Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Sammie Prescott.
By Sammie Prescott
Before motherhood, I always thought self-care was about physical care, not mental. I pictured things like going to the salon, or taking a hot, silent bath. Back then, it really was amazing what a fresh coat of nail polish, and 10 minutes of Adele could do for the psyche.
Things became different after having a baby. A trip to the nail salon left me anxious, uptight, and nauseous. I had no time to take a bath, and I really didn’t want to sit in silence. As my mental illness reached its climax, silence was scary.
I knew I had to take care of myself, or I couldn’t take care of my son. But how? How does one practice self-care when your whole world revolves around a baby? I did the typical Pinterest search on “self-care for moms,” and came across suggestions such as “talk to a friend” or “go to an animal shelter.” My stomach curled. I didn’t want to be anywhere near other people. The very idea of stepping out of my comfort zone, or even putting on pants actually caused me to experience the deepest, soul-clenching panic one could imagine. So I sat with my infant, and let my depression and anxiety build into something massive. There were days when hours would slip by and I wouldn’t move. My heart was heavy, while my head was messy. The darkness pulled me in, but I let it. After a while, the drive to do anything was just gone.
As my life progressed, I decided — well, actually it was my husband who decided — that I needed something. One day, it came to me. I opened my laptop and just started writing. I poured out every emotion I could. I spared no shameful frustration, or dirty detail — and I mean dirty. I talked about the diapers, the vomit, the tears, and everything in between.
Here’s a passage I wrote during those days.
“Sometimes I use my feelings of total failure and anxiety to clean my house. I harness the evil for good, I suppose. I can’t always aggressively Swiffer, so when that doesn’t work, my mind runs wild. I argue with myself about how we will fix the scary things in our life, and how I will lose the weight. I worry about what dinner will be, and when the couch will get vacuumed.
Last night was one of those nights. I was worried, scared, and felt like I had truly failed. My group of mom friends had a rough day, and we took it out on one another. I feel like I failed as a friend. Tater wouldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t know why… another feeling of failure, and to top it all off, I forgot to cook dinner for B who was at work all day. That’s three “failures” on top of the others that loom over me.
(I firmly believe that the universe is an amazing place, in which everything happens for a reason)
I looked up on my Facebook to see the post that said “I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I laughed, said forget it! And proceeded to eat 400 Oreos and forget about my anxieties for a second.”
After writing just for myself for a while, I decided to share one of these informal essays with the ladies I had become close with on my Birth board. They all laughed, while encouraging me to share more. I love the feeling of making people laugh. It’s almost soul-cleansing, knowing that your words or actions can change a person’s mood. I felt like my essays were relatable. There was no “perfect parent” talk, or showing off. It was all about real moments in my everyday life. So every night, I carved out at least 30 minutes where I could spill everything I was feeling. The more I wrote, the better I felt. My light was finally lit again, after being out for so long. I enjoyed my quiet time, and sometimes I even wrote when my life wasn’t quiet at all.
I decided to further share my words by starting a blog. I told myself that even if no one reads it, at least this will make me feel OK.
With the blog started, I just let it flow. Every emotion poured out of me, in the snarky, humorous way that I spoke. The more and more readers I got, the crazier it all got. The feedback was warming my damaged soul. Even when the negative feedback came in, it still meant someone was taking the time out of their day to read what I wrote.
Now, two years later writing is my safe space. I was lucky enough to be given a writing prompt journal from my best friend. It’s filled with 300 questions, and space to answer them. They make me dig deep into my emotions, and sometimes they make me laugh. I also journal, for when writing a post, or filling in a prompt just aren’t doing it for me.
Self-care isn’t the same for everyone. You have to soul search to find out what works best for you. It may take a few tries, but never get discouraged. Practicing self-care has made me a better wife, a more patient mom, and truer version of myself.
Want to start writing as self-care? Here are my tips:
- Find a space in your home where you can write consistently. This will be your grounding zone. It’s a bit of stability in the forever unstable battle that is mental illness.
- Carve out at least 15 minutes a day to write. I usually sit down in my reading corner after my little person is fast asleep. Some days I need 15 minutes, some days I need an hour. You can start journaling (here’s my favorite journal), or if that isn’t your style, there are a wide variety of notebooks that come with writing prompts in them. You have to find what kind of writing works for you.
- Get comfortable. Throw on those yoga pants, and wrap a soft blanket around you. I often light a candle as well. The smell of sugar cookies seems to clear the mind, and makes my bedroom smell less like toddler.
- When it’s time for me to write, I sit down and enjoy a few minutes of quiet first. I let the day leave my mind so I can give my full heart into what I’m doing.
- Finally, let your mind go. Write what you feel, and feel what you write. With prompt writing, I always take a few minutes to really read the prompt before I let the pen go. With journaling, it spills out like water. Hold nothing back.