From self-destruction to self-care

I can’t explain how it feels to be on the other side of the coin of depression and self-destruction: to be the one giving support to young people suffering instead of the person suffering. My self in active self-destruction, who completely believed that it would never end, that it would never get better, would never believe that not only does it get better, but it gets better to the point where I can now relate to those experiences and speak about them, but it feels like I’m speaking about another person’s experiences. Self-destruction is no longer something I can never escape, but another language – one that I can speak when I have to, one that I can act as translator for, but not one that is my mother tongue.

The language I’m now fluent in is self-care. It is what motivates my entire day. Even if I’m not actively speaking it that day, it is something that I’m aware is missing, something that I crave. In the same way that I was addicted to self-destruction, I am now addicted to self-care. And that is incredibly huge and unfathomable. My self-destructive self could not fathom self-care. From a space of intense self-hatred, self-care was a medication I took unwillingly, because it was prescribed. The smallest acts of self-care – eating properly, cleaning my flat, not cutting or burning myself – felt completely uncomfortable and alien to me. But now it is those same self-destructive acts that feel uncomfortable and alien. Unfathomable…

How did that happen? How did I escape that which felt inescapable? Slowly, tortuously fucking slowly, and with great difficulty, and with a lot of very hard work. They speak about ‘acting as if’, and ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. And that’s what I did. I acted as if I deserved those small acts of self-care: I painted those nails that I hated, took a long bath and soaked the body that I loathed, pretending that I deserved that. And it had to be small acts like that of self-care. Painting my nails was something I could force myself to do. Eating properly, exercising or not self-mutilating was too big. But in time, I could do those things as well. Because after moving from enacting self-care once a week because that was all that I could manage, to doing three small acts of self-care once I week, I slowly but surely woke up in a place where I truly felt that I did deserve those things; where being good to myself felt better than hurting myself. It definitely did not happen overnight: it was years and years of doing something good for myself while I was slowly committing suicide to getting to a point where I was slowly healing myself while being less and less self-destructive. And as contradictory as it felt to, in the same day, cut myself and not treat the wound, and then make myself a healthy supper, I started realising that having contradictory feelings of care and hatred for myself was more realistic than completely loathing myself. Because I slowly learned that there were aspects of myself that I did like. And I clung onto those literally for dear life while I tried to come to terms with the parts of myself that I hated.

And after years and years of this balancing act, I’m now in a place where most of my day is filled with self-care, and I don’t self-destruct anymore. But I do realise that inaction and limbo, those things that I do to numb myself, distract myself or waste my own time – those things are the opposite of self-care. And I work, every day, on turning that inaction into action, that limbo into self-care. Because I realise that it would be easy to forget about taking care of myself, and that if I were not mindfully practicing self-care, I would forget to care about myself and that those feelings of worthlessness would slowly creep back in. And I’m very mindful that feeling unproductive is a big trigger for worthlessness. And yet it is the thing I struggle with most. So each day is a struggle between feelings of being unproductive and the willful act of self-care to balance that. Exercise is the most effective self-care for me as it really does drown out my feelings of negativity about myself, my body and my feelings of not being productive. The decision to write again was also born out of a long struggle of feeling unproductive and the need to fight that.

And so, while I have overcome the very visceral and intense need to self-destruct, and while I have learned to care for myself, the fight to keep myself in a balanced state is a daily one, with some days being more intense than others. And I know it will be a fight that I will have to wage with myself every day for the rest of my life. Because that is the cost of living a life mindfully and consciously.

(I have started working on my memoir again, and this is an excerpt from the rough first draft, from which I will post on this forum once a week to keep myself accountable).

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