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When You Can't Afford to Put Self-Care First

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I keep reading articles about how with a mental illness, self-care is so important and it’s OK to have bad days and days where you can’t do anything. And I think that is so, so important and correct.

But for me, and I suspect for a lot of people, that’s just not realistic.


I’ve had a lot of really positive life changes this year. I got a fantastic new job, my boyfriend and I have this great new apartment and about two months ago we adopted a lab/border collie mix puppy who is now the love of my life. I should be ecstatic. My life is pretty much perfect now.

But the depression symptoms are getting bad again. I can’t trust my own thoughts and my whole body hurts all the time and I am so tired. Showering is too much effort more often than not. Just 10 more minutes in bed, just another five. And then another five and then I’m late. Or even worse, I text my boss that I’m going to be late, but can’t muster up the initiative to leave at all. I make up an excuses, I’m sick, my car won’t start, my mom needs me. Sorry puppy, we’re not going to the park today because mommy can’t leave the house. Mommy can’t leave the bed. Can’t even turn the lights on.

But here’s the kicker; I work on commission. If I can’t work I don’t get paid. I’m too new to have sick leave, and my boyfriend makes less than me and can’t afford for me to even miss one paycheck if I took a leave of absence. And I don’t really want to put that kind of pressure on him to begin with. He already does so much for me that I can never thank him enough for. So I come to work and do the bare minimum. Just one sale a day, doesn’t matter how much. Just get through today and tomorrow you’re off and don’t have to do anything (except the dishes and the laundry and go to the bank and go grocery shopping with your mom and your doctor’s appointment and walk the puppy).

What are you supposed to do when you literally can’t afford self-care? I can’t afford to take my time and get better, and so everything gets worse instead. Life becomes a hurricane of responsibility and all you need is for everything to just stop. But it can’t.

Thinkstock photo via Ryan McVay

Originally published: October 9, 2017
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