It was the spring of 2017 and I had just lost 55lbs. I figured once I lost the weight, the self loathing and sabotage would fall right off too.
Right around that time, a friend and I had a falling out, and I realized that even with the weight loss, my mental health needed some adjusting too. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years, but the fallout brought me to one of my all-time lows. I remember reading somewhere that once you hit rock bottom there is no where else to go but up. I sincerely believe that most of us have to plummet before we truly want to change.
I was on Instagram the first time I read about #selfcare, and clicking on that hashtag led me down a rabbit hole full of bath bombs, face masks, special oil for your hair, knee-high socks, Starbucks, essential oils, and jewelry engraved with the words “brave” or “strong.” And just like many of you, I was so desperate to feel better that I started racking up my credit card.
The first thing I ordered was one of those Dogeared necklaces because the quote on it told me it was “going to be okay”, and how would anything be okay if I didn’t have a necklace as a reminder? Then I ordered another one because it reassured me “I can and I will.” I needed a backup just in case something should happen to the first one. I still did not feel better.
So I went and bought an essential oil diffuser, along with two giant bottles of peppermint and eucalyptus oils. Pinterest told me it would help with anxiety. I still did not feel better.
Then I bought a bunch of journals, which may have helped if I had written in them more than once or twice, a set of essential oils, because maybe if I tried a different concoction it would help? I ordered a set of bath bombs from Lush, some tea from David’s because the description said it would help me relax, some PJs because they had a mandala on them, and maybe that would help keep me centred? And to top it all off, I signed up for a monthly box subscription to “Mytherabox.” After all that I did not feel better – the only thing I ever felt was broke.
I started to fall off track again. Actually, I don’t think I was ever fully on the track to begin with. I tore my knee at the gym, then ended up getting a sinus infection that lasted over a month. I gained back a lot of the weight I fought so hard to lose, and my depression and anxiety came back with a vengeance.
I realize now that I wasn’t healing – I was distracting myself with things. Whatever you want to call it, please don’t confuse it with self-care.
Self-care means taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. It means setting boundaries, being able to sit with yourself and identify what you need, realizing what your toxic traits are and learning how to change them. Sometimes self-care can just mean forcing yourself out of bed so you can get on with the day. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” when you begin caring for yourself.
A lot of businesses use the term self-care as a means of selling their products, which seems to be beneficial because we are swarmed every day with the notion that self-care requires purchasing, when in reality there are so many tools and articles available for free that your self care journey doesn’t have to cost a thing.
I’m nowhere near where I would like to be mentally or physically. But instead of blowing my money on materialistic things, I have started to go to therapy. Learning about my triggers is helping so much more than essential oils ever could. I’m meditating, which I did before, but this time I am able to do it without my meditation sprays or lighting some incense. I am digging and dissecting. It is nothing like the pretty picture they paint on social media. Some days it gets downright ugly. But I am healing, and that in itself is the definition of self-care.
Written by: Kendra Piper