I’d love to hear your stories–maybe they’ll put me in a position to get my inner jigsaw puzzle as complete as my outer one.