In November, I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Putting a name to my mental illness and knowing that it is more than depression has been positive in many ways. Knowing the nature of my illness means that I can better take care of myself. Despite going through multiple traumas in the last year, I find myself more and more stable each day because I am better equipped to support myself.
In the past few months, I have learned so much about what it means to me to be someone with mental illness, and I’ve started to own it like never before. I had to start making some hard realizations, though. One of the things I had to come to terms with most is what the true nature of self-care really is.
Self-care is a term that most people who frequent the internet these days know. It has become popular, almost fashionable to talk about self care and to “treat yo self”. Listicles about “Self-Care You Should Do Right Now”abound.
I’m not saying that buying a latte is a bad way to take care of yourself. I find myself using rewards to help myself do mundane tasks that my disorder makes more challenging. However, the glamorized version of self-care that exists in popular media leaves out some very important parts of the equation.
Real self-care is more often than not uncomfortable. It means going to medical appointments even though I don’t want to. It includes doing homework even when my medication makes me sleepy, and it means doing a lot of emotional work that can be incredibly painful and taxing.
Instead of self-care, I like the term “self-love”. I like this because love is an action that requires hard decisions and a toughness that sometimes means making yourself do things that you don’t want to do.
So when you are practicing self-love, some of it is going to be difficult as hell. But your health is worth it. And when you’re done doing the hard work that loving yourself requires, go get that latte.