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7 Ways I'm Remembering Self-Care as a Chronically Ill Black Woman


It can be difficult for us with chronic pain to take care of ourselves. Often, I just try to get through each day. Between work and home life, the chronic pain, and the complications that come with my chronic illnesses, I don’t have the chance to practice self-care as frequently as I’d like. Today, however, I practiced self-care. I don’t mean bubble baths and wine, although I did that, too. But here are some of the things I did.

1. I started off the day by letting go. It was OK if the dishes didn’t get washed or if my office is a godforsaken mess of books and old dissertation ideas and paid bills and, somewhere, a dog bed. It was OK to stay in my pajamas and not immediately hop on the computer to look for and apply to jobs because of the relentless pressure to be on the “job market.” And it was also OK to let the laundry stay where it was. So, I let go.

2. I fed my soul. I communed with nature. I sat on my neighbor’s porch and drank coffee and laughed and chatted about nothing. I felt the breeze on my skin and walked in the dewy grass barefoot. I touched a tree to say “good morning, grandmother spirit,” and I saw the sun!

3. I stimulated my mind. I read a really good book. Black women writers are doing really awesome things, and I couldn’t decide between “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward (for the second time), “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor, “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi, or “Boy, Snow, Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi! I ended up choosing “Binti,” and I read on the sofa, curled up with my mama’s blanket.

4. I ate something really good. OK, I admit it. I have a love, a passion, for Americanized Chinese food. I mean, the hole in the wall places that you don’t want to sit in, that are only good for takeout places. And I am always on the quest for the perfect egg roll. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat and enjoy and get down with real Chinese food, but there’s something about takeout Chinese that I will always go back to. My Chinese food place knows my order by the sound of my voice. And when I walk in, they start the lo mein noodles. Today, I ate something really good.

5. I communed with the elements and wrote. I have a small water fountain on my desk, and I cleaned it, filled it, and turned it on. I lit a candle, I opened the window for air, and I breathed in the fresh smell of my plant. I wrote poetry for the first time in months. I started an idea for a novel. And I started writing of this day. I enjoyed each of my elements and felt peace. And, I wrote.

6. I heightened my senses and communed with God and Spirit. I burned incense and prayed. I see God, and her Spirit in everything, and I gave thanks for the day. I wafted the incense in all corners of the house, and around my garden, and I asked for peace. I watched the smoke from the incense curl up like ancient language. Spirit was speaking to me. I communed and prayed.

7. I cleansed myself. Yes, I took an extra bubbly bubble bath, with a bath bomb, so the water was purple – my favorite color. The bath bomb had a shiny ring inside, and I wore it the entire time I soaked. I felt pretty. I drank wine. I made bubble mustaches and bubble beards and demanded my husband come look at my bubble creations. I listened to Janelle Monaé, Sara Tavares, and Lianne La Havas. I almost fell asleep. And finally, after much soaking and fun, I cleansed myself.

It is so important for us to practice self-care. Women, particularly women of color and women with chronic illnesses, so often forget about themselves. I am a black woman with depression and chronic illness. My therapist once told me to “be gentle with myself.” So, when I need it, no matter when I need it, I take a day to be gentle. To recenter and rebalance myself. I have no set self-care plan per se, but I do try to incorporate all seven of these things into my self-care day. That’s the beauty of it — getting to see where the day takes you. But always, there will be wine and a quest for the perfect egg roll.