Treat yourself

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 6-2-2021

Life is simply too short for all those rules we made up for ourselves with no logical reason as to why.” -EaE

As I sit in La Jolla Cove on one of the beaches in San Diego, I feel my stress and worries melt away. I decided to go where my soul wanted to take me. It happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. After resigning from federal service in February of 2021, I dove headfirst into my free lance writing career. It should come as no surprise that sometimes the hours I work are more lengthy than ever have before. And trust me when I say, especially as a former military member, I am no stranger to long work hours and endless sacrifice.

I used to work with no end in sight, but now I like to work hard and play harder. After all, there is an endless amount of stress we must deal with in order to preserve our life on this earth. So, why not also treat ourselves after all is said and done? We deserve more than just working to survive, we deserve to experience joy. We deserve the “pursuit of happiness” that we were meant to freely explore.

People appear to be at their best when they allow themselves to go where their hearts, minds and souls want to take them. A lot will get in the way. Sometimes we might immerse ourselves into a lifestyle that creates difficult barriers to the very things we want the most.

Why do we do this? Why might we wrap ourselves up into a lifestyle that we might ultimately grow to hate? Where there is limited time for self-care, and limited time to even try to go back to what we truly want?

Pay attention to how almost every day of the week, since we were young, we were told what to want. We were told what we need to attain to make us happy. Whether we believed it or not is a different story. Whether it’s truly what we want it’s a different story. But these were role models of ours, supposedly, telling us what to do and what to want.

There is a good chance that they meant well, and there’s also a good chance that it was projection. However, as we grow older and wiser we find out for ourselves. Are these “full proof” and promised “paths to happiness” all that they were “sold” to be?

In the best case scenario, we would be lining our pockets, while also feeding our souls with an ample amount of time to treat ourselves. Wouldn’t that be nice? According to most of my elders, friends and former coworkers, I did everything absolutely correct. I followed a formula toward success, and did an incredible job with it.

I completed a military enlistment including a deployment, honorably separated, earned a Masters degree in social work and started a good paying job with the VA in the heart of Brooklyn. I also ended up having a fiancé and step-kids. It felt and looked “picture perfect”. I made all of this happen by the time I was 28 years old. This was how it was supposed to be done. How I was raised, how I was taught to perform, with grit instilled in me since childhood.

It’s important for everyone to know that in our chase for what we have coined as the “American Dream”, there is an incredible amount of sacrifice. Then unfortunately, those sacrifices may happen in vain. Why? Because we might not even want it. I created a lifestyle that I was told to want, I sacrificed what I would later realize was the MOST important of all: my mental health.

Though I had always suffered from PTSD and depression since I was young, the military exacerbated it while also pressuring me to numb it out so that I may put the mission first. Then, my job as a clinical therapist post military, exacerbated it even more. I could numb it out no longer.

The sacrifices that deteriorated my mental health included: free time, self care, emotional processing, healing, a social life, single hood so that I may explore what I actually want/ like, soul searching and deep self exploration. I belonged to guardians/ parents, then I “belonged” to the military and men. I prided myself in my work ethic and associated accomplishments, but unfortunately, I robbed myself of knowing who I really was. This I will now have to explore, but I will be making the best of it.

Treating ourselves isn’t necessarily just meant for the rich. You really don’t need that much money at all. This is typically the first barrier clients/ friends identify when I encourage them to treat themselves.

The reality is, treating yourself could be getting your favorite french fries and driving to your favorite spot within a twenty minute distance. It could mean carving out time to experience a little bit of solitude. Or spending time with your favorite person/ people. It could mean changing your routine at least one evening a month. It could mean, a break up, it could mean a job change. It could mean learning to be more frugal so that you don’t have to work yourself to death.

Here’s a big red flag. If you find yourself constantly making excuses for why you cannot “treat yourself”…. excuses such as: money/ limited time/ family/ work/ etc, my first question is, why did you do this to yourself? Why did you rope yourself into a lifestyle that robs you of time to experience joy? With people that do not want you to experience joy? (I do not judge this at all because I have been there myself. I had to ask these hard questions too).

If your situation is different than that, and you happen to have some time for joy, and supportive people that want you to experience it, why aren’t you taking it? Is it obligation? A self destructive nature? Guilt? Shame? Moral injury? Mental health issues? Consumerism and addiction?

I already know where your bills take you. They take you to your job. I know where your job takes you, it takes you out of bed and to work at an hour that you may not appreciate. I know where your significant other might take you, to some places you may not like that much. But, where does your heart and soul take you? When you are honestly listening to it? Are you afraid to listen to it and go there? If so, why? Do others and/or yourself judge or stop that part of you? Again, why?

Either way, I hope everyone that this may apply to can take this message and use it constructively. I do not have control over much outside of myself, but I love using my writing platform to help those around me. Mental health will always be important. Mental health doesn’t go away. If you are a living, breathing human with a mind, remember it needs to be nurtured. Remember your bucket list. Remember those things you promised yourself you would do for you that you may have lost site of.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “Treat yourself

  1. Bravo…well written and expressed. I only over the last few months realized that I too was in a sort of a trap. I felt like I was existing and not really living life.. I’m only a few days away from fulfilling a long time dream, and my options are limitless. Thank you for again for an amazing tropic. And like you I am going to treat myself to where my soul leads me.

    Liked by 1 person

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