What’s the difference between self-care and self-fixing?

Today I’m feeling hopeful. It’s the first time I’ve felt hopeful in a while, so I’m pretty excited about it. So excited that I rang my boyfriend to tell him – I thought it would be a nice novelty for him to get a happy phone call from me rather than a grumpy or crying one.

 

I’ve been feeling crappy for a pretty long time now. Not 100% constantly crappy, but up and down-y, when I think back over time I mostly see it as grey, forget-about-the-happy-days kind of crappy. And when I saw a long time, I mean months, not days. When I first started feeling consistently down, as opposed to just having a bad day (or a bad week), I had so much happy-and-well-ness built up in my tank, that I was ok about feeling shit. I was almost (not quite) looking forward to the challenge of depression (again) in a sort of yay, now I can try out all of those strategies that I’ve been talking about for so long! Put it to the test! kind of way. When I felt good for a few days in a row, I had this (very, very, tiny) sense of disappointment – oh, it’s over now, I didn’t even get to let myself get to the depths so I could write some really great depressed connecting blog post about depression and it’s shitness. But oh well, to be well is better anyway.

 

But then I wasn’t really well, for a long time. The happy streak didn’t last. Even the mildly cheerful didn’t hang around. The grey kept going (keeps going). And that big tank of happy-wellness that I had carefully cultivated over the previous few years slowly dwindled, as I drew on it again and again without ever really having the opportunity or energy to refill it. And then I found myself empty of it, completely. And shit got cray. And when I saw cray, I mean, bad. Unhappy. Crying-y. Life-has-no-meaning-or-purpose-y, why-do-I-even-bother-being-alive-y. And I dragged myself onwards, in this state, for weeks. I cried every day, often multiple times a day, often triggered by almost nothing. I raged and snapped at the people I love most in the world. I avoided my friends because it was too much effort to pretend to be ok, and if I let slip that I wasn’t ok, I was going to collapse with the outpouring of despair and sadness. And on the good days, I put on my shiny face and I laughed and worked and I did life, like a more or less normal kind of person.

 

And then eventually I took some drugs that a doctor gave me because it was either that or a slow rotten death of my life and my love and my relationship and my job. But unlike in the past, the drugs didn’t help that much. They helped enough that I didn’t cry every.single.day anymore, and I avoided my friends less. But I still had recurring thoughts of what the fuck is the point of my life?

 

Interestingly though, I fell for the story that this life pondering was a meaningful, legitimate question. I thought I was searching for a purpose, like all the good entrepreneurs and life-changers and move-makers. But, all of a sudden, after reading a line in a book a few weeks ago, I realized that all this pondering of purpose and meaning and point to life, while veiled in an illusion of ‘productive action-taking to define your mission and fire up your doing-ness’ was actually a destructive thought pattern that was triggering me over and over into grey-pointless-meaningless land.

So there’s that.

You think you’re being proactive and bettering your own life and then BAM! You realize you’re bringing yourself down.

 

Then, shortly after, I admitted another hard truth to myself. Somewhere along the way in between my tank emptying and now, all the strategies and things I was doing (there were many – like: going to integrative doctors ($$$), taking buttloads of supplements, movement, reading self-help, talking about ‘it’, doing things that made me laugh, etc) somehow ninja-ed without me even noticing into something they didn’t used to be. They started off as beautiful acts of self-love, where I cared so much about my health and my wellbeing that when I saw I was down, I was offering my love to myself through actions, in the hopes that I may accept those actions of love and feel better. Along the way though, unbeknownst to me, they turned into actions of desperation. A desperate, clawing attempt to fix my broken self, to rid myself of this fucking way of being. A product of disgust, despair, and dislike about who I was as a person, and a last-ditch attempt at escaping this horrendous way of life, which as many of you know, can be quite excruciating with its discomfort.

So there was also that.

My acts of self-care and kindness had become acts of self-loathing and fixing myself.

 

Farrrrrrout. Where does one go with these realisations? How to get back to a place where my self-care is about love and kindness and not fixing? How to fill up my tank again? How to accept myself completely as I am, and love myself through that, while simultaneously acknowledging that how I am is pretty fucking uncomfortable right now, a lot of the time? I don’t necessarily have the answers to these questions, but I am letting them marinade while I continue with life.

 

I also want to point out that I haven’t shared a lot about how I’ve been faring for months, as I really resonate with what Brene Brown writes about vulnerability. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something along the lines of how sharing your vulnerabilities with people when you’re still hurting and healing isn’t being vulnerable, it’s over-sharing. She says, “I don’t tell stories or share vulnerabilities with the public until I’ve worked them through first” and goes on to say that sharing a vulnerable story in an attempt to meet a need for attention or care isn’t a great idea. All this to say that while I’m still going through things, as we all are, I want you to know that this isn’t a desperate cry for help, I’m doing ok. I deliberately haven’t shared it for a while, but now seems like a good time, for whatever reason. So there you go.

6 Replies to “What’s the difference between self-care and self-fixing?”

  1. Hi Louise

    Just read your post… It is pretty brutally honest about the realities of living with depression.

    I work in a women’s centre and I would say the majority of my clients have either anxiety or depression or both. It’s definitely more common than people think.

    I have had some post natal depression myself and that wasn’t a walk in the park. I also lost my Dad to depression/suicide and close friend too. But you get through it.

    Something I have learnt is depression is different for everyone. The more we know about ourselves, our triggers and how to build support around us ( including external people) the better.

    I also greatly admire the work you do with your clients. We are often our hardest critics! For a long time now, I have collected cards, letters etc from people you give beautiful feedback to me. It’s my wellness box which I open when U feel like crap, that I’m not making a difference or just a crap headspace.

    It helps me to challenge my headspace cause they aren’t my words… They come from other people who love and believe in me. We all need that.

    Keep pushing forwards and inspiring others

    Take Care Anna

    1. Hey Anna, thanks for commenting! I love the idea of collecting the words people offer you and reading them in times of doubt – I might have to follow your lead on that. It’s a tricky thing about depression, in that the nature of it is such that you actually can’t remember all the good things in life/you’ve done – so having a box of physical evidence is a great idea! Thank you 🙂 And thanks for your supportive words, it’s much appreciated. xx

  2. Thank you for such an honest article.

    It was a welcome email I received this morning from you and I totally get what you are saying.

    Sending you lots of love, it’s a crazy world but beautiful when we stick together

    “This too shall pass” is the one sentence I stic to like my life depends on it

    Xx

    1. Hey Rosie, thanks for commenting! And thank you for the love – it’s much appreciated. It is certainly both crazy and beautiful – and so much better with a tribe of understanding people! I need to tattoo that sentence on m forehead :p. xx

  3. Thank you for your honesty.
    I am too currently traversing the journey of depletion depression (again) and really love your sharing.
    Much love sister xxxx

    1. Thanks for your comment Star. You are so welcome. It’s comforting to know that there is a tribe of people travelling the journey alongside each other! Much love to you. xx

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