For anyone self-care is important but particularly if you have suffered any type of trauma. Without taking care of yourself nothing else works around you. It’s something I have tried to do for a long time but sometimes you can forget and get lost in others’ expectations of you, particularly if you’re going through a stressful situation, have children or family. You can quickly become caught up in everyday life or your thoughts get plagued by past or present trauma.
Its not selfish to take care of yourself its necessary.
For me exercise became an activity to keep me focused and grounded. A space where I could switch off and completely concentrate on the work out/walk/training/swimming I was doing in that present moment. I used to meditate but I found it too hard when my mind would race with anxiety and ended up feeling more pressure trying to calm my mind. Where with exercise you automatically become engrossed with the movements and training you doing and gives space in your mind for only that. Of course, there are many ways to show yourself some love and care and taking much needed time out is important but true self care comes from prioritizing yourself in emotional situations, learning to focus on what you need and want from yourself but also from those around you. Recognising those who drain you of your energy and don’t value your self-worth.
Put yourself first. Don’t be afraid to say no to others, you don’t have to explain yourself. If you don’t want to do a certain thing, go certain places, or do that favour for someone you don’t have to. You are not responsible for anyone else. As a survivor you would have battled with a loss of yourself after a perpetrator has diminished who you are as a person and broken down any boundaries you may have tried to put in place, after suffering gaslighting continuously you may struggle even making basic decisions. You would have been controlled and put down and finding yourself again must come first, don’t feel obligated to do something you don’t want to. That can be the conditioning the abuser has left behind.
My daughter said to me the other day that she loves herself, I was overjoyed at hearing this. She’s very young but I hope this way of her thinking will stick. In a capitalist world it goes against the grain to love ourselves and goes against everything we are taught- that we are not good enough. Women are told so many contradictory things we can never be just right at anything not even at being women. Unachievable expectations on how we look to how we parent our children. Told to work like we don’t have kids at home yet very few jobs accommodate mothers working. We are judged on our bodies but if we do anything to conform or change ourselves then we are shamed in having work done or wearing too much make up and using filters yet every image in the media is a false one. We are expected to be desirable yet if we wear something too revelling then blamed for unwanted attention and become open to slut shaming. If we are confident, we are told we love ourselves too much. We are literally pulled from one contradiction to the next never being allowed to just be making it very difficult to find value in ourselves.
Imagine if we could all have the mentality of my young daughter just to love ourselves and build boundaries from that. Imagine what we could achieve, imagine the heartache we could save ourselves, imagine the protection we could provide for our souls.
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you”- Rupi Kaur
Surround yourself with people who are gentle with your soul. Trying to recognise toxic people or abusive people is important. The freedom program is recommended for anyone who is in or left an abuser. Make sure that those who are close to you are understanding to your situation and don’t compound on what you have already been through. Sometimes the lack of support after abuse is just as damaging. Someone who denies your lived experience is not only ignorant but it’s a form of emotional abuse.
Therapy is a personal choice, it is something I did and found helpful. Therapy is an effective way to understand anxiety and depression, trauma or taking care of your psychological wellbeing. There are many forms, and you must find what is best for you and your needs. The recovery tool kit run by Women’s Aid is amazing, informative and gives you tools to deal with the aftermath and moving forward. You can’t expect yourself to go through this alone. Support is a great gift if it’s given by the right person/people. That’s why going through a professional or charity is great they are there to give help and support to you with out judgement and without taking in return and without offloading on to those closest to us. It’s important we face our triggers to move on from them and that’s scary and never easy but in the long run we will benefit from it.
Do something for yourself. Weather its going shopping, listening to music, going for a walk, taking up a new hobby. Do something that makes you happy and make it a habit. Remember to take a break from anything that is overwhelming allowing yourself space to breath. You deserve to care of yourself.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly” -unknown