Self-love doesn’t manifest instantly just because you are loved

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One of the most startling lessons I’ve learnt in the almost two years that I’ve been married, and 12 that I’ve been in a relationship, is that I am still struggling with how to treat myself with respect, still struggling to be more kind and gentle to myself. Sometimes the struggle seems to be magnified in winter, when the days are shorter and resolutions are starting to unravel.

When I was in my early 20's, I thought that finding 'true love' would legitimately fix all of my problems. Don't we all? While it certainly offers comfort and support, it also shines a light on the parts of me that I’ve yet to come to terms with. It’s taught me that everything I’ve tried so hard to sweep under the rug is still there, waiting for me to trip over it.

My husband is a fierce champion of mine. No matter how many times I get knocked down, even if it’s myself that’s delivering the blow, he’s still in my corner. You’d think that would be enough. You’d think that would make everything a-ok. And yet...I still find myself repeating self-destructive behaviours that I thought I'd shaken years ago. I still wake up sometimes convinced that I'm going to lose everything that matters to me. I’m not saying this to air any dirty laundry or to sound catastrophic. I’m saying this because I recognise now that being loved, while beautiful, is not the only glue required to hold myself together.

If anything, the fact that I’m treated well just serves as a reminder that I should allow myself to heal from past hang ups and doubts so that I can be in my own corner as well, along with the people that I love. I need to start seeing myself with even a sliver of the esteem that my beloved holds for me. I owe that much to myself (and you do, too). Because self-love shouldn't just be a catchy term, but rather, a chance to dig deep and really learn about yourself. 

Starting Feb. 1st, I plan to write myself an encouraging note every day of the month. 28 small reminders that I need to be there for myself. 28 chances to create a more positive narrative. After more than a decade of stumbling around in the dark, I’m ready. Are you?

What a Week in a Cast Taught Me About Mental Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What happened to your flipper, friend?"

"You've broken your wing, darling!"

"I once did that myself slipping on the side of a pool in Cuba!"

Just some of the comments I've received in the past week from both friends and strangers alike, since I broke my right wrist successfully saving a goal while playing soccer. It was the first bone I've ever broken, and even the crunch of the wrist snapping back had a sense of dignity about it. I took one for the team, so to speak. When you break something visible, at least in my experience, people froth with empathy and camaraderie. I've spoken to more strangers on the subway this previous week alone then in my whole life. People are quick to share their own stories and are instantly protective of you. Children stare in awe at your injured limb covered in hearts and get-well-soon messages. You can accessorize your slings and even glue confetti to your cast. You can wear the plaster openly and with pride.

People have asked me whether breaking a wrist hurts, and I've wanted to say, "not a sliver as much as anxiety." I walked around for 10 or so years with a 'fractured mind' before I found the right help to start healing myself. There's hardly a tell-tale glimmer in a stranger's eye (or lack thereof) that indicates that they too have also suffered from anxiety, depression or what have you. "I too once cried outside of a convenience store because I thought my life was spiraling out of control," doesn't make for great subway small talk.

We are quick to share our stories about broken bones, but missed days at work, mental breakdowns and burnouts, are our burdens and buried secrets. I do think a great deal is changing, though. New dialogues are beginning to take place, but you still have to go out searching for them.

The doctor treated my wrist applauded me for my high-tolerance for physical pain, but it's only because I'm feeling better than I ever have mentally that I'm so calm. Physical pain has luckily been a fleeting romance for me, but for some it's also a chronic battle. I never want to imply that any one type of pain is greater than another.

It's just that in my case, a broken wrist is something I can mythologize in a way that I never can with my mental health, because the after-shock is still there, tiny little earthquakes rumbling under the surface.

So for everyone who is walking around with chronic mental health issues, I want to applaud you for your high tolerance for emotional pain. I hope that your doctor one day calls you a champ for your endurance. I hope you find whatever you need to ease your pain, and while we throngs of strangers may not all be automatically rushing to your side to offer our help on the subway, know that we are all there with you anyhow, the invisible ones.