By Kala Lacy
At the lowest point in my life, death was the surest escape from pain. Thankfully, much wiser forces had other plans for me and my attempt was not successful. This was undoubtedly the most difficult period of my life. However, in the journey that ensued afterwards I learned a lot about myself and how to utilize methods of self-care so as to ensure I never ended up in that space ever again. Looking back, I can now recognize both preventative measures and helpful practices for the deep pits we sometimes cannot help but find ourselves in. Here are some things I should have done that may have saved me from reaching rock bottom:
For myself, this was one of the most important lessons I learned. It is very easy to convince yourself you are a burden or that you are alone. You may also tell yourself that you can handle everything on your own. Reaching out to someone, such as a loved one, community group, or therapist, can be critical for your health. Alerting the right people of your feelings opens you to receiving others’ wisdom, resources and support. Your loved ones and professionals are there to help! Don’t carry the weight alone.
Recognize your triggers.
Identifying your triggers and sources of stress is important so that you can then plan how to remedy them. If it is something that can be changed or people who can be avoided, you can save yourself the trauma that occurs from the interaction. Sometimes this takes some clever maneuvering as life doesn’t always allow us the option of complete escape. But in recognizing the stressor, we have a much better ability to manage the space on our plate when we take time to recognize what’s there.
Develop methods of self-care.
Whether you can completely avoid your situation or not, happy or sad, having a self-care practice is vital to your health. Self-care is exactly that, doing things to take care of yourself! The manifestations of self-care can look however you need them to - taking a hot bath after your day, reading in silence, eating more veggies and fruit, spiritual and religious practices, taking up a physical activity such as yoga or running, or just being alone, it’s up to you! The only requirement is that it genuinely heals you, even if only for a moment.
Now, you know what they say, once you’ve reached rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Here are some things that helped me in the transition of getting up and staying up:
Find a support system.
Find someone or a group of people that can commit to supporting you, especially in your most fragile states. In the immediate wake of my near death experience, it was my mom. Having others surround you can provide love, tangible and intangible resources, collective wisdom and a space to express yourself free of judgment. Not everyone can play this role and that’s ok! But it’s important to find those that can be that for you (and perhaps you for them!).
Regularly do something that you love.
And prioritize it! Taking time to practice self-care is sometimes viewed as selfish or inconsiderate, when in reality it is just the opposite! Doing something that you love brightens your mood, reduces anxiety, stress and depression. It allows you to be a better you for everyone else. Yoga has become a critical part of my week as it allows me time alone, increased self-efficacy and enormous amounts of self-love!
Congratulate yourself for healing.
About a year after almost taking my life, I got the date tattooed on my wrist. Now, my mother saw this as very morbid. But for me, it was very important. Every time I see it, I’m reminded no day will ever be as dark as that time. Whatever I am dealing with, I can conquer. It also says, yay me! I’ve come so far! Now, I’m not suggesting you go and get some permanent ink, necessarily. But instead of pushing your darkest moments into the closet never to be spoken of again, they can be used as markers of how much you have developed and changed for the better. Develop a strong sense of self-love both for the healed you and the broken you which you bloomed from. Love all of you and love yourself fiercely so that you may continue to grow.
Kala Lacy is recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine currently pursuing an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy with a specialization in the African-American family. She works for her community by way of healing. Her work centers around the self and communal care practices of Black communities, and Black queer women in particular. Kaka strives to eventually operate a holistic healing space dedicated to the wellness of Black people.