Guest post by Sheleen from the blog dansmapeau.co.uk
How is it possible to care for someone else, if you can’t even take care of yourself?!
This is something I hear people saying all the time. I just didn’t get it! What do you mean take care of myself?! I’m a selfless person, I give. That’s just what I do. I don’t do me I do them.
Yeah right! Until the point where I completely burnt myself out. Maybe it’s part of the reason I became ill myself. Thinking that the people I was looking after came before me.
So with that lovely intro over let me do a proper one! I’m Sheleen, I am a carer. I’m many other things also. But being a carer has been a way of life for me for the past 6 years now and I wanted to share my experience of that, to try and help others who might be in similar situation, or know someone that is. I cared for three people, my Aunt, my Mum and my Nana. That was until my aunt passed away last July, closely followed by my mum ten months later.
Sometimes I have an internal battle with myself ‘should I’ do this…. ‘Can I’ do this.
I need to stop ‘shoulding’ myself.
Who says there is a wrong or right way to do YOU!
Only you can make that choice for you. It may not always be the best decision but we make choices based on the information or the feeling we have at the time we make it. So how can it ever be wrong?!
There will be many times, while you are caring for others, things in your own life can take a backseat! You always mean to do something but somehow you never quite get round to it. It’s funny isn’t it, that us selfless types care for others more than we do ourselves. The important thing is to find a healthy balance for both carer and person they are caring for. For both your sakes.
I have always been quite an open person, I am not ashamed of the experiences I have had in my life and nor should I be. If you had met me a couple of years ago, I may have omitted some details about myself and my life that I was ashamed of. However, I have been working hard on my own personal development and because of that, I have learnt so much from others sharing their experiences which is why I am sharing mine with you.
It wasn’t until my own health became an issue that I realised I have to look after myself too! I was spending so much time doing errands for my mum or nan or aunt. I didn’t see I was suffering too. I was having constant fatigue, forgetting everything because I was so stressed. I would have mild panic attacks, over eating to cope with anxiety which would only feed it more! Cancelling on friends, I was off work all the time to take them to appointments etc. I was running myself ragged! This is why it all is so important. Sometimes my friends, you just have to choose you.
So what are the practical ways to look after yourself?
Every now and then I need a little help too, I’m only human and I can only carry so much.
- One of the ways I look after my mental and emotional health is talk therapy.
For some the mention of ‘counselling’ start a cycle of anxiety. Others think it is a load of crap! For me it has been a useful way to sort through the maze of thoughts that occupy my brain on an almost daily basis!
Talking to someone who is impartial and is just there for YOU, listening and helping to find ways to cope with things has been invaluable. At times I didn’t feel like it helped and I would walk out more confused than when I went in! Accessing emotions that were supressed helped me understand myself better.
Acknowledging what I was feeling instead of trying to run from it gave those emotions and feelings less power over me.
Taking time out getting a bit of respite, take some time to do a bit of research with your local council.
Carers have always been undervalued but now there are so many more people caring for loved ones with the strain on the care system and changes in local government. There are places that offer respite for you and the ones you are caring for.
Find support groups in your area
People who understand what you’re experiencing can be a great source of comfort and help release those feelings of loneliness.
Go see a friend, take yourself for a walk or go have a cake and coffee in the local Costa with your favourite book or magazine. Having some ‘me’ time is crucial.
Exercise is always a great way to look after yourself. (I shall not preach on this point too much as anyone that knows me knows how much I detest exercise!)
I will find any excuse not to do it as I just find it a chore. This is one of my challenges to this day. I do find that walking helps me clear my mind and I also love dancing to. I guess it is about finding the exercise that you don’t find too arduous and enjoyable.
Tap into your creative mind!
Draw something, write something, and create a world for you to escape to that doesn’t revolve around anyone but you.
Not everything is going to be a good fit for everyone. You do what works well for you, tailor it, make it your own. But never, ever go it alone, because life is tough enough and you don’t have to. No martyr medal here!
I know some of these things may be difficult for some of you, they were for me too. Sometimes anxiety and depression take over and my rational mind was gone and all I would be able to do was sitting in a chair for hours staring out the window wondering why my life was like this. Why did I shoulder all this responsibility? How am I going to manage?!
Life is always going to throw us hurdles, when we think we have finished the race, we breath a sigh of relief! And then we are forced to run another marathon almost always straight after we just caught our breath. When you do slow down and you give yourself a chance to think, remember you are worth making the effort for.
I talk a lot more about my life as a carer, dealing with addiction, and all that great life stuff in my own blog which I have linked below. You will really get an insight into life through someone else’s eyes. You can also share your own experiences as I love to connect with other like minds.
My Blog: dansmapeau.co.uk or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
A great resource I used: carersuk.org