A few months ago, I disappeared. I stopped blogging, stopped using social media, stopped talking to family and friends unless they called me. I even stopped reading. Books–which are usually such a comfort to me, also became a burden of sorts. This was more than just a slump.
I was not okay.
There are a lot of reasons why this happened. One is a personal sorrow, which I am not yet ready to talk about. Another was the increasingly hostile and nasty political and social climate at the time–it was just before the US elections. I was away from home, not a US citizen who could vote and make any kind of difference; not even a full-fledged immigrant–just a visitor on a visa. All of it was scary, and I felt like I had no control over anything. The third was simply that I had been away from home too long–I needed my people. Being an introvert, I do not and cannot open up to too many people, and eventually I need my family and friends with me physically, to feel like me. I needed my support group, and they were on the other side of the world. My health went for a toss– I stopped exercising, put on enormous weight and compounded existing health issues.
I was a physical, mental, emotional wreck. I did not know who I was anymore.
From there to here, from then to now has been a huge, difficult journey, and it has taught me the importance of self-care.
Fadwa at Word Wonders recently wrote a blog post about the responsibilities of bloggers towards their readers. I’m taking that a little bit forward and talking about the responsibilities that we have towards ourselves and towards our fellow bloggers.
Each one of us has a lot going on with our lives. The My Beautiful Truth hashtag on Twitter is testimony to the fact that each of us has multiple identities, and each one of us has our own struggles. Life isn’t easy, and none of us are exempt.
Blogging itself can get pretty stressful. There is the pressure to read the right books, to write and post the reviews, to participate in the tags and memes,to get as many numbers and stats as possible. It’s easy to lose perspective. It’s easy for negativity to creep in, easy to wonder if there is any point to this and doubt if we’re making any difference at all.
And this is where our responsibilities to ourselves and the rest of the blogging community come in. Our responsibility to ourselves is self-care. Our responsibility to others is caring for them.
Self-care, seems to have become sort of commercial enterprise these days. There is so much being spoken about it, and it seems to involve so much; cost so much. But it isn’t really. It’s just a few simple things. Below, I’m sharing the things that helped me get better. Not all of these are necessarily applicable to every person reading this. I’m just sharing what helped me, in the hope that it may help someone else :
- Nourishing oneself – It’s easy to get lost with everything that happens and to forget to eat. Or eat only junk. But we need to take care to nourish ourselves, because really, we need the fuel 🙂 Eat well –get your proteins, vitamins and minerals; a controlled amount of carbs. Stay hydrated. Go see a nutritionist, if you find it difficult to make a diet plan. It’s the first thing I did on my road to recovery. I stopped sugar completely. Stopped drinking coffee. Managed my carbs.
- Exercise– Exercise keeps us fit and more importantly, releases “happy chemicals” in the brain. It doesn’t even have to be something strenuous–just a walk or a bit of yoga would do. I started by walking for half-an-hour each day, and slowly increased it to two hours a day; an hour at a time. Thanks to the above two steps I’ve lost about 14 kilos in the past 6 months. I’m still have a lot more to lose, but at least I’m on my way to my goal. It’s not about being thin, it’s just about being fit and happy.
- Reach out– Things became much better and much more easier once I came home to India. I’ve given myself time here to be with the people who know me and who can help me.
- Medication- I have some medical issues and I addressed those. I got the medication I needed and am taking it regularly without fail. This seems like a simple thing to do, but it’s also very easy to overlook and forget.
- Get help- I had trouble with this one and kept insisting I didn’t need professional help even when those near me thought that I should. Eventually, I did get help –not formally, but just through a chat with my college professor (a psychologist). She held up a mirror and showed me what I used to be, and it was after this that I found myself again. The amount of clarity it gave me with regards to what I needed and how I should go about getting it was incredible. So really, if you need it, get help.
- Get off social media; take a hiatus– While this started off for me as a negative reaction to the online environment, I realized that being offline was helping me recover, and find myself. The internet can get real toxic, and if you feel it’s getting to you, its okay to take a break. I love how the blogger community let me take this hiatus, and welcomed me back when I was ready to be back. Thanks ya’ll!
And that brings me to what we can do for each other as part of the blogging community. I have to say here, that many of you already do all the stuff mentioned below. This isn’t meant as a criticism of anyone; it’s not personal. You are all pretty awesome. Hugs!
I am just putting this out there, and would love to get your suggestions on what else we can do.
- Spread the love- We love getting shares, likes and comments on our posts, so in the spirit of treating others the way we want to be treated, go ahead and share, like and comment on the posts of others. It hardly takes any effort, and it shows the blogger that what they do matters. It can be a huge pick me up to know that someone cares enough to engage with one’s work. Especially when it comes to reviews, into which a blogger puts in more work for comparatively less returns, every engagement, every word of appreciation helps.
- Help out– The best thing about blogging is that it’s not a zero sum game. We can all succeed together. So help out in any way you can. Think you can help get someone get some review copies–do it. Someone needs a guest post–offer to write one. Someone needs a person to bounce ideas off–be that person. At the very least, if you think someone has a problem, if someone is ranting on Twitter, or explicitly saying that they feel down, just offer a word of support. They may or may not take your help, but it never hurts to ask.
- Disagree with gentleness– I’ve never actually witnessed a bad disagreement, and most of us are pretty sweet about it when we do disagree. But I know for a fact that we are a diverse community, and with that comes diversity in thoughts. So it always helps to keep in mind that disagreement on one issue does not mean disagreement on everything else as well. Similarly, just because a person agrees with you on one issue, it doesn’t mean that they’ll agree with everything else as well. In general, it is best to separate the person from the issue at hand. That said, personally, I would love to know if and when you disagree with me.
Just to clarify, once again, most bloggers I’ve come across are pretty good about these things. The diverse book bloggers community has been, and continues to be a great source of inspiration and support to me. I want every member of this community to feel cared for and loved, and hence this post.
I am also not saying that any of this is foolproof; that this will not happen to me again. But if it does, I feel a bit more equipped to deal with it.
What do you think about this post? How do you take care of yourself? How can we as a community make life better for each other?
Let me know in the comments!