I met with a therapist early on in the grieving process; after I lost my mom but before I lost my dad. She told me about self-care. Now, the notion of self-care wasn't new to me. After all, I'm a writer who follows other writers on twitter. Lots of us have mental health struggles. But I was very busy being a mom and a daughter and a wife. I had a full-time job and I was trying to get a literary agent and then published author. Surely I didn't have time to take care of myself. Surely self-care was for people who were really struggling.
Spoiler alert: I was struggling.
At one point, I had as many thirty migraines a month with accompanying neck pain. I'd gotten my first migraine at 16 while a chauvinistic driving instructor had me drive back and forth over a bridge that was five lanes in either direction, and in one of those directions, I drove west toward the setting sun. But neck pain was new. Maybe I was just getting old?
Since that time, I've put a lot of time and effort into making myself healthier. I spent a solid month gluten-free. I've done acupuncture (two different practitioners), deep tissue massage, osteopathic manipulation, saw a chiropractor (the worst experience that caused a ton of pain and anxiety) floating, yoga (almost a half dozen different yogis), a daith piercing, and more therapy. I've changed up my supplement routine a dozen times, adding things and taking things out, trying different dosages and formulations. I start to feel better, I miss a step or two, and the pain comes back.
Of course there was a step I didn't originally understand the importance of: I quit my job. My job at the university I went to as a college freshman, where I worked in a building that was 114 years old. A building I later found out was contaminated with black mold. I added chlorella and charcoal to my supplement routine. Sometimes I wondered if I was wasting my time and money on stuff that was ultimately useless.
Except that I just went ten days without needing a migraine pill. That's ten whole days of being a better mom, working on my novel, enjoying the world. I've started making lists of places where I can get a job in the fall. And even though I'll be parenting my amazing kid, writing, and working, I won't skimp on my wellness routine. Because the things that I do make me feel good. Instead of wondering how I'm going to make it through the pain into another day, I know that I'm going to be okay. My health is important. Without it, I'm not a good mom, I can't write books, I can't enjoy the world I live in.
Which brings me to the decision to tell myself I'm important, that I matter. Life didn't stop after I lost my parents. Good things happen, and less good things happened. But I've got a long life ahead of me, and I'm not content to settle for less than my new dreams. And those can't happen if I'm falling apart.
I see people who decide in a dozen little ways every day that they don't matter. I know that it isn't easy for everyone, but I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't at least try to enjoy as many moments as I can.
My supplement routine costs me about $65/month on Amazon. I hate them, but if I tried to buy supplements at a health food store, I'd go broke so fast. My massage therapy is $65/session and I currently go once a month. Acupuncture is done in a community setting, which means there are up to a dozen of us in a dark room at any one time, in recliners with the needles in our arms, legs, and head. It's a sliding scale, and I pay $20 per session. I'd like to thank my parents for the money they left me that allows me to pay for my regimen.
Here's some Enya, for my dad, who loved Enya.