I didn’t really know what a complete mental breakdown looked like, but I knew is was just days away. The word ‘meltdown’ felt more precise because that’s what it felt like; I was about to melt into a puddle of what little of myself remained. For many years I had been taught that it was noble to put the needs of others before yourself and I had tried to do that, but to my own demise. What I hadn’t understood was that without taking care of myself, I would eventually be unable to take care of anyone else either. Jim Rohn said it best…
I’ll take care of me for you, if you take care of you for me.
As a man, a father, and a husband, I was proud of the way I had provided for and sacrificially served my family. Unfortunately for me, I had never fully understood or applied the necessity of self-care to my life and there were disastrous consequences for it. In my own pursuit of caring for others, I had become the worst version of myself. It took my Mother lovingly saying to me “You used to be full of life, joy and vitality. But now, you’re just angry and hostile most of the time.” I had no problem hearing those words because I already knew they were true. In fact, it was a relief to me that someone so close to me cared enough to bring this up, as well as discuss solutions. It was that day that I decided to take my life back, and putting my own self-care at the center was the means to do that. Here’s what that looked like…
I started saying “No.”
Before I could work on restoring myself, which I now do daily, I had to first stop the current unbearable flow of responsibilities by saying “No.” to things that I had no business saying “Yes.” to in the first place. I also decided to stop doing things that I was volunteering for that no one had ever actually asked me to do.
I talked to my doctor.
I told him everting that I was experiencing and, with incredible empathy, he told me that my response to all of these stressors was completely normal. He made several recommendations including talking to a counselor, which was one of the most helpful and practical things I’ve ever done.
I started seeing a counselor.
I had to try out a few before I found one that was truly worth the time and money. For me, finding a male counselor made a huge difference and I still use and share several of the tools he gave me almost daily.
I started meditating.
Previously, I always dismissed this practice as too hooky and hippie-ish. It turns out that meditation is merely exercising your mind; no different than doing bicep curls to exercise your muscles. The sense of ease and clarity that comes with even 5 minutes of meditation is profound! There are a number of free apps that will guide you through meditation if you’re as skeptical and uncomfortable as I was. Headspace is a great one.
I started doing yoga.
I’ve always enjoyed exercise, but the sense of strength and balance that I get after a yoga session is completely different than how I feel after swimming, biking or running, all of which I do regularly.
I think most men feel not only a sense of obligation to provide for and protect their families at all costs, but also a sense of pride as well. Rarely do we encourage one another to take care of ourselves, to say ‘no’, to do less, to talk to our doctor or a counselor, to breathe, to put our self-care needs first so that we can then be the kind of men, husbands and fathers that we want to be.
by guest Writer Justin McCarthy
Justin lives in Nacogdoches, TX with his 2 boys; Kyle and Ryan. He is passionate about experiencing all things new; travel, adventure, food, culture and music. Justin is also an avid runner, triathlete and tattoo enthusiast. Want to continue the conversations with Justin about self care, email him at [email protected]