Lurching from one crisis to another finally did for me, and several weeks ago I collapsed into a mess of shattered nerves, frustration, anger and something like grief (again). If you parent like we have to, you may recognise this particular type of exhaustion; not the sort that gently leads you to the comfort of your sofa, but something rather more unnerving that drags you around the inside of your house and your head, fretting, pacing, unable to venture out, unable to find a place of rest. A Me Holiday was long overdue.
I’m getting back on my feet, despite the still ongoing crises (crises do not take a break) and for the purposes of reflection and my own learning, this is roughly how I’ve gone about it:
- Alcohol. ‘Your trouble is you don’t drink enough’ was Mr D’s advice and at the risk of sounding like an alcoholic, a sun-downer of my old friend ‘Sloe Gin 2014’ really takes the edge off.
- Stare into space. Pace about. Lie around. Sleep. Rage. Cry into a bucket of my own self-pity.
- Take a break from the news, social media and any form of electioneering.
- Take a break from work. (Sorry work.)
- Read. Read. Read. Escape from head. Read. My neighbour leant me ‘Ingenious Pain’ by Andrew Miller. It’s about a man who feels no pain. (Lucky him.)
- Crack open husband’s Easter egg, about a fortnight before Easter. Eat. Feel sick. Eat more.
- Mindless physical exercise i.e. moving two tonnes of compost a long way, by many wheelbarrow trips.
- Download some new music. Sing to new music. Dance. Imagine oneself gorgeous in music video.
- With help of new friend ‘Pinterest’ become obsessed with Japanese dressmaking patterns.
- Do dressmaking. The sound of the sewing machine drowns out almost all unpleasantness (‘what’s that? sorry I can’t hear you’).
- Become obsessed with Poldark i.e. watch every episode twice, indulge in unreconstructed fantasies involving tricorn hats.
- Get sun. Eat well.
- Spend some money. A sweatshirt arrives from the US. Inside the pocket is a message written on a tag. ‘Feisty’ it says ‘is showing a lively aggressiveness’. There’s more than enough ‘lively aggressiveness’ in our house but I feel my fight returning.
- Plan some good times.
These past weeks I’ve been reminded that self-care is not something to be reached for in a crisis but a daily practice that must be embedded into our routines. It isn’t self-indulgent. It’s for the greater good and it’s the foundation of therapeutic parenting.