Three different persons sent me an article about self-care. They were all women, all quiet close, and they all had a conversation with me somehow in the past about self-care. The article can be found here http://thebaffler.com/blog/laurie-penny-self-care . At the beginning when I was reading I was pissed, I felt there is a huge misunderstanding, or to be specific, the beginning of the article talked about self-care as if it has only one meaning; the "eat, pray and love" version of self-care (I must admit I loved the movie, and less the book). I wanted to say, no self-care should not always be like that, at least not in all cultures. As I continued to read, it got better. The author talked about how the notion should not be attacked that much and she gave some arguments coming from the other side. I was raised by a women who thought wearing matching clothes and taking care of your looks was a waste of time and an indication of being a shallow-minded person, till she saw me and a friend of mine whom she really loves, she changed her mind a bit. My mum still sometimes asks me when do I get the time to do certain things she classifies as "appearance stuff".
I don't know why self-care should be looked at in a such individualistic way. I can't deny that sometimes I feel I need some time on my own, but this is not what I usually classify as "slef-care". I would consider self-care not only eating well, doing medical check-ups (depending on your conditions), but also spending time with family members you want to have in your life, be there for your friends, giving time for your partner, and most importantly, being able to express yourself to people who care about you and seek their support (something my psychologist says I'm not very good in doing).
I tend to feel that the core of self-care is collective. How we can support each other and be there for one another in the simplest of ways; it can be sending a message checking if the person is ok, be understanding if the person is not able to do what she or he promised to do, or just listen. A drained human being cannot function and do her or his personal things (some people feel they have no energy to get out of bed), and a drained activist definataly cannot help or support others when she or he is not able to get some energy out of life. Self-care is not a luxury, it is indeed a need for the continuation of work in the public space, and exhaustion is one of the things oppressive regimes depend on, 'they will get tired and just stop'.
I never stop thinking about "What's the point of a revolution if we can't dance" (https://urgentactionfund.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/06/WTPR-Final-Book.pdf), and the death of Sri Lankan rights advocate Sunila Abeysekera (https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/09/sri-lanka-mourning-tireless-rights-advocate-abeysekera). I didn't know Sunila personally, I think I met her once en-passant a year or two before knowing she was falling sick. Although I didn't know her personally, but just hearing about the circumstances of her illness touched me and made me think a lot about what do we lose when we don't stop and think about our well-being. Some people never stop and consider whether they have enough financial security to cover their medical needs if they fall sick. The feeling of responsibility towards a cause we have set for ourselves can be so heavy that we feel guilty to think about personal issues, but what if we fall sick and we don't have the means to get better? Our work will stop. We will not be of use to anyone. What if we ignored our role in other people's lives (family, partner or friends) just because they are not a "public cause", what justice are we doing to ourselves and others we care about?
I don't know how can someone do it all. I always feel on the run, and I always feel guilty. I don't feel I spend enough time with my family, I don't feel I spend enough time with my partner, or with my friends. I feel I should be working more. And it's not that I feel I "have" to, but I "want" to spend more time with them, and I would to have more time to work on these million ideas that I get for work, I even wish I can volunteer some of my time for something I care about. But I don't know how to do this. I don't even know how to do all this and think about eating well, and making time for something that helps me feel better; exercising. Sometimes I feel I used to do it all well before spending 15 months in prison. I remember feeling constantly on the run, but I think I knew how to do it. Now for some reason I don't feel I know how to anymore, and whenever I dedicate time for one thing, another thing falls completely and I'm left feeling overwhelmed and helpless. I try to organize things in my head with the help of my psychologist, but I don't think it will get any better without expressing how I feel to people who care about me and whom I care to give time and energy. They put up with a lot of traveling, exhaustion and scheduling social events, which would sound very annoying and non-personal and I'm thankful they see that it's all wrapped in love and care, and this is the self-care I think of, some personal things and a lot of collective support, understanding, and love.