Self-care has a different meaning to everybody. For some it is indulging in a treat; having a manicure; a massage; a day at the spa; a day of fishing, or taking time out to do something personally rewarding.
For those with a mental health issue, self-care is something far more fundamental. It is remembering to shower, to dress, to brush your teeth or to eat. Keeping your house clean and tidy and your environment safe.
Yes, what to everyone else is just necessary, natural day to day stuff. That is self-care for us.
I think I am quite good. I shower, and I brush my teeth every day. I put on clean underwear daily, and most of the time, fresh clothes – not always intact clothes and I don’t always put them on the right way around. If I don’t focus, they can be inside out or back to front, or I may wear odd shoes. Yeah, I need to focus on those things.
Most people will laugh at me but in a friendly manner. I just smile and say I’m absent-minded. People can understand that. It is also true – my mind is not always present during the task of dressing – it is absent.
I have to work on mindfully dressing. I have to shower mindfully. I have to brush my teeth mindfully.
Importantly, I have to remember to eat.
I don’t deliberately not eat – I just have so many things racing through my mind and so many things I know I need to do, I can merely become too disordered and forget to eat.
Suddenly at some point during the day, my stomach will rumble. I will identify this feeling as hunger and because I have so many things to do, just cross the road and buy the first thing I see; this may be a bag of chips, a cake or a block of chocolate.
I call this eating.
Except that it is not correct. It is not sustainable to eat like this. So I have to practice how to do this.
If I go to a supermarket, the impulsivity part of BPD kicks in. I will just buy a random assortment of food, that doesn’t particularly make sense, spend far more than I should and end up with a fridge full of odd stuff and far more than I as a person who lives alone, can eat. Then I feel guilty because a) I have done it wrong, so I berate and invalidate myself and b) because I am aware that food wastage is terrible because there are so many starving or struggling people in the world.
I must actively and mindfully address this issue. I need to force myself to sit still, to count how many days food I may need to buy; to choose recipes I may like over the course of the next few days; check to see what ingredients I have in the house; list what I don’t and discipline myself to purchase only these items. I order my food online and get it delivered so that I am not swayed by impulses – even with a list.
Then I have to remember to cook. I congratulate myself if I can prepare and cook 2 or 3 times per week.
I have to be kind to myself about it. I have to actively praise myself for this.
As I keep doing this, I will get better. I will through care and encouragement, NOT forget to eat; not eat a pile of chocolate, but maybe have toast, or cereal, or a piece of fruit or a sandwich and then cook a simple evening meal.
I must consume each of these things mindfully; savouring the texture and flavour; enjoy and appreciate each mouthful. Be grateful for the food and the experience.
Over time it will become natural.
Such simple things are self-care for me.