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When a friend or loved one is suicidal, self-care often becomes an afterthought. In that moment of crisis, priorities change, focus shifts, and everything becomes about doing anything and everything possible to get that person the help they need.

self-care-blog-image-smallThis shifting of focus and priorities is understandable and completely justified. When someone you love is thinking about suicide, they deserve your attention, your time, and your compassion.  What can happen, though, is that everything else suddenly pales in comparison.  Eating regular meals, keeping a regular sleep schedule, spending time with other friends and loved ones often seems unnecessary in the face of a life and death crisis.

In fact, these are often the things we need not only to sustain ourselves, but to have the strength to offer the kind of support our loved ones need and deserve in those moments. When we speak to our loved ones of self-care but ignore our own needs, when we speak to them of the richness of life and help them find reasons to stay, our words ring hollow if we refuse to follow our own advice. When a friend or loved one is in the midst of a suicidal crisis, we shift priorities to get them the help they need.

It took me years to learn that if I neglected my own self-care, if I wasn’t bringing my whole self to my interactions with my loved ones who were in crisis, I was doing them a disservice.

My friends and family know that I will still drop everything when they need me. They know that they can still call me at 2 in the morning when they’re feeling alone and desperate – that hasn’t changed. I am always available to them if they need me.

The difference is that I have learned that, after I get off the phone at 4am, I set my alarm for an hour later, if I am able to, or I go to sleep earlier the next night. The difference is, I notice when I am skipping meals because I am consumed by worry, and force myself to sit down and eat.

The difference is, I push myself to do the things I love to do (writing, spending time with friends and family), even if my inner introvert wants to lie on my couch and watch Netflix.  The difference is sometimes I let myself lie on the couch all weekend and watch Netflix.

I have yet to find a magic formula for self-care that works consistently for me. What I have realized, often times the hard way, is that the most important act of self-care I can provide for myself is paying attention to what my mind, body, and soul are asking for and giving myself permission to give myself those things without judgment.

The biggest difference is that now I am willing to show up for myself the same way I am committed to showing up for someone else.

Written By:


Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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