When people talk about your comfort zone, mostly what they say is to break out of it. All things considered, I’d rather stay in mine. The reason that it’s called a comfort zone is that I’m comfortable there. And I like feeling comfortable. It’s comforting. To me, those are good things.
Comfort is a large part of self-care. We do things that, in one respect or another, bring us comfort. From high-end massages and indulgent bubble baths to easy-to-prepare lunches and wash-ups in the sink, self-care is designed to bring either the comfort of sensual luxury or the comfort of meeting our own basic needs. Personally, I tend toward the latter, simpler comforts, though I have scheduled a massage for next month. Self-care makes me more comfortable in my life and in my own skin.
Most of us – bipolar or not – can identify comfort foods. These may be carb-laden favorites, our mothers’ remembered recipes, or weird combinations (like cream cheese and M&Ms on ruffled potato chips). They may evoke memories of a better time or fulfill a craving. They’re often simple dishes or items. (I don’t know anyone whose comfort foods are caviar and sushi. Although sushi does have special memories for me.)
I also have a fondness for comfort media – books and movies that I return to again and again, even when I have an e-reader full of unread books and streaming services full of unseen movies. Somehow, rereading Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels and watching the Stratford Festival version of The Mikado interests me in the wider world again, while not challenging me with anything that might disturb me or make me feel inadequate. I have comfort TV shows, too, mostly cooking or medical or true crime. Then there are shows to binge-watch – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Firefly, and, for my husband, MASH.
Certain clothes are comforting, too. I live in pajamas because I seldom go out. When I do go out, I have a collection of t-shirts that remind me of places I’ve traveled to and events I’ve attended. In cooler weather, I have any number of cuddly sweaters. (My husband and I both refer to the cozy pajamas and sweaters as “woobies,” our term for soft, comforting fabrics and garments.)
There are comfort places in my life, as well. Primary among them is our bed. When I can’t get out of bed, obviously, it’s my refuge. When I’m able to get up, I return to the bed eventually and sink into the mattress, burrow under the quilts, and sleep, even if it’s not time for bed.
Other places are ones where I can get away from it all. There’s a bed-and-breakfast in Kentucky with secluded cabins that we return to as often as we can. The proprietors leave us alone to relax in whatever way we want to, except for the morning when they bring us a bountiful farm breakfast with enough food to last us all day. There are cats, peacocks, and farm animals that we can watch or photograph. I could wish it weren’t such a long drive away, but it’s the most comfortable and comforting of getaways.
Most important of all are “comfort people.” There are people in my life that I can turn to when I need a person to talk to, someone to commiserate with, someone to distract me. There are people with soothing voices who can talk to me about anything and make me feel more centered. There are people I’ve shared good times with when I could, and ones I’ve shared bad times with who understand what I go through. We bake cookies, sing silly songs, or compare traumas (which actually does provide a kind of comfort).
So I’m stuck in my comfort zone. So what? I like it here. I thrive here. I’ll step out of it (cautiously) if I have to – I did so when I quit my editing job to become a freelancer. But most of the time you’ll find me here, enjoying my comfort zone and all the comforts of home. It’s comfort for the mind and soul as well as the body.