Self-care. The luxurious facials and massages. Treat-yo-self retail therapy and me time.
The truth is that self-care more often feels like this.
She doesn’t have time.
The gym, the grocery planning, the nutritionist, the support group, the writing.
It all eats into her day, her productivity. She is working part-time these days, a few small side hustles that add up to 20-25 hours a week. Plus the regular household tasks that have to be completed: the vacuuming, the laundry, the dishes, the shopping, the appointments.
She feels overwhelmed by her to-do list—it never seems to shrink, her day-planner covered with scribbles and appointments and reminders. She tries to remember to be thankful that she is only working part-time, tries to remember that it is a luxury that few have, admonishes her heart for being overwhelmed when she should be able to handle so much more.
She bargains with herself: Today she’ll skip the gym to finish the laundry, tomorrow she’ll skip writing to get her daughter to her physical therapy appointment, she is feeling mostly ok so she can push the nutritionist out for a few more weeks to add time for the work that must be done.
And as she bargains, little by little, the tenuous thread holding her in place begins to fray, to unravel.
This fragile balance she has created, this magic teeter-totter of support and outlet, of mental work and physical strength, begins to wobble, and she finds herself walking a tightrope no longer securely anchored.
The hour at the gym provides her with a solid 60 minutes outside of her own head, the focus on form and breath and the sheer brute strength she must pull from within leaves no room for her constant inner monologue, and so while she is physically exhausted when she leaves, her mind is calmed and light.
The support group is an opportunity to let someone else into her brain, to normalize her struggles, to help others where they struggle. It’s been so good for her to see these other women who fight where she fights. To offer advice on things she has survived. To just know she isn’t alone.
The food planning and nutritionist visits have been key in helping her find her energy again, to feel good physically. Before, she never knew how much she wasn’t eating, how deeply ingrained it had become not to eat “too much” and how her body was living in a slightly depleted state, always struggling and conserving energy. Her body, by bits and pieces, shutting off, forcing her to stop doing things due to a lack of energy, and then by turns how that exhaustion fed her depression and anxiety. It felt like voodoo to say that she ate more food and felt better both physically and mentally, and yet it was true.
Curated, on-brand, edited writing that aligned with her goals and messages she wanted to share. To let people know they weren’t alone, to help others by being real and vulnerable, a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of therapy. It helped to remind her of her past, to see how far she had come, to make here think she was helping someone somewhere out there in the world.
But also word-vomited, ragged and raw, all the emotions out on the page writing that didn’t get shared anywhere. It helped her process, to see the words come out of her mind and onto a surface made them feel both more real and less powerful. It felt like weight off her chest and dissolved the lump in her throat and all of those clichés, but mostly it felt like moments of priceless solitude, of ocean waves and warmth and sunlight.
But she bargains.
Bargains with her time to make other things work, feels the thread unraveling and attempts to hold it together, clenched teeth and panicked heart as she scrambles to keep her schedule in line, finds herself short on sleep and patience and grace, frustrated with herself and the stupid complicated balance she has to maintain.
It snaps, a spring-like recoil as she falters and falls. And as she falls she remembers. She doesn’t have the time for THIS. For this whirlwind of anxiety and fatigue and crushing desire to stay in the bed. She doesn’t have time to sit and listen to the overwhelming noise that grows up inside her head, shouting at her, screaming in her mind.
She doesn’t have time to skip the things that hold her together. Stupid and complicated as they may be, the daily balance is less time consuming than clawing her way out of the pit she has created.
She doesn’t have time to not do the things that keep her together.