Apparently it is Mental Health awareness week, a week where we get to remind each other that our Mental Health is important. Where we say YES it is vital to take care of ourselves, to recognise what is going on in our inner worlds, to stop and look around, to take note of how our environment and our circumstances are playing into how we think about and process what is going on in ourselves and the world around us.
I’ve taken a few steps back in the last week or so to be still, to stop the work I can stop (it being harder to stop hanging out with my kids than doing the part of life I am paid to do). I’ve been doing the things that I know are abundantly good for my Mental Health. I have been reading, walking with friends, listening to loud music, sleeping, having time to stop and stare at the birds which are starting to finally feed from the bird feeder in our front garden. I’ve taken note of the world we live in, I’ve been reflecting with my Maker, I’ve been eating things that are less processed and I’ve been regularly sitting and reading things which are good for my soul, which remind me of the core of who I am in the midst of this life.
I’ve recognised how much I’ve been reacting to the world around me from a place of exhaustion, reactive rather than thoughtful, first reaction rather than a slower, more even tempered, reaction. I notice how I’ve come to react out of insecurity rather than from the security of knowing who I am and knowing how loved I am. I can see how all of this has played into friendships, work life, home life, parenting, everywhere.
I listened to a couple of online webinars this week on restoration and helping kids with their mental health and both times the message came away strong, we have to look after ourselves, we have to take care of ourselves if we are to have any hope of living well in this world. Our kids look to us in the way we look to air stewards when planes make funny noises, if they are fine, we go back to our books and tell ourselves it’s ok. My kids absorb my inner world. I need to take care of it and I long for them to see and notice that taking care of our inner worlds is vital for living well.
But here’s the thing.
I don’t know why but I still have a voice in my head which says I am selfish and self absorbed if I take care of myself. I still have the loud caveats in my mind which say, yes take care of yourself but remember to take care of others too. Guess which one of those statements stays in my mind when I hear those together. I’m always going to hear the second over the first.
There is a thing that voice NEVER tells you, and here is when I feel anger coursing through my veins at the horrible lie which so many of us have believed and absorbed, this lie that taking care of yourself is foolish and self pitying and self centred.
IT’S A LIE.
The thing that no-one is saying LOUD and LONG is that taking care of yourself will naturally lead to love. Seriously, even writing that seems like a crazy thing to write. Surely I have to say, obviously there will be times when you can be too self absorbed etc etc blah blah blah.
(and I think maybe there is a subtle grain of truth which gets distorted here, obviously I could live the rest of my life absorbed in myself and my woes. BUT THAT IS NOT ME TAKING CARE OF MYSELF… I am most self absorbed and self centred when I am not taking care of myself, when I numb my pain, when I beat myself up for not being loving enough, when I drown the call to silent retreat in any number of ‘worthy’ things, when I compare and judge others.)
Here’s the TRUTH (take note future Kath, still my most avid reader)
When I take care of myself, when I own my pain, when I walk in nature, when I sit and am still, when I stop chasing my worth and value in my likes and comments of adoration, when I am still enough to find myself through the comparisons and judgements, when I look at myself with the compassionate eyes of my Maker, when I am quieted and held by never stopping never failing never giving up love I become oh so delightfully and deliciously free. Free to love, free from my tangles to really see and hear the person in front of me, free to love reading to my small boy instead of wishing he would flipping go to bed already, free to cuddle and snuggle rather than sigh and scold.
So, stupid voice, wherever you come from you can go back there.
Looking after yourself results in freedom. And if you are of some kind of faith persuasion it works with God too. Focusing entirely on God’s love for me only ever leads to me becoming a more loving, more beautiful person. The rest flows from that source of unquenchable love. The rest takes care of itself. It is not self centred or self absorbed to place yourself on the bedrock of unfailing, overwhelming love and to see what wonderful, secure, appropriate, helpful, intentional love flows from that place.
Freedom is the result of looking after yourself.
Freedom to be yourself, freedom from insecurity, freedom to love without demands, freedom to have boundaries in your love of others, freedom to say YES and NO without fear, freedom to give space for others knowing you are taken care of and held. Freedom to be.
Freedom is the result of looking after yourself.
Freedom to grin and dance and clap hands, exalt, play on and laugh because you are loved.
Go on try it, take care of yourself, forget about the should and oughts, put the caveats in the bin and go find yourself in the flow of never stopping, never failing love. Dare to see what happens…