Friday, January 28, 2011

Pushing The Limits Too Hard: Burnt-Out and Desensitized Versus Radical Self-Care

Today was one of those days for me where I couldn't help but think about limits: the limits we have that get pushed too hard, the limits that change and weaken or strengthen every day - either by forces in ourselves, people we know, or society in general. I thought of my tendency to do everything at a breakneck speed. To burn out. College in 3 years. Work multiple jobs. Warnings, anxiety around my natural tendency to speed on highways. Running out into the cold with my hair still wet.

I thought of how I get into a shower every day - waiting for the water to warm up, not too hot or cold - but always, inevitably, what was initially acceptable heat, with length, became too cold. I thought of the mentality I got in where 20 credits became so acceptable that 24 credits was somehow logically self-argued as "manageable" one semester. How I treated every relationship with a guy reverently, every slight improvement in the current dateable's behavior over the prior relationship somehow amazing. I think of car accidents - how, at a certain speed, what could have been a minor accident with a small bump or scratch turns into a massive dent, or even, a death. I think of just yesterday when I was cycling so fast on the cycling machine (professional terminology here) that I was doing over 100 rpm's and my knee accidentally slammed into the machine, scraping it (lots of "ow"s). I remember thinking "this could've been avoided if I had just slowed down." But I didn't. And it didn't stop me from going over 100rpm's on the machine today either.

I then think of movies, and trailers like this:

that serve as a steady reminder that we are growing routinely desensitized to the idea of limits - that we disregard our own limits, we blow-out our limits, we forego self-care, and we forego the care of others. We are shockingly burnt-out. Going too fast. Working too hard. Pushing too extremely.

People try to do more shocking and shocking things to break through the clutter. They resort to violent images or sexually offensive images or demeaning images...

And unexpectedly, I had to grapple with this concept more today as I was triggered for the first time today in over half a year, flooded with memories, every part of me disconnecting so fervently and rapidly, blinking in and out as if you were repeatedly seizing (I would imagine), as if you were deftly and quickly yanking out all the power cords in the house and then putting them back in again two seconds later. Every part of you feeling crusted with panic, electrified with fear.

And then all these rape articles began popping up - about Republicans redefining the terms of my body, about trauma studies showing that people with childhood trauma dying 20 years earlier, of the Peace Corps rape increase, another rape kit story that I'm sure was/is both depressing and outraging. And I had to force myself to not read a single one of them because I didn't want to feel as if my heart was a combination of fireworks mixed with poprocks mingled with Minesweeper gone a-rye. I accidentally stumbled upon Blue Valentine, and spoiler alert, discovered a rape and domestic violence scene in the movie - and although I had planned on watching the movie, I had no intention of knowingly walking into those scenes, only to leave more panicked and scattered.

And I left more upset due to the fact that a lot of those scenes were self-justifying - that it demonstrated that domestic violence between a couple was a societally acceptable way to deal with grief, and although it highlighted the possibility of rape between a couple, it still enforced the idea that men had needs that needed to be met (sex) and they deserved it and should have it (despite a lack of a woman wanting to have sex). I left feeling hopeless, and desensitized to grief, but oversensitive to content.

And as I've lived the last few years as a testament to the fast-track, to the do-gooder societal "pay your bills, attend college, make something respectable of yourself," agenda, I've gotten burnt out on reading, afraid of my own tendency to disregard my own limitations, pivotally thrown out of conversations with the frequency I catch myself saying "but that doesn't make it better," or disregarded the moment I point out abuse (which is societally perceived as normal). I have gained an overall sense of hopelessness and helplessness when confronted with the high percentage of justification for violence, abuse, and trauma.... Which is to say: I've lost myself, and have grown highly affronted upon realizing how many others have lost themselves too.

I think of how fast I went. How hard I pushed myself. How easily and quickly I accepted the unacceptable and traumatic. And I get sad that the world reinforces all the behavior I grew up with, learned.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." - Audre Lorde

So, I've spent a lot of time thinking, wondering, how it is that I could possibly love myself. Where I went wrong that I didn't learn how to love myself. And while there's many levels of complexity to deal with, I would like to say that this post serves as a beacon, a reminder that self-care is important. That slowing down could save a burn-out. That mindfulness is vital. That love for self should be equally important to whatever it is that you may be pursuing. That you should be one with the life you're living.

I want to be a testament. And I want to thank you for every courageous act you may have taken in the name of self-love and self-care. I want to thank you for being curious about your health, for learning to adjust your limits, for striving to be aware of what is society versus what is you. I want to thank you for seeking others whom actively encourage your creativity and love.

I want to remind you to love, to truly love.

1 comment:

  1. "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." - Audre Lorde

    She was right. Very grounded and thoughtful of you to share these insights. Thanks you.