My name is Tia, and I have depression. This weekly column will discuss the little bumps in the road, the lows, the highs, and the mundane existence of living with depression. ‘Insane in the Membrane’ will not pretend to have all, if any, answers to mental health. But it will use real situations that I have experienced in the attempt to chip away at the stigma of mental illness. Or, at least, the stigma that I see.
Memes and the like bang on about practising self-care and self-love constantly, but what actually is it. We all know it’s important but there is no omnipotent guide. Is it taking time to moisturise? Going for a bike ride? Or is it having a cup of tea? Wearing the old jumper you love? Telling yourself you are worthwhile in the mirror?
The dictionary says that it is ‘care of the self without medical or other professional consultation’. I interpret self-care as doing something, at least once a day, that is for you. Only for you. Something that you enjoy because it makes you happy, calm, peaceful, whatever works.
It is not initially as easy as it sounds. It took me a while to figure out what exactly I even liked. Did I like my current hobbies or was I expected to? Had I been doing them for so long that they were a force of habit rather than a conscious choice? These were questions that troubled me. How could I practise self-care if I hadn’t a clue as to what I enjoyed doing?
And why is it important? What is it about my self-care that helps with the overwhelming bad periods? The self-understanding that comes with figuring out what makes me feel passionate and inspired, is crucial to helping me recognise myself, and what makes me tick.
Some call it a distraction and, while it can be, (and distraction is sometimes necessary just to keep going) it is more than that. It’s a way of finding peace, a moment of time where everything stops and it’s just you doing something you love. And those moments can turn into minutes, hours, days – filling your life with small actions that make you feel good, human and worthy. Never be ashamed of doing things that make you feel good. Life can be bumpy but looking after yourself doesn’t have to be. Be a little selfish, indulge a bit, set aside time to explore something that really makes you happy.
In my second year of University I decided to go on a one-woman mission to figure out what I loved doing. This self-appointed pilgrimage to the holy grail of self-care was long and tiring. I trialled an extensive list; from a foray into video games, to frequenting the gym. I went for long walks up steep hills, joined a local choir, and bought nice makeup I couldn’t afford. I drank people under the table, attempted yoga and explored poetry.
Eventually, I had to put this mission on hold as my studies had taken a backseat during this crusade. But I had discovered a few things.
I now read every day: on my daily commute, before bed, at breakfast, even sometimes in the shower (this is only recommended with extreme care, I’ve lost many a page to shower spray). I still hate going to the gym but once I’m there I do enjoy it, and it helps me sleep. I’ve rekindled a love of colouring books, karaoke, and, oddly, playing darts.
I still don’t really know exactly what self-care is but my interpretation keeps me sane and appreciative of life. With a little indulgence. So, go on, treat yourself, I dare you.
(P.S. Self-care should be practised by everyone, not just those suffering from a mental illness).
This article is my own interpretation of self-care, but if you want to know more, check out Pysch Central’s, this forum, and Mind’s interpretation below for more info. They offer some Self-Care ideas if you’re as confused as I was.
Mental health always needs more support, socially and fiscally. Mind, Heads Together and Rethink offer easy ways to get involved/fundraise/donate/campaign. The Arch2Arch run, London Marathon and Tough Mudder can all be done in the name of mental health. Or, if you’re like me and not a natural athlete, you can use easy ways to recycle to raise awareness and donations alike. Petitions like Time to Change and the Survey of Mental Illness in the Workplace are a click away from de-stigmatising mental illness.
Sofa Activism is easy ways to give, and possibly the easiest of them is Savoo Search, just use it as your default search engine and it’ll donate 1p every time you search something to the charity of your choice (I would recommend through Rethink)
SAMH and Action Mental Health are aimed at Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, targeting mental health stigma on a more regional scale. Mind Cymru and Mental Health Wales focus on Welsh Mental Health.