First, I apologize for worrying everyone yesterday. Second, thank you each for reaching out to check on me. I am okay. I just let the fear get me. Sometimes, things happen, and even with all the years of therapy, I’m still a human. (Which sucks because I’m pretty sure I should be a demi-god by now, right?)
In light of my own crash, and knowing that so many are out there struggling right now, I’m going to share how I got through the last couple of days. I hope something in here will help you when things overwhelm you and you find yourself needing to take care of you. So, the first thing that happened Thursday was that I felt myself hitting that mental and emotional wall where I could not process one more thing. I went to lay down and nap, hoping that sleep would help me recover some of my fortitude.
Laying there, I recalled the words of a favorite poem, Desiderata. I’ve memorized this one over the years, and it’s often a meditation point for me to reference, much like some have a favorite verse from their scriptures. The piece that I focused on was:
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
The rest after that is useful in times like this, but this passage specifically helped. I do try to nurture strength of spirit and mind, constantly. Some days, clearly, are easier than others, but it’s a fight I just can’t give up. I can get knocked down, but I will get up again because I’ve done the work before things go upside down.
Dark imaginings is another one that well, almost anyone with PTSD or anxiety can relate to. Your head just takes off to the most catastrophic place possible and dumps you there. How do we know the difference between dark imaginings and reality? Well, in my case, yes, I have some valid fears regarding my health and about not wanting to lose anyone. But, imagining life without the people I care about is not something I need to do. That’s a perfect example of a dark imagining. My head was spinning up images of having to comfort my older daughter, or of never seeing my son again, or my youngest looking like the woman in the picture from the depression, stuck in a cloth shack with no food.
I was, in fact, distressing myself with those images very needlessly because none of that has happened, there is no guarantee that any of it will happen. True, there’s no guarantee it won’t, but here’s the clencher… I don’t have control over it. If anyone had control over it, there wouldn’t be a pandemic. But the next passage is what breaks those imaginings and makes a way forward.
Fears born out of fatigue and loneliness can be the most soul crushing things, because they’re roaring up at us out of the very core of our souls. Every horror you can imagine is hiding in your head and fatigue is already known to exacerbate depression. Loneliness is an absolute enemy to it. But what on earth do you do about it?
Well, fatigue can sometimes be helped with sleep. So, I did calm myself enough to have a bit of a nap since I have the luxury right now.
Following the nap though, I found myself laying in the bed with tears just flowing from my eyes. I wasn’t tired, I was just raw inside. Back to thinking on that passage. I’d addressed the possibility of fatigue. Time to address loneliness.
I am fortunate at the moment to have a friend staying with me. I didn’t feel like calling out so I sent her a text and asked, “Could I ask you to come and lay down with me and hug me for a bit?” She did, of course. So I laid there and let myself be held by a trusted friend and cried and felt understood. It helped and the tears stopped.
After that, I talked with all of my children, just to talk. I made sure everyone had what they needed and got assurances that they’re taking the best measures possible to take care of themselves. I told my best friend how much she means to me and how much I absolutely love her and am just proud as hell that she’s my friend.
I ate. My housemate ordered dinner for us, and while I have to say, delivery isn’t what it was a week ago, it helped to get a full meal into myself. While we ate, we watched a new episode of a tv show we’ve been following. By the time I went to bed, I felt much better about everything.
I was still solidly anxious yesterday, too, but not overrun with it. So, yesterday I stepped back from the news feeds and the constant flow of discussions online. I stayed in touch with family and friends. I rested. I let my emotional support beast emotionally support me and just buried my face in her fur and breathed in the wonderful smell of a dog who was just outside for a walk. I played Homescapes on my phone, which is a wonderful distraction as well because it’s just one of those match-3 games and those relax me. At bedtime, I had a cup of my favorite tea.
Today, I”m feeling much better.
So let’s list the self-care steps I used:
- Evaluate ability, limits, recognize and accept limits. (Realizing I needed to do something to help myself.
- Meditate. (Not with bells and gongs and such, unless that’s what you prefer, but focusing on the passage from Desiderata counts as a form of meditation.)
- Take a nap. (Not always an option, but a good one when it is.)
- Ask for help. (Reaching out to my housemate.)
- Eat! (A body without food is a body and mind without energy.)
- Distract. (Watch a fun TV show with a friend. You can also do this if you’re alone. Get your friend on the same show at their place, sit on the phone or a video chat while you watch it together, or use a streaming service to share a movie/show.)
- Reach out. (Talk to the people you care about, let them know how important they are, let them tell you the same, and don’t let yourself cut them off.)
- Step Away. (Just did that post!) Give yourself room to breathe and exist.
- Rest. (Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to clean all the things. Go sit down and read a book!)
- Pet a dog/cat. (Fur therapy can’t be overrated IMO. Also, while there’s talk that the virus can hang around in the fur of an animal, you can’t give them the virus or get it from them. If it’s your animal and you’re smart enough to keep other people away from visiting, snuggle up! You can also walk your dogs, just keep that 6 ft distance if you see anyone else.)
- Play a game. (Probably also under distract, but I’m listing it separately.)
- Have a favorite drink and take time to enjoy it.
Two days, one dozen little pieces of self-care.
And that’s really the crux of self-care isn’t it? It’s not something you can just do once in a while. It’s something you have to do consistently. You probably do a lot of it without thinking about it. Showering, washing hands, housework, paying bills, those are all things we don’t think of as self-care, but we really should. Those are the things that we do just to stay alive, and that is precisely the point of self-care… keeping the meat suit in functional order, and taking care of the grey matter.
Please, be taking care of yourself right now. Even if I don’t know you, someone does, and maybe they haven’t told you recently, but losing you would be a horrible thing. The world is completely on edge and there’s lots of reasons to be worried. Give yourself the shelter you need to get through this.