In life

When Self-Care Turns to Self-Sabotage

A few weeks ago, I realized something: I had begun using my mental illness as a crutch. Not so much with other people, but mainly with myself.

On days when I wanted to stay in bed (which, up until recently, has been most days), I allowed myself to, equating it to exhaustion and fatigue. If I couldn’t meet up with others, I blamed it on anxiety. And if I couldn’t bring myself to go to work because my depression was just so bad, I told myself it was okay and that I deserved a “mental health day.”

All of the above is fine in theory, but using “self-care” as an excuse actually turned out to be self-sabotage. Sure, when your body is tired, it needs rest, when you need a break from the world, you should be able to take one, and if you truly need a mental health day, by all means, take one.

But it’s almost as if I knew these were “easy,” acceptable options and began relying on them too often rather than motivating myself to get up and do things that were good for me.

Instead of staying in bed, I should have gone to the gym to work out, a proven mood booster not just for me, but for a lot of people. Instead of shutting out the world, I should have been enjoying time with my loved ones. And instead of attempting to work from home, which always puts me in a worse mood unless I physically leave my house and work somewhere else, I should have gone into the office, interacting with others and keeping myself busy.

Being open about my mental illness has been both good and bad — good in the sense that I am no longer ashamed to hide it, bad in that I started using it as a fallback. But that has never been my intention.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be mindful of the signals that point towards me going downhill again. More often than not, it’s when I know in my gut I should be doing something (ie. see that friend I haven’t seen in forever, go to the gym, or write in my journal), but there’s some sort of opposing force that encourages me not to, almost wanting me to go down that rabbit hole and stay in that rut. Sometimes I’m able to fight it. But other times, I just give in, chalking it up to said “self-care” that I mentioned above. Again, self-sabotage. And I think that’s why I feel like I’ve been stuck for the past few months. I’ve been using this excuse with myself and others and, in turn, keeping myself in a dark place.

Like I said, I’m not against self-care at all, but it’s different for every person. And I know the “self-care” I have been indulging in (read: staying in bed and “resting,” which is essentially just me laying in bed and scrolling mindlessly through social media) is not good for me.

What does constitute as legitimate self-care for me? Working out, for sure. Dancing, something I’ve always loved and finally pushed myself to start again. Playing music. Writing in a journal. An epsom salt bath. Meditating (I’ve meditated every day for the past 30 days, and I am damn proud of it). Being around good, positive people. Feeding my soul.

Motivating yourself is the hardest thing when you have depression. Grasping onto that little bit of hope you have left, and working with it is one heck of a challenge. My false version of self-care led me farther and farther away from it.

So from here on out, no more of this self-sabotaging self-care bullshit. It’s time to push myself to do things that really put my mind at ease and brings me to a happy place. And if anyone catches me using it as a crutch again, please, call me out on it.

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  1. Elaisha Green
    8 months ago

    I relate to this so much! I’m so happy you shared this, it makes me feel less alone in how I feel too 💜 😌

  2. Kari
    6 months ago

    Hi! I just found your blog, but wow… just WOW. You truly nailed this on the head. Out of curiosity, how do you differentiate the days you NEED to do something versus the days that should be self care? I’m truly struggling with right now.

    Thanks in advance and thanks for an amazing post/blog.


    1. Madelyn Chung
      6 months ago

      Hey Kari! It’s tough, but it’s almost like there’s a voice inside my head telling me, “No, you should do this, it’ll be good for you” whenever I feel the urge to skip out on a workout or seeing a good friend, for example. On days when I truly need rest, it’s again, intuitive. Sometimes I just need alone time, away from other people to really sit with my thoughts and work things out. It takes time and practice to understand what your body, mind and soul really want (especially in conjunction!) but I’d say start paying attention to that gut feeling, and seeing how you feel afterwards should you listen to it or not. Hope that helps. Thank you so much for reading, and good luck!


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