Level with me: Welcome to my self-care spiral

Level with me: Welcome to my self-care spiral

Level with me: Welcome to my self-care spiral

For as long as I can remember, my concept of health has existed on a harsh dichotomy of good and bad—

  • I was either all in or all out. I was eating like a calorie-counting saint or binging my way to my next attempt at withholding.
  • I was in the gym five days a week, or I was marathoning all my favorite shows until my body was stiff from inactivity.

This all or nothing approach has been powered by the idea that I had to be suffering at some level to be truly healthy. It’s not hard to follow the breadcrumbs that lead me into this toxic pattern. It’s the sad ‘before’ photo paired with the happy, skinny ‘after’ shot. It’s the widely accepted phrase that “beauty is pain.” It’s the cabinet full of supplements that I begrudgingly choked down every morning.

Eventually, after 29 years of letting my health and happiness exist on a loop, I started to claw my way out of the trenches—and then 2020 happened. 

"There’s a sheet cake living rent-free in my fridge"

Adjusting my behavioral patterns and mindset, no matter what the adjustment is, takes a bit of preparation, adaptability, and consistency. Do you know what makes all three of those exponentially harder? A F&%$#@! Global pandemic.

I know I’m in good company when I say I feel like I’ve lived through four different identities in the last six months—all of which have tested my ability to cope with change, anxiety, and fear in a healthy way. In March, when the world around me shut down, and a collective wave of panic spread across the globe, I found myself living alone and swallowed by uncertainty.

Suddenly I was unable to access my newly formed pillars of stability. Without feeling safe to go to the gym, leisurely browse grocery store aisles for my next few meals, or go to my bi-weekly in-person therapy session—I resorted to my most familiar sources of comfort—food and television.

I spent a lavish three weeks self-soothing with literally anything I wanted, late-night Taco Bell, sleeping until 2:00 pm, afternoon cocktails, and a sheet cake living rent-free in my fridge. Overindulging felt great for about three days, but I knew I was leading myself into a hole of depression even as I continued to do it. I had officially relapsed into an all or nothing mindset that I knew wasn’t sustainable, especially with the realization that reality wasn’t going to return to normal anytime soon.

"Maybe health doesn’t have to hurt"

My way back to equilibrium started with slow, visible changes. I made my bed. I reorganized my living room. I watered my neglected plants.

I listened to music instead of watching TV. And most importantly, I stocked my kitchen with food that felt as good as it tasted. Beating myself up for needing to self-soothe is never productive, and it feels especially masochistic at this moment in history. I still find myself anxious about the future, and every time I think I’ve achieved steady footing in our new reality, I can feel myself bracing for the next major curveball. 

I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be free of the impulse to let shame and suffering infiltrate my concept of health and wellness. But I know that as I white knuckle my way through so many aspects of 2020, I’m not going to trick myself into thinking that health has to be hard.