Caring for someone you love is really freakin’ hard. It’s not just the physical day to day activities that I’m talking about. It’s the emotional and mental drain that presents itself in your brain. It’s like mould in the shower. It’s just sitting there. You know it’s there. You know you have to do something about it. Annoying and unwanted. You might attack it with a bit of the ol’ Exit Mould but then the bastard comes back. I’ve had time over the past few weeks to strategise about taking all of my professional training, education and knowledge and applying it to my life now to overcome feelings of overwhelmness (spellcheck has that word underlined in red but I feel it really is the right word for what I’m trying to say here.)
Its 2022 and I am fully committed to pushing Paul beyond his limits and capabilities. I plan to push the kids with their learning and filling their little brains with as much juicy knowledge as possible. I also plan to take care of myself a little better than what I have done. I also need to make money, clean the house, look after mum, drive Paul to his appointments, liaise with medical professionals, socialise, keep my mental health on track, entertain kids, drive them to gymnastics, cook dinner, exercise, stay healthy, wax my whole body, keep the gray hairs in check and keep a smile on my face while doing it. Somewhere in amongst all that I also have to find time to breath. All this stuff is just the bare minimum to lead a reasonably okay existence. It is no wonder we all start falling apart at the seams.
Since I was 19 years old, I worked in the aged and disability sector. I have coached, mentored and supported many carers over the years- both professional, unpaid, unrecognised, just starting out in the field, fresh out of Tafe or University, using the health industry as a stepping stone, on their way to getting registered, those who don’t know what career they wanted, carers for parents, carers for children, carers who have to work full time and care, carers who need a break from caring, carers who love what they do, carers who only care for the money and carers who have nobody to care for them. I have always been the one on the other end of the phone or other side of the table telling those carers how important it is to look after yourself, look for the signs of burnout, call the helpline, take respite. I realise though, as much as I can dish out the advice (and what excellent advice it is) taking that advice myself is a little more tricky.
As carers, we tend to always worry about everyone else’s mental/ physical/ emotional/ psychological state more than our own. By doing so, we place our own needs way way way down the bottom of the list. That’ll be something I’ll get to when I have time. If you are a parent or you are someone who is caring for someone, you know exactly how this feels. We are forever putting everyone else’s needs in front of our own. But we don’t realise the danger we are putting ourselves in by doing so. Burnout is real. It doesn’t necessarily come out in the form of laying on the kitchen floor in the foetal position whilst rocking back and fourth because the electricity bill has arrived…although I have come close a few times. It may not be crying into your hands when nobody is watching….although I have been guilty of this also. Sometimes it looks like not taking care of your hygiene properly, constantly fighting with your spouse, getting angry at the kids for just being kids, overreacting, under-reacting, being unusually sensitive, developing a short fuse to any situation, jealousy, distancing yourself from family or friends, not getting joy out of the things you normally love to do. Sometimes it seems that all I do is yell. Sometimes I think yelling at everything is the only way someone is going to hear me.
You don’t mean to be like this. It’s not you, not really. The thing is, everyone’s cup spills over at different times. Some people can take more shit than others. Some people have a very teeny tiny cup that spills over a lot sooner. But its okay. It is okay to feel like you want to tear your hair out sometimes. Your feelings are valid. Recognising the signs of burnout or depression can often be beyond our capabilities- even worse if someone brings it to your attention, like your spouse or your mother in-law. If your proverbial cup (of wine) is filled to the brim and is spilling over, slurp it up off the kitchen bench when nobody is looking. Because you are awesome and the only person you owe anything to is yourself.
As carers, we don’t always feel like we can turn to anyone….anyone who understands. So talk to a friend. Reach out to someone, anyone. Take an hour, hell, take two, take an entire day if you need it. But take back something that is just for YOU- a bath, a night of Netflix and junk food, a hairdresser’s appointment, a night out with a friend, a movie, a very large glass of wine, anything. By not practising self- care you are doing more harm than good. When you are not good to yourself, you’re not going to be good to anyone else either. Fix your crown, drain your cup then get back to work.
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