I have no muscle memory for self-care.
It’s a relatively new concept for me, and one I am still working to understand. I grew up putting others first, working hard and not caring much about getting my appearance just right. I am actually usually the first in the car when it’s time to leave. So when my therapist introduced the concept of self-care to me, I really didn’t know much beyond a few feminist articles I had read. I really couldn’t connect to the concept though.
All this talk about bubble baths, pedicures, wine, naps, etc. (and I am making no claims or illustrations about the content of feminist writings about self-care, I am speaking to my own experience and the suggestions made to me) were of zero interest to me. I don’t do this stuff.
I don’t relax. Ever.
My therapist and I went round and round over the concept and my complete disinterest in it. I simply don’t understand why one would do that. It just seemed like so much effort and cost and inconvenience and time and why not put those resources to more productive use? And anyway, my tub doesn’t work for bathing, it’s for showers. And I like showers.
STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME TAKE A BUBBLE BATH ALREADY. Or any of this other weird girly shit that I don’t identify with.
Yesterday changed all of that, because I finally figured out the disconnect.
My therapist was trying to connect me to coping mechanisms that I would have to learn. I have dealt with trauma and crisis (which have been a substantial part of my life for the last twelve years), a lot of which have happened through my work situations, with more work. When shit hits the fan, I work. It is what I know I am good at, it produces tangible outcomes and the admiration of my peers and colleagues.
Being a drunk was never going to look good on me. Being a workaholic was. So I chose that. I had no idea what self-care was, so I did not choose that.
When faced with trauma and crisis now (or their after effects), I still have a desire to choose work. That is how I am programmed. That is what I know. Unfortunately, my brain is so broken at this point that I can’t power through like I used to, and my need to work, and my muscle memory of years of using that to cope, is overridden by anxiety.
I have no muscle memory for self-care, so that’s not where I go. Self-care is a skill I have to learn, and in crisis my capacity to learn new skills is reduced. Hence, I don’t do it.
Now that I’ve realized that, I can change it. One more thing I have to work on, yes, but there is a clear path this time and a clear realization of why. I’m to start with one thing per day – one thing that is for me that takes care of me. Exercise doesn’t count because I have to relearn that too (or re-learn to like it). So here’s to learning about this thing called self-care and working to build that as a muscle memory.