A Lesson in Self-Care
Trigger warning: passing mention of eating disorders/body dysmorphia
Tuesday night my roommate found me like this: no pants, kneeling in front of our porcelain god, dried charcoal on my lips, and half digested chana masala in the bowl, clouding my reflection.
A typical Saturday night? Nope, try again. (But wait, you say! You noticed that I started the last paragraph with Tuesday. Yes, yes, nicely done.)
Yeah, so basically I had my head in the toilet because of an 8 hour stress-induced migraine. Two kinda screwed-up things happened after I threw up:
- I weighed myself (which is a whole other aspect of screwed-up beauty ideal tangent that is not relevant to this post, ahem.)
- I went back to my computer and attempted to keep working on a major deadline for work.
Just a moment. WHAT?! Thankfully, my roommate stepped in and told me the obvious, which was I needed to take care of myself/get better and not make myself sicker by trying to do more work.
The end of the story is happier than the beginning: I called in a sick day the next day, and spent the day sleeping and drinking water and when 5:00 rolled around, I felt much more human.
This entire episode felt like a wake-up call, and I actually sat down and wrote out a “self-care” schedule that set boundaries for my day work (9-5 Mon-Thurs) and set aside time for each day for working out, making art, cooking/eating healthy food, and calling far-away friends and family (all activities that had slowly disappeared as I started putting work ahead of other activities – even art!)
Exhibit A: Drawing/sketching. I realized I need to set aside some time every day to draw or carve wood, make any kind of art, to feel whole.
Questions/thoughts I’m still pondering:
- How does perfectionism evolve into self-harm? Is it just a slippery slope? Why do I feel like I’m only doing a good job if I’m working myself past the point of being sick?
- Is self-care even possible for ALL workers in a capitalist economy/society?
- I do think that self-care is not a possibility for the majority of minimum-wage jobs, especially jobs that involve manual labor. I am privileged to work somewhere where my co-workers value my whole being. At the same time, why doesn’t every job view self-care as a necessity? (This line of thought/questioning makes me think a lot about the lack of self-care culture/mental healthcare services at Oberlin (and most US colleges? Not sure, as I haven’t experienced being a student at other institutions.)
- I’m also reminded of one of the first essays in bell hooks’ collection of essays, Teaching to Transgress, which suggests that if teachers aren’t self-actualized, holistic beings that care about their own well-being, they can’t be good teachers to their students! Makes me think of trauma stewardship: the realization that if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people.