Read time: 15-16 minutes minutes. Potential triggers: contains details of self harm, neglect, depression/anxiety, trauma.
Surviving, thriving, self care and self harm: Why should you give a fuck? Because you deserve it.
Please note: you are not obligated to listen to me, or keep reading. NO ONE is making you practice any of these, ever. You’re sitting/standing/lying down on planet Earth, suspended amongst infinite space. It’s totally up to you. YOU’RE THE BOSS! You can edit and adapt these to suit you, however is best for you. 💜
We need regulation of our appetites. We shouldn’t be able to just run amok. There should be limits in place that stop us, because there are human appetites that are very self-centred and non-communal as much as there is love and community spirit.—Laurence Scott.
Most of our behaviour is either self-care, or self-harm.
First of all: FUCK YEAH, you made it this far! Life is a balance between order and chaos. Care and harm can be managed and handled in equal measure. The fact that you’re still managing to hold it together, whilst reading a blog about self care is testament to that! You’re doing much better than you think, I promise.
Humans need regulation!
We all crave discipline, and we all deserve happiness. Pain & pleasure, but in equal measure.
The One That Thrives is the One You Feed.
Just because I carry everything so well, does not mean it’s not heavy.
I’m Autistic, chronically ill, processing big trauma, grief and working to re-wire my brain and nervous system. Depression and anxiety are dear old friends of mine. I’m self employed, run my own business and live with my cat. I work most days, all day – I clean and maintain my own studio, answer all my own emails, do my own admin, run my merch store then have to clean my home and feed the cat afterwards. Maybe see my partner on the weekend, or my friends at some point. Maybe train, or watch anime and play games. Maybe write some more. Maybe not…
Stuck on HARD MODE: My default setting is pretty harsh and dark. The tar pit is always out there, waiting for me. I have to work really hard to re-wire my default programming every day.
SELF HARM isn’t just about cutting/burning your skin when things are really bad. It can be self sabotaging when things are really good. It can be watching sad, depressing movies and horrible documentaries all the time. It’s winding people up who you know will lash out at you. It’s repeatedly engaging with people who are committed to misunderstanding you.
Complaining that someone’s being a clown all the time? Stop hanging out in the circus! This stuff is totally your choice. Allow yourself to believe that you deserve better.
If you run from your demons, they will chase you – if you turn to face them, they will run from you. Train them, by training yourself!
I can’t turn OFF being depressed or anxious. I can’t STOP being Autistic and chronically ill – but I can manage it all better with self care, and I can choose to be happy and grateful in spite of it all.
“My sanity requires daily maintenance.”— Julia Cameron.
FEEDING//STARVING YOUR DEMONS:
Self harm can look like:
- Lack of routines
- Denying yourself sleep, sleeping poorly
- Staying up late, then sleeping in
- Choosing not to eat/drink well
- Not keeping yourself/your home warm enough
- Not keeping on-top of laundry
- Denying yourself showering/grooming
- Keeping your home messy/damp/unclean
- Spending too much time on social media
- Comparing yourself to others
- Skipping prescribed medication
- Skipping doctors appointments/checkups
- Avoiding therapy/counselling
- Not brushing/looking after your teeth
- Over-exercising & over-working yourself
- Skipping physio appointments
- Taking on too many jobs/projects at once
- Substance abuse
- Staying in contact with toxic ex-partners
- Scratching/picking/pinching your skin
- Getting tattooed irresponsibly
- Forcing yourself go out and do things when you’re exhausted
- Choosing to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations
- Triggering yourself: movies, TV, books, social media etc
- Looking up abusive/toxic ex-partners, friends or family online
- Entering relationships you don’t want to be in
- Hanging out with people you don’t want to be around
- Having sex when you don’t want to
- Setting yourself punishments
- Not giving yourself enough time
- Wasting time/procrastination
- Always running late
- Leaving everything last minute
- Spending less time with people who love and care for you
- Avoiding healthy, nurturing relationships
- Yelling/making fun of yourself in your head
- Sneering/scowling at yourself in the mirror
- Criticising your body in the mirror
- Holding in things instead of venting
- Seeking out confrontation/conflict
- Staying in toxic relationships
Doormats have to be lying down on the ground, before people are able to walk all over them. Get up!
Self care can look like:
- Creating routines and sticking to them
- Waking up early: start with 7am, 6am then 5am
- Daily writing/journaling
- Drinking plenty of water
- Seeing a counsellor/therapist
- Joining a 12-step program in your area
- Reaching out to someone you trust
- Self-healing: breath-work, inner child work, re-parenting
- Sleep hypnotherapy/meditation (apps like Calm & Headspace)
- Sticking to a bedtime: start with 11pm, then 10pm, to 9pm
- Cooking yourself healthy meals, making raw juice and smoothies
- Self comfort: warm layers, soft blankets
- Self soothing: sight, touch, sound, smell, taste
- Fresh, clean clothes
- Making time for an indulgent bath
- Spoiling yourself
- Spa trips, weekends away
- Keeping your home tidy/dry/clean
- Limit time on social media, set screen time limits
- Sticking to prescribed medication, making sure it’s the right fit
- Sticking to doctors appointments/checkups: maintaining overall health
- Physical therapy: sports therapy, massage, acupuncture etc
- Looking after your teeth: sticking to dentist appointments
- Mindful eating, self-control
- Manageable amounts of exercise & work
- Keeping up with physio, stretching
- Comfortable schedules of jobs/projects
- Replacement behaviours
- Cutting contact with toxic ex-partners
- Open, honest communication: speaking your truth
- Moisturising and protecting your skin
- Staying in to recharge when you’re exhausted
- Choosing not to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations
- Comforting yourself: feel-good movies, comedy etc
- Self-help/self-improvement books
- Blocking abusive/toxic friends or family online
- Avoiding relationships you don’t want to be in
- Avoiding people you don’t want to be around
- Healthy, connected and safe sex whenever you want to
- To-do lists
- Rewards, treating yourself
- Giving yourself enough time
- Structured task management
- Running early
- Spending more time with people who love and care for you
- Allowing yourself space to create healthy, nurturing relationships
- Complimenting yourself in your head
- Smiling at yourself in the mirror
- Celebrating your body in the mirror
- Freely expressing needs
- Getting tattooed responsibly
- Quietening the mind
- Clear boundaries, open communication
- Working through confrontation/conflict
- Walking in nature
- Self-respect: staying out of toxic relationships
Obviously not all these are exactly as black & white as they are here.
They can clash with each other: like going to a dentist appointment when you’re stressed, exhausted and hungry; or dealing with difficult people in your workplace, or keeping up with exercise/training if your work schedule is full. They always require a choice, but sometimes it isn’t easy. I also understand that managing self care can be tricky if you’re a parent, and I totally understand and respect that. I can’t have children, for a number of reasons, but know there are incredible mums and dads out there who are able to navigate parenthood and find their own balance. Following your gut takes practice: breath-work/meditation, therapy and writing can help you tune-in more closely. Feel once, so you don’t have to think twice. Recharging regularly is essential, especially if you have a lot going on.
Here’s some self care basics that have made the biggest impact on me. I hope they can help you too:
Sleep hygiene. 💤
Clean up your sleep routine! Sleep is super important to give you energy to heal each day. Food provides fuel, tea/coffee can stimulate you but only sleep can repair and recover you.
REM sleep allows you to recharge, process stresses/traumas and balance brain chemistry. Negative thoughts and anxieties you’ve stored up subconsciously from the stresses of the day, are able to be processed consciously in the form of dreams. Humans need 7-8 hours sleep per day. It’s proven that if you have less than this each day, your lifespan is significantly less and your quality of life is reduced. REM sleep takes a lot of energy to do – it’s only 20% of the sleep cycle on average. If you’ve got a lot of stuff to process, you’ll go through more REM sleep. This can cause you wake up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. You can wake up more tired, as your brain has spent lots of energy repeating a REM cycle.
I’ve been doing sleep hypnosis for 7 months now. As with all of these suggestions, I encourage you to discover for yourself, and find out what works/doesn’t work for you.
🔆 Screen time:
Blue light from artificial screens can stop us sleeping properly, as it has the same biological triggers as blue skies and sunrises. Red app notifications are designed intentionally to grab our attention, make us alert and keeping us looking at the screen. This affects sleep because if your brain is in alert mode, making it harder to relax.
I put my phone on airplane mode, every night, without fail. I can’t be of good use to myself or anyone else if I’m running on a shit night’s sleep. Notifications don’t come through, random app reminders stay away until after I decide to turn it back on. I try to leave it on until coffee/writing/meditation is done. I sometimes use it for when I’m cleaning at home, or when I’m with my partner in the evenings.
SAD lamps keep you HAPPY in the darker months! I have a S.A.D lamp that I use every morning now, from September to March.
🌞 Morning routine:
Writing every morning is an amazing way to change your life.
Last time I was writing daily, was over 2 years ago. I’d just moved into my new flat, but was although I was feeling very positive, I was confused and filled with dread. I was heading towards a breakdown without having any idea. Breakdowns are sort of a death; daily writing helps draw it all out. I took a hiatus from writing every day, as I felt I had other things I needed to address. I had a year of big changes to navigate before I settled into the beautiful routine I have now.
Fast forward over 2 years later, to now: the flat is filled with houseplants, my newly adopted cat Sid is here. I run my own business. After 3 years of waiting, I finally went through and fully recovered from a knee reconstruction. I’m 2 years sober. I had a life changing trip to Sweden last month. I have a partner that loves me in a way that I never believed I deserved before. The coffee is really, really good.
When I was writing on that desk back in 2017, I would never have believed I’d get to where I am today. I had almost convinced myself that I didn’t deserve any of it…
Mind wandering makes us miserable. 4/5 thoughts are negative, this is a left-over survival tactic of risk assessment. Meditation quietens the mind and the ‘internal critic’, making it easier to pull to a soft and calm focus when things get tough.
Lots of people either love meditation or they hate it. When I re-downloaded Headspace this year, I realised the last time I used it was ‘pre-sobriety’. I use that one word to summarise a very long list of harmful behaviour, situations and general misery spanning years and years.
I think the last time I used it I was hungover, miserable from some breakdown of a short toxic relationship and struggling to book work in a studio that was failing. I’d relocated 140 miles away from home hoping to get a “fresh start” – in a doomed, toxic environment. I was trying to clear my mind, but had no idea the real reasons why I couldn’t quiet things down up there. I was also undiagnosed Autistic and was suffering almost continuous ‘sensory overload’ and ‘burnout’ daily without understanding why. I kept spraining my ankles from hyper-mobility, and had long term damage from gluten intolerance. I had surrounded myself with “frenemies” that had similar lifestyles and attitudes, and really just hated themselves as well as me. I was trying to relax whilst sitting in the middle of a fucking tiger enclosure… on fire.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”— Joseph Campbell.
I got fed up of hiding and distracting myself in over-working, people-pleasing, drinking/partying, complaining, despairing and staying stuck.
I knew I had to change, I just had no idea how I would do it.
I moved back home to South Wales in 2017, a few months before I became sober: I (just about) managed to overcome one of the lowest points in my life, eventually finding and creating a gorgeous little home. I stopped drinking and other drugs, embarked on 18 months of training/physio, then suddenly but gratefully got laid off from a job in another ‘alcocentric’/‘narcocentric’ studio. I travelled guest spots for 6 weeks before opening my own business, started to clear my life up of toxicity: I cut ties with harmful people/connections, let go of family members, re-connected with loving, happy and nutritious people, getting closer to my new sense of home. After 8 months of CBT/Autism therapy, 3 months of sleep hypnotherapy and 1.6 years into Recovery, I re-downloaded the app. No more tigers on fire.
I still find meditation tricky, and don’t always use apps – lots of people on the spectrum struggle to focus on nothing. When you feel like your neuro-divergent mind is racing non-stop, it can be really hard to tune-out the noise. Trying is still important, and still counts. It’s all progress. The mind is like a radio, just be aware of it, listen to it, don’t tune into it too much. Breathe in for 4, out for 4. Repeat…
🥥 Coconut oil.
Seriously. I’ve been drinking it in my coffee almost every morning for nearly 3 years. I also use it heal tattoos, and on my hair and skin.
I use it to intermittently fast most mornings (I just have to remember to eat when I’m focused on tattooing!). Intermittent fasting is a process of alternating cycles of fasting and eating – for stamina, metabolism and increasing lifespan and resistance to disease. Coconut oil is quick healthy energy that increases metabolism. It can help your liver, boost brain function, boost bone health, reduce inflammation and aid in fat burning. The healthy fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This can potentially help to prevent infections. You can take your makeup off with it, cook with it – I can’t recommend this stuff enough! Vita Coco, Clearspring and Biona are really good.
🌲 Tree bathing.
CBD oil and supplements are great too – I’ve been taking multi-vitamins for years, and in the last few years have been taking probiotics and amino acids as well as joint care and turmeric stuff. CBD oil is non-psychoactive: stabilising mood and stress levels naturally, whilst managing pain and inflammation. CBD oil doesn’t necessarily make you feel more good, it makes you feel less bad. As with a lot of these suggestions, it can give you a little bit more space to do the work yourself.
This month’s changes are next months results.
“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”— Karen Lamb.
6 months of focus and hard work can put you 5 years ahead in life.
Don’t underestimate the power of consistency and desire. It’s never too late – trust the timing of your life, and believe that you already have everything it takes. What a wonderful thought, that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet!
There are people less qualified than you, doing the things you want to do, simply because they decide to believe in themselves.
Writing this blog and making posts like this are not just a hobby of mine, it’s the highest form of self care for me. I’m finally able to share my stories and experiences from a healed perspective, and it’s incredibly cathartic and freeing. If I can help others along the way, this will in turn help me as part of my recovery. Life isn’t about competition: I want you to do well and heal. I want us all to thrive!
Signs you are healing/growing:
- More observing, less judging
- More responding, less reacting
- More self-love, less self-sabotage
- More boundaries, less resentments
- More inner peace, less outer chaos
- More clarity, less confusion
- More being, less doing.
- More faith, less fear.
I’m outgrowing harm, and taking root into care.
For various reasons, beyond my control: I spent my early, formative years frozen in survival mode. I was neglected, abused, lacking emotional/spiritual nutrition and constantly analysing risks and anticipating/avoiding more harm. I’ve had to learn how to become my own nutritional, caring source. I’m now in control. I’ve stopped avoiding pain, and am moving through it. I’m now able to make myself safe and well, more often. As I navigate the decades of trauma and pain, I’m breaking cycles. I want the same for you, too.
Trust me – if I can do this stuff, you’ve got this.
3 thoughts on “Life is Too Short To Suffer.”
[…] Attend seminars, listen to podcasts, read books, go to galleries, conventions and shows. Replace self-harm with self-care. Don’t let the crabs get to you […]
[…] I spent most of the year doing lots of journaling, inner child work, boundary-setting and hardcore self-care around tattooing. I began to slowly and painfully crack open the hard, convoluted walnut of my past […]
[…] Here’s the thing: I don’t actually owe anyone that duty of care in my profession. There are plenty of tattoo artists out there that don’t provide the level of customer service that I do, and clients keep going back again and again. I offer and provide those things to you freely, in the hope you can appreciate how much I love and respect my job. I am able to take care of people more if I’m taken care of first. The UK has a strange attitude to tattooing, generally speaking: how cheap and how fast a tattoo can be done, is valued above how much time and how much care the tattoo artist takes to complete said permanent, sterile and professional procedure. In the UK, the general public are willing to spend more money on their hairstyle and iPhones than they are on their tattoos (hair grows back and phones go out of date!). Also, not many people can even tell the difference between a good tattoo and a bad one, let alone a good tattoo and a great one. In tattooing, I believe I need to respect the weight of the task at hand and make sure I’m taking care of myself, and you should be making sure you are too. I wrote more about self care in a previous blog post: Life is too short to suffer. […]