Health And Wellness

PSA: Self-Care Can Be Painful, Too

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Woman cutting off things in her life that are not beneficial to her mental health

You know, I’m one of those people who truly adores self-care. I am the one who always keeps a scented candle lit while I work, simply because aromatherapy is such a huge grounding device for me.

When people think of self-care, they usually think of things like getting a massage, reading a self-help book, and maybe taking a bubble bath. Let’s face it, that’s partly due to a lot of commercial marketing efforts.

Truth be told, self-care can look like a bubble bath and a night out at an Italian restaurant. You need to treat yourself sometimes, and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong.

However, what I recently had to do for self-care was absolutely brutal to me in the short term. This type of self-care was extremely painful. I had to:

  • Stop talking to most of my former friends because they kept putting me on the bottom rung of their priorities.
  • Deal with massive kratom withdrawals because I realized I was tiptoeing toward a bad addiction while trying to deal with my flank pain.
  • Confront my shortcomings as a friend.
  • Confront my shortcomings as a person trying to lose weight.
  • Turn down hanging out with friends so I could finish work.
  • Quit a former client of mine.
  • Cut some of my favorite subscriptions so I could ease up my financial issues.

No cap, I feel like crap right now. But, it’s still self-care.

RELATED: 5 Tips To Help You Develop A Solid Self-Care Plan

While baths are nice, it’s really reductive to say that self-care is always easy and relaxing.

Self-care is a form of medicine, in a way. In both cases, you’re investing in your betterment for the future. However, the term "investment" is where people often forget how much they may have to give up.

If you’ve ever gone to the doctor for an uncomfortable checkup or procedure, you know what I mean. Chemotherapy, for example, is absolutely horrible to go through. However, it’ll keep you alive.

Such is the nature of certain types of self-care. You suffer first but feel a million times better later. Don’t believe me? Look at these examples...

Here are 5 examples of how self-care can be painful:

1. Leaving an abusive partner

Having been there, it’s scary and it hurts. And yet, leaving is the most loving thing you can do for yourself. Staying with an abusive partner is nothing short of a long suicide.

2. Walking away from fake friends

I’ve written about this before, but I really hurt from walking away from the underground rave scene in recent months. It still hurts! And yet, I know I’m making more space for the people who do support me.

3. Going to awkward annual checkups

Whether it’s the dentist or the gyno, you’re still investing in your health and working to nip problems in the bud.

RELATED: Sleep Scientist Defends 'Bed Rotting' For Self-Care— 'Just Let The People Rot'

4. Having to work out, even when you want to veg out

Okay, full disclosure, I still struggle with this. I love being one with my inner couch potato, but I am very aware that it’s terrible for my health.

5. Cleaning the house after it’s been a minute

Most people (excluding me) don't like cleaning. However, cleaning your home is what makes it remain habitable.

Sometimes, the hardest thing you can do for yourself is to care for yourself.

Have you ever gone through drug withdrawals? Or alcohol withdrawals? I have, and I can tell you it’s absolutely horrible. And yet, we all know that going through the withdrawals is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Have you ever been in a relationship that slowly turned into high-pressure martyrdom? Or an abusive relationship where you honestly gave more of yourself than you should? Yep. You can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

It’s oh, so easy to continue the self-destructive things that we all do — regardless of what that is. And yet, it can shorten our lives, alienate us from those who care about us, shoot our careers in the foot, and more.

RELATED: 21 Tips For Taking Care Of Yourself When You Feel Like Shutting Down

Self-care can also mean addressing the messed up sides of yourself that you don’t like to admit are there.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: self-care also means self-improvement. And, that means that you may have to be honest with yourself about your flaws and attributes.

Looking in the mirror and admitting that there’s something bad you need to handle is not easy. It’s even less easy when you realize you can’t pass the buck to someone else to fix things for you.

Introspection is brutal because you have to do it objectively while also being willing to cut yourself some slack. It takes a lot of balls to say, "Yeah, I was crappy to this person. I want to be better, and so here’s what I will do."

Sometimes, caring for yourself means working on yourself and facing those parts of yourself that honestly stink. And you know what? That can involve tears, trauma, and time spent wondering why you are that way.

No one ever prepares you for the day that you look in the mirror and realize you don’t like what you see. It’s an awful feeling that just sits in your stomach. Actually becoming the person you want to be is tough, but trust me, you end up loving yourself a lot more when the day is done.

Make no mistake about it, hard self-care is an act of bravery.

Anyone can light a candle and say they’re doing self-care. Not everyone can walk away from bad relationships, set boundaries, and work on themselves. That is rough and it’s so tempting (nay, even addictive) to kick the can further down the road.

I mean, isn’t it always just easier to blame dumb luck or other people? I respect people who take time to care for themselves by healing the things that make them hurt. And let’s face it, sometimes healing can hurt more than the original wound.

I wish I could say that self-care is always easy, but it’s not. It’s a marathon, occasionally dotted with aromatherapy and long walks on the beach/treadmill/abandoned mall terrain.

The only thing I can say is that it’s usually worth it — even when you question your sanity for it.

RELATED: This Is What Taking Care Of Yourself Really Looks Like

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.