Indian religion and mythology tell the tale of Raavan, a monster with 10 heads. As you chopped them off, they would regrow. Having dealt with anxiety and stress from many sources over the last 3-4 years, sometimes I think self-care with its many faces, is also a beast to tame.
There is always the first face you see: “remember to breathe”, “light some candles”, “get a bath bomb”, all the things my 14-year-old self would have done even without anxiety. Every other face is a new one, a new method you try out because you didn’t really forget how to breathe in the first place. Every other face is a reset, a chance to try again, and maybe it’s good that there are so many faces because you can try again and again until something clicks.
I’m still in that iterative process, where things get easier for a day or two, but then it’s 50 steps back. I’m a problem-solver so I look up how to fix my issues; Google says to breathe and to recognize that the attack will pass. I haven’t forgotten how to breathe, Google. Tell me how to get outside of my mind, tell me how to stop overthinking it all. I tried out the latter piece of advice, telling myself that the freezing and pain in my body is temporary, that it came so it will go. It works, I think.
Turns out there is not really a one-size-fits-all solution to a pattern so steadily prevalent in people my age. So many of us, for one reason or another, overthink, freak out, cry, maybe talk to a friend, then we brush it off and keep soldiering on. Whenever I do that, overcome a breakdown, I try to feel proud of myself, that I am strong enough to allow myself to feel weak. One thing that Google did teach me is that I…we need to be patient with ourselves. So after my 23482039844th breakdown, I told myself, “Hey, it’s okay. This is gonna happen. You’ve gotten through this for a hundred nights, you can get through a hundred more.” It doesn’t always work, it’s not even a one-size-fits-one solution.
Self-care takes a different form for all those who encounter it, each time one encounters it. I’ve seen it as times where I told myself to cry everything out whenever I needed to get things out of my system, as allowing myself to overthink so I can feel good about myself when I regain control, as a million voice messages at 3AM to my best friend. I’ve seen it as emotional autopilot, as typing into a diary app furiously night after night, as putting myself to sleep at 6AM after I’m awoken by nightmares.
Self-care is a beast with many faces. I don’t think there’s anyone around who has figured out which head to launch their arrow at, having found the method works best. Its heads will regrow repeatedly, but eventually there has to be a time where you shoot correctly, right? That’s what I keep telling myself, in the early hours of the morning.