Happy Valentine’s Day! Today isn’t just about loving your honey. It’s about loving yourself too and self-care is one of the main ways we love ourselves. But first, have you read Part 1 of this article? If not, please click here to read it! Then come back and we’ll finish the discussion together.
What Is Self-Care?
I define self-care as anything that cracks the catatonic shell protecting your heart and allows you to feel your feelings, to weep, to feel empathy for yourself and to heal.
For me self-care is anything gentle, tender and beautiful that releases the floodgates of tears, without effort.
It may be a birdsong. The glimpse of a rainbow. The fragrance of a flower.
You’ll know it when you feel it. It’s a feeling like no other.
It’s like a stone person melting to become a warm, living, feeling human being once again. Remember how Aslan breathed on the stone statues in the White Witch’s castle in Narnia and turned them back into living beings? It’s like that!
Why Do We Need Self-Care?
To survive narcissistic abuse, we developed certain coping mechanisms. And that’s OK! Sure, our coping mechanisms might not be “healthy” per se, but they served us well! We have them because we survived something we shouldn’t have HAD to survive. Yeah us!
But they can also let us down.
Being catatonic protected us from pain…but also from feeling joy, happiness, love, self-empathy and alive.
Learning not to cry protected us from further attacks…but now we’ve lost the ability to feel empathy and cry out all the pain.
Taking care of others is necessary…but soon our own selves revolt against being ignored and neglected.
As I quoted in Part 1 of this article, the great C. S. Lewis wrote, “When they [humans] have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.”
That time has come. It’s time to love ourselves, dang it! And high time too!
The Tenets of Self-Care
Odd as this may sound, I look to those who are recovering from the most extreme form of abuse, mind control/satanic ritual abuse (SRA), for guidance when it comes to self-care. Self-care is a huge part of recovery and deprogramming for victims of SRA. So if anybody knows about it, they do!
I know, it sounds “far-out,” but stick with me!
All abuse is evil and I appreciate how Bill Murray and all the folks at the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse don’t quantify abuse. If you were abused, you were abused. The magnitude does not matter. The type doesn’t matter. Abuse is abuse. Period!
In our case, the narcissist(s) caused us pain to control us, frighten us, program our minds for their agenda and make us into who they wanted us to be…with a side-order of sadomasochistic pain for their own enjoyment. Sounds like a mild form of S.R.A to me!
Common Mistakes in Self-Care
The pitfalls to avoid are…
- berating ourselves for our so-called “unhealthy” coping mechanism
- trying to layer new “programming” on top of the old “programming” so we appear to have recovered as opposed to de-programming and actually healing
- rushing recovery to attain perfection because all dysfunctional families demand perfection
In my past studying, I recall reading that recovery from SRA includes self-care in a few specific areas. Oddly enough, those are the main areas I’ve always associated with self-care.
- Physical Delights
- Random Acts of Kindness
I Learned Self-Care From a Lonely Cockatoo
Back when I was caring for my dad during his first chemotherapy, I was in emotional agony and used to hang out at the local pet store. The “store bird” was a lonely sulfur-crest cockatoo named Rumba who hated his owner. He’d ripped all the feathers out of his chest, much like how I regularly attacked my skin. I guess we were both hurting and both had OCD.
Rumba might’ve been ferocious to his owner, but he was gentle as a lamb with me. He’d put his gorgeous safron-colored crest against the cage bars so I could stroke his head.
When I did, it seemed like my heart melted. Suddenly, I had empathy for myself. I could feel! I could cry! It was wonderful.
I often wonder what happened to Rumba, a sparsely-feathered angel.
What Does Self-Care Look Like?
Well, everyone’s idea of self-care is different. I s’pose men work on engines and go fishing…or whatever it is men do!
For we ladies, there are bountiful ways to care for and love ourselves. I’m indebted to my many Facebook friends who kindly shared how they self-care.
“I keep a journal. Some days I may write only a paragraph; other days I may write several pages.” – Deb
“Doing whatever you love passion without regard to others.” – Katie
“[I took] a leave of absence from my job to be my only grandchild’s nanny. I am now having the best time of my life, reliving the childhood I was never allowed to have.” – Theresa
“I bake my own bread.” – Mike
“Performing. I love acting and comedy and singing and dancing and reading poetry and inspiring others…I have an audition next week for a movie…I’m terrified, but I need to go.” – Stephanie
“I was just at my local library checking books out for myself; that is one form of self care for me.” – Grace
“Learning and creating. I have so many things I want to learn. Been working on my cross stitching and learning to crochet. It feels so good to have something to do with my hands and to make beautiful creations out of love. I want to learn painting and woodworking and guitar later on.” – Stephanie
“Looking forward to spring, when I can dig in the dirt. I take care of a flock of chickens. And of course, spend time with my pets. I like it when I can pick berries in the spring, and apples in the fall. The routine of washing the apples, which leads to, baking and cooking.” – Carolyn
“I talk to my cat.” – Mike
“For me the classical music is preferably Beethoven.” – Robert
“I like to go to places like the art museum and look at masterpieces. I like museums.” – Carolyn
“I buy flowers just for me.” – Mike
“Lavender Epsom salt bath.” – Emily
“Hot showers. Cleaning my body, shaving, moisturizing, soaking in a bath. Using products that feel and smell good.” – Stephanie
“Taking time off from work when I am sick (rather than sucking it up.)” – Amelia
“Beach….. The beach is my happy place. Zero stress. My kids can run free. Sigh. I keep magazines around my home with beach houses and pics of the beach, and when I sit, I can daydream.” – Adrienne
“I talk to the Lord. He is my VBF [Very Best Friend] and always listens to me whether I’m venting, lonely, or being silly. He doesn’t criticize me or put me down. I know he loves me unconditionally.” – Deb
Random Acts of Kindness
“Caring for others heals me.” – Sara
“Talk to strangers. Smile at children…Buy gifts for others. Reach out when needed.” – Becki
“Tutoring kids in math and seeing them light up when they finally understand.” – Robert
…self-care is the fragrance of the one carnation I buy for myself each week. It’s bouquets of wild flowers (okay! they’re weeds!) in every room. Trying (vainly) to start plants from seed on the windowsills. Lighting tea lights throughout the cottage at sunset. Incense.
It’s painting each room a different pastel color that brings me joy. It’s finding cheap knick-knacks at thrift stores and garage sales to beautify our cottage. Cutting out pictures of beautiful things in magazines and catalogs to tape to an ugly, old door as camouflage. I’m just crazy about micro-hobbies like that with the result of beauty, beauty, beauty!
It’s sitting so still on the front step that sparrows hop, chirp and chew on sunflower seeds a mere 24″ from my feet while hummingbirds whiz past my surprised nose in a blur of wildly-flapping wings.
It’s pumping away furiously on my 1800’s pump organ as I play old hymns of faith while tears roll down my cheeks.
It’s taking long walks with the dogs (and any local dogs that care to tag along) down abandoned railroad tracks. Romping with them on the bed in a flurry of arms, tails, legs, floppy ears and cold noses. And sometimes spending all day in bed with the dogs, eating and watching videos.
It’s knowing every farm dog within a ten mile radius by name and winning their affection with “tweatsies.”
It’s avoiding the main drags, driving the scenic route and taking my sweet ass time doing it. C.S. Lewis called it “sauntering on wheels.”
It’s getting a back massage from Michael or, if he’s not around, from Delly the Masseuse.
It’s a long, hot shower every morning. Using different color combinations of eyeliner and eyeshadow every day. Painting my nails (almost) every color of the rainbow. Using Kool-Aid for a cheap, temporary dip-dye. And decorating my piercings with various jewelry combinations.
And it’s spending every moment of every day with Michael, the love of my life while remaining No Contact with all narcissists!
But It Only Works…
…if I’m paying attention. Going through the motions of self-care doesn’t do a damn thing if I’m obsessing over “why, why, why” and not in the moment.
Ya’ gotta be in the moment!
And The Result?
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Suddenly, the joys of this lovely world burst upon my surprised senses. I delight in a birdsong, the fragrance of a flower and my puppies’ silly antics. All of it brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. My heart is full of a cornucopia of rich emotions, instead of the usual cold, hard shell of pain. I love life and am so grateful for all my manifold blessings. Self-care always reminds me of the famous quote by Christina Rossetti. “Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts, and no one to thank.”
Self-care makes me grateful and gratitude is also an important part of self-care!