“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
As I was speaking with my mother over the weekend, she was telling me how difficult it was to take care of my grandmother. I love my grandmother, but I can completely understand where she was coming from. My grandmother, at 76 years old, only recently stopped driving due to being in three minor auto accidents in the last year. She is struggling with balancing her new lack of independence with her desire to continue feeling needed.
At 76 years old, she takes care of her two brothers, husband, and anyone else willing to let her in. She is going through her own struggles, not realizing how this affects her children. Her three children feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt… by the way things have turned out. They want to make sure they care for their mother the best they can, but find it difficult when she pushes back and does not want to be taken care of.
This story is very familiar to many adults, details will be different, but the feelings are similar. I have heard family, friends, co-workers, and clients say the same thing, “My parent has become my child.” Taking care of parents is difficult because you are dealing with someone who has taken care of you, someone who has been independent, someone who used to tell you what to do, someone who is struggling with what they can do now, someone who might be depressed. It takes patience, compassion, and also acknowledgement of you. Caregiver fatigue is very common as we focus on everyone else’s needs, but ours. And it is understandable that a day only has 24 hours into which we have to fit in work, home, children, partner, pets, errands, family, friends, and it becomes difficult to find space for ourselves. But, self-care is essential.
One of the things I feel is most important for clients to know is if they don’t take care of themselves, if they don’t fulfill their own needs, nobody else will. It is important to keep this in mind because you cannot be of any help to anyone if you are not taking care of yourself. You are what is most important to yourself, and that is not selfish, that is reality. We can care about other people, we can care for other people, we can take care of other people, but we can’t truly provide 100% of ourselves to others, if we can’t first do it to ourselves. This does not mean to take hours, days, weeks, months, or years before helping others. It means listening to what your body is telling you and giving yourself the mental, emotional, and physical break you need, however it is that break looks like to you.
“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s a necessity.”
If you are struggling with taking care of an aging parent and need help taking care of yourself, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our Orlando mental health counselors.