The moment the extremely unpleasant sensation filled my entire head, I recognized it. When you’ve had as much dental work as I have, you know the instant a permanent crown breaks off. This happened to me recently. As the initial horror faded and my mouth began throbbing, I problem solved ways to have my broken crown fixed. I knew it would be a large expense. Yet I also knew we’d figure out how to cover it, because my tooth needed fixing. It wasn’t even a question of whether or not I would have my broken tooth fixed. The question was how. Without consciously making the decision, I knew within minutes that I would invest in myself by seeking medical attention.
Likewise, when I fell off of a stool a few years ago and broke my wrist, I was sitting in an exam room getting an x-ray within hours of the injury. Thankfully after multiple check-ups it was determined I didn’t need surgery. Months of wearing 3 different casts were followed by weeks of physical therapy. All of this cost money and time. As a mom of three young children, it was difficult to figure out how to juggle the numerous appointments and childcare. But once again, it was not a question of “if” I “should” invest in myself. It was how can I make this work? It had to be done.
Sometimes it is Easy to Invest in Myself
In reality, I never considered seeking medical attention for a broken tooth or broken bone as “investing in myself.” They were choices I made quickly and easily without much debate. Sure, I could decide not to have my crown fixed, but I didn’t want to walk around with my head throbbing or risk an infection. And I knew the longer I put it off, the worse it could get.
We make choices all the time about where and how to spend our resources. Our money, time, thoughts, and attention are all valuable and limited, and we decide on a moment to moment basis of where to allocate them. Sometimes these choices are no-brainers. Like when your head is pounding from a cracked tooth or your swollen wrist points in the wrong direction. Other times it isn’t as clear.
When Investing in Myself Gets Tricky
Sadly, when it comes to mental and emotional health, the choice to invest in myself hasn’t been as easy to make. Stigma surrounds mental illness and we often believe we “should” be able to solve problems on our own, without help.
How many times have you considered seeking help, only to think “I can’t afford that?” Have you seen an online class, a therapy group, or heard a professional speak about their work and thought, “If only I could afford that, I would sign up.” Or enviously witnessed peers spend money on themselves thinking “I wish I could do that too.“
When my therapist initially recommended I go back to treatment five years ago, my knee jerk reaction was “I can’t.” I didn’t want my family spending thousands of dollars on treatment. Besides, how could I go when I had three small kids? My starving mind was not even able to think clearly.
I thought I couldn’t afford to spend money on my mental health. The truth was, I couldn’t afford NOT to invest in myself.
Ask Yourself This Question and Answer Honestly
Thankfully my therapist didn’t give up. After listening patiently to all of my excuses why I couldn’t go to a higher level of care, she replied with a simple question, “What if you had cancer?”
I was stunned into silence for a moment. Why was she bringing up cancer? It is clearly not the same. Of course I would seek medical care immediately regardless of the cost. “So why is this any different?” she asked.
Guilt and Shame
As we talked through the situation, it became glaringly obvious how much easier it is for me to spend money and ask for help when my pain and injuries are physical. When it comes to mental health, asking for help somehow feels like a weakness or a failure.
So what is the difference? Clearly I felt an enormous amount of shame and guilt. I blamed myself for struggling again with the eating disorder I thought I’d finally put behind me. In my disordered mind, while facing cancer would not be my fault, the eating disorder most certainly was.
There are many problems with this line of thinking. First off, there is a genetic component to developing an eating disorder. Secondly I am not at fault for living in a society that blasts diet culture in my face nonstop. My eating disorder developed as a result of a multitude of factors and blaming myself does not help the situation. If I got cancer from choosing to smoke, I would not deny myself treatment because it was “my fault.” If my crown fell off because I was eating something sticky, I wouldn’t punish myself for the rest of my life by living with a broken tooth. If I fall and break my wrist again, I’m not going to say I can’t get seen by a doctor because I should have kept it healed. Or “I already got it treated once before.”
Our mental health is just as valuable as our physical health. In fact, two are inter-related.
What Do You Value?
We spend our time, money, and energy on what we value. When we begin to know, love, and accept ourselves, it becomes easier to invest in ourselves. What I learned by going back to treatment was that I am worth the money. I am now healthier, stronger, and more present for my family.
Another lesson I learned is investment doesn’t stop at the end of treatment. It doesn’t even stop when I am weight restored. I deserve to seek out and get help with issues as they arise. My mental health is something that I value. It impacts my quality of life, my physical health, and all of my relationships. Because these are important to me, I will continue to invest in myself.
Investing in Yourself
Investing in yourself may be an obvious gesture like spending money to go to inpatient treatment. It could also look like finally investing in regular therapy appointments. Or maybe it is signing up for that online class you have been eyeing. Perhaps finding support from a Health at Every Size nutritionist. Or working with that coach you’ve been admiring for months. Outside of professionals, investing in yourself can take the form of signing up for an art class, enrolling in a new hobby, or even simply carving out time just for you.
I recently realized that there will probably never come a time when I am “done” investing in myself. As I learn and grow, my needs, hobbies, and life will evolve. Recovery is not a destination I will one day reach and get to stop working on myself, learning, and growing. Thankfully, the more connected I become with my authentic self, the more I am in-tune with my intuition. And the easier it is for me to see the infinite value that comes from investing in myself. When I invest in myself, it benefits my mental, physical, and emotional health as well as my relationships and my family. And I am worth it.
You are worth the investment of time, money, and energy. And when you invest in your mental health and your well being, you and your loved ones will all reap the benefits.