I don’t know how other people do trauma or even therapy for that matter. I’m certainly no expert on self-care or balance. I don’t have all of the answers for how to navigate this stuff. I only know what it’s like for me.
If you happen to listen to our podcast, you know this is a major focus of my life right now. I may not have all of the answers, but I sure am a seeker of truth and the best practices I can try to implement. Fortunately, I have the most amazing gift right now… time.
When the kids’ lives got to the point that they needed me less, we made the decision that I would take that time to focus on my mental health and wellbeing for a while. It was a tough decision for me to make. Life would be a lot easier if we had that second income; however, so much of our family’s life is still quite demanding and unpredictably needy. My having the flexibility to tend to those needs when they arise is still a high priority.
Most days; however, I do have a lot more time in my day to focus on self care, mental health care, self-exploration and discovery… so many amazing things. The problem with this scenario is oh my god I have so much time to focus on myself ewww yuck I hate this. I’m a work in progress, what can I say? A typical “me” day looks something like: wake, sit under my gorgeous tree and drink my morning tea, do some yoga, meditate, journal, listen to teachings, explore various therapies and healing modalities, and so on. That might be followed by a little housework, maybe some cooking and overall just being with myself. Sounds like bliss, right? Another typical day might also look like: wake, lay in bed on my phone scrolling instagram, tiktok, playing puzzle games, and actively participating in any other mindless check-out and avoidance technique I can find. Maybe after a while I’ll get up and find some lunch (because I’ve been laying there so long it’s now lunch time,) return to bed with chips, some dry cereal and two pieces of licorice I found in the back of the pantry and repeat the morning. I might add a nap in there along the way, but rinse and repeat until it’s time to get up and drive through McDonald’s (because it’s just around the corner so no need to put on a bra) for dinner and return to bed for more of the same. Then, for the pièce de résistance, maybe I’ll just stay up half the night because “hello insomnia my old friend, hasn’t this been an exceptional day of depression and feeling like absolute garbage and mentally flogging myself because I suck? We should definitely do it again tomorrow, right?”
There’s not a lot of in between if I’m being honest. I’m either amazing or pretty shitty (at least that’s the story I tell myself. I’m still working on being kind and compassionate to myself, okay?!) I’m either all in on taking the best care of myself or all in on avoiding everything of any substance because ohmygod I cannot fucking deal with myself today or probably tomorrow either.
Why am I like this?!? I don’t know. I’m still waiting for the magic of therapy to reveal this to me. Just kidding, I have a pretty good idea but I don’t want to deal with that today. Or probably tomorrow either.
Please hear me when I say, I know this is a privilege and fortune that 90% of people do not have. We aren’t rich by any means and sometimes the guilt I feel about not bringing in an income on the tight months is downright painful. I honestly just don’t have the mental capacity right now to handle a job on top of kid stuff and my mental health. It’s really hard for me to admit that. Even though my kids don’t require the time they once did, they still take up so much of my mental bandwidth. Helping two neurodivergent children (even if they are half-grown pseudo adults) navigate life’s challenges, their own trauma and therapies and treatments is a lot. There are parents/caregivers far more equipped than I who do it all while balancing their careers, etc. I just don’t have that in me. I never have. I know I’ve been viewed by some as being spoiled or lazy or just downright entitled. They can think whatever the hell they want, but the truth is I don’t have the mental fortitude to do it all, and I don’t feel guilty or less than about it…not anymore (most days.)
Giving myself the space to be who I am without comparing myself has been a game-changer when it comes to taking care of me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very huge struggle, but I have a tiny nugget of realization in the back of my mind that helps me out most days. I’m working on listening to that truth and ingraining it into my actual daily thoughts as much as I can. It goes something like this:
“I don’t have to have it all together. It’s okay that I’m not always mentally strong. I am carrying the mental and emotional load for three people almost every day. It is hard and downright exhausting. It’s okay that it’s my full time job. It’s okay I can’t manage more than that. I’m worth the sacrifice of a fancy life so my people and I can be well cared for and loved to the best of my ability. And when I have days where I can’t even do any of that, that’s okay too. Today I can rest my brain and my soul and know that when I can, I’ll get back up and keep going.”
I don’t know how anyone else does this stuff, but that’s how I am doing it. I take my meds, I try my damnedest to tell myself truths every day, and I cut myself slack whenever I can’t. At least that’s the goal.
Oh, and I live to love another day. That’s the most important part.