Caring for my inner child in the new year
REBECCA DINGWELL firstname.lastname@example.org @BDingz
When a new calendar year begins, conversations around mental health and self-care pop up more than usual. New year’s resolutions, as well as corporate mental health days, are a couple of reasons for this. Lately, I have been thinking about how my childhood continues to affect my adult life. As a kid, it was a big deal for me to leave a book or my lunch bag at school. It was a sign that I couldn’t be responsible for my belongings. However, since I grew up learning those mistakes had consequences, I tend to punish myself. We all carry these things from our respective childhoods, even if we had a good life growing up. I believe this is especially true for neurodivergent kids who went undiagnosed for years. Even if one’s parents or guardians had the best of intentions, they may have been ill equipped to deal with their child’s needs. They might have been told their child would grow out of their forgetfulness or sensitivity. I sometimes feel goofy when I talk about my “inner child.” At the same time, though, I find it’s a helpful way to approach self-healing and love. What did you need as a child that you didn’t receive? Can you give yourself any of those things now? Some of these things might take practice, such as learning to forgive yourself when you make mistakes. It can be about material goods, too, and that’s just fine. If, at 35, you can afford the Lego set you’ve always wanted, it’s more than OK to buy it. For me, I started horseback riding again in my 20s, having given it up as a teenager. By prioritizing this hobby in a way I did not when I was younger, I’m showing myself love. Therapy and research are, of course, necessary tools for long-term healing. That said, I believe even things that seem superficial can be just as helpful. Kids’ movies, shows or books I used to enjoy take me back to my younger self. They help remind me of the traits I had to bury in order to survive. I even made a list: loud, playful, enthusiastic, etc. I understand why I can’t be all those things all the time, but I have learned those traits haven’t gone away. Old shows can spark nostalgia, but I’ve even started watching a new cartoon called Bluey. In the show, a family of heelers (or Australian cattle dogs) navigates everyday life with play and imagination. The parents, though imperfect, do their best to nurture their kids’ heads and hearts. The writing is delightful, and the animation is adorable. Is it going to resolve personal trauma? Well, no. But it invites my inner child to poke her head out of her hiding place. Perhaps we’ll have a better relationship with one another by the end of 2023. Rebecca Dingwell is a freelance writer and editor based in Halifax, N.S. A self-proclaimed nerd and horse girl, she is learning to navigate her life through new eyes after being diagnosed as autistic. Rebecca is also working on a memoir chronicling her family’s life after her father’s ALS diagnosis.