How do we care for ourselves when no one cares about us?
The title isn’t to say that there are people out there whom no one cares about; that kind of thinking is fallacious. However, it is hard to practice self care when we are in a situation where a group or system is oppressive, leaving us feeling like we don’t matter. It is a hard pill to swallow when someone tells us that part of our being is wrong, not allowed, imaginary, or problematic. No matter how much glitter you sprinkle in your words, this kind of thinking will always cause harm. Even if we don’t swallow the pill, it still leaves a lasting taste in out mouth that makes our soul gag all the way down to our core.
I am struggling to love myself after having the idea that I am “less than” reinforced by an oppressive system in my life. The people running the system stand firm that my problematic qualities (not even behaviors) boil down to a lack of faithfulness and depth within the spiritual area of my life. Yes it was the same qualities that had me agonizing and in tears over the years. I thought leaving the system would enable me to feel some freedom, however the opposite has occurred.
I love baking and am usually very cautious around the hot pans. However, fairly recently the pan got the better of me and I burned my arm. I ran it under cool water for a second and went on my way, thinking I had escaped the problem. Minutes later, unfortunately, I was experiencing pain and discomfort that lasted the rest of the day. Like my burn, the deep emotional effects of the oppressive system didn’t occur right away. It was when I felt like I had escaped the worst of it that I began to experience the pain that was inflicted upon me. My world was flipped upside down.
It is amazing how people within a system or community stick together, despite seeing harm caused to someone else within. It’s the utilitarian thinking that tells us that it’s the greatest good for the greatest number of people that is the goal. And if a problem doesn’t directly impact you, stay out. Even if it does impact you, stay out or be kicked out. Friendships get tossed to the wayside. Even those who say they are supportive of you still show their disapproval in ways in which they don’t realize. How do I reconcile all of this?
I joined a new community of more like minded individuals but the pain I felt isolated myself despite wanting to connect. I had done more than put up walls though. Even in my group of friends, whom also experienced the same rejection, I found myself not being open with my feelings, and they in turn were doing the same. The one thing that should have made us closer ended up making us feel alone and isolated, drowning in our feelings of sadness and anger.
I am struggling with so much as a result of others’ actions. I struggle to reconcile my identity with the beliefs that I once held dear. I struggle with the loss of “friendships” with people that I thought cared and loved me. I struggle with knowing what my place is in the world and where I belong. I struggle with loving myself. I struggle to look in the mirror and like the person I have become. I struggle to see my strength and bravery to be who I am and stand up against oppression. I struggle.
I don’t want to struggle alone. The more I internalize what happened, the more it consumes me. I cannot pray these feelings away, but rather I have to live through them. I have to get so mad I break something. I have to cry so hard it takes two showers to clean the mascara off my face. I have to feel emotional pain that I think might cripple me for life. I have to talk about my experiences, own my experiences. Then, I can heal.
I sometimes think that self-care is about keeping us feeling neutral. Count to 20 before you get too angry. Allow yourself 5 minutes to cry in the bathroom and then get back to life. Keep your negative comments to your diary. Sometimes, however, I think that self-care is letting our emotional pendulum swing from one extreme to another, knowing that eventually the momentum will decrease and we will land smack dab in the middle. Self-care is giving ourselves freedom to feel everything, from the hairs on our head down to the skin on our toes and every place in between. It’s allowing ourselves to feel the emotional and physical pain without restraint. Self-care is sometimes letting yourself fall apart so that you can put yourself back together, in a way that is more happy and healthy. Self-care is taking a risk in order to live in a better place.
I have a scar from my burn, but it stopped hurting. The thing about a burn is you can’t speed up the healing process. You put ointment on the area and it hurts like hell. Often it makes it hurt more than it did before we tried to clean it up, but the cleaning is necessary for good healing. Then it scabs. Sometimes we rip off the scab thinking it will undo some of the damage that was done, only to realize we are still raw and open underneath. My spirit has a huge scab and every once in a while when I try to remove the scab, the wound opens up, it hurts, and probably needs some more of that painful ointment. Healing takes time, it takes work, it takes patience, it takes permission. A scab will never heal if we keep picking at it and preventing it from healing. This scab from the wounds I have will most likely scar, but at some point they will stop hurting. The scar will always be there but just as a reminder of where I have come from. At some point I will forget it is even there and it will just become another part of me.
Healing is a process, but it’s possible. I am working on it.