Can self-care look different?

A few months ago I was working three jobs.
The first two were self-scheduled security contracting jobs that I work from time to time.
The third was a security officer at a local amusement park.

I was working probably just as many hours, if not more, as I was when I was in the Navy.

The paradox here is that I was full of energy and motivation.
(Not necessarily happiness, but that’s a different story.)

I stumbled into my therapist’s office, tired, but otherwise okay.

I told him about my recent struggles with school. With dropping out and starting YET another new school, just like I told him I wouldn’t do.

Because of this, there was a lapse in my GI Bill payments and I had to embrace the suck.
The last time I dropped out of a school was the beginning of the pandemic and despite being flat broke in my bank account, I still had investments and random stashes of money I had squirreled away to fall back on.

This time I had nothing so I took every job I could.
Day shift at the amusement park until 1500 then event security at night.
I refuse to work graveyards because I’m convinced that lack of sleep is the hair-trigger that sends my mental health crashing down.

I told him about one weekend in particular where I left the amusement park at 1500 on a Friday, got on post for a wedding venue at 1700, went home around 0200 to get just enough sleep to start a 17 hour shift at a music festival at 0600 on Saturday. I worked a normal 0900-1500 shift on that Sunday with the knowledge that I’d be able to do a “self-care day” on Monday because I didn’t have any work scheduled.
I checked my scheduling app for the amusement park and saw my captain had added a shift on Monday without telling me.

I weighed my options:
Take the shift (I needed the money)
Face my worst fear – Make a phone call and advocate for myself

Of course I took the shift.

I looked at my therapist, feeling like somehow I had failed him.
I rambled a whole run-on sentence/paragraph to explain myself, something to the effect of:

“I know I’m supposed to make time for self-care and relax and all that stuff but, honestly, if I wasn’t working all these jobs I would just go back to what I was doing before which was depression-napping hardcore instead doing laundry and organizing my apartment, then the depression-napping would send me into a deeper depression. I have a REALLY hard time being in charge of myself and if given any free-time at all I usually just choose to sleep or my body chooses for me and makes the *WINDOWS SHUT DOWN NOISE* and doing all this means I don’t depression-nap. I know it’s super weird but I actually feel just fine!”

He looked at me quizzically.

“Look, I don’t know what the internet has been saying lately but it sounds to me like you ARE doing self-care. Self-care looks different for all of us.”

He told me that the important part was that I was keeping busy and not feeling depressed.

We talked about how self-care memes always seem to mention meditation or yoga or deep-breathing exercises. All things that honestly make me even more anxious.

For me, self-care is DOING things. Being purposeful with my time.
Self-care is making memes.
Self-care is writing this blog.
Self-care, on rare occasions, can be working a 17 hour shift at a country music festival.
(But only because I liked the artists playing.)
Self-care is me serving others.

Recently I quit the amusement park job because I didn’t feel that we, as a department, did security adequately.
Every day I was there I challenged my own integrity.
Another topic I’ve talked about to my therapist ad-nauseam.
I was not serving the guests as I felt like I should.
I now realize quitting that job was also self-care.

So now I’m kind of back to square one.
Working part-time contract security an obnoxious amount of hours per day.
But the cool part is that I get to pick my days. I make more money and have more days off.

I get to have weekends* with my daughter again. I get to babysit my niece. I get to go to family parties.
I even get time to sit at Panera, sip coffee and write this blog.
And all of that, to me, is the ultimate self-care.

In my post-military transition period I’ve been about to discover these things about myself.
More importantly, I’ve been about to do something about them.

What about you?
What does self-care mean to you?
I don’t have comments enabled her but let me know in the comments of the To Go Ashore Facebook.

*Obviously event security is not all puppies and rainbows, most events happen on the weekend but at least I get a choice in whether or not I work.

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