wellness

'For years, I didn’t prioritise my own self-care. It almost broke me.'

Long bubble baths with a glass of champagne and candles, a weekend away with the girls, mani-pedis, a few hours at the hairdresser. These are all things that are often associated with self-care. And for some people these are essential parts of their self-care routine. 

For me though, self-care is a lot less sexy than any of these things. 

I have lived with mental illness for a long time. And for an even longer time, I have made everyone else around me a priority, putting my own needs and self-care at the bottom of a long to-do list. 

Watch: The horoscopes and self-care. Post continues below. 


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I used to think that self-care was selfish and that by taking time out for me, I wasn’t doing my "job" of being there as a mother, wife, friend, and daughter. The truth couldn’t be further from this.

By not looking after myself and not making time for my own self-care, I was actually making it harder to be there for my loved ones in the way I wanted to. 

At its core, self-care is about ensuring that my nutrition, physical and mental wellbeing and hygiene are all in good working order. But self-care is going to look very different to everyone.

When my kids were little, my nutrition took a beating - mainly because I didn’t eat properly. I snacked from the kids leftovers, or I simply didn’t eat at all. 

And because our budget didn’t stretch to do the "fancy" self-care, which I perceived as real self-care, I simply didn’t do it at all. You could say I have always been a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of gal. 

If I couldn’t have a night away in a fancy hotel without the family - which I would never do because of finances or feeling ridiculously selfish - then I wouldn’t take any time out at all. 

This, of course, was even more ridiculous because I would facilitate my husband taking time out for self-care. Because in my mind, he needed it more than me because he was providing for the family and had a tough job with a long commute. 

I gaslit myself into thinking that I didn’t deserve self-care, or I wasn’t as important as everyone else. The problem with this is that as one of my favourite people of all time Brené Brown says, "The body keeps score and it always wins." I stockpiled literally everything that had happened over the years thinking that because I could still function or still look after everyone else, I was doing okay. 

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I discovered the hard way that when you stockpile all your crap and you don’t take the time for self-care - your body will win. In my case, my body shut down. It was fairly dramatic, and I lost the ability to walk, to type, to feed myself, to crochet, and to drive. Literally anything I needed to use the left-hand side of my body for, I needed to re-learn.

It was through this that I learnt that self-care was not in fact a night in a hotel or a bubble bath. Though if I had taken time out of my day for me, that would definitely have made an enormous difference in the long term. 

Self-care for me today looks very different from the movies. And it is an essential part of my day and week. 

Self-care for me is going to my GP, discussing what is going on with me, and having a regular medication review with my psychiatrist. 

It is also having regular sessions with my psychologist. We have fortnightly sessions booked in and these can be weekly when I really need it like during lockdown. These sessions are about me getting things off my chest, and her not taking any of it personally. She also gives me tools on how to deal with some of the day-to-day life admin so that they don’t become issues for me. 

Self-care for me is also having regular sessions with my amazing women’s health physio Anna. Seriously, this woman does things to my body - and well frankly, my pelvic floor - that are next level amazing. Who knew that back pain can actually come from the muscles in your pelvis and releasing those from the inside can make a world of difference to how you sit, walk, balance and feel. 

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For me, exercise is also an absolute must. Even though I don’t enjoy exercise one little bit. For me, exercise is not about a better looking body. It is part of a holistic care plan that means exercise is just like a pill. It's something I don't enjoy, but I know it's good for me. 

Exercise is beneficial for me because it helps my balance and strength. Exercise helps with my walking so that I don't limp or drag my left foot. I do group sessions at my physio clinic with an amazing team of exercise physiologists who take my whole person into account when we set a plan. They also know that the exercise is helping, even if I don’t see it or feel it. 

Self-care is also recognising that I need time out. I am still not great at this and it certainly hasn’t been easy over the last few months living in NSW with many of my usual time out options unavailable. Time out for me isn’t about going somewhere remote, it is really about removing myself from a situation. Often it involves me sitting on the lounge at my best friend's house, surrounded by her family and the noise that is in her house. 

I have also discovered that self-care for me is about having a purpose. Something that is more than my family. Something that I can look at and say I did that and be proud. 

Listen to Ben Crowe on Mamamia's No Filter. Post continues below 


Until I was forced to acknowledge I needed to stop, I thought self-care was fun, expensive, and most of all, selfish. I know now that self-care can be a getaway in a hotel or a night out with friends if that works for you. But it can also be a trip to the GP, a session with your psychologist, or even a pelvic floor tune up. 

I am fortunate that I can afford my self-care now. For a long time, finances would have stopped me from doing any of these things. I now know that I should never have let that be a barrier. I could have accessed health care plans to help with my mental health care, and even my physio or exercise physiology. 

The first thing I will notice if I am tired or stressed is something physical like a numbness/heaviness in my arm or dragging of my left foot when I walk. It is then that I know I have to stop and listen to my body. Self-care is rarely sexy. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it is essential.

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