The summer of 2016 was one to remember for me. Or was it?
I had signed my divorce the prior February, and had moved to a new home in a new town the month after. Once the warmer weather hit, I had finally settled in making some new friends and we were ready to take on summer like it was our jobs. I was on the prowl, ready to date, and just do whatever it took to take my mind off of the disaster that was the 6 months prior.
That entire summer now that I look back on it is a blur… in part because I didn’t really allow myself to be fully present in it. I self medicated in a variety of ways. I drank wine and margaritas like they were on tap. I went out to eat three to four times a week. I dated men that didn’t have anything to really offer me besides being 10 years younger than me and having nice abs (true story).
I lived my summer to be able to post it on social media. I wanted to show people how “great” I was really doing, and to get likes on photos of me in crop tops. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if I wasn’t 35 with a kid.
My FOMO was so off the charts, I paid a ridiculous amount of money on babysitters to not miss a thing. The not so funny thing is I wound up missing a chunk of my son’s early childhood. He was barely a year old at the time, and I’ll never get time with him being that tiny ever again.
Ultimately I just did what I felt I needed to do in order to feel normal and good about myself again. I indulged in many comforts that people typically do to mend a broken spirit. Once summer was over, I knew exactly how damaging the summer had been to me. I was more depressed than when I started.
To help fix all the damage I had done to myself, I dedicated the month of September to focusing on my self-care. Let’s call it #SelfCareSeptember.
That month, I did a Whole30 round which included strict diet and alcohol restrictions, quit social media, and set several personal goals to improve myself for myself by the end of the month.
After my self-care experiment, it became painfully obvious to me what comforts ultimately hadn’t helped me, and what did to undo the damage. Here’s a rundown of the top four.
Alcohol & Drugs
When you’re feeling depressed, your serotonin levels get depleted. So it’s normal when you want to pick them back up and feel better again, that you may want to reach for a glass of wine or smoke up to chill out.
The only problem with this is it doesn’t fix the core issue of your serotonin levels dipping lower… and while it gives you a temporary boost, you crash lower than you were before you self medicated. It creates a never-ending cycle and you partake more to feel better but continue to feel worse.
While drugs have never been on my radar, my alcohol consumption that summer was off the charts. So during my Self-Care September, I entirely cut it out. I instead replaced the time I was spending at bars & restaurants with time spent exercising at the gym.
Come to find out, exercise is a natural way to boost your serotonin!
I ate terribly that summer. Dining out so often really does a number on your system. Luckily I was taking salsa lessons at the time, so I didn’t really gain any weight but my energy levels were terrible. I was really dragging at work and my sleep quality was poor.
In Self-Care September, I planned and participated in Whole30. On the program you eliminate sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, and various additives. I made the time to prep all my meals in advance so I always had compliant options on the go.
The first two weeks were pretty hideous while my body detoxed from all the fried calamari and chocolate cake I ate that summer. But after that, I had a surge of energy I never thought possible! I felt fantastic, and my sleep quality changed for the better. My mind was also clearer and I was getting more accomplished at work and at home as a result.
It took me having to remove myself from socializing and dating to see that the people I was surrounding myself with were not helping my mental state at all. The men I was dating weren’t invested in me or anyone for that matter, which hit my self-esteem big time. And many of the new friends I realized I didn’t have a whole lot in common with if I wasn’t drunk.
By taking some time away to focus on myself, I realized exactly what I wanted as far as a future long-term partner goes. I also was able to figure out what kind of values were important to me as far as building friendships go. By cutting out all the negativity and surrounding myself with only positive people on the same wavelength as myself, it allowed me to improve myself as well as emotionally heal the way I was looking to.
During Self-Care September, I took an entire month off of social media. I deleted the apps off my phone, and couldn’t believe all the extra time I had in my day by not checking it!
I instead used the time to read books, watch TV series I had been dying to check out, and work on my meal prepping and exercise. It was also liberating to feel like I didn’t have to document my every move to share with everyone I know.
By the time my month was up and I went back on, I was surprised at how much I didn’t miss it. Other people’s posts seemed so mundane and uninteresting after being away from it for so long. I much preferred my new, in-person life.
So what do you think? Have you ever indulged in any of the above traditional comforts to cope during a tough time? Comment below on yours and why you think they hurt more than helped.