Sheryl P. may not have had all the solutions but she was always there for her daughter trying to make things better. After spending years in and out of intensive care with her daughter, it took a long time for her to AcknowledgeAssessAssist to grasp the importance of self-care and move beyond the guilt.
Following is her account:
At one time, I did not even know that taking care of me, and not always putting
the needs of my daughter first, was an option. It was just what I had always done
as a mother with a sick child. The first time I ever even thought I could put my needs
first happened after many long days sitting in Intensive Care supporting my daughter,
not knowing if she would live or die. Sadly, this has been a fairly frequent event in our
lives. Every few years since she was a teenager, I have almost lost her. My daughter’s
body has formed clots that shut down her internal organs, or she gets an internal
bleed that leads to severe infections. This has become a regular part of our lives.It is
always difficult to go through these periods of not knowing what is going to happen
each day, whether she will live or die. It has always been difficult for me when this
happens and I tend to get overwhelmed by it all and I did not know that taking care
of me first was even possible.
Once, after many days of sitting at the bedside in intensive care with my daughter,
she woke up out of the coma she was in and started to get better. The most beautiful
sound in the world to me was that simple “Hi” when she finally came out of the crisis
that shut her body down at the time..My daughter, who is also a registered nurse,
looked at me and saw how exhausted I was. She told me to go home and stay at home
the next day to get some rest. At that time, I did not even know that I had the option of putting my need for rest ahead of my job as supportive mother. I did not know I had a choice. So, I stayed home, the first time in a couple of weeks. Yes, I felt very guilty all
day, but I gave myself permission to sleep in, relax, take a nap, watch TV and just take
care of me for a change. After resting, I felt so much better and was able to resume my
role as supportive mom.
I still can’t believe that at that time, I did not even know that self-care was an option.
Now I know that it is more than an option, it is a necessity.
I need to remember I am an orchid.
Prior to committing to self-care, Sheryl described her way of coping in line with the “aiming-to-please” caregiver. Aiming-to-Please Style belongs to those whose actions are dependent on what others want and need. They also seek approval for their actions. These caregivers strive to accommodate others, putting others before themselves. In developing her commitment to self-care, Sheryl acknowledged, assessed and assisted herself, finally learning to say “No.”
I was never good at saying ‘No’ until quite recently. I always did what others
wanted and expected. This seems to be a common characteristic of caregivers..
‘No’ is a complete sentence. Sometimes, you just have to say, ‘No’ and do what you
need to do to take care of yourself. The world will not fall apart around you and people
will still love you.
It is not unusual, as Sheryl also pointed out, for the recipients who are getting pleased on demand to balk and react when not accommodated after being used to being accommodated for so long.. Although not pleasant, it is worth standing your ground. They will eventually come around and adapt to the caregiver self-care behavior that is also vital for the recipient in receiving good care. If you have a strong nurturing nature you may be at a disadvantage, not knowing how to say “No.”
Assist yourself by acknowledging and assessing that you consume so much energy assisting others that you end up with little energy left for yourself. Seeking guidance to re-energize and enhance resiliency is a strength not a weakness.
Remember, you are an orchid.
Transforming guidance including caregiver stories is available in the book
"Keeping It Together: How to Cope as a Family Caregiver without Losing Your Sanity"