Today I’m going to explore an idea about self-care and polyamory that has been fascinating me lately because I can’t work out if it makes sense or I’m completely misunderstanding a concept of solo poly. This means that yes, this blog post is slightly writing-as-therapy-ish, so please understand this may be utter nonsense that I’m working through as I write.
Content note for discussion of depression.
Depression wins when I don’t leave my flat.
Sometimes, yes, self-care is about saying fuck you to the capitalist society that tells us that our only value is in our productivity. Self-care can be about getting more sleep or eating chocolate or wrapping yourself in blankets and reading gay-male-erotica. Self-care can also be about getting up and showering and sending those emails and doing laundry and cooking real food and going to class and leaving my flat.
Depression wins when I don’t leave my flat, so I try to do so every day, even when I don’t have lectures or meetings or plans with friends. I explore independent bookshops, write in coffee-shops, and try to take artsy photos of nature. I go running, for exercise, and window-shop for clothes I can’t afford that would make me look cute and queer. I set myself a goal to leave my flat, even if it’s just to walk ten minutes to the slightly-cheaper-than-the-one-five-minutes-away supermarket to buy some groceries so I can make dinner. The fresh air makes me feel alive and the act of getting out makes me feel that I’ve achieved something.
Recently, I’ve begun to think of some of these as self-care dates.
I’ve been blogging about polyamory quite a bit, and thinking about it even more. The style of polyamorous relationships I want to explore is solo poly, because there’s something intoxicating to me about the excitement of having freedom and sex and love and intimacy and building a life that centres around me. At its heart, as I understand it, solo poly has the idea of being your own primary partner. In my mind this links to my self-care dates – setting time aside to take care of myself and love myself.
In mainstream media at least, primary romantic partners are there to support and take care of each other. While the bullshit concept of having an “other half” is, well, bullshit, sometimes I am a little bit envious of folks who have partners who they can turn to when they are struggling. It’s not that I don’t have a vast support network of people I love who are there for me, but sometimes I wish I had someone who would hold me when I’m shaking at 3am having woken up from horrific nightmares that make me scared to fall back asleep.
Except I do have someone: I have me.
You know the idea of treating yourself like you would treat your best friend? Being understanding and compassionate and kind in a way that we find it hard to be to ourselves. You wouldn’t point out all your friend’s flaws in a new dress, so look in a mirror at tell yourself that you’re beautiful for once. You wouldn’t berate your friend for making a tiny mistake that, in the grand scheme of things, is utterly inconsequential so you should forgive yourself too.
I’m my own primary partner, so I am allowed to take care of myself.
Maybe I shouldn’t have to phrase it like this to feel like I’m allowed to spend money on myself and take time to look after myself. Is the reason I feel so guilty about my self-care dates is because they feel like I’m trying to practice radical self-care and self-love in a world that tells me that I am never enough, that I need to do more? Or is it that these self-care dates cost money? I love spending money on my friends and feel guilty about spending money on myself when other people need it more. Add to that, of course, the unease of giving money to unethical companies like a certain high-street coffee-shop (even though their hot chocolate is lovely).
One of the most indulgent things I’ve done in the name of a self-care date is going to a fancy restaurant by myself. I didn’t have a full meal, no – I did the thing I’ve always wanted to do when I eat there. I ordered the sharing-size of my favourite starter, along with a glass of wine. While waiting for my food, and indeed while eating it, I read: I put my phone in my bag and dedicated myself to the queer YA lit anthology I’d bought. When I’d finished, I ordered dessert – something delicious and chocolatey – and another glass of wine. I paid for myself – obviously, it was a self-care date – and I felt so powerful.
While I have diagnosed mental illnesses, does it make me sound even more crazy if I say I talk to myself? I have wonderful people in my life who tell me they love me and that I’m strong and incredible and cute as fuck. It still feels good to hear it aloud though. I can tell myself over and over in my head that I can do this, that I’m not useless or broken because I’m struggling, but it’s never as powerful as actually hearing the words spoken.
The secret I’ve discovered recently is that yes, it feels brilliant when someone else says these comforting things to you. But it also feels pretty damn brilliant to say them aloud to yourself. So I do. I tell myself I love you and I tell myself it’s ok to cry, Quinn and I tell myself you were totally badass there and deserve cake now. Saying these over and over again to myself sounds ridiculous, but it honestly helps.
As does taking myself out for coffee, or for a hike up a hill, or to sit by the river with a book and ignore social media’s updates on the trash fire of the world. Sometimes there things make me feel like I’m dating myself, and I think that’s ok.