Self Care Isn't Selfish

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. Maybe it's my tendency toward distractability or lack of stick-with-itness, but I've only ever followed through with one resolution. So this post isn't about the shoulds and musts and resolves you need.

Let's all breathe a sigh of relief together, shall we?

No, this post is about what I've needed, and I'm guessing it might resonate with some of you. I'm a mom of many, and I've used my kids' needs as justification for not caring for myself. I had plenty of reasons: I didn't have time. Their needs came first. I was too tired.

But? If I'm completely honest, I was scared more than anything else. I was secure in my identity as a wife to Lee and mom to six and ministry leader. I wasn't nearly as comfortable in just being Shannon, a person and not a role. I found some quiet in the midst of the chaos this past fall, and I realized I didn't know how to simply be me without doing. I didn't even know who I was anymore.

So shortly before Thanksgiving, I ended up in a therapist's office. I work part-time as a church consultant for Key Ministry, supporting churches in understanding trauma, other mental health issues, and special needs, so you'd figure I'd be okay with seeking help for myself.

You'd figure wrong. But there I was.

Mental illness carries a stigma, sometimes more so in the church. We're comfortable saying we need Jesus but not that we need a therapist. I certainly won't argue against needing Jesus—oh, how I need him!—but he's the one who told us we would have trouble in this world. We live in the tension of already having the promise that he has overcome and will make all things right but not yet living in the full manifestation of that in a world of brokenness. Sometimes we need more than a pastor to help us navigate that. Just as we readily go to the doctor for a broken bone, it's just as acceptable to go to a mental health professional for the help we need in that area.

I don't know what life looks like right now for you, but I do know self-care is much easier said than done for most of us. Caregivers like us can be some of the worst as caring for ourselves. But even after just a month of therapy, I'm a better wife, mom, friend, leader, writer, and person than I was before. Carving out that time each week is reaping benefits for more than just me.

And? I'm okay with admitting that I'm a little broken. I think we all are. I'm getting vulnerable with this first post of 2016 because I know some of you are hurting but don't feel like you can seek the help you need, be it therapy or a job change or a workout schedule or permission to care for yourself or simply saying the words "I don't really have it all together even though I look like I do" to someone else.

I GIVE YOU PERMISSION. (Not that you need anyone else's blessing, but maybe you feel like you do.)

Go ahead and put your oxygen mask on first. Self care isn't selfish. The Christian call to love others as you love yourself assumes you love yourself in the first place, right? So do whatever you need to do so you can be emotionally healthy. For me, that means an hour a week sitting on a red couch and processing life out loud with a third party. For you, maybe it's something else.

Whatever it may be, take good care of you this year too, even as you care for others. Self care isn't selfish, after all.