18 years ago, I’d had minor surgery for finally diagnosed endometriosis but while no longer in daily pain, was still in more pain than I felt I could handle.
And that was when I realised that, with no ‘cure’ I’d have to figure something out for myself. Yoga helped when I tried that so I began attending classes.
After a few months, I realised that alcohol – a crutch since my early teens – definitely did NOT help.
It exacerbated the pain and so I realised I’d have to quit.
18 years later, I STILL feel sad, typing this. Back then, I had no idea HOW I would manage life if I had to FEEL the feelings.
Looking back, this was when my quest to help myself and others feel better – an obsession with all things self care related – began. The medical professionals, much as I appreciate them, couldn’t help me so I had to get to know my own body and learn to help myself.
I understood that in order to quit one thing, I need to replace it with something healthier.
I’d already quit my heavy smoking habit (even now, I don’t want to type the brand name because a part of me still misses them) that February, using the new moon to help me start a new life as a happy, healthy non smoker. People who’d known me for years said they no longer recognised me. I didn’t recognise myself but I knew that I had to do SOMETHING to minimise the pain.
Lighting a cigarette or pouring myself a large whisky was such a simple way to self-medicate and in losing those coping strategies, I had to identify other things that felt good.
But that wouldn’t hurt.
I made a long list of all the things I could use to elicit a similar Ahhhh that I’d got from alcohol and cigarettes. It’s so much easier to quit ‘bad’ habits when we instead replace them with something we want more of in our lives.
Swimming was always high on that list and I bemoaned the fact that my local pool at the time was a bit of a trek but it was always worth the effort.
Initially, I could manage two lengths, hauling my sorry carcass out of the water, SHAKING with the exertion of it all.
I built up to 5 minutes, then 10, then 20 and, for years, an hour.
My sea swims aren’t as long (the cold water means 20 minutes feels just fine for now) but they are so gloriously healing, they’re better than whisky ever was.
Over the years (decades nearly!), I’ve been collecting simple and effective self care tools to help myself and my clients and students.
It’s not like I never miss whisky. Or Guinness (especially now I live in Ireland and would have access to the good stuff). Or red wine.
I sometimes pause in the whisky aisle at the supermarket and smile at all the bottles.
But I know they’re not for me.
I don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t been forced to learn better (for me – some people are fine and don’t abuse alcohol and have no ill effects) strategies.
I’m glad I stuck with it.
In some ways, being sober means I’ve become more aware of what works and doesn’t work – I can’t numb myself in the same ways that I used to.
When you think back over your life so far, what stands out as a turning point?
What did you give up (or start)?
If you’re thinking about choosing healthier self care habits now, how might you categorise them?
I thought about the Ahhhhh result and the effort required. Getting onto my yoga mat was easier that cycling all the way to the pool and I had other, simpler things like ringing (back in the days when phone calls didn’t freak people out as much as they seem to now :)) a loved one, going to the woods and so on.
What are the self care tools that help YOU feel better?
If you were to make a list or mind map of everything, how might you subcategorise them in terms of the time and effort required for each?
My book, 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Wellbeing (White Owl, 2017) came from my initial desperation (training in therapy after therapy in an effort to help myself feel better) and then delight and desire to help other people’s journeys be that bit easier.
If you’d like some support in making changes in your life and prioritising your self care, I’d love to hear from you.
Take a look at the ways in which we might work together. If my approach appeals, you can get in touch to book your free, no obligation 20 minute telephone consultation.
And, of course, with self care being so core to all my work, you don’t need me or anyone else to help you connect with your Miraculous Self (Atma, True Self, Self, Higher Self) that part of yourself that already knows exactly what you need if you’ll only listen (although I can help with this if you’d like some support).