I will be the first to check myself and be very honest about my privilege. It was a privilege to be born into a family with the financial ability to support me and make sure I had access to an otherwise unaffordable private mental healthcare provider. It was a privilege that my therapist lived around the corner from my home, and that her private practice was located in a cosy room on the second floor of her house. It was a privilege that working with her led to working with various other counsellors and learning from them. I am forever grateful for that privilege, because without it, I know I would not be where I am today.
There are many things I learned in my 7+ years of therapy. Many of these things would take a book to relay to you, but there are a three core lessons that I have learned to carry with me every day that I think can help you, too, on your journey to self-improvement.
1. Push yourself to say ‘NO’.
I was once the girl in my group of friends who always went above and beyond to be there for others despite my own needs. I never said ‘no’ to anything and, because of this, I had a group of friends who took advantage of me. Some had befriended me because I had a car and could drive them around. Some had stayed friends with me because I very happily bought them gifts and meals when we’d go out together and they couldn’t afford to. Some would very vocally insult my hobbies and passions, manipulate me into being horrible to others for a laugh. And I would comply and allow myself to be shamed and manipulated by these people.
By learning to say ‘no’ to the things that emotionally, mentally and financially exhaust me, I have given myself the opportunity to spend my time and energy on the things and people I want to, not those who take advantage of my kindness.
2. Be kind to and take care of yourself.
I am the queen of two things: nerds (not the candy), and negative self-talk. I can’t tell you when it began, but I can honestly say that for the majority of my teen and young adult life, my inner voice was meaner to me than anyone else. I lived with a constant inner voice telling me that I was horrible. Many of us live with this inner critic telling us that we are not good enough. While some people might think that this voice is simply a reminder to continue to work hard in order to ‘deserve your success’, I call bluff.
Through my various bouts of therapy I have learned that arguably one of the most important things in life is to be kind and take care of yourself. Now I’m not talking #selfcare with $50 face mask and bath bomb (no shade if that’s your thing)! Sometimes being kind to yourself and taking care of yourself is as simple as getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting on those fluffy socks that make you feel like a kid, and dancing in your bedroom to your favourite music.
A really great resource for this is Hannah Daisy, and artist and mental health advocate, who you can find at https://www.instagram.com/makedaisychains/. She created a hashtag art project called #boringselfcare and it’s honestly one of the most wholesome things on the internet.
3. Get some rest.
I think the worst thing I have ever done to myself, unknowingly, was deprive myself of sleep. When I was younger, I thought it was cool to stay up until the wee hours of the night and go to school the next day with only a few hours of sleep. So cool that once I snuck out of the house in the middle of the night with a boy I had a huge crush on to get high in his car, and then got so anxious of getting caught, I had him drop me off three blocks from my family home so I could sneak back inside. Yeah, I was that kind of kid. But what I didn’t realise then, was that the less I slept, the worst my anxiety would get.
I am someone who suffers from panic attacks that manifest as existential crises and boy, were they the worst when I wasn’t sleeping. Part of the lack of sleep was because I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts, in silence, long enough to fall asleep. The other part of it was just an incessant insomnia that wouldn’t let up. Even now, when I struggle with insomnia, I make sure to put myself in a quiet place and lay down to get some rest, whether I can fall asleep or not. Having this alone time, this quiet, gives me the chance to recharge myself for the days ahead.
Remember: the smallest of steps incorporated into your day can lead to having some solace within yourself.
By Darya Danesh