What does self-care look like for you, and how important is it to you?  When was the last time you made yourself a priority? Most caretakers rarely take time to love on themselves. I take pride in being able to care for my husband in our home, but when I am worn down the joy leaves my face, and I am simply going through the motions. Self-care allows us to be present for those who count on us. 

During the first few months of this journey my well-being seemed like a faraway dream. People often told me to take care of myself but, I didn’t know what that meant anymore.  I was so emersed into what was going on with my incapacitated husband that I honestly had forgotten what taking care of myself lookedlike. While my husband was recovering in institutions I didn’t know how to step back, (and for good reasons), but it was starting to take a toll. I believed if I wasn’t there my husband’s care would start to decline. It had happened so many times before, and in every institution so I had to be his constant advocate, but I was wearing down.  

When our spouse, parent, or child is suddenly disabled we feel that we are the only ones who can properly care for them. This may be true, but we can’t do it all, all the time. My husband was in 7 institutions, and I lived with him in 5 of those. I was there every single day, and now every time I hear machines beeping or the sound of a ventilator it brings all that pain back. 

One morning while I was waking up, I realized I could barely move. My throat was sore, my body ached, and I was feverish. It felt like I was trying to move with bricks lying on top of me. I immediately said “oh nooo”.  I knew I was sick, and it came out of nowhere.  My body was breaking down, but I tried to get up and take care of my husband anyway. I was dragging and had no choice but to leave my Darius’s care to the people who were getting paid to do it. Scary, but I could not. I also let his family members know that I was sick, and they showed up to rescue me. 

Some of the best advice I was given early on was, “remember, no one will take care of him as well as you can.” I soon found out how true this was, and if I was going to make it, I had to learn to release some of my control. Now days I do have a caretaker to help me with Darius, and when he can’t be here my nephew steps in. It’s not perfect. Help also comes with its challenges, but it’s better than me doing it by myself, all the time. We can only do so much. 

Self-care for me means speaking up. Let people know how,and when I could use their help. 

Self-care means learning to listen to my body and accepting when I’ve pushed too hard.

Selfcare means implementing preventive medical care, it is also bubble baths, and having lunch with friends. I also take time for a massage, or manicure and pedicure every so often.  I used to think I couldn’t do any of these things because I couldn’t leave the house. But I learned..

When someone asks how they can help, ask if they can sit with your loved one while you do something for yourself. You will be surprised how many people want to help but don’t know how. Sitting for a few hours is an easy one.  If you don’t have close family nearby, you can hire a sitter from Care.com (this is also a great gift idea).  Their caretakers and sitters are screened and vetted; you can also install in home surveillance cameras to make yourself feel more comfortable.

There is so much more to be said on this topic because self-care can mean many different things because everyone’s situation is different. There is no denying when we take time to care for ourselves, we can give our special loved one the best part of us.   

Chandra Hawthorne