"You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things." - Nate Berkus
I know right just what we need another “self-care” admonition when we barely have enough time to think straight, if only we had as much time as we are told we do. At one time I felt the same way, I became combative when people suggested that I could take time for myself, especially that one time a Mental Health Caregiver I was helping who had an autistic child with other mental health challenges told me, “…caring for an adult doesn’t require as much help so you can take breaks…” Part of what she said was true, I didn’t have to worry about him going out alone, he was working and pretty much independent which to many caregivers is a “strong point”, however we have other factors that cause us a great deal of stress as well regardless to what a caregiver faces it takes discipline to remember to focus on our personal needs as well.
A loved one who has a mood disorder can be a challenge to live with as I have talked with many caregivers of loved ones with mood disorders and we agree it’s a rollercoaster sometimes. We can have stretches of “stability” and there can be long stretches of “instability” and there is a drastic difference in coping with negative symptoms from a child than there is coping with negative symptoms from an adult…there is a huge difference. Not many caregivers will speak in an open forum about the challenges of caregiving for an adult whether it’s a spouse, child, other family member or friend. Unconditional support of a loved one who may not behave in kind ways at times is very challenging just as caring for someone who is having negative symptoms of their disorder and not finding relief in medication or therapy. Age doesn’t change the suffering.
Self-care is a complex act; there is no one right way of doing it. Taking our own personal health and well-being into consideration is as personalized as our unique caregiving experience. Our self-care must be modified to fit our situation:
Amount of time of care we give
Severity of the illness of our loved one
Amount of support we have from family and friends
Amount of insurance we have/loved one has to provide the care a loved one needs
Access to “quality” mental health resources
Access to “quality” addiction resources & the willingness of a loved one to accept /participate in the treatment
Willingness of a caregiver to seek out counseling for themselves
Ability of the caregiver to use self-discipline to self-care
Every caregiver has their own unique way to make them a priority and that can look very different for each one of us. What is most important is to build a lifestyle for ourselves that is comfortable and that squeezes out a quality of life for us as we care for our love one. There is no such thing as a perfect time to self-care, if we gauged making ourselves a priority based on our responsibilities for our loved one many of us never would take a break…and many of us don’t.
Self-care is for your regenerating. Self-care is for your longevity. Self-care is the best gift you can give to yourself and your loved one. The value of self-care is priceless. When you first decide to take the leap of faith and ask for help the emotions you experience right before the leap will feel so overwhelmingly paralyzing. Leaving a loved one “unattended” by you feels so bad, you have worked hours, days and years learning what works. It will require the equivalent for someone else to come in and learn.
You cannot expect what you learned in progressive time to be achieved by someone new in just hours or days. Leaving the responsibility of caring for your loved one to someone who has less experience or may not know all of the “cues” or “signs” our loved one is headed for trouble or uncomfortable can be intimidating. How else will someone else learn if they are not given an opportunity to? Let go and have faith. Be patient with yourself, your loved one and your trusted support person or team. You get to rest as a result that is invaluable. Photo Credit: DetroitFreePress.com/walkingman
Self-care is a deliberate act of self-respect, it’s our own way of saying, “I’m important enough to be cared for as well...” Self-care says I am a priority and I matter. Choosing not to self-care is exactly the opposite and whether we speak outwardly about the total disregard for ourselves or not the lack of time we spend caring for our own needs is indicated by our overstressed and foul mood.
We don’t deserve to feel undervalued and a victim of our own poor behavior any more than our loved one deserves to be cared by someone who resents them. We have to process a range of emotions already as a caregiver and sometimes, frankly, it’s best to do so out of earshot or away from our loved one to do so. Seeking the ear of a confidant or a counselor allows us to speak openly and honestly about how we feel and reduces the likelihood that we will have poor behavior as a result of suppressing negative emotions.
Time away from our loved one gives us an opportunity to “recharge” or to do nothing at all which is always an investment.
Until we understand self-love and its power to empower us we continue neglecting ourselves or putting ourselves last. There is nothing noble in self-sacrifice. Killing ourselves a little more everyday emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually is self-torture. We deserve better.
Take inventory. Why are you not asking for help? Why are you not building a support system? What’s stopping you from building a self-care calendar? If we are honest …it’s only us. Nothing changes until we do.
Start making yourself a priority now no one else is going to do it for you. You don’t feel like going? Go Anyway.