I’ve long believed that self-care is about two mundane things: laundry and dishes.
Of course, there is some pillowy comfort in a lavender-infused bubble bath with candles on the side and a glass of red wine, but that serene feeling is temporary. Once you get out of the bath and see the mess in the kitchen that you’ve been too depressed to clean up—or the pile of dirty laundry that probably has a mouse living in it at this point—you start to realize the difference between true healing and a Band-Aid.
When I was in my early 20s, I was living in a little one-bedroom apartment by myself. I was wrought with anger, depression, and the occasional battle with suicidal thoughts. I had survived these battles so far, then found myself fresh out of a violent relationship, trying to get my feet back under me.
But I was tired. I was depressed. I had little strength left in me. The fight was gone.
I remember it was warm out. I had a little balcony on the third floor, so I opened my sliding glass door and let some fresh air in. I stared outside for a long time. When I turned around, I saw my mess of an apartment. Sh*t everywhere. Dirty. Stale. At this point, I barely had the strength to get out of bed in the mornings. Even walking across the room to the kitchen felt like a marathon. When I got there, I’d plug up the sink, turn on the water as hot as it would get, and then dish soap went in—as did all of my dishes.
Life felt so heavy, so impossible. Yet, somehow, I managed to clean the dishes. I remember standing there—after they were clean and drying on the countertop—and feeling a sense of lightness I hadn’t experienced in years. I then pulled all my sheets and blankets off the bed and started a load of laundry. While the washer was running, I decided to walk down to the store and grab a few things, and while I was there, a small bundle of flowers caught my eye.
I bought myself flowers.
When I got back home, I put the flowers in water and put them on my kitchen counter. I did more laundry; I sat on my balcony and watched the world go by. I certainly didn’t make the place sparkle, but it was a start.
I was finally taking responsibility for my mess.
As I’ve continued to fight these battles as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I start to feel better right away once I clean something up. Of course, I’ve also done the binge-watching romantic comedies in my pajamas all day too, but that doesn’t actually help anything. That type of “self-care” only promotes my depression. It keeps it locked away; it gives me permission to not work on healing myself. And that’s not really the point, is it?
The flowers that day were my bubble bath, my binge TV—the little thing I could do just for myself. Had I just gone and bought flowers and done nothing else, it wouldn’t have been the same. I know how hard it is to find that strength to do that one little chore—to accomplish that one thing that needs to get done.
You may not be able to move mountains, but you can move that little pebble.