I realized that I have discussed a lot about coping mechanisms, but haven’t really addressed self care. I think the reason why I haven’t acknowledged self care is that there aren’t a lot of positive connotations that go along with self care for those who struggle with mental health. We can be seen as “selfish” because we are usually focused on self care most of our time. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know in regard to me being bipolar, I am constantly analyzing how I feel and what I think and what I am doing. I am trying to be an active participant in my own life and do things that bring me joy. Although this isn’t always possible, I try to always center my life around my own happiness. By having this sort of mindset, it can be very isolating for others to be apart of your world when it is so focused on you and your own happiness.
This mindset doesn’t reflect how I am all the time because if that were the case, I probably wouldn’t have very many friends. I try to surround myself with people that lift each other up despite their hardships and put themselves first and last. You can put yourself first and last by putting others before you, but not before your own coping mechanisms and self care. I believe your friends and those you surround yourself with should have the same goals for you as you do, as well as having similar values as each other. To me, a good friend wants what is best for you, no matter the cost. I know with my best friend, Brent, we have a lot in common, but most importantly, he wants me to be happy so if that means I focus on my coping mechanisms one night and forget to text him back, he knows I am doing something I love and that I am trying to be the best version of myself. But if I am not struggling with my bipolar, or I am not blogging or painting, I am constantly talking to him over the phone or visiting him at work or going out together. It’s hard because he always says I do so much for him and that he doesn’t do much for me, but he gives me the time and freedom to do and say as I please, whether it negatively affects him or not. I could not talk to him for days and he would always be there for me once I returned. It often feels like its a one sided relationship, but he assures me that isn’t the case. Like we both say, it’s not about who paid the tab last, it’s out of love because when we say we love each other, we mean it.
It’s hard to find true friends like him who puts my mental health first before his own needs in our friendship. So by default, I don’t talk to many people because I have to put their needs before my own self care. I don’t have any friends who don’t know about my bipolar disorder. I have been upfront in telling everybody over the years about it so I don’t have to hide my true self in front of those I consider to be true friends, but many of us have grown apart, not necessarily because my needs couldn’t be met or they couldn’t deal with my illness, we just grew apart. I lost a lot of friends when I broke up with my ex-fiance and most of them took his side, even the ones that were supportive of my bipolar disorder so I’m forced to start over which is even harder for me than it is for him because he’s not bipolar and he is a social butterfly, while I am the opposite.
I have been in the process for about the past year of trying to find activities for me that would count as self care and count as coping mechanisms for my bipolar disorder. Most of them have been listed in various posts titled, “Coping Mechanism #______”. I have found writing/blogging, painting/drawing, cooking, working out, photography, etc. By performing these activities, I am practicing self care. Even by brushing my teeth in the morning or taking my bipolar medication, I am practicing self care. Self care and coping mechanisms is going to look different to everyone, no matter their mental status. At the beginning of this post, I was going to fine tune a definition for what self care is and how it associates with coping mechanisms and I think the are two similar, yet vastly different entities to help one get through… well, life. Help them cope, help them thrive at life itself. I think defining the two as one morphed concept does both ideas a great disservice. With coping mechanisms, you have an activity that helps you get through a tough scenario or time in your life or through a trigger you may have, while self care is something that you practice regularly in order to better your self by focusing solely on ones’ self.
With self care and use of coping mechanisms, you can become very successful with your bipolar disorder or just be a successful normal person. Self care is important for everyone, not just the normal folk out there. I think, depending on your situation, taking care of yourself first before others is the only way to truly love on others. They always say you can’t love others unless you love yourself first. So by practicing self care or using coping mechanisms, you are loving yourself so you can more effectively love on others.
There are times when self care can become overboard when you are only caring about yourself, and sometimes that’s all you can do for a while after experiencing something traumatic. But if you let that traumatic experience get the best of you and you only focus on yourself rather than those you care about, your friends and family will feel neglected. So really take the time to process your self care and what it means to you and what it could mean to your loved ones.
Til next time,