Three months before his suicide, David Berman, legendary indie rock artist of Silver Jews fame, wrote a song called “All My Happiness is Gone”. Fans of his have long known him to be depressed; in fact, he has made public statements about his own depression. But his suicide still came as a shock to many.
“I keep stressing, pressing on,
Way deep down at some substratum.
Feels like something really wrong has happened,
And I confess I’m barely hanging on.”
“All My Happiness Is Gone”, Purple Mountain
With such a song being released, it’s a wonder how many people could have missed this eventual outcome. But this is easy to say in retrospect. Because it is only in retrospect can we see the full scope of the story; only then did we ask ourselves, “How did we miss that?” “How come we didn’t see that coming?”
How Did We Forget About Self-Care?
It’s a sad time to be a fan of celebrities. These few years have been filled with news of celebrities dying, whether it be suicides or sudden deaths.
In two years’ time, three K-pop idols died in high profile. There was Kim Jong-Hyun, then there was Sulli, and then Goo Hara. Recently there was also Godfrey Gao, who fainted while in the midst of a high-intensity filming session (17 hours non-stop according to reports), and was pronounced dead shortly after being sent to a hospital.
What I find in common among their tragic deaths was the fact that they lived in a constant state of pressure. And due to this pressure, this inability to find time to loosen up, they forgot to care for themselves.
Self-Care is Hard Work
Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other forces at play when it comes to their deaths. Especially in the case of Sulli and Hara, there is, of course, the issue of online bullying and hate speech. And I am not victim-blaming these celebrities for their lack of self-care.
What is most crucial is the fact that self-care as a concept is virtually non-existent among modern people. Or at least we have a very twisted understanding of it.
Self-care isn’t just about going on a binge eating spree, eating as much junk food as you like. It isn’t about spending as much money on stuff you want, which deep down you know you don’t need.
Self-care isn’t about indulgence. Self-care is hard work.
When we talk about self-care, we are talking about routines. We are talking about giving yourself the opportunity to put aside work, or people you don’t like, or the vanity that pushes you to do things you don’t enjoy. It is to allocate time for you to unwind and care for your health and your sanity.
It is about learning to say “NO” to those who demand that you ignore your health just to do their bidding. There are those in the outside world who see you as nothing but a means to their ends. Take, for example, the K-pop idols who died recently. For some of their fans, they are nothing but automatons, dancing and singing and laughing on stage for their pleasure. For their companies, they are nothing but cash cows, endlessly milked for their own pockets. So how DARE they think about self-care?
Living such a life, when can they see themselves as just a normal human being? When can they even allow themselves the time to sit and cry because they can’t be themselves, not even when they are alone?
For some, self-care could be about sitting on a couch for a few hours, just playing games or watching some stupid show on Netflix. But it could also be about exercising, having a healthy diet, and giving yourself time to rest and have an ordinary sleep routine.
It is all about moderation, and the ability to discipline yourself, control yourself; so that you can catch a breath, and live like a normal human being. After all, we are not machines, and even machines need time to cool off.
Self-Care Isn’t Selfishness
Modern life and all its expectations have told us that to care for ourselves is to be selfish or to be indulgent. But nothing is farther from the truth. Self-care is not a privilege, it is not just a need, it is a necessity.
To lack the ability to care for ourselves is the direst circumstance we can find ourselves to be in; and to forget that we CAN care for ourselves, a tragedy. Because one day, we might stare at our own reflections in the mirror and wonder to ourselves, “where have all this time went?”
And you might find that “all your happiness is gone, it’s all gone somewhere beyond.”
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