Mental Health, Self-Care, Self-Love

The Oxygen Dilemma


When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.

~ Benjamin Franklin

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to really prioritize self care. I had always thought “There’s just no time! I have so much stuff I need to do. Who has time for bubble baths and facials?!” I would convince myself that I would run out of time for my obligations. I would persuade myself that the money it would cost to do such things would be much better spent on food or tangible things for the house. I would urge myself that my time would be better spent taking care of people I loved.

My life had never been easy. I believe most people have struggles in their life, but I had life in my struggles. Broken family, abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, loss: these words hardly summed up the bulk of it. I heard the word resilient a lot in therapy. That word always made me feel awkward. I never saw a true option but to go on, so go on I did. I meandered from struggle to struggle. At times it seemed like once I had found a way to overcome one struggle, I would be well into the next one, or at least well on my way.

I had always taken care of parts of me. Through the bulk of my life I went to therapy, which didn’t feel like self-care because it was for my health. I tried to eat reasonably healthy, but that was also for my health. Exercise checks off the health box again. Health mattered for my family my friends. To be a healthy part of their lives.

I had an issue, however, doing things I couldn’t connect to the well being of others. Whenever I would dip my toes into the water, someone would make some comment on my efforts that made me pull back before I got too wet. “Must be nice to have all that time to spend on yourself. Some of us have obligations.” “I don’t understand why you are getting so dressed up to sit at home.” “Do you really need all that make-up to go to the store?” Eventually I felt self-conscious and even felt guilty some days penciling a shower or doing something more time consuming than brushing my hair.

Over the years I’d dip in here and there, but I never really took self care seriously. I focused on family, school, friends and then work. Rarely making time for much but the essentials. If I did spend money on self-care items, I found myself using them as sparingly as I could to make them last. Often so sparingly they ended up not being used at all.

In 2017 I believe, a friend bought me a book that started to help me evaluate my happiness: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. While this book is not self-care per se, it helped me to examine the things I had and dream of the life I wanted. Marie Kondo says in her Netflix show, (Episode “Breaking Free From a Mountain of Stuff”) “My method of tidying really helps you not just to clean the surface of your home, but to really consider how you want to live and what kind of relationship you want to have with your family, with your friends, and all the things that surround you.”

This sentiment resonated with me. Evaluating my belongings gave me a lot of perspective on what I felt I deserved from life. Keeping what gave me actual happiness helped me rid myself of things I kept from guilt, and other people’s expectations, and it helped me re-envision the type of environment I wanted rather than just accepting what it was.

After I had completed that process, I slowly started re-evaluating not just the material parts of my life for joy, but I also started implementing changes to how I prioritized my time. I started spending more time on hobbies, and less time on things that just made me feel bad. I stopped spending countless hours on Pinterest looking at things I did not have and couldn’t afford to do, to make, to have. I started planning my time, at least loosely, so I could accomplish more of what I needed to have more time to do what makes me happy.

About 5 months ago, I moved to a new city, and a new rental space which allowed me an ideal opportunity to really plan a fresher start. I further rid myself of unwanted belongings, upon the move we spent time to replace things that really gave us joy. We set up our new space as ideally as we could really emphasizing the things we loved. I also stopped working a 9-5 job which gave me more time than I had before to start some better habits and new routines. I started making a lot more time for “frivolous” things like facials, and bubble baths, dressing nicely to feel good, fixing my hair for me: I started prioritizing these things rather than doing them when time allowed. Through this I started realizing how depleted I had been.

I started realizing how much better I felt mentally and emotionally when I cared for myself in these ways. I couldn’t stop thinking about how when you are taking off in a plane, they tell you in case of emergency and loss of oxygen in the cabin, put your mask on before helping others. I always kind of half heard that and thought “Of course that makes sense. How can you take care of other people if you can’t breathe?” Somehow, I’d never thought of self care like that until I started making time for self care. It was like a feedback loop. The more I did it, the more I realized it was important, so the more I did it. I started encouraging my partner to do the same, and to do it with me.

Fast forward to now and I probably spend about 1-4 hours on average a day on just me things. I feel really the best I ever have. I kept sharing all this with friends and they keep saying how inspiring it is.  So that’s what this is. This is a blog for me to talk about that. What I do, how I do, things that work for me, things that don’t. How I schedule my time, the things I do. It’s mostly for me, its for my friends, and if you aren’t my friend and happen upon my space, I hope you find something worth reading. So thanks for reading, take care of yourself, and don’t forget to give yourself oxygen first.