2017, Archives, October 2017, The MFA Years

At What Point is Self-Care Toxic?

Image: Photo by Abby

Breaking News: I figured out that graduate school is hard.

At the point when this happened, I was facing around eleven of my classmates. I was to present an essay we read in my Contemporary African Lit. class. I had read this article maybe five times before I had a speech ready, and I was going to do this. But there was a block, and I started stumbling, and I turned red, and people jumped in to help me, and I was spiraling. Two people gave presentations after and killed it, too, so when I left I was ready to go home and eat leftovers and cry.

As my friend drove me home I expressed how humiliated I had looked, and she promised it would get better. In fact, everyone has said that the first semester is very hard.

They say:

The first semester of graduate school is the hardest, and that’s not to say it gets easier. It doesn’t. You’ll just adjust to how difficult it is.

So here I was, possibly failing a class that I enjoy, and I felt like what little control I had was lost. That’s when I got into bathing. I’ve always been grossed out by the bath tub except in my childhood home. Feet have been there. Many feet have been there. I had to do something, though, so I bought Epsom salts for the tub, a couple candles, and a pack of face masks.

From then on, it was all self-care all of the time.

First, it was the bath almost every night, and that was ok. It was good for my mind, but I’m not sure bathing that much can be healthy (right?). Then, it was housing stuff. I was buying things like bowls in primary colors and a Hillary Clinton mandala. I bought my cat a food dispenser that is on a timer. After the house shopping, it turned to me shopping. I have spent over $600 on clothes since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here for three months. The last, and the worst, was the delivery sushi. It was almost a daily thing at one point, and I ordered too much every time and ate all of it.

It’s so easy for me to fall into the “treat yourself” mentality.

At first, it was like I was praising myself for coming to graduate school so that in the future I’d be classically conditioned to love coming back. I fight with myself all the time between buying more things that make me feel good (like wearing moisturizing face masks and relaxing by candlelight) and the much more difficult option of being still.

I wonder if this is the end of self-care for me, if there’s a possibility to just go a little hard on face masks and delivery sushi or if I’m just the kind of person whose form of “treating myself” is when I’m working and going to school.