My recovery has felt like a series of chapters. The most recent one that ended was titled, “No One Is Coming For You.” In it, I learned to accept that I have to be my own my parent, my own knight in shining armour, my own lover and friend. I need to show up for myself in ways that empower me and reaffirm my belief that I am okay when I’m alone. 

What does showing up for oneself look like though? I think about the answer a lot and what it looks like in my life. I know that finding comfort in relationships is something I want to work towards, but I need to be rock solid before I can do it again. I want to be the best version of myself so that I can cultivate healthy relationships in my life. 

I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time this summer with some of the strongest femmes I’ve ever met. In the quiet moments I’ve spent getting to know some of them, I’ve asked, “What do you do to show up for yourself?” The answers are broad and unrelated, but they carry the theme of strength. 

The self-care I am talking about doesn’t involve sensory pleasures or escapism. It’s about being present. It’s about feeling your feelings and sitting with them even when it hurts. That is, after all, when you grow the most. I don’t grow when I’m not vulnerable.

So I challenge myself, and anyone reading, to be uncomfortable in order to grow. Label your feelings, call them what they are. You can only fix what you know is a problem. 

This can look like setting boundaries, something I only really learned how to do this year. My “yes” means nothing if I don’t know how to say “no.” I do not need to overshare my feelings like I have the past. I’ve learned to validate myself. I let folks know if something makes me uncomfortable before it becomes a problem, in a gentle way. I show up for my future self by not allowing myself to participate in situations or engage with people who I will later feel weird about. I believe anyone can do this. You are entitled to say no and you don’t owe anyone anything.

When I show up for myself, I put my priorities first. I have the privilege of doing this right now in my life, so I am trying to use the time productively. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed but when I can, I plan for when it gets bad again. I cook to make sure I’ll have stuff to eat when I’m in a dark place. I exercise. I do cardio because it flushes my brain and makes me feel stronger and more capable than I’ve ever felt. I found a community of queers and women who also use cardio as a therapy tool and through that I feel less alone. 

Providing for myself isn’t something I’ve had the mental energy for this past year. It’s all been about survival. After almost a year of being off full-time work, I am finally starting to feel like it is something I could start to consider again. I’ve learned my boundaries around time and workplace commitments. I am confident in my ability to go after the opportunities I want and say no to the ones that don’t feel right. I can advocate for myself after spending a lot of time teaching myself basic interpersonal skills. I’m ready for the next step now. I’ve survived and now I want to find a way to flourish. I’m ready for my chapter of Fun.