Self-Love – the art of loving oneself. By Claire Blank

Self-Love – the art of loving oneself. A simple enough concept, but one often overlooked by many women, I suspect. Psychologist & social philosopher, Erich Fromm defined self-love as caring for oneself, respecting oneself, taking responsibility for oneself and knowing oneself. In his 1956 book, “The Art of Loving”, he proposed that in order to truly love another person, one must first love oneself in this way.

I consider myself to be a reasonably well-rounded, intelligent, articulate woman, yet as I approach my forty-first birthday I am only just beginning to grasp the importance of the concept of self-love. Prioritising our mental and emotional well-being is something which I, and I suspect many women my age, simply do not do. We may go to work, care for our families and if time permits, squeeze a quick hour in down at the gym, but we don’t necessarily make our emotional and spiritual well-being a priority. And if we are not firing on all cylinders, then how can we properly care for and invest quality time in those around us? Well I have resolved to make 2014 the year that I make changes in the self-love department. Here’s why…

sun-through-storm

The birth of my son four and a half years ago was pretty traumatic. At forty-two weeks pregnant and two weeks past my due date, I reluctantly decided to take the advice of my midwife and be induced. It was a far cry from the natural birth I had hoped for, but having weighed up the risks, I decided to go ahead. Things did not go well.

Several hours into my labour, my son suffered a shoulder dystocia – his head had delivered, but his body had become wedged tight behind my pelvis – a medical emergency. Forceps, ventouse, episiotomy, the ‘McRoberts manoeuvre’ (not pleasant) and finally a grey limp baby. Not moving, not screaming, just floppy and apparently lifeless. I watched as he was flung onto a table where two paediatricians administered oxygen. ‘He’s pinking-up’ someone shouted and the young student midwife who was there to observe, saw my desperation and gave me a nervous thumbs up. And then I heard my baby cry. A collective sigh of relief in the delivery room. Time started again.

But my baby was not out of the woods. He had suffered Erb’s palsy (paralysis down one side resulting from birth trauma), torticollis (muscular spasm of the neck muscles which manifested in his head being severely twisted to the side), plagiocephaly (a flattened skull) and two broken ribs. My husband and I were devastated. We left hospital and the months of physiotherapy began.

While my friends pushed their new-borns though the park and met for coffee, my husband and I spent that Summer in hospital waiting rooms or at home, where several times each day we would administer the most brutal physiotherapy exercises on our screaming son. As the months passed, my baby’s condition improved and my mental health worsened. I was prescribed anti-depressants. Eventually we tried to have another child but instead we had miscarriages – three, one after another. Oh the unfairness of it all.

Gradually my depression lifted, my son recovered and life moved on. But the trauma and sadness of his birth remain, just bubbling away below the surface, always ready to catch me unawares; a news story about a lost child, an advert for nappies on the television, a friend falling pregnant – it doesn’t take much and the tears begin to flow. It’s not over – not by a long chalk.

I suspect that many of us have similar stories – miscarriage, a painful divorce, fertility problems, illness. We tell ourselves to ‘chin-up’, ‘toughen-up’. We distract ourselves with work or the gym. We tell ourselves there are others with bigger problems. We hit the wine to take the edge off it all. But it doesn’t go away, it’s bigger than that.

Well we deserve more. We’re worth it, as they say! And that’s why 2014 is going to be the year that I hold my hands up and say ‘enough!’ This week I have made an appointment to see a counsellor. I’m going to dredge up all the sadness and heartache, rake it over and put it to bed once and for all. I’m going to grant myself the luxury of taking care of my emotional well-being. I’m going to spend my money, not on booze to numb it all, but on me and my head!

It’s a start, and it feels good.

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12 thoughts on “Self-Love – the art of loving oneself. By Claire Blank

  1. Thank you for sharing and my heart goes out to you, Claire. I am not a mummy, but as a human being I felt every emotion you described and this wonderful post makes me even more determined to work on my own issues. Thank you xxx

  2. I’m 52 and no longer wish to be a prisoner of my past but a pioneer of my future. If I don’t practice the mindfulness of self-love, I just put myself right back in that prison cell, suffering from self-loathing, self-pity, self-centeredness and all the other self’s. And I also discovered that the damn prison cell doesn’t even have a door. I am free to leave at anytime. yet in the past, I have often retreated right back into the prison cell, under the delusion that I found safety there.

    You wrote a beautiful post. May I have your position to repost onto my blog site?

  3. Claire- what a horribly difficult time for you. My husband and I struggled with infertility- and ended up adopting 3 children as small infants (2-3 days old). They are now 15, 20 and 21, and parenting them has been (and continues to be) a joyful journey. That old searing pain of not having biologic children of our own has faded, so that thinking about it today brings up regret and a little nostalgia, but no more of that pain that can rip one apart. Working with several counselors over the years has definitely helped. You are so very right about our lack of prioritizing self-care- it seems to be part of our cultural messages- and I am so glad you are now taking care your yourself. As I tell patients: The family can’t thrive if Mum is running on Empty!

  4. Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. I guess we’re all a work in progress aren’t we?! Iceman – absolutely! Feel free to repost. Have a fab weekend all..Love x

  5. Trish says:

    Thank you Claire for a truly inspirational post. The last two paragraphs were so meaningful to me. I realized I had not dealt with the pain of a bitter divorce (even though I thought I had), but more importantly, I had never admitted to myself that it was the disappointment I felt throughout my long marriage which led to unhealthy drinking habits. I had an image of how the marriage should be, and because my ex-husband and I were ill-suited, we probably both had to settle for less than we wanted.
    We have now both repartnered happily, but until I read your post, I didn’t realize that there was still residual emotional baggage that I need to address to be truly free, so thank you for giving me the impetus to do so!
    For some reason, your comment ‘It doesn’t go away, it’s bigger than that’ really resonated with me, so I feel confident that I can exorcise the demons and enjoy life fully.
    Thank you for giving me back my life.

    • Trish says:

      From all the comments (including my own), I would have thought this post was extremely helpful to others in working on their problems with alcohol dependency, which I thought was the main purpose of the site. I feel this is exactly the forum to post it and I am very grateful that Claire did!

    • I think it is exactly the right place to post it. I too had a lightbulb moment this week where I realised there was a lot of unfinished business surrounding the loss of a child and subsequent divorce which is all just surfacing now the wine fog has cleared after six months sober. I too intend to go back to my shrink and deal with those issues rather than risk hitting the bottle again to drown out those feelings. Thanks for your post Claire – it was most timely for me personally x

  6. Thanks Claire for posting this brave and honest post. People who drink to excess usually do so to mask any number of deeper issues which they have failed to address; your post highlights this fact brilliantly and I’m sure it will help many others to examine the reasons why they are drinking too much – which is a great start to recovery from alcohol dependency. Lots of love, Lucy xx

  7. ‘m very sorry to hear about the difficulties with your son’s birth, resulting trauma, and the subsequent insult of the multiple miscarriages. I too almost lost my son at birth and suffered many miscarriages. I’ve been told I may have a common genetic mutation which many women who suffer multiple miscarrtiages have, called (for short) MTHFR gene. There’s info on the internet. The gene mutation is also commonly linked with alcoholism, fibromyalgia, and mental disorders like bipolar and major depression. Just FYI and thanks for the courageous post.
    Tove

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