The Sludge of Self-Care

Find a hobby. Take a bath. Try a skincare routine. Read a book.

Well, what if I don’t want to?

The Instagram stories are always telling me how to take care of myself. It’s helpful, mostly. Except for when it isn’t.

Sure, I have hobbies. I like to collect rocks and pretend I’m going to do fun things with them like make rings and design rock gardens. I have a sewing machine because I decided last year that all my roommates needed draft-stoppers under their doors. I took to gardening this year and spent about $75 on vegetable seeds.

There’s about 5 very poorly made pieces of jewelry sitting at the bottom of a tote with accessories to my new Dremel. In that same tote, there’s somewhere around 20 pieces of fabrics I “salvaged” (refused to throw away) to eventually make pillows. After 20 hours in the garden, I harvested two heads of lettuce and the rest died. The peppers never even got planted.

We talk about self-care tactics but we don’t talk about how they change or what happens when you don’t feel like taking care of yourself. When you know you should shower and that it will feel amazing but for some reason you just can’t get up.

Eventually, at least for me, these self-care rituals start to feel… sludgy.

The sludge is a tar-like substance sitting in the corner of my brain that slowly spreads, eating away at my serotonin as it creeps up on me.

When I’m doing nothing, I feel guilty. I know I should be doing something because it will make me feel better, accomplished. Even though doing nothing is self-care, that guilt disguises itself as sludge. The sludge tells me what I should be doing and how I’m a POS if I don’t. The shame brings more guilt.

It’s a wonderful cycle I tell ya.

I try to remind myself that doing nothing is okay but as the project pile grows, my anxiety grows. The fun, stress-alleviating projects are hijacked and turned into must-do tasks, making me feel like garbage for not having the energy to complete them and brew my own happiness.

The cute wicker basket holding all of these failures lampoons me every night as I sit and re-watch New Girl for the 15th time.

The solution to the sludge? I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’ve been trying to let the projects go that start to feel sludgy; recognize them as too far gone and give them a new home – sometimes in the trash.

It’s the Marie Kondo mentality, I guess. If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. My favorite way to get rid of things is to throw them up on the Buy Nothing page on Facebook. Even if it’s a dying plant, I feel better giving it another shot at life in a happier, probably more productive home.

It feels silly but other times I quite literally have to remind myself, “This is fun for you,” as if I’m a 28-year-old inept of understanding fun and happiness (I am).

It’s alright to give up on projects you once thought would make you happy. It’s alright to give away the dying plant that pisses you off when you look at it. It’s alright to get to depressed by the things that are supposed to pull you out of your depression. Sometimes you just have to clear out the sludge and start over.