How The Internet Distorts Self-Care (OPINION)

I sat down deciding what topic I’m going to tackle both for the blog and for myself, and I chose self-care. I’m preparing to see a new therapist, and the transition’s never easy. There’s also my titration, personal day-to-day issues, medical appointments, and the possibility of my body and brain doing all it can to stop me from living. If I took any of the plethora of advice online: self-care should hold me over until I can resolve my issues with a professional.

This is a dangerous lie perpetuated by industries who wish to profit, and has become a cycle that’s fed by anyone out there looking for a quick fix. Yes. The trendy version of self-care is an integral part of the big picture, but if I were to give a visual demonstration of how people explain what self-care it supposed to look like, it’s the smallest part of the iceberg.

A big part of self-care should be unpleasant, painful, and downright ugly. It requires massive amounts of self-reflection and checking-in whit yourself (which can be the hardest thing to do), and constantly fighting with yourself. All in the hopes of changing habits that cannot be broken overnight. This is true recovery.

A scented candle isn’t going to make my craving for escapism go away. In fact, it may dangerously replace an old addiction to a new one: telling me that if it’s healthy escapism, it’s okay. Telling me that simple actions such as lightly smiling, be/think positive, and remember to laugh will change my mood is utter bullshit. Forcing something that may not even be there is damaging. The past few years I’ve discovered my mental illness includes alexithymia (the inability to put words to emotions, and downright not feeling them) reinforces the voice I’m fighting that I truly am different from typical. In general, expecting a person to do these activities in lieu of what is happening in the now takes away from the necessary processing of the bad emotions: what the kids call ugly crying. If you want positive, you have to experience the negative.

The fear of being vulnerable to the unpleasant make one weaker, not stronger.

A part of my self-care is to talk myself out of my bed. Every morning when I wake, I look at that ceiling: my jaw is aching from the overnight clenching, my calf muscles are twitching and flinching no mater how much I massage them, and my whole upper back and neck have to be slowly shifted to encourage blood-flow so I can move. I have to tell the demons racing though my head that they are just that: thoughts that my sick brain has decided to implant in my head like a song stuck on repeat. I sometimes have to talk myself down reminding myself that the terror I had last night wasn’t real.

Next is to continue my titration, and fight the voices saying this is an uphill battle I don’t deserve to win. I know that if it’s the day I go down a dose, I have to face the unknown of many symptoms to which I tire of explaining. On top of this, society has made some of these symptoms shameful for women to experience anywhere in public, and be the butt of jokes. I love being the laughing stock when trying to make new connections. Guess what: I’ve had to make the choice to halt unnecessary face-to-face social interaction until I’m in the lowest withdrawal symptom zone. I then have to eat a meal and break the disordered eating voices saying I’m not actually hungry. Certain days, I have to force myself out that door to get the mail. Others, I have to navigate the thin line that is orthorexia: exercise, movement, and food to help my chronic pain & basic function but not so much that I flare the car accident injury, or make me fall into eating disorder territory.

That’s all before noon. Remember to go to the local farm market and smell a bouquet of flowers!

Yes, I’m telling you how I really feel.

The distortion of the term, and the evolution of use, should keep you on your toes. This is a natural occurrence in English, but being someone dealing with mental-illness and chronic pain, misinformation spreads faster as it’s trendier. Remember who’s speaking about the topic. True self-care isn’t escapism, it’s far from it. Self-care, in the world of mental illness and chronic pain, is tackling what has made life so unbearable a little bit better. That’s right, a little bit. Why? The process of doing so hurts. A. Lot.

Eventually, those little bits will turn into full pieces. It’s then my job to put those pieces together into the person I want to see in the mirror.

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