Self-Care When Nothing Feels Good (Because Support Systems Sometimes Fail Us)
Taking care of ourselves requires identifying what soothes us. This can be tricky when you suffer from chronic pain, mental illness, or other conditions which cause consistent struggle. I often write about my chronic pain journey, but today I’m going to share a mental health story.
Three years ago I was limited to using the mental health services program accessible through my husband’s employer. Talk therapy was affordable at $20 per visit, but the sessions were only 30 minutes long, and were only available once a month. My breath caught as I typed that. 30 minutes. Once a month. A time of desperation made worse by scarcity.
I remember how hard it was to make it through those months. The therapist was kind, but we’d barely break the surface of my trauma story before time was up. I’d drive home un-contained, feelings flailing about, knowing I had to make it through the next four weeks without professional help. I coped as well as I could, but it wasn’t a healthy time. I recall one session when the therapist asked me, “what are some things that make you feel good?”
I opened my mouth to answer. A squeak escaped, then I dissolved into tears. I had nothing. Nothing At All helped me feel good at that time, and the cheap, scratch-the-surface therapy certainly wasn’t helping!
I faked my way through that winter. I hated waking up every morning. I existed in a fog. I kept getting things done, but with no semblance of movement, and with very little joy. I still ate and showered, did the things I needed to do, spent time with my family, and saw friends a few times. I went to water aerobics. I made it to doctor and therapy appointments. While some of what I did could be considered self-care, I didn’t feel soothed, and I didn’t feel good.
Thankfully I’m no longer in that desperate space. My income situation changed. I’m now able to pay out of pocket to see an Integrative Psychiatrist every few months, and a certified Daring Way therapist for an hour every week. I finally have an accurate mental health diagnosis and take part in effective therapies for trauma brains like mine.
My current access to stellar mental health care is a privilege I do not take for granted. These services need to be available to all of us. One reason I speak openly about my struggles, passing on the resources and information I find helpful, is that everyone deserves this care. We are all worthy of hearing the latest research, and learning coping strategies that can help us survive.
I am in connection with people who are holding that “nothing feels good” space, and I know it’s exhausting to face the same challenges day after day, and never really rest at night. Though I’m experiencing a time when self-care is more tangible, and leads to feelings of comfort, I have not lost sight of the days when the idea of it was laughable and trite.
I don’t have answers today. I offer insight from my own journey, and empathy from my open heart. I’ll put the kettle on, and invite you to the comments section. What does self-care look like when nothing feels good? Let’s help each other. We’re in this together, and we’re never alone.