This fourth edition of Featured Advocates Month blog posts is written by Sonya Patel. Sonya Patel is a fifth year Economics student from Queen’s University. During her time at Queen’s, she has worked towards adapting and updating Queen’s policy / resources available in the mental health field and taken in a service and therapy dog named Lola (SAS mascot). Sonya joined Step Above Stigma in 2017, and has remained actively involved with her positions as VP of Community Outreach in 2018-2019, Co-President in 2019-2020, and Human Resources Director in 2020-2021.
In today’s society, we often hear the quote, “it’s a fine line between self-care and self-destruction [and boy do I walk it]”, and immediately flash back to times we’ve drank caffeine out of the wazoo, slept 23 out of the 24 hours in a day, avoided a term paper until the last second, or ate a whole box of pizza and cookies. (Trust, we ALL do that sometimes). To most, those actions would be immediately classified as self-destruction, but is it truly?
Immediately classifying these situations as self-destruction is to be looking at the situation objectively - and there’s where the issue lies! Take “Sally” for example: she maintains a 3.8 GPA, is involved in 3 clubs, has 2 jobs, takes a full class load, and has a picture-perfect relationship. If she was to have a typical “self-destruction episode”, most would classify it as “much-needed self-care”. But in contrast, if you take “Joe” for example: struggles to maintain a 2.0 GPA, is involved in one club, is taking a part-time student class load, and has income in the form of government bursaries, we classify his typical “self-destruction episode” as just that, “self-destruction”. Looking at these situations objectively, “outside-in”, or in simpler terms, failing to understand the factors leading to and influencing our versions of self-care, we are misguided in our bias and opinions.
So why do we have this bias about self-care, and what can we do to confront it both in ourselves and our social circles? We assume that only the most visibly successful are deserving of self-care, as in, “they worked hard, they deserve to relax and let go sometimes”. We, as not the person in question, never will have the “full picture” - we can’t see the intangible successes and hidden barriers to “visible success”. This is where mental, physical, and emotional health plays its part. While 5/5 people have mental health and ⅕ struggle with mental health conditions, the other ⅘ have the likelihood of not experiencing or having the exposure to the effects of mental health struggle, and how it can impact all aspects of your life. “Joe” may be struggling with a mental, physical, or emotional condition, for which the impacts on his life may be visibly seen by his objectively “lack of success”.
Success can mean so many different things, to so many different people, we all have our own version, as we are all affected and changed by unique factors. Success in my version, after my long history with detrimental depression, anxiety and eating disorders, equates to a life where I graduate with a honours bachelor's degree, am hired by a firm that I am happy and proud to work at, eventually enrol in and graduate from an MBA program, and continually work on my mental health to the point I use my experiences as passion for mental health advocacy. Some of my “successes” are tangible, while others are not. Others may have a completely different version, but we are all the same - we all work the same amount to amount to our goals, and each have our own versions of self-care that get us to that finish line.
So what can we do about it? Well for starters, stop, think and check yourself before you judge others. We’ve ALL had those days where sleeping 99% of the day is what it takes for us to work harder and better the next day. While it may only take you one day of “self-care” to boost yourself, others may take days, weeks, or even years to be our “normal” selves again. Accept it! Accept what is, what can be, and what has happened. Don’t be dismayed at yourself or others for how “long” your self-care might take because who knows, maybe that extra time may be what is needed for you to excel further than you thought was possible, breaking your own limits and goals at a faster rate.
While we all may be walking a line between self-care and self-destruction at times, it is our OWN line, not some predetermined societal version of a line. So go ahead, take your time, eat 80 pizza rolls, binge watch an entire show in 3 days or sleep for 24 hours, we know, that you know, it’s what you need for your self-care!