My last post entitled “Selfish Woes” had me a bit worried after I posted it. Worried because I do not want those who are caring for loved ones to think that caring for ourselves in the midst of our caring for others is selfish.
My post was a lot about my trouble with the word “selfish” because of my connotations it had for me from my growing up. But that is MY story and should not be the story of caregivers who may read my post.
I want you to know that I do value the fact that we MUST look after ourselves if we are to be the best we can be for our loved ones. We cannot care for them if we are so burnt out ourselves we can hardly function.
Having said that, despite the fact that I do feel selfish when I do things for myself I know how important it is to do them anyways regardless of those feelings. Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs for anyone to take on especially if you have a family you are also trying desperately to take care of. I don’t have children, only my two crazy cats and I find that the last 4 years of looking after Mom are the hardest years of my life. For me, it is essential that I look after myself because there is noone else to do the job if something happens to me. I am it! So what am I doing to look after myself??
Well, here are a few things I do. I have tea with friends – one of my favourite things to do. A quick hour with a friend energizes me for a week. If I am having a particularily hard day, I may go to my safe haven in the basement and cry or even scream and just let out the frustration and exhaustion. Sometimes I will just sit or snooze down there while Mom is sleeping in the afternoon. On my days when I have a bit of respite I often go wandering. It could be shopping, or a walk along the water or working in my beloved little church library I run. This is my positive wandering. Many times in my life I have wandered when it was not safe like in the middle of the night. I run when things are scary or upsetting – perhaps part of my autism. Wandering is an outlet for me, a way to release pent up feelings. I just have to make sure I do it safely. I’m actually taking a wander up to Ottawa soon – my first day away in a few years. I am going to take in the Lego exhibit and the Impressionists exhibit – positive wandering. Another thing I do for myself is rocking either in my rocking chair or in my hammock chair with a good cup of tea. Having a cup of tea is my comfort and rocking eases the stress in my stomach. One thing that I do find very hard but know I have to do it is to give myself time when I am finished work. I come home, say hello to Mom and then go and have a cup of tea and rock for about a half an hour. I know Mom is eager to see me but my autism requires me to have time to recoup from being with people for several hours, I NEED time alone. Then once I have had my time alone I can deal with the evening and being with Mom. I usually make a second cup of tea and go up to Mom and have a chat or watch TV with her for a while. I do feel really guilty about this but I know it is a necessity to my well-being or I will not function for the evening. I bury myself in a good book at times, I watch a bit of TV, I do a craft ( I make my own greeting cards) or I work in my garden. Perhaps the most important thing for me personally is to pray or read my bible or just rest in the presence of God. God gives me the energy to go on day after day. This is essential to my personal survival.
So…. I do know I have to override any feelings of being selfish and make sure I take time for myself. I guess what I was saying in my last post is that it is extremely difficult sometimes to do that overriding. But it has to be done if we as caregivers are going to survive. Taking care of ourselves as caregivers is as dear as making sure we drink lots of water on a hot day. And some days are a lot hotter than others when you are a caregiver! Drink that water!!!