Real Self-Care: Chap. 3: The Game is Rigged- You are Not the Problem



Chapter 3: The Game Is Rigged
You’re Not the Problem

In the third chapter of this book, the author suggests that the game has long been rigged: “Our patriarchal society has saddled women with the mental load- the cognitive and emotional burden that comes with running a household- and a series of paradoxical expectations.” We don’t need fixing- the culture does. The reason you feel burned out, hopeless, or full of rage is not your fault. Dr. Laskhmin says that throughout the rest of the book she is going to show us how our own internal changes, through self-care, have the power to impact racism, capitalism, colonialism etc, that have existed for a while now… Ok- I don’t want to go into all of society’s awful bits. Suffice it to say that women bear the brunt of the family unit’s cognitive load (anticipating needs, identifying options for fulfilling them, making decisions, monitoring progress). Women with higher levels of mental load express greater levels of emotional emptiness. In other words, they look around and say, “Is that all there is?” But we live within the contradiction that says women should be selfless and accommodating to the needs of other while simultaneously excelling professionally and personally.

The author suggests that in order for women to be able to survive well in this system they must:

  • Embrace internal change
  • Cultivate dialectical thinking

Dialectical thinking is the ability to acknowledge that two opposites can be true at the same time…

As it relates to having partners and children with SUDs it is right in line- we know that in order to address a difficult situation we have to hold that we may love our person, but we have to take care of ourselves from the inside out- Real Self-Care is less about adding something to your list and more about seeing your place in the world, your family, and your relationships differently. Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

In the next section of the book the author will be sharing the 4 principles of Real Self-Care. I hope that her suggestions are on the smaller scale than systematic failure and worldwide oppression. I want to believe that real self-care is achievable by me for me, and by proxy, achievable for anyone who has been hijacked by drugs and their lure.

Question: How does taking care of yourself help your loved one with a substance use disorder?

In my case, placing my needs as on par with other peoples’ competing needs helps me to show up for my person with a SUD. I am not so resentful of their difficult situation needing my time. I am able to come into the relationship with that person in a calmer state- less needy myself, and more honest with my statements- When I am overwhelmed by the difficulty of caring for a person with these troubles I do better when I can clearly differentiate between me and them, their essential self and their using behavior, and it gives me a little space to consider the future optimistically.

Real Self-Care, Chap. 4: Taking Back the Reins

This is a really interesting topic and one that I seriously struggled with throughout the years. I just had a savior complex and thought that if I spent anytime on myself, I’d be selfish. I have ALWAYS been a people pleaser and someone who has tried to control the actions of everyone and everything around me. This included not only my partner, but my 4 kids as well. I remember once when my then 24 year adult son needed to go to the doctor for a medical ailment, he admitted to me that I had never shown him how to call the doctor to even make an appointment??!! Wow!! I had done so much for them over the years that they genuinely were paralyzed with fear over the idea of having to make their own decisions and/ or figure stuff out. To this day, my now 28 year old son has his girlfriend make all calls on his behalf. My twenty year old son is the same as well. I often thought I did this as I was trying to control things the best way I could because somehow I felt helpless not having control over my partner’s substance abuse. This led to some serious mental issues in me as well as physical issues. high blood pressure, overweight, etc. Last spring, I really had reached my breaking point and took an LOA from work, which I’m still off btw. I have been taking antidepressants since 2005 and have been on all of them. They’d work for maybe a month or two and then just stop. For years and years, I continued taking more and more pills and caring for myself a little less as time went on. I realized that since they were not working, maybe I’d have to give therapy another shot. By that time, I was filled with sadness and despair, but also a deep deep resentment towards everyone in my family. I was in a terrible state. When I had 2 strokes last year, I realized how imperative it was that I start taking care of myself. It didn’t happen overnight and I still struggle with it daily. However, I started therapy with an open mind.
I was paired with a wonderful therapist, specializing in EMDR to re-process past traumatic experiences. I went through a bariatric program to become eligible for gastric sleeve surgery and had my operation on 9/5. My starting weight was 240 and I ate literally all the wrong stuff… That was a year ago. Today, I weigh 189. I make 30 min of light exercise daily a priority. I’m very very slowly learning to accept things the way that they are and try to tell myself that I truly can’t fix everything. Anyways, that’s a bit what I’ve done so far. Please know that I’m so so so so far from where I want to be. But, I guess what I’m saying is is that all of these negative things made me realize that, as you mentioned above, change had to come within me. No pill(s). No fast food. Not showering money at the kids when they needed a PARENR. No amount of complaining about past mistakes would help me get better. I had to do the very difficult and EXTREMELY uncomfortable work in on myself. Otherwise, I’d be always living my life on the verge of suicide and I desperately wanted to second half of my life different then my first.


Sorry for the long rant above…I answered WHY it was important and not HOW it would help my loved one. I think honestly that you have to model the behavior that you desire in others. My thinking is if Matt sees me taking my own physical and mental health seriously, he’d do the same. If I would be brutally honest, I think it would be in both of our best interests to seek separate housing, which I’m sure he’ll think negatively about. If I say to him that I actually need serious mental help and therapy, he automatically defaults to me placing blame on him and that’s not at all the case. I felt worthless long before I met Matt at 16. My mom was incredibly cruel to me, often blamed me for every negative thing that has happened in her as opposed to taking responsibility, etc. (I was the reason her and my fathers marriage ended. I was the reason she lost her job. I was the reason her house got foreclosed on. Keep in mind, I was a minor at the time. At 18, she kicked me out with nothing. So I had a real issue turning my back on others and this mentality was not helpful at all. That’s why the EMDR therapy I mentioned above has been so successful! I finally have a tiny bit of self worth!! If I would have set boundaries years ago, I’m not so sure we’d be in this place right now. We were both two hurt people and desperately needed each other. Or at least that’s what we thought. Now, I fully recognize how toxic these years have been.