I’m a caretaker. I’ve been taking care of others all my life, and when I say all my life I mean my entire life. My mom had a lifelong debilitating condition that came and went. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and even though it was never made my responsibility, I always felt it was my responsibility to take care of her.
Then at age 4 my first little brother came along. I immediately felt responsible for him too. Mom married another man who had 3 children, 2 older than me, 1 younger, and a couple years later, they had another baby. Us older children were made to take care of the younger ones. So, I took care of my three brothers while Mom worked.
At age 17 I moved out and lived with my boyfriend. I became his caretaker. I cooked his food, cleaned his house, made his lunch for work, etc. I got pregnant a couple months later and at the age of 18, I had a little boy who was totally dependent upon me for everything. Three years later I had a little girl. When they were 5 and 2, I left their dad and moved 800 miles away from him. I had the sole responsibility of 2 young children.
When my oldest son was 9, I had another baby, with a man that I had already broken up with. So here I was, 27, single, with 3 children to take care of. When my youngest son was 3, I married my husband. He had 3 children when we married, so now I had 4 more people to take care of. During all this time, I never even thought about what life would be like without taking care of someone.
Then, suddenly all the children were grown and on their own. I had only my husband left. My husband is very self-sufficient and doesn’t allow me to take care of him much. So, here I was with no one that I needed to take care of. To say I was lost is an understatement.
It was during this time that my depression, anxiety and panic disorder became really bad. I think it was partly due to the hormonal changes as well as the life changes going on. Mostly though, it was due to never having learned to take care of myself properly.
Then, in September of 2016, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It manifested as lots of aches and pains, muscle spasms, interruptions in my sleep, brain fog, and extreme fatigue. The fatigue made everything feel worse and I thought that if I could just get enough sleep I would be ok. It didn’t happen and I wasn’t ok, I’m still not. It’s important that I do learn how to take care of myself now.
It was during this time in my life that I began to realize how little time I spend taking care of me. I also learned to my chagrin just how little I actually thought of myself. Every time I did anything just for me, I felt guilty, as if I didn’t deserve it. Every time I tried to take time out to rest, that nagging little voice in my head would start up, telling me how lazy I was being. That there was work that needed to be done, what was I doing laying around?
This is when I started looking into self-care, what it is, what it means to do it, and how to actually do it. First things first, I wanted a good definition of what self-care is. I searched online and found a few definitions. I was not totally satisfied with any one, so I cobbled them all together to make my own definition.
This is my interpretation of what self-care means. Self-care is any intentional act you do to care for your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. It refers to practices that you engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress, maintain your health and enhance your overall well-being.
The key to this in my opinion is the “regular basis” part of the definition. Doing something just once or twice haphazardly does not constitute self-care to me. It may relieve some stress in the moment, but doesn’t eliminate it. Self-care must be done regularly, preferably everyday. It must become a habit.
That’s where this new beginning comes in. I am going to set a self-care goal and work at building it into a new habit daily. At the beginning of each month, I’ll be setting a simple self-care goal for the month. Once my goal is set, I will do a short simple self-care check-in post every Saturday so that you can help me stay accountable.
For the month of January 2017, I will be meditating every morning. This is something I started doing in 2015, when I first started having fibro symptoms. It manifested as chest pain which triggered a 30 hour stay in our hospitals heart attack clinic, followed by a heart catheter. This traumatic experience triggered my ptsd and I began having panic attacks. Meditation became my lifeline for many months, but then I just stopped doing it. So, I am restarting this wonderful habit and will be doing it at least 5 minutes a day first thing in the morning everyday.
I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world that needs to learn to take care of themselves. I’d love to have you join me in this. Begin doing one little simple self-care ritual everyday until you build it into a habit. Write a blog post and link to it in the comments. I’ll come by and cheer you on!
Do you need some inspiration on what to do to care for yourself? Cori at TheResetGirl.com has a monthly self-care challenge that lists out a different self-care practice for you to do everyday. I have gotten many great ideas for doing things that I had never thought of before. I encourage you to join her challenge. She also runs the Listers Gotta List challenge which is fantastic if you are a list maker!
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