Self-Caring Your Way Out of the Pit of Despair: Step #1 Taking Your Power Back

img_5763March sucked.

I had great plans for March. I swept aside all novel-writing progress to set foundations for this blog and to start a podcast. I’ve failed at it all. All I’ve really succeeded at in March is overwhelm and fatigue. And now I’m fighting this sinus yuck and have been down for four days.

Did I already say March sucks?

Enough complaining. Down to business.

Despite the suck and yuck, I’ve learned a few things. First, I am horrible at self-care. You know the first self-care post? The one where I revealed a bit of my insanity and came up with four steps to self-care my way out of the pit of despair? I failed. Miserably.

The first step was to play everyday. Know how many times I played since I posted that two weeks ago?


You know why?

I couldn’t think of a single fun thing to do that didn’t make me want to crawl into bed.

I’m that exhausted.

Exhaustion has turned into low capacity and a lack of motivation, which has turned into getting sick, because I’ve refused to listen to what my body and soul need. If anything I’ve burrowed deeper into the Pit of Despair.

So I scheduled a much-needed visit to my therapist. Long story short, she discovered that I gave away my power. Again. Brilliant.

Some of you who haven’t been in years of therapy might wonder, what does it look like to give your power away?

You know all those “shoulds” in life? The ones constantly pulling at you? You should eat healthy. You should exercise. You should clean the house. You should volunteer more at the kids’ school. You should make more time for your friends. You should fix that relationship. You should do (fill in the blank) to make so-and-so happy.

You know what I’m talking about, because all of us, at some point, are shoulding our selves to death.

Shoulding gives away power. Its giving away all our grocery money to random needy people asking for a handout and then we wonder why we’re starving.

Literally starving.

Shoulding starts small. It’s sneaky like that. It’s seductive. Just one more thing. Push yourself a little bit harder. Take a little more crap. Ignore that boundary.

I do this all the time. And I wonder why I end up curled in a fetal position with a blanket thrown over my head, rocking back and forth like a crazy person.

Shoulding gives our power away. It depletes our personhood. It makes us small. It takes away the space we inhabit in the world. It minimizes us and our needs and our desires. It strips us of our humanity. And then tells us we need to do more. We aren’t enough. We need to try harder. That we’re failures.

Shoulding is a mean, nasty lie dressed up like kindness and generosity and love.

Don’t be fooled. Because that wolf dressed up like your granny will eat you for lunch.

How do we take our power back?

It’s an infuriating simple and desperately hard process.

First step: Self-examination and awareness. Anger, angst, irritation, stress, outbursts, fatigue, numbing, binge eating Ben & Jerry’s—all blaring signs of giving away power. Be aware of your tells. Be super sensitive. Don’t push down the emotion. Let it out, feel it, be aware of it. Take ownership of it.

How mine manifests: Exhaustion and apathy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I quit” in the last two weeks. Escape is my #1 tell.

Second step: Pin-point where the emotion came from. Like an objective observer of your life, identify where the angst started, trace it back to its origin. In other words, when and how did you give your power away?

My breakdown comes from the little things. Setting too lofty goals makes me work too hard with no rest, makes an already-at-capacity me tumble from my impossible-expectations perch into no capacity zone.

Third step: Don’t beat yourself up. I tend to self-flagellate. How did I fall into this again? Why can’t I get it right? I’m such a failure. On and on. Don’t do this. It only makes it worse. Be kind to yourself. Congratulate yourself for getting to this step, you’ve come so far. Heap grace on yourself. Take a bubble bath. Read that novel you keep putting off. Go out for drinks with friends. Whatever you need. Do that.

Now that I’ve run myself sick, I’ve taken the last four days to do exactly nothing. Unless I wanted to do it. Even writing this blog wasn’t a should, it was a have-to. I have-to get this all out or else I might explode. Unfortunately, I still beat myself up. Guilt is an ongoing battle in my life. Sometimes I win, most of the time guilt wins, which spirals me back into giving my power away.

Fourth step: Take your power back. Did you let a boundary get crossed? Redraw it. Did you let someone guilt you into a project? Give the project back. Did you set impossible goals? Reset realistic ones (or take a vacation). You may feel stuck. But the beautiful truth? You’re not. You have ultimate control over your life. If something isn’t working, you are the single person who can change it. No one else can.

I’ve been working on this a ton these last few weeks. Re-evaluating my goals, my desires, my self-care plan. Honestly, beyond some serious R&R I have no answers. I’m that exhausted. Re-setting new goals makes me want to crawl into bed. Even getting a massage feels overwhelming. That’s saying something, right? But that’s how far I’ve spiraled. To heal I must give myself the gift of rest with no strings attached.

Perhaps rest is my play for now.

That saying, “You only live once” comes to mind. I know it’s so played out it’s become eye-roll worthy, but it’s the truth. This is your life. This is my life. How are we going to live it? Shoulding ourselves? Or living happy, whole, and content?

I will continue to fight for the latter.

What do your steps look like? Leave them in the comments. Share on Acts of Bravery. Or if you’re one of my peeps, text me.

7 thoughts on “Self-Caring Your Way Out of the Pit of Despair: Step #1 Taking Your Power Back

  1. Once again you have impeccable timing! I’m “rocking in my corner” as I write. I’m so sorry you’re here again. It’s a rather dismal place to be. It’s heavy, and I don’t know about you but I feel like crying and/or laying down in a dark, quiet room all the time. Escapes have definitely been considered on multiple occasions; especially this week. Forget one day at a time. It’s been more like one moment at a time. I wish for you all the respite and restoration you need! Thank you again with all my heart for putting this into words and sharing it with the world!

    1. Thank you, Wendy! I’m sorry you’re here too, but it helps to know I’m not alone. I think rest is the best thing to do for now. I’m starting to believe rest isn’t optional (and maybe it’s not hiding either), but a much needed activity for body restoration and health. It’s just so hard to take it without guilt and “shoulding,” our culture isn’t wired this way.

  2. Thank you for sharing. It helps to know I’m not alone. I’ve been right here for months, not wanting to get out of bed and go to work, then working 10 to 12 hour days and having to go home and be mom and wife. Wanting to climb right back into bed and not make dinner or clean. Wishing I could run away and hide. Feeling alone and wishing I had friends, or even a single friend, to call or do something with but realizing I’ve never taken the time to develop relationships beyond my husband and kids. How do we rest and take time for us when we’re designed to be caretakers? When we still have kids at home and jobs that have legal deadlines and are very demanding? Wondering when will I ever find time to discover who I am? These are thoughts I’ve been seriously contemplating and consumed by for years. Thank you for the steps you shared, but how do you get your power back when you feel you never had that power? I’ve been with Chet since I was 16 , and before that I was a parentified child with parents who were addicts. I went right from high school to college and work, and then marriage and being a mom. I’ve never lived on my own, never had any down time to discover who I am. I’ve chosen careers where I’m a caretaker and have always put others first. I’m going to take your advice and stop beating myself up. Again, its nice to know I’m not alone, and I’m going to try and discover my power and change.
    Yes, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing all my thoughts because your being brave has made feel feel safe enough to share. Thank you.

    1. Patience, your response brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. It gives me strength to know I’m not alone too!

      As far as starting to get your power back, I started by taking up space. My therapist told me to start at home, which meant asserting myself and telling everyone what I needed and even wanted (gasp!). My biggest worry was being a bad mom. But my therapist assured me my kids were at an age that it was good for them to see and understand my needs and to even provide that care for me. She said it was a much needed stage in their growth and development in becoming empathetic adults.

      As foreign as it felt, I’ve done it. And, even better, it’s worked! I know it’s a small thing, but today I woke up a little later than usual and my daughter had straightened up the living room and opened all the blinds, something she knows I appreciate. It made for a wonderful start to my morning and to hers because she knew she made me happy.

      Keep me updated of your progress. We’re in this together!

  3. In the pit up despair, we lose ourselves when we look down at the bottom, when we look around at the climb… but, when we look up, we find Jesus who has already rescued us. This is the only self care I want. ❤

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