I’m writing this post in a new living situation, having just started a new job contract that stabilizes my finances for at least the next year, and am generally pretty happy. Life is good. I don’t really have any complaints other than not having a dog, but that’s something I’m working on. As someone who has and still deals with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness I can attest. When things are good, that’s when self-care matters the most.
When life is good, it’s easy to be happy. After all, what’s there to be upset about? That’s the definition of “things are good,” isn’t it? At times like these, we often forget about the steps we took to reach our new-found mentally healthy status. “I’m cured!” we say. But are we? Probably not.
Self-care as self-defense
The good times feel so good that they tend to overshadow the bad. That’s when depression is at it’s most deadly. It’s like the Simon and Garfunkel song says: “the vision that was planted in my brain still remains, within the sounds of silence.” Clinical depression is always there. It likes to hide when we’re feeling good, waiting for those silent moments to strike. And that’s why self-care matters so much. It keeps us prepared for when the attacks come, and gives us outlets to deal with them.
In my own life, despite things being so good, I still see my therapist regularly. We’re working on cutting back the frequency of my visits, but the visits aren’t going away. I need them. Even though right now it feels like I don’t, I’m not naive enough to just cut things out cold turkey. The same goes for my medication. My feeling better is a sign that the meds are working. Why would I want to stop?
This idea of stopping your scheduled self-care because you “don’t need it” is not only a bad idea, it can be very dangerous. Bad news comes all the time. While your self-care routine may help deflect it temporarily and roll with the punches, big life changes linger. It can get overwhelming. That’s okay, as long as you’re keeping up with your routine mental health maintenance.
Think of your self-care routine like an oil change. Sure, you don’t need to change your oil exactly on the 3,000 mark. As my car can attest, you can go well beyond the recommended time period. But at some point you need to change your oil. If you don’t, you’ll slowly damage your engine. At first the damage won’t be noticeable. Little hiccups here and there, or a weird sound. But then, one day when you least expect it, your car breaks down. It needs thousands of dollars of repairs. And all you needed to do was get the oil changed.
Don’t let your engine break down. Take care of your mind and your body and keep up with your self-care routine. If you need to back off a bit because of finances, go ahead. When things are good, you don’t need as much self-care. But don’t kid yourself. You still need some of it.
If you’re struggling, it’s time to ask for help. If you’re not ready for professional help, at least speak with a friend or family member. If you don’t have one of those you feel comfortable with, hit me up on Twitter at @AletaSoucie. I’m always available as a resource for those in need.