12 Days of Blogmas! Day Five: Self-Care at Christmas

Hallo my little frostlings!

I am here to present to you my fifth day of Blogmas, and Day Five is slightly more special is it not?

Today’s little festive offering is about Self Care. Hopefully it will serve as a little reminder that one of the most valuable things we can do at Christmas is to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and actively making the time to do so. If you’re anything like me you can get so swept up in the seasonal follies that you forget to be calm and centred. It almost seems selfish to me to do so, ironically. But thinking about it, surely what your family and friends want most is for you to be healthy and happy and ready to celebrate life together, and the best way to start is through Self Care. 

Today, I was discharged from CBT after completing a course of 8 therapy sessions, based largely on anxiety and self esteem. I can’t thank my therapist enough, she has been wonderful, and I will definitely miss talking things through with her. That’s not to say I feel I need to continue, but it was an entirely new experience for me to help rework the patterns of thought in which I felt trapped. It sounds bonkers, but i had never even considered the prospect of treating myself kindly, or considering forgiveness as a way to step forward and beyond what I have done to make myself feel so numb. In September I put myself in a situation where I felt completely out of control, and it was as though I was letting the world wash over me, and I didn’t care if I let go and lost myself completely. I realise this all sounds dramatic and  abstract and unrelatable but I don’t want to get bogged down in what actually happened, but I want to appreciate the gains from this experience: recognising there was a problem, and taking the initiative to address it.

There were plenty of resources available to me, I was very lucky. I understand not everyone will be able to access the same help as me, but I hope that in sharing this it may encourage you to try, if you feel you need it. One of the things I said I wanted to unchain and leave behind in 2016 was my tendency to self-harm. To me it felt like nothing more than a habit, as I didn’t feel particularly upset when doing it, or as if I was feeding into a wider issue, it was just an easy way of acknowledging my own mistakes, and feeling the need to punish myself for them. I would sometimes ‘save’ them up and use them when I arrived at a more private space, or sometimes I would feel unable to delay this, and have to resort to hurting myself in front of other people. It didnt have to be noticeable, usually just something to cause me some level of pain. This became a unique pain to me, after a while it didn’t hurt half as much and I would feel a strong urge to turn to more painful options. It was often verbal as well, simply berating every action and thought of my day became the norm. This carried on far into 2017, and I wish I had recognised earlier that I needed to try a different angle. It all felt like an accumulation rather than an effective coping mechanism, and was starting to govern every decision I made.
Talking things through with a therapist was a frightening concept for me, as I’m sure it is to a lot of people. All I can say, from someone who struggles to articulate herself on a daily basis, is that you will not feel judged or helpless. Each session I had made me think about how much of a bully I had become to myself, and how this can be stopped with practice. It was getting in the way of living. The awful words, the breath-holding, the scratching, the cutting, the biting, the burning, the slapping. I dont know how I got myself into this hole but I was starting to rely on it. It was comforting to hate myself with such abandon for everything that mattered to me, because I felt capable of it, and it was familiar. I had little tasks and methods to practice in between every session, and there was no pressure to achieve anything or to aim for a consistent incline in mood or capabilities…the most relieving aspect was that she made me realise that it’s perfectly fine to make mistakes, and to feel up and down, and to be inconsistent. 
I don’t expect there to be a flick of a switch or the twist of a bulb and suddenly compassionate thinking will be my permanent mindset. I accept there will be a struggle to wean myself off punishment, but it’s something I am more than prepared to do. I feel as though I have the tools I need now. And hopefully this will all ripple outwards, and these compassionate thoughts will extend to those around me. The other day at work, I made a mistake, which was usually my trigger to seize up and resort to a bullying mindset. I felt my fingers twitch as though ready to dig my nails into my inner arm. Instead I managed to take four deep breaths, not ignore the urge but acknowledge that I do not need to cave to it, and I chose not to. It sounds like the smallest moment but I felt so proud of myself for bypassing the start of what could potentially have been weeks of guilt. When I look back on 2017, it is these moments that I wish to celebrate. 

In the spirit of self-care, one of my modules was setting aside specific times for headspace. Doing something for myself, which makes me calm and energised. Having a long bath, going to the cinema, stretching, reading a loved book, etc. If I have a vague notion of treating myself to such a time, I often don’t get round to it, or rank it lowest on the hierarchy of what is to be done that day. I have instead started scheduling this headspace as if it were an appointment, or a social event. I tell myself that it is extremely important that I do this, at this set time, because looking after myself is so valuable. It can be a simple 10 minutes. I tell myself that I deserve it, and I do. Harsh thoughts will creep in, like “I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve this” or “You’re so selfish. Do something productive.” In these instances I will consider the opposite, and how much more beneficial it will be to my mental health. What if I have worked hard? What if this is productive? For the first time in my life it feels acceptable to offer praise to myself instead of hatred. The red welts on my skin are all starting to fade to a silver translucency. 

To conclude this post, here are a few photos from my Self Care sessions the past couple of days: Going for long walks in the snow, listening to music. I have never felt more capable.

Until the next day of Blogmas,

Rosie

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