One of the side effects of surviving any type of abuse, including abuse within the psychiatric system, is self doubt. Emotional abuse and gaslighting are particular triggers for self doubt.
I’ve been struggling with so much self doubt this week. I felt hopeless at times. I felt I was almost back where I started 3 years ago. I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to do my job. I felt like a shit mother. I felt like I was letting everyone down. I felt exhausted and depressed. I felt like there was little meaning to my life.
I know I was triggered. Some of these feelings were related to past trauma. Some of them were related to life stresses.
Today, I’m feeling a little bit better. I had a good day at work. I met some challenges successfully. I realized that there is no possible way to keep everyone happy all the time and that my best has to be good enough. It’s all I’ve got! Not everything in the world is my fault!
I realized that when I was feeling depressed I failed to take, or even consider, the advice that I give to almost all of my service users at work. I often tell survivors that the journey to recovery and health does not go in a straight forward line. While we are healing we move forward, backwards, side to side, up and down, but as long as we are moving we are coping and surviving. In dark times, when all seems lost we have never lost the previous gains we made. When we feel better we are not starting from zero. We can never lose the progress we have made, we can only lose sight of it from time to time. Any progress you make in your healing journey stays with you. It’s okay to relapse, it’s okay to feel down, it’s okay to feel hopeless…but don’t give up. Your hard work is paying off. Recovery from trauma is not a race, and it if WERE a race it would be a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a marathon with no clear finish line, sometimes we are beaten down with exhaustion but even if we are crawling forward at a snails pace we are heroes.
Sometimes when times are dark the best thing we can do as survivors is to self care.
Sometimes when times are dark the hardest thing to do is self care.
Let us first acknowledge that as survivors, especially as women, we have often learned various messages about self care, from our families, from our abusers and from society. Many of those messages are negative. If you take care of yourself you are lazy, you are wasting time, you should be productive, you need to put others first…blah blah blah!
Self care is very simple but it is not easy. It’s is often challenging for so many reasons.
I’m want to tell you that self care is a radical act. By caring for ourselves and putting ourselves first we are combating patriarchy and rape culture. By believing that we deserve to be cared for, that we deserve to listen to our inner voices, that we deserve to rest, to be validated, to have fun, to laugh and to relax, we are fighting against the harmful messages that women are not worthy of self care.
In order to self care, we must first identify and tune in to what we need in any given moment. It can be helpful to think of your basic needs first. Have you eaten in the last 4 hours? Are you hydrated? Have you slept? Do you need to move your body or breathe some fresh air?
Are you having strong feelings? If you are scared, maybe things that make you feel safe can be self care. Wrapping up in a cozy blanket, holding a pet or stuffed animal, talking to a supportive friend. If you are angry, maybe you need to assert yourself, exercise, move your large muscle groups. If you are sad, maybe you need to cry, get comfort, talk to others.
Yes, I am giving you permission to express your feelings! Whatever they are they are normal, healthy and important.
Let’s put ourselves first today. Fight self doubt with self care!
Who is with me?