It’s pretty mainstream knowledge that taking care of yourself is a huge factor in improving mental health. Not just physically, but spiritually and mentally. The problem for me is finding that balance. I know that if I have a messy house, it agitates me and I get quickly overwhelmed. I know that regular exercise and a healthy diet improve my mood. I know that a routine is vital for my anxiety. I know that going to weekly NA meetings, touching base with my sponsor, and occasionally doing step work soothe my soul. I know that I need a proper balance of alone time and time invested in relationships. Yoga, walks outside, deep breathing, and other relaxing things are important too.
I get frustrated however when my body and mind just need rest. Yesterday, I ignored the signs and pushed myself too far. I had been sick the night before and woke up with a stuffed up head, but I wanted to go to the gym anyways. So I took cold medicine and off I went. Somehow I have gotten two dish drain full of dishes behind on the clean dishes and I can’t catch up. During lunch I had a care team meeting with my son’s treatment team. I left work early to buy groceries with my son and he didn’t pick any food out besides a small bag of Funyons and some strawberries. I baked banana bread for him as he requested, foolishly trying a healthier alternate recipe. He waited all night for the banana bread only to decide it was “disgusting”.
As my son whined at me to make him something he likes. I told him no and I looked around at his dirty clothes on the floor, cups and dishes half full with food everywhere, and toys, shoes, and coat thrown everywhere. I looked at the half folded laundry and the dishes that were starting to make the whole apartment smell like rotten food. The steak that I wasn’t hungry for but had needed to be cooked was filling the whole house with smoke. He wanted to play a board game, a small miracle. I played with him and thought about how long it had been since we sat down together and did something fun.
At bedtime he begged me to bring him anything to eat. I made a quesadilla with whole wheat tortillas. He ate it in bed while I stood and watched him eat it. “You knew I wouldn’t like this,” he explained. This is often the tipping point, when I am forcing him to eat. It is a sign I feel powerless and am losing my self control. I told him the most horrible thing. I told him if he didn’t start cleaning up after himself I would send him to live with his Dad. Because I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to do any of it anymore. My disease, my depression, my PTSD, whatever it is, was telling me it was too much. I should quit. I don’t want this life there is nothing for me in it.
After he ate I kissed him good night and he asked me if I really meant it what I said about sending him to live with his Dad. “No, Baby. I didn’t mean it.”
This morning I skipped the gym. I had my son help me make the pancakes while I did a rack full of dishes. I got him to pick up his clothes, empty the dirty dishes into the trash (pick up the food that didn’t make it into the trash), and put his toys away. It was hard because the first time he always refuses, usually the second time too. I have to threaten consequence and promise reward to get him to do it. He even brushed his teeth. I told him what a good helper he had been. After I got ready for work I sat for 15 minutes resting and relaxing. I still have the negative thoughts in the back of my mind. I still feel sad, lonely, and overwhelmed. But I didn’t give up.
Self care is a balance. Today, I needed to skip the gym, work on solutions with my son and let my body and mind rest. I should probably reach out to a friend who understands how hard it is to be a single mom. There is always more strength to draw from somewhere. I don’t know why it’s been harder lately for me to feel okay. I just hope it passes.