The social model of self-care

Tom looks surprised in a face mask, like they’ve done something wrong. There’s big letter over the top saying “Self-care (for the hyperactive anti-capitalist) or, how to start a revolution”

I’ve been working on a show called “Self-care for the hyperactive anti-capitalist, or, how to start a revolution” for a couple of months now, I’m basically trying loads of different self-care practices and interrogating how affective they are. The thing is, I had ADHD and some epilepsy-related impairments so I don’t instantly buy into typical self-care, my brain isn’t quiet and yoga makes me fidget.

I thought I was going to find a magical new kind of self-care that worked for me, and I have found some tactics, but mainly I’ve found a big question.

Is self-care just a short term buffer to a long-term structural problem? Is it sustainable or effective beyond the immediate?

Let me unpack that a bit. I do a lot of things around my ADHD that are self-care practices, even if they don’t look like it. I get sensory burnout more easily than a lot of people, so if I go out too many times in a week I have to take a quiet day where I generally play video games because they give me lots of dopamine for very little sensory input. I haven’t always articulated it as self-care but I understand it as that now.

If you understand ADHD in the social model, I can say that I don’t do this because my ADHD is making me stressed, I do this because the sensory expectation of both capitalist and ableist structures in the world make it necessary.

This means my self-care practice, is a temporary buffer against a long-term structural problem. It might get me to the next week, but it doesn’t remove the root of the problem that is making the self-care necessary.

I think this is why I’ve often disliked the self-care industry, it feels like you’re investing in very short-term solutions while the structural problem persists. The investment doesn’t change anything so you have to continually invest again and again. This is why the self-care industry has boomed, because it continually ensures that it is necessary.

What would happen if we dreamed a form of self-care that aimed to make itself redundant? I think this probably looks more like structural care, or community care, or systematic care. The “self” in self-care stops you being part of a system, it makes it all internal and addresses only your needs.

I’m not suggesting we stop doing self-care, I think we have to do this action of resourcing ourself to the next day. Maybe there’s something else we do at the same time, something more disruptive like activism, that we can structure in a way that also gives us the resources we need?

I don’t know what this thing / practice is, I guess that’s why I’m making this show.

You can find out more about the show and the CRIPtic showcase here:

Writer / Theatre Maker in the UK. You can find me at @BoyAndPen elsewhere.