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How I’m Learning to Take Care of Myself After Childhood Neglect and PTSD


Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I was reading something about complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and there was this quote that stuck out to me. It said, “My parents neglected me, and now I neglect myself as an adult by not taking care of my body.”

My self-care has always been lacking and it’s only in the past year that it’s gotten to the point I’ve decided I need to do something about it. I always felt like I didn’t know how to take care of my own body and I don’t just mean health, but also hygiene-wise. I did attribute it to my parents never really teaching me how to take care of myself, but I didn’t think about how not taking care of myself is like continuing the neglect that my parents started in childhood.

In the past year, I’ve had multiple therapists work with me on the self-care thing because I was showing up to my appointments in clothes that hadn’t been washed in weeks and it had been about five days since my last shower. One of my therapists made me commit to showering on the days I saw her so I was at least showering once a week, but we never really got me on a regular routine.

In the past few months, there reached a point where I realized that going more than five days without showering wasn’t considered healthy hygiene practice and I wanted to change it. Getting myself to shower regularly was a huge accomplishment. First, I started by making sure I showered three days a week (the days before I had class); then, I got to every day. Now I shower almost every day but never skip more than one day because I like feeling clean.

I still have a lot of work to do, but getting myself to not only shower regularly but also enjoy showering is a good first step. I still struggle with creating a routine around brushing my teeth and shaving my legs. Most days I forget to wear deodorant, and still do the sniff test with a lot of my clothes. Learning to take care of myself is a work in progress.

It is so easy for people to judge others on how they take care of themselves but when you have spent most of your life just trying to survive the little things, things like showering, doing laundry or brushing your teeth sometimes doesn’t seem important, doesn’t even cross your mind or takes too much energy.

I beat myself up for so long for not taking care of myself, but the more I learn about trauma, the more I am learning to accept myself so that I can learn to love myself. As I learn to love myself, I have been learning to take care of myself — learning to listen to my needs, learning to care about my health and learning to be myself.

I just wanted to write this article because I felt so much shame and thought I was this disgusting person for so long, but now I realize it’s not my fault I never learned to take care of myself and I wish someone would have told me that sooner.

Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash