Dictionary.com defines self-care as “care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.” But, it can also be defined as the initial maintenance of one’s mental, physical or emotional health, at least, I say it can.
How exactly you and I go about maintaining our mental, physical and emotional health may vary as widely as what Mexican restaurant we feel is best or which Star Trek series we assert was best written. The important part is that we go through the process of learning what works for us and by default, what doesn’t.
After perhaps hundreds of recommendations, I relented this year and finally read On Writing by Stephen King. In my usual style, I was crying just pages in because there are few things that move me like people overcoming obstacles. It took a while but I realized a bit further into the book there was something deeper happening, as well: My soul was moved by his love of writing. I recognized this love.
In the final section of the book, we’re told about a horrific accident and a harrowing recovery. Stephen is hit by a van while out for his daily walk. The scope of his injuries leave questions about his chances of survival and then his ability to walk in the future. In one of my favorite lines from the book he says,
“I entered the hospital on June nineteenth. Around the twenty-fifth I got up for the first time, staggering three steps to a commode, where I sat with my hospital johnny in my lap and my head down, trying not to weep and failing. You try to tell yourself that you’ve been lucky, most incredibly lucky, and that usually works because it’s true. Sometimes it doesn’t work, though, that’s all. Then you cry.”
He goes onto to share about his painful road to recovery and the one act of self-care that gets him through–––-writing. And while early on in the book he explicitly gives us permission to write, here he gave me a silent permission to do two things. The first was to get hit by a van. Of course, his was literal and mine was figurative. My van is named chronic illness–––– Lyme Disease, Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disorder, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Interstitial Cystitis. But if it was okay for him to get hit by a van, if it was okay for him to get knocked down and need some time to catch his breath, I figured it was okay for me, too. The second thing he gave me silent permission for was to use writing as self-care. It wasn’t until that day I realized that’s exactly what I had been doing. It wasn’t until then I realized writing was how I’d been processing my emotions and keeping my mind sharp. It was also how I was connecting to a self-care movement called writer’s groups. Here, I was not only growing my craft but increasing my social sphere. The world of the chronically ill often shrinks by the day but mine was growing larger and larger by the day. Who knew Stephen King was actually an advocate for self-care? And by writing, you and I can be advocates, too.
So what does self-care look like for you? How are you caring for yourself emotionally, mentally, physically? What self-care movements are you connected to? What stories of self-care have moved you?