These are my tells:
A glass of wine with dinner becomes two, becomes a bottle. I spend more and more time on social media. I eat until my stomach hurts, then I eat some more. I snap at the kids; I hear myself snap; I tell myself to stop; I don’t stop.
I’ve been through this before. The difference is that now I recognize it happening. I pull myself out of the nosedive before I crash. This morning, as soon as P had the water boiled for his coffee, I put on my running shoes and went for a run. I check myself on social media: before I fall down the rabbit hole of reading about two more black men murdered by cops in the States, I shut it down (but do I also have an obligation to look? I have the luxury of not reading, of not being personally affected, of knowing that cops will keep me safe. This is a whole other post. I have to take care of myself, too.)
Tonight, I won’t have even one glass of wine, because it opens a door I’m not able to shut right now. After the kids go to sleep, I might meditate. I might work on some poems. Even though I’ve lost my daily writing practice, I haven’t lost the poems. They come out of me, the words a migraine pulse in my head. The only difference between now and two years ago is that now, I listen. I stop and I write those words down. So even though writing isn’t a part of my daily routine, it is there. I won’t ignore that part of myself any longer. I’ve got three poems on the go that I’m almost ready to send out. I’m waiting to hear back from three other publications, too. I keep at it, doggedly.
I see these patterns in myself, when I’m not taking care of me. I overdo it on other things. Sometimes it seems like an effort to feel something: that’s the overeating. Eating until I’m uncomfortable, until I feel sick, until I have no choice but to feel my body. And sometimes it seems like an effort to numb out all of the overwhelm I feel every day, to check out. I’ve written about that before. It’s the social media, primarily. But now that I’m a year postpartum and the baby doesn’t nurse so much anymore, it’s the drinking, too.
So here I am, clawing my way back before it goes too far. And if I’m being grateful as a way to self-care, then I am grateful that I now recognize when things are slipping. I’m grateful that I don’t need someone else to point it out for me. I sometimes feel that I need someone to hold me accountable; something I loved about therapy is that it was hard for me to sit down across from my therapist week after week, complaining about the same thing and never making a change. I don’t have that checkpoint anymore: I have to provide it for myself. And maybe being honest about it on the internet, and with my partner and with my friends, can be that check, too. But mostly it’s me. Nobody else is going to tell me to go for a run or sit down and meditate or write. I have to take care of myself first. It’s the hardest lesson to learn, and I’m learning it still.