Do you feel guilty about taking time for yourself?
If you do, I don’t blame you. I know how that feels. It is only natural that if you have a loved one who is in need of care, that you want to be there for them. If things need to be done that they can no longer manage for themselves, you can’t say no, can you? Tasks around the house that they used to do, still need to be done and somebody has to take up the slack.
If they need to get to somewhere and they can’t drive anymore, you can’t leave them stranded. And how will they cope when they get there. They will need help to get around and take care of business. So there is no option but to fit in with their timetable. If there isn’t enough time to do everything, you will just have to let go of some of your trivial activities, right. Wrong!
The carer needs care too
You feel a duty to look after the person you love. But part of that duty is to maintain your own health and remain capable of doing what is needed. I learned this lesson in a dramatic fashion. When the effects of MS started to impact my wife’s abilty to take care of the house, I tried to do as much as I could to help. I went the route of giving up outside interests, to the point where I felt that I had nothing left for myself.
I felt ground down by responsibilities. I was doing everything because I had to and nothing because I wanted to. After a year of being stressed beyond my ability to cope, I fell into depression. At that point, I had become an extra burden for my wife rather than a help. It was a lesson for both of us and one that I took to heart.
Not a luxury but an essential
One of the good things that came out of that period was that I took up Tai Chi. It is a great stress reliever in itself, it takes me out of the house and I get to meet new people . The night of my class is sacrosanct. It takes something extremely important to stop me from going. And do I feel guilty? Not a bit. I know that it is contributing to my physical as well as mental health and that could be very important in the future. I am not getting any younger and I need to stay active.
I was advised very early on, that when you are looking after someone else, it is doubly important to look after yourself. But I still had to learn the hard way. You absolutely must have some activities that you do purely for your own pleasure. It doesn’t matter how trivial they might seem to you one else. You not only need to, you deserve to. Don’t underestimate the benefits of me time.