The Guilty Side of Self-Care

Tomorrow morning, I have a doctor’s appointment to talk about my depression meds. I haven’t been taking anything for a few months now and, to be honest, I don’t like myself un-medicated. My sleep is off even more than usual, my eating changes, my moods are unpredictable, I have no energy and whatever version of me is in my head is a total jerk. It’s time to go back on something and I’m hoping my doctor will be able to help with that. More importantly, we need to address the fact that my old medication simply wasn’t helping anymore, which was why I stopped taking it when my prescription ran out. This is a really important part of taking care of myself and I can’t ignore it.

On one hand, I feel good about taking the initiative and actually taking care of this. This is how self-care is supposed to work: not letting the problems of your mental and physical health get so big they crush you. I’m proud of myself.

But I also feel really, really guilty about it. I don’t deserve this. I’m not worth it. It costs too much. Other people have it worse. I should just suck it up. I should try harder. This is happening because I’m lazy. The list goes on.

I wish I could give an intellectual reason for why I feel this way. Social conditioning, learned reactions, etc. And there are some. For instance, my fear about medical care costing so much does relate to the astronomical prices for appointments and medications in the United States. My last prescription cost around $120 per month. Here it is less than $10. Even the appointment is much cheaper, by almost half. So my fear about costs is related to where I grew up and the struggle between healthcare and basic needs like food.

I wish I had more intellectual reasons like that, but I don’t. The hardest thing to accept about how guilty I feel isn’t that other people have made me feel this way. It’s that I am making myself feel this way. This is part of having depression and anxiety. My feelings are directly related to the chemical imbalances in my brain and there’s very little I can actually do about it without help.

The best way I can explain how it feels right now is that there are two of me. There’s the me who wants to get better and is excited about taking care of himself. Then there’s the Other Me. Other Me is bigger, stronger, louder and hates me. I am being bullied by my own self.

This is not just how it is when I feel guilt like now. It’s like that all the time. If I do nothing (which is very often all I can do), then Other Me has less to yell about. Sure, it still calls me lazy, stupid, pathetic and all that. But it’s quieter about it. When I actually do something, it throws guilt at me, tries to shout me down, kick me hard enough to stop moving. It uses anxiety like a bully uses a trash bin. It throws you in it and sits on the lid so you can’t get out.

No matter what I do, I fight guilt. The ironic thing about it is that I feel more guilty when I try to take care of myself than when I don’t. You would think that the positive action of self-care would be okay and wouldn’t make me feel this bad. It’s supposed to be a good thing. It just doesn’t make sense.

But then, depression doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, that’s the truly evil thing about it. Depression takes all sense out of everything. After all, chemicals can’t be reasoned with.

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