How To Take Care Of Yourself

I thought I was healthy. I exercised regularly. I didn’t drink much, didn’t smoke, didn’t indulge myself in caffeine or sugar too often. But I was mistaken. I didn’t take care of myself properly. Or even at all. The reality was that I fucked up my dopamine system a long time ago. I constantly hooked myself on intense pleasure — way more intense than what my anxiety could handle, all against my core values — and when withdrawal hit, I was absolutely floored.

When this realisation hit me, it just all made sense. It explains why I felt extreme highs and lows and mostly out of control. I didn’t know how to manage my mood. I didn’t know how to make myself feel better without poisoning my body one way or another. My recent panic attack was proof that I wasn’t doing it right. In fact, I’d been doing it wrong my whole life without even realising it, buying into the lie that it was how youth should be spent, and identity would be formed. No. I was only hurting myself.

It’s crazy how this hadn’t come to my attention until now. The past months have been stressful and painful to think back and I’ve lost certain things and sometimes I feel the sting of regrets, but deep down I’m extremely grateful. I don’t think I would be able to change had things not been this way. Yes, I messed up big time, nothing could fix this. But it’s okay. It’s all okay. I forgive myself and I’ll laugh about it. Because it’s not a big deal and on the bright side, I’ve gained so much knowledge of myself and even deeper understanding of how to live. It’s all that matters.

Today I rode a bike home from work, I stopped at a park and I sat down watching the sunset. I didn’t want to take a picture. I just let myself experience the moment. I felt so much joy, so much bliss, so much peace and love in my heart. And I knew that was the answer. It was just simple and pure like that. I thought to myself this is me rebuilding myself, and I had to immediately correct my inner voice — no, this is me building myself. Building myself all the way up at 24 years old. It’s a miracle.

I now understand that there are ways to make myself happy in a healthy and sustainable way on a daily basis. I could totally cut alcohol, sugar, app notifications, instant gratifications out of my lifestyle and still be feeling fly high. I understand that I value connections, deep stimulating conversations, caring loving people, nurturing homes, and my actions and words should reflect this. Central to me will always be love and I will always want to build trusted relationships with people.

Sometimes I accept that this is not possible — some people don’t see my value and don’t have the interest in getting to know me as a person, or perhaps I don’t really have that interest in them either, or the circumstances are simply not favourable, and it’s okay. I understand that I have to focus on those who do care about me and first and foremost myself. Prioritising self-care means all my behaviours are aligned to this purpose — what to do, what to take in, who to spend time with, etc. I’m not trying to feel better to rub it on anyone’s face. I’m doing this all for myself, for a better, more enjoyable life in the long-run.

Sometimes I think about the people and situations which evoked a lot of intense emotions in me and, yes, I miss the chemistry, the high, the rush of dopamine and it stresses me a little thinking I might never have it again. But I know this is just an unhealthy attachment I need to break. At the time I felt all the good stuff but I was also so low, so anxious, so self-loathing, and it wasn’t good. Not at all.

Right now is normal. Right now is the slow process of getting over the old experience and replacing it with better ones. Right now is breaking the old habits and forming positive ones. Right now is bliss. I’m training my brain to recognise and register this as how life should be. I’m actually very proud of the whole process. I’m not rushing into anything. I’m not attaching my self-worth to a new stranger. I’m not trying to find another quick fix. I’m taking my time and I’m caring for myself consciously. I’m connecting with myself again. And for sure I will feel all the good stuff again once I find a compatible person who I have chemistry with — this time minus all the ugly bits. It’s definitely worth the wait.

I’m telling you now: “Every minute is another chance to turn it all around.”

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