I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Self-Care

I have to make a deliberate effort to prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical well-being, and I find that sharing what I do is empowering both for me and for others like me. I also am running a series called “Self-care is…” that documents my efforts to take care of myself.

On being kind to myself.

It’s New Year’s Eve, so of course I must write.

Y’all, this year has been hard.

I started the year planning to write more, letter more, draw more, do more. Instead, I started the year barely being able to breathe, and it’s honestly been one health crisis after another.

On the one hand, I’m getting medical care. I have access to good care. That’s amazing.

On the other hand, I’ve been cycling through new meds AT LEAST monthly since the summer, almost ALL of which have had drastic affects on my life. (At least 2 of them made me suicidal, and this latest one has helped my depression but increased the intensity of my migraines. I haven’t been able to be present in a fully-lit room for weeks.)

I feel like I can’t complain. After all, I am getting help. I’m doing a lot better than I was a year ago or two years ago.

But I feel like a failure, honestly.

I haven’t written the way that I want to, because I’ve just been emotionally incapable. I haven’t created nearly as much art as I’ve wanted to, and I’ve only been able to do it in spurts. Most of my days look like me barely making it through the work day before I come home and collapse.

I’m a writer. I need to write. I’m an artist. I need to art. I’m a designer, I’m our only source of income, I’m dealing with a lot of personal life things that are so, so draining.

And it’s December. December is terrible, and historically the month when I am the most hopeless.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m trying to be kind. But it’s hard. I look and sound healthy, but I’m not. I’m just not. And I don’t know how to manage being kind to myself without driving myself sick with worry over how others will perceive my inactivity and sporadic creation of words and art.

In the words of wise old Bilbo Baggins, “I feel old. Thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So maybe, in 2016, I can work on beating myself up less for things that aren’t my fault in the first place.

I have chronic migraines. I’m allowed to ask for less noise and fewer lights.

I probably have fibromyalgia. I’m allowed to say that I can’t do activities that require I put myself in a position of being bed-ridden the next day.

I have anxiety, depression, PTSD. I’m allowed to care for myself when these problems arise.

I’m allowed to ask for help, like when I texted Paige at midnight the night I realized one of my medications was driving me to suicide, and when I called my parents the next day telling them something was horribly wrong and they and Paige both took care of me.

I’m allowed to be alone, for my introverted sanity.

I’m allowed to cry when things hurt or are scary. I’m allowed to laugh when things are funny. I’m allowed to not participate in activities I don’t want to do, and I’m allowed to give myself time and space to just be and breathe and recover.

May 2016 be a year in which I choose to be kind and gentle with myself, and therefore give others like me permission to love themselves, as well.

I love you all, so very much. My online communities breathe health and care and love into my life. Your presence, your words, you care and love…they all keep me going. I’m so grateful for you, and I hope to grow closer to you all in this new year as well.

My body is magnificent.

We’re coming upon the New Year — and that means a dramatic increase in the onslaught of marketing about weight loss, dieting, exercise, and getting a better body. But what makes a “good” body? I suggest that everyone has a Good Body by virtue of having a body. Whether you’re thin or fat, able-bodied or disabled, struggling with an eating disorder or body dysphoria, white or any minority that’s never celebrated as much as whiteness is — you have a good body.

And I want to help you celebrate it with this shirt.

I contain all of me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my various passions, the segments of my life that sometimes mesh together and sometimes seem not to. There’s been not just a little worry about writing so openly about my mental and physical health problems, particularly on a site that also contains my professional portfolios of work.

It’s difficult for me to really nail down an accurate picture of myself. I know who and how I’d like to be, and how I’d like to be perceived, but despite all my intuition, I can’t often intuit how others actually perceive me. Which, of course, can present problems. Particularly when fighting an anxiety disorder.

What if my writing turns away prospective clients or alienates colleagues? What if my insecurities illegitimize my experience and expertise in others’ eyes? What if they see all my selfies and talk of video games and makeup and think me another shallow millenial? What if my self-preservation techniques are misunderstood? What if my feminism or humanism are seen as obnoxious? What if I am simply not enough of a Normal Adult, and too much…me?

Smokey Eye with tarte energy noir palette

For my first ever makeup tutorial, I use tarte cosmetics’ energy noir palette—and let me tell you, I am in love.

Every color in this palette is a color that works well with my skin tone. I’m cool-to-neutral, and this is definitely on the mauve/taupe/plum side of things, which is simply perfection.

The shadows are so easily blendable and buildable. There’s not a lot of fallout, and they don’t irritate my sometimes sensitive eyes.

A+, would buy again in a heartbeat.

Microaggressions and fat-shaming.

It is no one’s goddamn business what I eat, except for me and my doctors. I owe no one explanations for my food choices. I owe no one an explanation for my body. I’m not obligated to share my financial availability for Good Food, nor my health surrounding ability to lose weight or process nutrients in a way ignorant people think I should. My body does not require an explanation or an apology, and it shouldn’t elicit the spouting of erroneous information or meaningless advice from friends, family, or strangers alike — and it most certainly shouldn’t inspire complete strangers to pressure me into eating things I don’t want to eat and adjusting my restaurant orders to something they’re more comfortable with a Fatty McFatperson like me eating.

If I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, I would not be worthy of more respect.

If I ate nothing but fried foods and sweet, I would not be worthy of less respect.

If I incorporated regular intensive workouts into my daily life, I would not be a more worthy human.

If I did nothing but sit on the couch and eat Cheetos all day long, I would not be a less worthy human.

And I hate so much that, despite working constantly on body positivity and self-care for the past 4 years, all it takes is one terrible person to make me second-guess the validity of my existence and self-worth as a fat femme person.

On suicide: when the darkness is too deep.

If you’re suicidal, please be gentle with yourself. Reach out — to friends, to doctors, to the National Suicide Hotline. Sometimes those of us out here in the sea really can support one another until the next life raft arrives.

If you’ve been impacted by someone’s suicide, please be gentle with yourself as well. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Please start fighting back against people who think suicide is a joke. Please fight against those who blame people for being unable to stop from drowning when the darkness got too deep. Please fight against the stigma that people who are suicidal need to be ignored or reprimanded.

Please love us. Please love one another.

Sometimes, the darkness is just too deep. But I know that I’ll never forget the people who care enough to really see my situation and help rather than blame.

Let us love and support one another, and let us destigmatize suicide. Let’s help each other stay afloat as long as we can.


This month is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you need help for yourself or for a loved one, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also call 1-800-273-8255. You are not selfish. You are not a waste. You are not a failure. And you are not alone.