Why is this so hard for me?
Why do I appear hardwired for being so brutal on myself?
Why is take care of myself the last thing that occurs to me?
It is almost as if I believe that if I am super uncaring towards myself that I will be redeemed. Instead what happens is that everyone around me sees that I have no limits and they in turn treat me like they don’t care. Not taking care of myself teaches everyone else that I do not need to be cared for.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
I always thought that showing up for work when I am sick and should be in bed, meant that I am a warrior, a badass: to be praised and revered. Nope - it just shows everyone that I don’t really care about myself so why should they. In the current paradigm of sick shaming, it also shows others that I don’t really care about them because I am willing to show up and place their health in jeopardy.
I always thought that putting myself last showed everyone how much of a priority they were in my life. What I really showed them was how little I thought about myself, so it was totally ok for them to not make me a priority either. DAMMIT!
I thought that putting my kids first is what a mother is supposed to do. What I really did was show them that I am just a back drop for their lives, someone who does not have needs, dreams, or desires of her own. DAMMIT!
I thought that being self sufficient and competent showed everyone that I was good. What I really showed them was that I didn’t need them or help; so they didn’t need to think about me, worry about me and, for sure, not help me. DAMMIT!
I have a life long habit of not reaching out for help. I don’t ask out of fear of seeming needy or being rejected, so I get exactly what I ask for - NOTHING! Lately I have realized that I have totally set myself up - I am totally screwed and I have myself to thank for it.
Here is how I did it.
I set about my life to be super competent. Super high achieving. Perfect in every way - uber clean house, well decorated house, clothes always neat and tidy and in fashion, thin body, well groomed hair, always look presentable, smart, funny, outgoing, self sufficient (Not needy at all. Prided myself on not being needy). I took all these super ok things and turned them into weapons against myself. Almost like a beauty mark that has now almost completely covered my body and soul. What everyone sees is this exterior - a person who shows up no matter what, who doesn’t ask for help or demand much of anything. No one ever thinks to help her. She doesn’t need help and, even if you were crazy enough to think that she might, her ego will summarily tell you she doesn’t and your ego will tell you that you wouldn’t do it right anyway.
So here I sit alone with my perfect job, house, hair and attendant other things that I have created in the image of perfection. I think that I did this to show you all that I am ok, I am fine. But why did I need to convince you that I was ok to begin with?
Because I was seriously not ok!
I think that I have to go back in time to the place where I started to be "unok" and start there. I also have to stop telling you I am ok. I am not ok. My lack of being authentic is a problem. I can’t get close to you and you can’t get close to me. I am stuck feeling forever alone and put upon because my life just reinforces itself over and over and over again. It has become this vicious cycle. I need you to believe that I am ok when I am not ok which in turn allows you to think that I am ok when I am not ok which means that you never, ever see that I am not ok! FUCK!
I can remember when I hit bottom with booze - people suggested that I go to rehab. I rejected that idea immediately and completely. I was in my last semester of law school, was working 5 jobs, volunteering 40 hours a week at the local domestic violence shelter, on call every evening on the rape and spousal abuse hotline and juggling several boyfriends in different states. If I checked myself into rehab what would everyone think??? How could I just check out of my life and go stay somewhere for 28 days? People might think that I am not ok! (Um, yes they would have dumbass - and that would have been 100% accurate as I was totally not OK!)
Looking back, I think that not going to rehab was a mistake. No one took my recovery seriously - not my friends, professors or my parents. I got no accommodations at school or work. I just added another thing that I had to do everyday to my schedule. Stopping drinking and partying all night long did free up some hours in the day, so it all worked out but I can see that what I really needed was help. And I got it but in a way that made it more hard not less hard. I look back at that time today and know that even with the hindsight that I have today - I could not have made a different choice back then. Hell, I don’t even know if I could make a different choice today. I have been stuck in a life long pattern of desperately needing help and being completely helpless to ask or accept help that is given.
That part of me to deny myself to my core to prove to you I am ok is so fucking strong. How do I take care of myself and at the same time let you know when I need some help? I have spent the better part of my life trying to make everyone believe that I am more or better than I really am. I see now that "what the fuck was I thinking” is completely applicable. And I do think that and likely will think that on an increasingly regular basis.
Why do I have this ability to sit and listen to people whose lives are just fine complain about them while dying inside? I have literally shown up at work contemplating suicide and no one knew, cared or even noticed that anything was at wrong with me. I have spent a lifetime of blaming others for not noticing when I completely, utterly failed to let anyone close enough to really see. It is akin to going to the doctor and telling them you have no symptoms and then being pissed when they miss the cancer.
So I am learning to take care of myself now. I am learning to say "no", "I don’t want to" and "I am not willing to do that". I am saying those things - starting today. It can’t be too late. While my current way is familiar and ingrained; it is also what keeps me stuck. I can’t promise that I will feel better if I change what I am willing to sacrifice - I can tell you that if I do something (just one small little thing) the result will be different. Sometimes things have to fall apart so that they can become greater. And the truth is that I have been falling apart for decades. The other truth is that I made it way harder than it needed to be. I could have been falling apart and let you in, instead I kept you out and fell apart alone.
Did I suffer less because you didn't know? I did not, I suffered more because I refused to let you in. I am going to stop thinking that self care is a bad word. I am going to allow me to fall apart and come together, right there in front of you. Some of you may like it, some may not. Either way, it is honest and real and true. And most importantly, it gets me out of the bind of pretending I don't need you when I really, really do. Apparently, I have to be the one that lets you in...
So for today, I am not going to work. I am sick and I am going to take care of myself and I am not going to expect that anyone care or even notice. I am going to notice and care. I am
going to place the focus on myself and stay in bed and do things that I want to do today. I am going to achieve nothing. I am going to ask for help from those willing to help and let the rest of you off the hook. The world won’t fall apart and even if it does - let someone else be responsible for that today. Today, I give myself permission to make myself a priority and let everyone else take care of themselves.