Day 19 of 21 Days of Healing: Self-Care

Posted: November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
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“His love endures forever.” (Thought suggestion for today.)

As I am writing this, it is the day after Thanksgiving, 2014. Black Friday. My husband left shortly after 4 AM to pick up my son and go shopping. (For shop vacs, ladders, scaffolding, and an iPhone.) Me? I stayed home.

And I have to tell you I feel good! Physically good! We spent Thanksgiving with family and food was over abundant – as it probably was for most of you. But today, I don’t have the food hangover. I am up after only six hours of sleep and I feel energetic – even envigorated! I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. Because part of my journey toward healing from spiritual abuse has been to realize the value of self-care.

Self-care might mean different things to you than it does to me, but I want to encourage you today to think about what self-care looks like for you.

Self-care for me means several things. Things like:

Going to the hair dresser regularly for a really great color and cut.
Taking that daily walk that’s on my perfect ordinary day list (see Day 14).
Having a little “down-time” every day.

And here’s probably the biggest for me and what made yesterday and today fantastic:

“Eating Light.”

That doesn’t mean ‘dieting.’ It really means not overeating. And at least not as much on big days like Thanksgiving.

“Eating light” has become my mantra. I live with a husband who has always thought that if I don’t want to eat something, he won’t either. If he wants a bowl of ice cream but I don’t, he will say something like, “Well, I won’t have any either, then.” And I would get the guilts feeling like he was being deprived. Several years ago, I finally put my foot down and told him I was going on a diet and if he didn’t eat something because I wasn’t eating it, that was his choice. And I lost 65 pounds and he was fine. Probably because our boys were still at home and they would all eat treats and bigger servings together.

But the past few years since the boys grew up and moved on to their own homes, my husband and I fell into the same old pattern. And it was difficult not to because so many times we were so busy running to church and spending long hours at church that we were eating on the run – grabbing fast food, eating out, or just grabbing whatever was available when we got home because we were hungry and didn’t want to take the time to fix a healthy meal.

After we got out of that environment, and I started to work on putting my life back together, I realized that I was an emotional eater, as well. The stress of the situation packed ten more pounds to the 20 I had gained back over the previous 4-5 years. And I realized that if I was going to heal and be emotionally and spiritually strong, I also needed to by physically the best that I could be. For me, that doesn’t mean running marathons or even doing burpees. I suffer from arthritis and battle bursitis so I’m never going to be an olympic athlete.

But it does mean taking care of myself the best that I can physically – and that, for me, means “eating light.” I say it a lot. I tell my husband, “I’m eating light.” And most of the time, he says, “Yeah, me too.” Isn’t that great?

I think that because I’m not saying, “I’m not going to eat that, but if you want it, go ahead,” he isn’t sending those subliminal guilt messages. Instead, “eating light” means “I’m eating – just not big (man-sized) portions,” so he takes that as a “Yes! I can eat, too!”

The result has been that I eat whatever I want – I just eat “light.” And I feel great.

For you, self-care might mean something completely different. Maybe it means getting a good pair of shoes that support your arches or writing in a daily journal or using sunscreen or making that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.

It’s okay to take care of yourself. In fact, when you take care of yourself, you are better able to enjoy those bucket list items – both large and small. And when you care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you will take a big step toward healing.

I know I did.

If you have some self-care ideas to share, please help the rest of us by putting them in the comments. I would love to have some new strategies.

  1. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,

    I am glad that you and your family had a nice Thanksgiving. I had one too, a small gathering at my sister and brother-in-law’s with friends. It was mellow and easy-going.

    I find that I have to make myself do some things that should come easy, but aren’t. Like putting on lotion. Then face cream at night. Taking vitamins daily. Getting some exercise. Putting on music that I enjoy. Not having abusive people in my life. But the more I do it – self-care – the better I feel. I am also in my “not doing/giving” phase. I gave and gave and gave. And now…I’m not doing any of it. At work there is a holiday cookie contest. I’m a good baker, but following my “not doing anything right now”…I didn’t sign up to enter the contest. I don’t want the pressure, to shop, bake on a work night, make lots of cookies, etc. I get lots of mail begging me for donations for all kinds of charitable work. Plus it’s year-end/tax-year end and so the heat is really on to give. I just say a prayer for them and dispose of the requests.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for sharing, Michaela. I think that when we are spiritually abused, we really do lose ourselves while we are trying so hard to please the unpleasable. So many times it seems people advise that to “get over it” we need to throw ourselves into a new, potentially equally abusive pattern of people pleasing and “doing” when what we really need is to find ourselves, be ourselves, value ourselves, and enjoy ourselves.

      I am so glad you are sharing your journey here.

  2. Michaela says:

    Hi Ellen,

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    I have been asked to write in two online blogs about my abusive church experience.

    I am feeling better (since my excommunication and shunning from an abusive church — not for any kind of moral failure – but for my refusal to bow and scrape to the abusive pastors/elders; before me — they excommunicated and ordered that a godly doctor (married to his wife for 40+ years) be excommunicated and shunned. So I’m in good company.) I am doing new things, trying new interests that I’ve always wanted to do.

    And I’m contacting people that my church’s pastors/elders abused and I’m asking for forgiveness in being complicit and telling them that I knew it was all lies and I didn’t believe a word of it. Those people are pleasantly surprised. They’ve said that I am the ONLY person from our (former) church who has EVER contacted them, apologized for what the church did to them (i.e. pastors/elders and ordered the rest of us to comply), and that I’d never seen anything like it (akin to the Salem Witch Trials) and I wanted no part of it. So those folks are on the road to healing…from my simple gesture.

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