I Improved My Mental Health With Self-Care and Love
A young woman practicing self-care has managed anxiety and depression to improve her quality of life.
It was about 10 p.m., black outside and even darker in my walk-in closet. I had shut the door, flipped off the lights and was on the floor in my formal black gown, glittery heels cast aside, sobbing my heart out. The problem? Well, I didn’t even really know what the problem was, to be honest. All I knew was I felt lost, purposeless and completely hopeless. And so tired of feeling this way. Again.
That scenario has been, until recently, a fairly common one for me. You see, like everyone else on this planet, I’ve had my ups and downs. There was one crucial bit of knowledge that I didn’t know, however, that turned out to be rather simple: I wasn’t taking care of myself.
The Effects of a Lack of Self-Care on Mental Health
One thing I did know is that my little marketing business was turning out to be a nightmare rather than the entrepreneurial experience of my dreams. I didn’t feel like I could charge decent money for the hours upon hours of work I put in for my clients—not to mention the sleepless nights and stress that went right along with it. My solution was to push myself to do more, to work harder and earn more money. No time for rest and reflection—I kept hustling. That’s what all the gurus say, right? Hustle 24/7 and you’ll be a millionaire in two years!
Meanwhile, my mind kept feeding me these lies: You are a terrible business owner; people don’t even like you, they just feel sorry for you. You have no purpose. You’re crying on the floor of your walk-in closet and don’t even know why—talk about first-world problems! What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just be normal for (bleep’s) sake? And, what’s worse, I believed every single word of that soul-crushing voice. I was defective. There had to be something severely wrong with me. After all, I wasn’t making a full-time income from my business and I felt as though I had no idea what I was doing. Therefore, all of those thoughts must be true.
It took a while, but I finally began to learn that all those stories I was telling myself were not, in fact, the truth. I made them up—no one else. And it’s a pretty good bet that my anxiety and depression had a big hand in helping with that.
How I Discovered the Power of Self-Care
After years and years of negative self-talk such as this, I finally picked up a book, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, which a dear friend recommended. I distinctly remember tearing up several times as I devoured the messages within those pages. It was the first time I caught a glimmer of hope. It was the first time in my 30-plus years of living that I dared to think that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t actually defective. Perhaps I was simply human.
Pretty soon that book led to another, which led to dozens more, which inevitably paved the rocky, up-and-down path of my journey into self-care. I never intended to set out on this journey. Actually, I avoided it and wielded that as a badge of honor.
I was never raised to think highly of myself, and my parents expected a lot from us girls. Combine that with my intense perfectionist nature—my Type A personality, my compulsion to people-please—and you have a toxic formula that could only result in paralyzing fear and, ultimately, failure. This is pretty ironic, considering I have been striving to succeed and to be perfect for as long as I can remember.
Accepting the Fact That Self-Care and Mental Health Are Connected
I’m not exactly proud to admit any of this, but I feel it’s an important topic to discuss. I never shared the extent of my internal suffering with any one person because I was so afraid of being judged. I was terrified that I was the only one in the world who felt like this. How could I admit that I didn’t have all the answers? That would be career suicide and no one would ever talk to me again, surely.
Fortunately, I have a supportive husband with inhuman levels of patience. Over the years, I’ve also accumulated some amazing friends who I gradually realized I could open up to. They assured me I wasn’t crazy and that I wasn’t the only woman who ever felt hopeless and useless. They let me in on their similar experiences so I could see I wasn’t alone. Some of these women even shared with me that they themselves had been to counseling, which gave me the push I needed to make my own appointment.
I resisted for a long time, but going to counseling is not nearly as uncommon as our inner critics want us to believe. I’m still working through the monumental task of dismantling and rebuilding my entire thought process, and I’ve got a long way to go. But counseling allowed me to begin the healing process I so badly needed after decades of neglecting myself. I was able to put a name to some of my anguish (the twin diagnoses of anxiety and depression) and embark on this newfound mission to take care of myself and—gasp!—even love myself.
Why Self-Care Is Important for Mental Health
I can’t say that there was some grand “a-ha” moment that led to the realization that I was neglecting my mental health. Rather, it was a series of experiences and finally having enough of making myself so miserable. There have been hundreds of small changes that initially I resisted wholeheartedly but have since fully embraced. I also had to overcome my opinion that people who practiced self-care for depression and anxiety were cheesy wimps.
Now? Call me cheesy if you want, but I take time for myself in the mornings. I exercise, I read a devotional style book and I journal before ever logging onto my computer. Sometimes, I even meditate. My mood improved, my mental health improved, I pivoted my business and I can function infinitely better. I’m not in a puddle of tears every other day, sobbing on that closet floor.
Mind you, I still have a ways to go on that self-care journey. But everything is oh-so-much more bearable now because I’m choosing to prioritize taking care of my mental health. And in the process, I’m a better wife and friend because of it. I’m a better, albeit imperfect, human.