I was suicidal in my teens. The harsh social environment of high school, added to an explosive relationship with my parents and topped off by the shame of keeping hidden my own molestation as a child, weighed on me. Death seemed like a relief.
I had a much younger sister. Watching her one day, I decided that I would put in the effort to change my life for her. Who would protect her from the abuse happening if it was still a secret?
One day I came upon a book by Gabrielle Roth called Maps to Ecstasy: The Healing Power of Movement. She spoke of the importance of mothering oneself. It deeply resonated with me and I began to try the suggestions she encouraged of listening to your body when your sleepy, hungry, needing comfort, needing to be social or alone. I decided as high school graduation neared that in order to live and cultivate some sort of resilience I was painfully lacking, mothering myself would be my number one goal.
Brutal Commitment to Change
I treated myself as a patient and put myself on a militant routine of self-care, monitoring how I felt by daily journaling. Each entry was a small battle won in efforts to beat my own hopeless self-talk. As I navigated choosing my self-care activities, I used the benchmark of how far the activities helped me feel from those heavy feelings of hopelessness and apathy.
Grow Resilience or Die
I allotted time every morning to doing selected self-care activities even if it meant waking up earlier, many times dragging myself with one eye open. Committing to my own self-care in mind, body and heart eventually led me to gradually growing a deep fulfillment and reverence for life. Here is how my morning self-care routine saved my life.
1. Looking Forward not Back
I walked myself through a sequence of self-care tasks in the morning like drinking water, taking a walk, reading an inspirational book, emptying my thoughts through freewriting and doing a meditation . By the end of these activities, I would feel a marked positive difference. On days that were particularly hard, where by nightfall my head would hit the pillow heavy with dread, I’d see my journal, inspirational book, and water-filled pitcher for the next morning already laid out and remember what the morning felt like. I’d then look forward to that and experience relief.
2. Better Choices Led to Better Choices
My new choices in the morning began to spread into the rest of my day, and I found it easier to make better choices without trying. When depressed and feeling hopeless EVERYTHING takes effort yet the minuscule ounce of added energy from my mornings would domino effect into my afternoons and better choices became a natural extension of how I was feeling.
3. Inner Silence Gave Perspective
Through meditation and having had freely dumped my thoughts on paper, the loud nasty voices in my head would be quieted down. An inner space would be revealed even if just for split seconds at first. When painful memories would resurface I would be able to see them with a tad more distance and emotional soberness. Somehow I began to feel wider and bigger than the memories, in contrast to often having felt consumed by them. Acceptance ensued and feelings of being more integrated and at peace slowly replaced the chaotic inner battlefield.
4. Better Thoughts Start to Prevail
Once done with my self-care morning activities I began to have different thoughts than the usual ones. I remember after the first few times I meditated, an image of cooing white doves flying into a pinkish, foggy, quiet sky over a body of water came into my mind. I had never thought of that or seen anything like it in my waking life and I was in awe that I could think something so beautiful. That beautiful thought stood contrastingly against the mundane, morbid, fearful, anxious thoughts that were my everyday reality. Tiny step by tiny step, every morning, I gradually became aware of my inner landscape. It was as if I began to see my inner chatter from the outside looking in and insights came about how it could be different. I decided that that one beautiful thought was a marker of my progress and used it to motivate me to keep going on the harder days when I felt toe to toe with my own hopelessness and self-harassment. I moved forward in the hopes that one-day beautiful thoughts like that would make up the bulk of my everyday inner world.
5. Circle of Friends Replaced
As my thoughts became more infused with hope and centeredness it was as if I began to emit that outwards and the highly critical, negative people who I’d cross paths with began to fall away. As my paradigm of enduring life slowly was being replaced by the belief that life was to be enjoyed, I began to notice the higher vibe, sweeter, happier people that were doing just that. As the circle of people I surrounded myself with became more positive I began to find the support I needed and things quickly changed for the better. No one can overcome suicidal tendencies alone no matter how amazing their private morning routine is.
Nothing Replaces Community
Changing my daily activities by focusing on how I started my day helped me tremendously and led me finally to finding that support I needed. Reaching out for help was the biggest hump to get over and biggest benefactor in my own healing. If you’re struggling I encourage you to take your own steps of self-care, however small, and reach out to those in your community. Receiving support from your community is a basic need of mental and emotional health that can’t be taken lightly, especially in these times where the superficiality of social media interactions so easily replace real, intimate conversations one on one.