Self care sounds like the most simple thing on earth. And if you were raised in a way that encouraged that (usually without the words “self-care”) then it probably is easy. But for many of us it is the hardest thing in the world. Chidhood abuse of any kind robs us of many basic skills, and one of those vital skills it robs us of is the ability to self care.
Self care is not the ability to dress ourselvs, feed ourselves, or basic hygiene. This is beyond that, it is the ability to healthily nourish and self soothe ourselves in ways that enrich us, recharge our batteries, and keep us safe. For the most part, it is about keeping us from falling down the rabbit hole. It is time out, head space, nurturing… the things that keeps us functioning well. Matt from “Surviving my Past” does a great job of explaining what self care means for a survivor here.
1: Abuse has a powerful emotional element of entrapment. When you grow up in abuse, you know nothing different, and this creates a disconnect between our lives and the lives of the rest of the people around us. Our basic need is to be free of the abuse, and that is all we want. To me growing up I assumed that I was the only miserable broken one, and everyone else out there looks the same; …happy, normal, thriving. … I didn’t get the luxury of learning about other kinds of needs. I didn’t see differences between other people. All I wanted is to be like “them” and I missed a lot of subtleties about discernment, differences and preferences that I would otherwise have learnt if my basic need for safety had been met.
2: All abusers blame their victims, whether overtly or covertly (in my case extremely openly), and it can leave us feeling unworthy and with a false sense of shame. Unworthy of anything good in life, shameful of enjoyment. It can feel subconsciously as though we don’t have the good things because we don’t deserve them, so we don’t try to get them. We don’t deserve breaks, or time out, or to spoil ourselves. I found that I felt so much guilt when doing anything for myself that wasn’t enjoyable or worth it. So I never got to find out what self care even meant for me.
3: As the entrapper, abuser and the blamer, then the last thing that a parent would also be teaching the child, either purposefully or by example, is any self caring skills of ANY kind. I wasn’t taught how to self care, have an opinion or a voice, or even had it modelled to me. It was a completely foreign concept until therapy and even then it took over three years before I could find the smallest thing that would be considered “self care”.
For many years I could not even understand the term. I couldn’t understand the difference between self care and pampering and none of my psychologists explained that because they assumed that I knew what they meant. Discussions on self care caused me huge anxiety and left me feeling as though there was even more wrong with me, and that I was in trouble for not knowing the right answers. If this is you or someone you love, how did you overcome these huge issues that arose way before I could even unpack what Self-Care was for me?