When you can’t afford self-care

People keep telling me to take time to take care of myself. It’s a little frustrating. Last night I tweeted a bit about why it’s frustrating,  and I’m going to pull those thoughts together here because I think the conclusion might help someone, somewhere.

The essential backstory, in case you don’t obsessively follow me: I am newly divorced after 17 years. I am the surprised party in this divorce, and as such I have a lot of grief and other feelings to work through.

Additional fallout from the divorce includes: 1. significant added financial stresses; and 2. being (for now) a full-time single dad of four young children, and a near-sole-provider for a total household of ~9. I’ve been forced me to take on extra work on top of my already-full-time job in order to stay solvent—at the same time as adjusting to being the primary homemaker and caretaker. I also don’t have family or many friends in the area, because we only moved here to Eastern TN three years ago and I spent all of that time focusing on family and work.

The thing that I am constantly wanting to say to people is that yes, actually, I do know how to take care of myself. And I so desperately wish that I only had to deal with my own grief right now, that it’s like a physical hunger. If that were the case, I would win awards for “best self-care”.

If I had a dollar for everyone who told me to take time to care for myself, during the depression caused by having had all of my time for self-care taken away… I might be able to afford the time to care for myself!

Instead, I’ve given up my runs, my lifting sessions, my meditation, and my hikes because on the rare occasion I have a free half-hour or hour, the most desperately pressing self-care need, taking precedence over any other, is sleep.

Beyond that, my only allowance to self-care is therapist appointments every two weeks, and conversations with friends online. (Thanks, friends!)

Oh, and writing, like I’m doing right now.

It all sucks, but I’m not here to whine. The point is this: someone near you is sobbing into a pillow at night because they are psychically bleeding out inside… but they can’t stop sprinting because they are simultaneously an earner and a caregiver. Maybe of children, maybe of parents, maybe of a significant other.

Go find them. And when you do, don’t offer them an ear, or to grab a beer sometime. Instead:

  • Make their family dinner.
  • Watch their kids.
  • Wash their dishes.
  • Go through their mail with them.
  • Plan a menu for them, and maybe do the shopping too.

And don’t just offer. No one has an easy time saying “yes” to help like this. We will say “no, it’s fine” until we drown. Insist. Don’t take no for an answer.

If right now you have a little extra slack in your life, doing one of these things could make a world of difference for someone you know.

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  1. This has so many, this, this, this…

    And I’m so sorry bro. I know you gave so much. And you’re in a place of total exhaustion.


    I’ll chime in, being one of those in a similar boat. Sometimes, even just coming over and talking to us while we clean the house is a HUGE help. Because we get so work, that our energy peters put. Depression make it hard to do dishes, or laundry, or put stuff away….when you’re already exhausted.

    You spring, make some.progress, get derailed. And wind up on the couch napping and recuperating. Wake up, go thru the day, feeling at a loss because that which you planned to finally catch up on, is in fact now a larger pile of stuff to do.

    Feelings of futility set in. And for those who are touch driven, going weeks without touch can leave one feeling like a ghost. And I can say that such dramatic changes can feel extremely surreal. Many days you are just waiting to wake up, cause this is all a dream, right? Wake up, and everything will be right again, you’ll be happily married (or at least reasonably so). But it doesn’t happen…this dream is recurring daily, and that’s how you know it’s reality.

    The best way to describe the strains of these situations is a quote from the Lord of the Rings, “too little butter, spread over too much bread”.

  2. You’re an inspiration for me, for a long time now. Bought your books, rubytapas and read all of your code and this blog.

    I’m sorry that you are going through this. All I can say is that, I’d like to see you come out of this strong and be able to laugh back on all these difficulties when things have settled down.

    Maybe as a tiny distraction:

    * listen to this feel-good tamil song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpIlP6pI8fo

    * In one post you said something about wanting “great sex”. I don’t know if this will help, but listen to this fun podcast: https://tim.blog/2017/11/17/alice-little/

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