I’m a wordsmith and writer and I love that #mentalhealth begins with two letters ‘me’. So often when we are not well, we lose sight of loving ourselves.
On my darkest days, I hated myself. I self-sabotaged, ate too little, drank too much, over-exercised, didn’t look after my sleep, had unhealthy relationships with people, would regularly agree to things that made me feel worthless that I knew I could not complete without over-reaching myself, or stay silent on things that I knew I could not complete without over-reaching myself, or that compromised my sense of what was morally right.
There were times too when the self-loathing was less acute, but when I still overlooked the fact that I was important in my own life.
Now I know that I am not to blame for this behaviour. There are traumas I experienced, abuse perpetrated by others, gaslighting, lies, assault, toxic behaviour, exposure to trauma and stressors that my body and brain had to find a way to navigate. I was conditioned by people and conditions. I was feeling worthless and frequently comparing myself with others, feeling like my experiences weren’t valid and I was never good enough, even if I had learned to mask it pretty well.
Over time I learned to love myself again.
I learned to cut myself some slack, to take breaks, to step away from screens, to turn off notifications, to set boundaries, to spend less time with the things and people who depleted me, to say no to things. I began to enjoy my own company and also know when I needed to be alone or with others.
I spent more time with nature, I found a better balance for exercise, eating and drinking, and sleeping. I changed my work. I began to believe in myself, and to feel grateful for where I was physically and psychologically in the world. I began to see what I could control and what I couldn’t and to try to let go of what I couldn’t. I began to recognise what I was good at and where I could also share that with others.
As someone who is fascinated by words, it’s interesting to me that just as ‘mental health’ begins with ‘me’, then ‘well-being’ begins with ‘we’. We need to love ourselves, but sometimes we need others to remind us of this. Sometimes we need people to hold out a hand, a torch, a candle, to offer a light or to carry a load, to walk alongside us as we take tiny step by tiny step towards something bigger. Otherwise it can be overwhelming. Otherwise we can feel alone. I have benefitted from those people in my life and am grateful for them.
Not every day is easy, of course. But little by little, loathing has turned to love. I have learned to be kinder to myself, to care more about me. I have learned self-care. I don’t always get it right, but I do know that I deserve it. We all do.