I've been a pastor for nearly a decade, but I tried to kill myself four years ago. Since that dark season, I have been actively focusing on recovery from a suicide attempt, plus the underlying wounds of: childhood sexual abuse, church hurts, and a pornography addiction. I have learned that recovery is about digging. About finding. And about facing realities. And, equally as important, recovery is about self-care.
Self-care is giving yourself permission to be first for a little while. It's not making excuses about why you can't do what you know in your gut you need to do. If you're new to this, here are 3 reasons why your self-care matters:
1.You deserve safety, love, and belonging.
Folks with mental illness tend to be extremely compassionate toward others, but we often do not show ourselves the same grace. But self-compassion is absolutely necessary to have a whole, healthy life. We must be kind to others, and we must also be kind to ourselves. As Brene' Brown says, I must learn to speak to myself the same way I would speak to someone I love. It's helping to heal my own shame.
2. You are more than your diagnosis.
Labels are important, especially from a medical standpoint. They give us a plan of action. They show us a lot about our limits. They teach us which medications may help and what substances or situations to stay away from. But when we focus more on the label than the person behind it - a human being in need of love and belonging - we miss an opportunity to live a full and meaningful life.
But don't miss this: your diagnosis doesn't define you. You are much more than a label, or the stigma attached to it.
3. You are enough.
Early in recovery, my biggest struggle was getting past my own sense of inadequacy. I believed I wasn't man enough, husband enough, father enough, Christian enough, and certainly not sane enough to meet the expectations of those around me. It seemed like "normal" people were learning what a phony I'd been, and I feared I would never be loved or accepted again. Shame clouds our judgment, preventing us from seeing our own self-worth. It's hard to see the value you bring to the world when you hate yourself.
For me, recovery and self-care are inextricably connected. My recovery has required immense amounts of self-care, patience, and grace. In simple ways, sometimes self-care means knowing that it's ok to have a good hard cry. Maybe it's closing the office door and taking some deep breaths. Or taking a "mental health day" because you just cannot push through another minute.
When your life seems to have imploded all around you, there are no overnight fixes, but the hard work of self-care just might save your life.