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.