When Being Strong Gets Heavy
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I'm so tired, I thought to myself. Tired of fighting my demons, tired of pushing my mental and physical limits, tired of absorbing the emotions of others, tired of taking care of all the annoying adult shit that needs to be taken care of. I felt spread thin, like a bear ready for a long hibernation that just hasn't found a spot to rest.
Taking care of ourselves can be hard. Sometimes, life just feels like a constant struggle, which is exactly how it should be. But we all have our breaking points, and I'm just tired. I've been struggling against something for a long time. I fought my eating disorder for a decade, then struggled with the ramifications of a broken body, tattered self-worth, and an unhealthy and unsafe relationship. Then I had to struggle to survive, to find a way to make enough money not only to live but to pay for things like flat tires and root canals and flights and insurance. I struggled to understand the world of corporate America: a world that on most levels seems diametrically opposed to who I am. I've struggled to figure out where I want to live, who I want to be, who I want to be around. I've struggled to build a stronger body and a stronger mind. And for all the consistency I've found in this blog, I've more often than not, struggled to write.
Rationally, I know that struggling is exactly the point of doing anything. If life were easy, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying. But there is a point at which struggle becomes less satisfying and more oppressive. And when life gets hard, there isn't a whole lot we can do other than accept the hardship and work through it. What we can do in hard times is prioritize self care, so here's how I'm taking care of me this week, and how you might take care of you too.
Go to bed. Seriously, just sleep. Your brain will work better and your body will feel better. Nobody will notice if you log off an hour early. The thing you think needs to be done now can wait. Put your phone away, take a warm shower, drink some tea, and go tf to sleep.
Say no. No to the dinner you don't want to go to. No to the favor you can't follow through on. No to staying up too late for the sake of socializing. No to spending money you don't have for an experience you don't want. No to the energy vampires, no to unnecessary phone calls, no to anything that drains you. They can wait.
Cook yourself dinner. Not a 5 minute, salad-mix with pre-cooked chicken dinner either (although there's nothing wrong with that). Make something nourishing that takes some time. Roast a potato and a stalk of asparagus. Braise a short rib (I definitely can't do that). Make a pot of chili. Bake a cinnamon roll. Make whatever you want, just for you and maybe a friend or two.
Go to yoga. Leave your computer at a reasonable time. Leave the emails and phone calls and unending stream of expectations. Go breathe deeply while you stretch your hamstrings and open your hips, you'll feel better (I promise).
Read a book you want to read. Not a half-educational book that you think you should read. Watch a trashy TV show, or listen to a funny podcast about nothing. Let your brain check out for a minute, and don't feel guilty about it.
Drink some water. Not an entire pot of coffee, not an energy drink, not lemonade or a mimosa or wine or whiskey. Drink water and tell me you don't feel better.
Go outside. Get some sun (but not too much). Go for a run, or a walk with nothing in your ears. Listen to the sound of nature or the sound of your own breath. Don't forget to take care of this one body you have. Don't forget.
There is a quote about strength that goes something like this: "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have," which sounds great, but which seems kind of obvious when you think about it. Of course, you'll never know how strong you are until you test your strength. I heard that quote all the time when I was in treatment for my eating disorder and it annoyed me heartily. I didn't think I was being strong at all. But now, when I look back on the hours of therapy and doctor appointments; meetings with dietitians and group therapy sessions, I can see how strong I really was. The same dynamic is happening now, I just don't quite have the ability to zoom out and see it. And the same dynamic might be happening to you, too. One day, when you look back on the hardships you overcame you'll be proud of how strong you are and were, I promise. <3