I sat in front of the therapist for the first time by myself. I had gotten to know her well through the many visits I had driven my daughter to. She tried her best to help my daughter, but in the end the Social Anxiety Disorder overtook her and I ended up having to take her for some intake care at a local retreat center.
Before it got bad enough to take her somewhere, I spent 24 hours a day being her caregiver. Every moment of the day was spent worrying about her and catering to her every need just like a mother would. I gave her everything I had and everything else in the world stopped for me. I was consumed with the duty of making sure she was alright. I was exhausted on every level – emotionally, mentally, physically and even spiritually.
I thought that when she came home from the center I would feel relief and less stress. However, this was not the case. It just changed forms. I was still on my toes constantly taking care of and overseeing her care. I was so obsessed with her that I completely neglected to take care of myself.
I had nothing left to give myself. All I had was for her.
Shortly after she returned, I drove her back to the therapist for her first visit since. I was surprised the therapist asked to speak with me afterwards. I sat in the armchair across from her and waited for the update on my daughter. I did receive an update on her, but the update was not at all what I expected. She told me my daughter was worried about me!
She asked me what I was doing to practice self-care. My response was quite curt to be honest. I asked if she was serious (in a not so nice tone). I told her how this was not the appropriate time to be thinking about myself. I was angry that she even assumed I had time to do that.
She graciously smiled and reached out her hand, placing it atop of mine. She asked me in her pleasing, calm voice, “how can you possibly take care of your daughter if you aren’t taking care of yourself?”
It was at that point the tears rolled down and there was no stopping them. I listened to her tell me about the importance of self-care and stress to me that if I didn’t practice some form of it, I would actually be doing a disservice to my daughter. She spoke to my heart with those words.
Before this conversation I completely misunderstood self-care. I thought it was selfish. During this conversation, though, I grasped a completely new understanding of what it meant. Self-care was not selfish and if I wanted to be able to help my daughter, I first had to help myself.
I immediately started practicing self-care. I still had doubts lingering, but I quickly realized how much of a difference it made. I felt tremendously better and was able to serve my daughter better than I ever had. To be a good caregiver, it is a must that you care for yourself.
Although it took a difficult experience to grasp an understanding of the importance of self-care, I am extremely grateful for it.
I am a better giver since learning how to give to myself.