Learning to Love: A Self-Care Journey
Self-care: It is a relatively new term for taking care of yourself. Many people equate practicing self-care to activities like taking bubble baths, exercising, or journaling. While those are excellent self-care strategies, I have learned that, for me, self-care had to become something much more intensive.
A rough start to the journey
I have struggled with my self-esteem for most of my life. A fractured childhood, addiction, blood-borne illness, and more made the endeavor of learning to love me all the more arduous.
For many years, I hated myself. Hated the way I looked, hated that I was an addict, and I could not cope with the weight of my transgressions. I felt lost and abandoned, especially by myself.
Looking for help and relief
In my early 20’s, I began to walk a path of transformation. I had chosen to recover, both from my addictions and my illness. Reaching out for help in my community was daunting. Waitlists for seeing affordable psychiatric and counseling professionals were gargantuan. I did not know if I could wait and keep the pain and sadness from bubbling over until I could find help. An unfortunate part of those waitlists is you are not guaranteed a compatible match in the person helping you. Counselors are like shoes: some fit, some do not. Some are vastly unprepared to assist particular traumas. It was incredibly frustrating to wait months for help, to only have it be the wrong kind of help.
It took over a year to be able to access the services of a counselor that was a good fit. As I began work with my counselor to break down and accept my experiences, it occurred to me that, for me, self-care was going to involve a lot more than painting my nails.
With the support of family, my sponsor, and my trusted counselor I began to unpack the baggage I had been carrying around for years. A necessary part of emotional and mental growth is being ready to face what comes up. There were many days after counseling sessions where I just felt lost and repulsive. How could anyone love me after all I had done and been through?
Growing pains and happy endings
So many sessions left me feeling raw and vulnerable, so much so that I began to doubt if these services actually were helpful. As time went on and having committed to attending sessions weekly for a year, the trauma and heartache began to melt away. My counselor helped me to overcome the searing torment that was plaguing my mind. I took it one day at a time and before I knew it many of the giant obstacles I faced shrunk and became manageable.
Purging emotional wounds is absolutely exhausting, but I realized that doing so was my ultimate form of self-care. I had to accept many things: my weirdness, my trauma, and I had to accept that I did not turn out to be the person I thought I would. I had to learn to recognize my assets: my sense of humor, my compassionate nature, my bold honesty. The good and the bad, I had to accept it all.
How I practice self-care has been an ever-evolving spectrum of activities and internal healing. Today, because of the work I have put in to heal my heart and mind, I can more readily enjoy self-care practices like bubble baths and journaling.
Loving oneself and accepting the past, present and future is a continuous process but wholly worth it. I am grateful for every day that I have gotten to live in this new life, free from the torture I imposed on myself. Anyone is capable of this, but they cannot do it alone. Reach out if you need help, but remember to reach back when another hand extends to you.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”-Brenee Brown