Ok, so I said I was going to start talking more about mental health in honor of Space Mom, and now seems like a pretty good time to do just that.
It’s a little stressful in my world right now. Our 20 year old cat Mutt had a stroke, and we had to make that hard, final, decision that every pet owner dreads. I got rear-ended. Again. I’m fine. Our car is fine. Dude who hit me drove his expensive sports car into my trailer hitch. His car is very much not fine. I’m getting ready to fly back for a big family thing at the end of the month. And work is kind of a big ball of stress as we adapt to a new over-arching software system that was not near as customizable as we were led to believe. So, I’m a little tense.
And everyone can be a little tense from time to time, or a lot tense. Honestly, as bad as this is, I’ve had worse. But the problem with that is that I don’t often recognize levels of stress that would take out normal people as anything other than status quo sometimes. And that’s not ok. For me or for you.
So, sometimes I have to take some time off from things, all the things, if I can, and just be. And those little mini vacations can take any form you want. There is no right way to self-care. My self-care looks a lot like things that might stress other people out… like doing a 5K with my sister, or taking up the 21 Day Kettlebell Challenge.
Well, some of my self-care looks like that. A lot of the rest of my self-care looks like taking a clonazepam and watching all the of MCU, not necessarily in order and sobbing my eyes out at the end of the Captain America movies. Like, watching Pan’s Labyrinth and curling up in fetal position crying like my heart is broken. It looks like reading all of the original 12 Wizard of Oz books, The Cat Who… books, the Harper Hall of Pern books, Glen Cook’s Garrett PI books, the Nero Wolfe books, or Infinite Coffee and Protection Detail on AO3 over and over. It looks like long showers, bad horror movies and forcible cat cuddling. (We engage in corporal cuddling in my house.)
For some folks it looks like obsessively painting miniatures. Or like crafting potential gaming sessions, including an array of baddies and NPCs all statted out. For some it looks like shopping, like video games, like driving fast, like taking pictures, or kayaking, or a big fuzzy blanket.
At the times when life is all, “HA!” It is important to recharge, whatever that looks like for you.
The other thing to note is that self-care, or rather the lack of it, is often the canary in the coal mine for when you are feeling truly overwhelmed, if you are entering a depressive cycle, if you just can’t cope.
I know when I’m starting to get bad, because I quit flossing.
That sounds like such a petty, small thing. But that is often my first warning sign that shit is about to get ugly. Some people give up showering, quit choosing outfits deliberately, quit eating…
My second warning sign is when I quit eating. And it’s a big one. When I start deciding I can live without breakfast or lunch, things are bad. And I know I’m just courting the fat-shamers by saying that. But it’s true. There’s a reason that so many people who feel powerless (i.e. women) in our society develop eating disorders. A. We get constantly harassed about our weight. B. Eating is one of the few things we can exercise complete control over. And we learn that as toddlers.
So, next time you’re stressed out, and you recognize it, take a look at what you are or are not doing because of it. Learn to recognize those tells in yourself. And when they surface, start making yourself, or if you have friends or a partner who is willing to help you with this, have them help remind you to do those little things that make you feel better.
Wear make up. Wear your favorite jewelry. Hell, you can tell when I’m feeling particularly anxious: I wear a lot of rings those days, pretty much a ring (at least one) on every finger. They’re comforting, and only a little bit of that is because they’re a viable weapon.
We can talk later about the bullying I faced in Jr. High and High School. And actually I’ve talked about it before. But we can revisit later in a discussion of PTSD.
So here is your homework.
1. Learn your stressed out tells.
2. Learn what makes you feel better.
3. When you notice your tells, do a thing that makes you feel better.
Will it stop all your panic, anxiety and depression issues? No. But it might make the difference between functional and non-functional. Sometimes it won’t, but sometimes it will.
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