Being a caregiver can be a huge balancing act. Some caregivers do this for a living, while others help family or friends who might need extra help each day.
My family believes it takes a village to raise a child. This, however, applies to more than children. A village takes care of one another. Caregiving is hard and can be strenuous for many with jobs, school, or a family of their own.
When I became a caregiver, I believed it would be easy to care for my mother. I believed that being a caregiver was a selfless act, and because of that I often neglected my own needs. Dedicating time and care for yourself is just as important, if not more, as caring for your loved one. In the beginning, it can be hard. As tasks build, a person can easily become overwhelmed trying to balance their lives and care for another.
So, the question is how do we find balance in caring for another while caring for ourselves? One thing I found important is setting proper boundaries. Sure, setting boundaries in this instance might seem selfish. But self-care is not a selfish act. It is a necessity to nourish your soul and to protect your physical body.
When my mother went on dialysis in 2014, I was in my freshman year of college. We shared our two-bedroom apartment with three others. I worked part-time and attended school full-time. Looking back now, I realize how many boundaries I crossed or refused to set because I thought it was selfish. This resulted in me burning out often, running on four to six hours of sleep, and shoving in as much free time as possible with friends at night.
The most important thing to remember is that you, above anyone else, must respect your own boundaries. Crossing boundaries, especially out of guilt, can be harmful and often counterproductive. Creating boundaries can help create a balance in caregiving and promotes a healthy relationship for you and the person you are caring for.
Relying on my family was another way I worked toward balancing life. I quickly realized my mother could not solely rely on me for all her needs. In 2016, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and suffered from depression. I was also young, and navigating life was quite new to me. Soon after, I found my mother and I were arguing more. When I found it too hard to be everything for her, my mother found allies and relied on others for emotional support.
For the past three years, my mother’s boyfriend has helped a lot. It gave me room to focus on school, manage my endometriosis, and find free time to de-stress. This will look different for others, but if possible, reaching out to loved ones and utilizing resources like part-time caregivers can help make time for personal needs.
The last thing I will mention is therapy. This tool came much later in life. When I shared my experiences with my therapist, they helped support changes in my life. Therapy can be inaccessible for many, including myself. In times like this, I lean on free resources and utilize my healthcare to the best of my ability. For me, free school groups, social media, and consulting my insurance plan were resources that led me to more free resources.
I found that therapy gave me the chance to express my fears, doubts, and anger with someone unbiased. My therapist also reminded me that caregiving is justifiably overwhelming. They became a sounding board for me and helped me address issues I had with my mother and caring for her and myself.
Caregivers face many highs and lows. My mother always told me you cannot take care of someone and neglect yourself. Self-care is important for many different reasons, and when you care for yourself, you can provide better care for another person in need.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.
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