When your world turns upside down, you’d better learn to stand on your head. You get kinda busy when you’re the caretaker of a sick loved one. There are insurance forms to fill out, phone calls to make and to field, appointments to get to, and a bucket brigade of chicken soup and ice cream to requisition. Add in a four-year-old who can’t understand why Daddy spends all of his time sleeping, and you’re lucky if you can find time to breathe, let alone carve out some “me time.”
Even the best juggler will only try to keep things in the air for so long. Without a break, everything comes crashing down. Caregivers must think of themselves the same way.
Lots of us have a peculiar tendency to want to handle everything life throws at us, all by ourselves. Flat tire? Change it. Sink clogged? Plunge it. Husband diagnosed with cancer for the second time in less than a year? Deal with it.
And you do. You make the appointments, keep the house relatively livable, feed everyone able to tolerate solids, answer a thousand questions, and take it all one day at a time. Hopefully, there’s some bathing and teeth-brushing somewhere in there, but you get the idea.
At least once a day, you will hear, “Oh, be sure to take care of yourself, too!”
Try not to laugh, because that may be the best advice you will ever get. Physical hunger is an obvious and easy thing to resolve, but feeding the soul is a much more difficult and vital task. When you find that you’re not yourself, snapping at people or staring at the walls for ages, you are well into I Need A Break territory.
Remember all of those folks who said to “just call if you need anything?” Call them. Get someone to spouse-sit for a couple of hours while you take a nap or a long bath. Let your kitchen-savvy friend bring over a hot meal. Take your in-laws up on their offer to drive your loved one to his appointment so you can spend an hour in your favorite coffee shop. Each little break you take for yourself is like a “Get Out of Insanity Free” card, and will make your role as caregiver that much easier to fill.
My wise Auntie-by-choice Marty says that people should seek out little pieces of happiness, wherever they can find them. Lucky me, a lot of my pieces of happiness are friend-shaped.
How do you make time for yourself? How can you tell that a little "me time" is in order? Share your thoughts in the comment section, and have a peaceful day!
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