Originally Posted: 2019
Self-care sounds like a blanket you wrap around yourself when you’re cold. It sounds simple, like a tea bag or a sweater. It sounds easy.
The truth? Self-care is really fucking hard.
Even writing this makes me cringe; I want to roll my eyes at myself. Struggling with self-care? Seriously? That’s your problem? You don’t know how to take care of yourself? Grow up and get it the hell together.
(I am aware that talking to myself like that is pretty bad self-care)
I live in a kaleidoscope. There are a lot of colors, it’s pretty to look at, but if you stare for too long you get a headache. The pictures on their own are wild and cool; but they change with a trigger click, there is too much going on, and the patterns don’t always match. And, there are spirals. Many spirals.
In one of the spirals, I begin on the outside where the first thing hits: the trauma or the negative emotion, the experience that ignites the tail and makes it spin. As it spins, the spiral travels inward, with many stops along the way.
This feels terrible, it’s too much
I deserve this feeling, I am a monster
It’s my fault, I shouldn’t burden others with my bad feeling, so I’ll pretend everything is fine
Oh look, the original reaction I never dealt with is still hurting, demanding my attention
You’re on a clock, babe, you can only be in trouble for X amount of time before you have to be okay again; before people will resent you for your needs and leave you
Therapist says you need to be gentle with yourself- WHY CAn’T YouUUU BE GENTLEEE withh YouRSELLF?
You shouldn’t need self-care, you should just be “strong” and BE FINE
Everything is still wrong, btw
I would never deny another their right to self-care and healing. I hold myself to an impossible, unrealistic standard. I am trying, by identifying the spiral and all the rest of it, to do better for myself. I like myself, I’m doing okay. But it’s not as easy as drawing a bath and lighting a candle, though I enjoy those things very much.
I was in the middle of this journey of small steps in being kinder to myself, working on becoming a more fully realized version of me; saying “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry,” calmly quieting the angry voice in my head, shedding the years spent feeling like I wasn’t allowed to have or be a problem, one shiny scale at a time. I was in the middle of the small steps when a big thing happened.
The Trauma sits in the corner of my room, a grey little creature, shivering and screaming.
“WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME? WHY WON’T YOU GIVE ME WHAT I NEED? I WON’T GO AWAY UNTIL YOU DO!”
I tell it to shut up and try to go about my day.
This, I know, is not the proper way to deal with the creature. It will only scream louder. It will only follow me to work and rehearsal and to dinner with friends. It will only crawl inside of me.
Driving home one rainy, snowy night, a pedestrian walked out into the road and I hit him with my car.
I practice the facts in my head:
There was no intersection or crosswalk, the man had been drinking, visibility was bad and it was dark, he was where he wasn’t supposed to be, I was sober and driving slowly-
I try to let the “what ifs” go:
What if I had left five seconds earlier or later, what if I had replaced my windshield wiper; would it have mattered? Would I have seen him? I don’t think so but maybe I would feel a little less guilty, what if I had been in the other lane, what if what if what if what if….
I still feel it happening in my body. It hits me out of nowhere. I relive running to the man, flagging down help. I relive the sounds, or lack of sounds. The heat from his body when I held his shoulders to try to keep him still.
I think the man is okay. A cut on his forehead. I hope that is all. They kept telling me he was sitting up and talking, that he was doing fine. I sat shaking and in shock in my passenger seat; my door wide open as the snow hit my face. They asked if I was cold, but I couldn’t feel anything. My phone is dead. I don’t have a charger. I’m alone in the dark with the blood and the feeling of hitting a living body with my car.
I’m afraid of the dark now.
A cop drove me away in my car, and I never noticed there was damage to it. The next morning, when I saw, I tried to keep my head on straight. There was a huge crack in the corner of my windshield where a person’s head had hit the glass. I will never get the image of the hair stuck in the broken pieces out of my head. I am haunted by that image.
I wonder what would have happened if the situations were reversed; if he had hit me. Would the police have been as kind to a hispanic man in a car that hit a white woman as they were to me? I feel more guilt and confusion about everything.
I am grateful to the people who held me that night and talked about other things and reminded me to breathe. Who kept me with them, who taped my mirror, who scheduled appointments, made calls and kept me fed. The people who took care of me, and who always do. I am so deeply grateful, and desperately trying not to feel unworthy of such care and love.
I fear telling people, so I make myself. But I feel sick every time I do, because I wonder what they must think of me. I think that they must hate me now, because they can see the monster I was always afraid was there.
Even if it wasn’t my fault. Even if he walked out in front of my car. He wasn’t supposed to where he was, but if I had only replaced my goddamn wiper, maybe I could have hit the brakes in time.
But probably not.
Is it possible to want to defend yourself and punish yourself at the same time?
This spiral is deep and goes on a long, long while… I could write a book of this sick back-and-forth in my head. I want to cut again like a smoker wants a cigarette. I crave it, and I resist the urge to do it, against all odds. I try to take a little pride in that, though mostly I’m just angry.
Fast forward to tonight. It is dark, and it is raining, and I’m supposed to drive my car. My car with the still-taped sideview mirror. And I can’t do it.
At first, I rage at myself for not being able to do it. I think, it’s been over a week (as if a week is some inordinate amount of time). I think, get it the hell together.
Jesus, I would never speak to my friends the way I speak to myself.
I am trying to become my own friend.
I decide to stay in. I feel guilty and weak. I try to remind myself where strength comes from: in having the courage to be vulnerable, in knowing what you need. In stopping when you have to stop, in crying when you need to cry. It’s not in denying that there is a problem. I can’t solve a problem if I pretend it isn’t there.
I want my logic to make love with my feelings.
I was taking baby steps, and I got pushed down the stairs. I feel like I’ve been ripped open; like my center of gravity has shifted and upended itself. I feel like I’m starting from the beginning, sometimes.
I tell myself it’s okay to have to start from the beginning. It’s okay not to be 100%. It’s okay to have bad days. And you do deserve the good days.
I decide to write this to help me process my experience.
Self-care is not a blanket or a tea bag or a sweater. Self-care is climbing uphill in contradictory conditions; there are both soft, sunny patches of flowers and sharp, jagged edges the whole way up. It isn’t easy.
But the air at the top is clear and clean and beautiful. And you deserve to breathe it.