Sometimes someone else says something to me that just clicks. Like a bell ringing deep in my chest, there’s a sense of connection to something I needed to hear. It will often stay with me for days, sometimes even years, and get woven into my complex personal philosophy of life, or trauma recovery, or community building, or whatever other framework I’m currently working on.
This one was by a friend and fellow peer worker with DID, who like me works a lot with other multiples. She was sharing how sometimes people get frustrated that she is able to function in the world – she has a home and a long term relationship and a job and all those things that both give and require stability. For some of us with DID, these can seem like impossible dreams. She said to me one of the things she tells them, if it’s appropriate is:
I can do what I do, because I spend a minimum of 3 hours a day on self care. When you do 3 hours of self care a day, you too will be able to do these things.
On one level, both she and I know it’s not this simple. Bad luck, abusive relationships, sickness, homelessness, and so on can all strip any person of the capacity to work full time or do many other things that need a lot of sustained energy and emotional stability. There’s more to recovery than self care, there’s also things like community, opportunities, and a decent dose of luck. Self care, like self love, often needs to be done in a context – we are better at loving ourselves when we are loved by others, and when we see others loving themselves too. Sometimes the first goal of self care is to find or create some spaces where we can care for ourselves without being attacked or belittled.
But on another level, this idea about self care boils down a whole stack of complex concepts to something incredibly simple. Are you getting what you need to function? Are you sabotaging yourself? Are you neglecting yourself? Are you trying to run on empty? Do you even know what you need? Are you waiting for someone else to do it? Do you wait until you crash and burn before being caring? Do you look after yourself, with your specific and unique needs, a lot, every single day? How do you expect to function if you don’t?
It was a powerful reminder. I have big dreams. I have big expectations of myself. I need to match them with a powerful commitment to looking after myself. That can’t be self care that would work for someone else. It can’t be punitive, traumatising, or harsh. It needs to genuinely be the unique things that support me. The kind of care and devotion I have learned to give to my pets and garden, applied to me. It may not be easy, but on one level it’s stunningly simple.