I think I am a fairly-level headed person. I feel a wide range of emotions, just like everyone does. But over the years, I have learned the tools to process those emotions in what I believe is a healthy way. When I am angry, I typically don’t have to apologize for things I’ve said because I am fairly good at processing that anger and expressing it in ways that don’t let it decide what I am going to say or how I am going to behave. If I am feeling sadness, I usually know what I need to get through that sadness. And I can honestly say the same about most emotions. Anxiety, stress, frustration, annoyance – I feel all of these things, and some more than others, but I have learned how to cope, feel them, accept them from what they are, and move forward. This, of course, isn’t the case every single time. And I am certainly not perfect (especially in other areas of my life), but I tend to handle my emotions well. I’ve worked very hard on being able to do so, and I am proud of my growth in that area.
My career is in violence prevention education. I go into high schools and talk with oft-reluctant high school students about how to be active bystanders and help prevent dating violence, sexual violence, and bullying that they may see signs of. In my off time, among other things, I run A Voice For The Innocent. It’s not a job for me – at least not yet. I’d love to have a career working for this nonprofit that I started, but we aren’t there yet. For now, it’s a labor of love. And because of these two involvements, I am around the topic of sexual violence very frequently, and that’s just through the work I do. That’s not counting the messages, texts, emails, and calls that I get when I am not directly working with my job or with AVFTI asking for help, advice, where to find a counselor, or how to handle a specific situation. And it’s okay – I welcome those interactions. I do get burnout just like everyone else, and the topic does get heavy, but I am glad that I am able to provide assistance to those who need it.
Because of these two facts – the way I handle my emotions and my intense involvement in such heavy work – I think I am often viewed as mentally and emotionally strong. I don’t always view myself this way, and I definitely don’t always feel that way. But I’ve been told from time to time that I am seen that way, and I consider it a huge compliment. I wear that title, when given to me, with immense honor.
Now I promise I didn’t write this article just to highlight my own strengths. I just wanted to paint a picture of my life in a very particular light.
These past couple months have been exceptionally difficult for me and my family. I am not going to get into details because a) I am not the only one involved, and that’s not fair to the others who are and b) that’s not the point of this piece. Suffice it to say, there are some things that come up that can quite literally alter your life’s path with no warning, no time to prepare, and certainly no apology. And in the past two months, my family has dealt with three of those situations. Three separate, unrelated situations that can shake a person’s whole life all on their own. And then, as it seemed like all of the situations were coming to an end, my entire house got bronchitis and pneumonia.
It’s been a hard period. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s life. We aren’t special, and we don’t have it harder or worse than anyone else. We all deal with situations like these, and we do the best we can. “When it rains, it pours” isn’t a popular trope because only a few of us have had several hard situations all at once. We’ve all been there. And it’s been in these couple of months that I’ve remembered that I need to take care of myself. No matter the strength of my mental and emotional fortitude, I am not above self care.
It’s really easy for me to brush it off.
“I just don’t have time right now.”
“As soon as I finish these tasks, or get through this week, I will make time for myself.”
“I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve treating myself.”
“I can’t afford anything for myself right now.”
These phrases and more run through my mind weekly. Maybe even daily. And maybe they have for you too. But I just don’t know how I would have gotten through these past couple months without taking time to be with my family doing things we may not normally do. Or writing music, both on my own and with my friends. Or setting boundaries for myself. Or any of the other things I did to make sure I was okay.
So I write this piece as a reminder to you, and to myself, that self-care is absolutely crucial. If you’ve been on a plane, you know that the flight attendant’s pre-flight instructions are to put an oxygen mask on ourselves before we put it on others. This isn’t to encourage selfishness, but to let us know that we quite literally can not take care of other people if we haven’t taken care of ourselves. And this is true for all of us. From the healing to the strong, and from those of us who do well with managing emotions to those of us who are still working on that, we should all make sure we are actively scheduling time to take care of ourselves, and making self care a part of our routines.