It took me a very long time to work out how vital self care is.
In 2001 I gave birth to the love of my life, my daughter, but as she turned 8 weeks old I had to go back to full time work. We became a single parent family. I returned to the car industry, selling cars, and I was good at it, but for some reason I lost my mojo. With a leap of faith, I left to become a children's music and movement teacher, I know, quite a change!
I took several classes a week, which were the equivalent of about 15 hours of aerobics each week. I was both financially and time poor. I started to make some soaps for friends and family as stocking fillers. I loved the process, the measuring and designing colours and scents that made me smile. Although I didn’t realise it at the time these soaps were the start of my own business.
Although I’ve never carried weight I suddenly I went down to 6 and a half stone. This was due to leaping around in front of classes of children, running my small business, being a single mother, and trying to hold down a mortgage! Sanity was not an option!
I became ridiculously tired ALL the time and everything kind of hurt. I could only focus my energies in the most important places; my daughter and me! I was diagnosed with (in 2003 very misunderstood) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and what they thought was Fibromyalgia. I was a bloody mess!
My body had simply said ‘Stop! You can’t keep doing this!’
I managed the business around my illness. Bite sized pieces of "sleep" and "rest" were key to my survival. Most days were groundhog; I felt ‘stuck’. Suddenly self-care was not a choice, it was the key to healing! For 2 years I slowed my life down, and I was forced to take care of me. My health slowly started to improve and alongside my soaps, I also began to teach children arts and crafts at local schools. The doing something I love for self-care started to become a theme!
Keen to mesh my passions as a solid career choice in 2012 I started my path to Social Work (doing something I love) and undertook an Access course. I was feeling better!!! I flew through 4 years of intense academia, and went to work in children’s’ services with a local authority. I loved this job, I had worked hard for it and was now able to get up and fulfil a passion.
After two years in children’s service, work went very busy. Crazy busy, but my enthusiasm for social justice, caring for children, and supporting families kept me going. My body however was suddenly not so keen! Back & neck pain, numb thigh and fingers, and poor vision came with a BANG or rather CRASH! Before I knew it, I was in front of my GP thinking I was dying and she promptly told me off for getting in such a mess, and sending me home with a sick note and a ‘sore neck’!
To cut to the chase, I ended up off work for 2 months! The Chiropractor diagnosed a shit load of nerve damage to my neck and lower back. Yet again my physical self had said STOP! Will I ever learn? In those two months, I took care of me! I slept, rested, spent time not in meditation, but in reflection. Who would have thought you could reflect for two months? Well I had "time", and "time" is so bloody precious, and I had not used mine well!!
For me self-care is doing something I love, rather than just being a cog in a machine. Its accepting what I can’t do, recognising what I can do, and trying to get that balance. This could be the cliched candle lit bath, but it could be extreme zip-wiring. It might be something as simple as drawing, or making your own skin cosmetics………are you beginning to see what I might start to do again here?
Do something you love and most of all, love yourself.
I’m now back at work, but I’m really enjoying making my own skin care products again. I’d been spending a fortune on skin care (I’m a sucker for pretty bottles and shite blurb), and whilst I was off I remembered that I had those alternative skills at my finger tips to create my own doing, something I missed and loved.
You see my self care is all about doing things I adore, saying no occasionally, being a domestic goddess that can go on strike, my first cup of tea, shit box sets back to back, and Yoga, when I’m allowed again!
These simple things are what help me to look after myself. They build the foundation that allows me to do a stressful job but enjoy life. Its baby steps, this is the second time my body has decided to work-to-rule but I've listened, reflected and learned again how important it is to self-care. I just need to remember that it’s a lifestyle choice, not a crisis intervention so the reserves are there when I need them!
Charlie is a full time social worker in Children’s Services. Her daughter partner and home are her passion. Making lotions and potions forms part of her Self Care plan, it focus’s her brain on slowing down, being more measured, and making beautiful skin care that makes her smile!