Take Care of Yourself And You Will Be Taking Care of Others – “Care-Givers”

Care-Giver is a name that many of us own.  From basic parenting scenarios to families complicated with end-of-life, spinal cord injuries, congenital diseases or employees of group homes – care-givers is the generically applied

Is it difficult to ID care-givers that “did it right.”  Seeing them is a muscle that operates better by practicing the magical and material skills of empathy.

By the way, I’m on hold right now with the service provider for our currently nonfunctioning internet.  The hold-music is so bad that I had to put the phone in a closed drawer to muffle it.  #selfcare.  Much better.

There are many people who have cared for me and do care for me.  You for starters have cared for and do care for me in your reading, your time, your thoughts and comments.  I am cared for, and you know I get all fluttery when I start talking about you so I’ll stop before you throw-up.  Unless it’s too late.

There are others who gave and give care, obvious names like parents, spouse and friends. And there are many less obvious names – my dogs talking to me when I get home, the lady who came up to me in the 99-cent store and handed me $20.00 to buy treats for my kids, my psychotherapist who told me to “grow up.”  All these and more have and do care for me.

But do we call these people, (or other living creatures,) care-givers?  Is that a name for what you do for me?  Not in my thoughts.

The differences are found between those who believe they take care of others when they don’t take care of themselves and the inverse – those who take care of themselves, and as part of that effort to be their own friend see caring for others as a natural maturation of their own needs.  In any other design, taking care of others when we don’t take care of ourselves is not sustainable nor congruent with our intentions.  We become the hare who lost the race to the turtle, angry and confused by our results.

Care for the Caregiver Day
Image by Christiana Care via Flickr

I agree that this attempt to share space with the angels who so lovingly nurture and give to those who can’t give to themselves can be perceived as arrogant, ignorant and other names – creep, idiota, a– h—, pompous, fools, bigots, oblivious, uninformed, (this is fun), benighted, blind, old gum under the picnic table jerks.

Be that as it may, please believe that we speak of care-givers without malice.  And if we are ignorant, please let our flaws inspire you to grow us as empathically as you would like us to grow you.  I know it takes a lot of love to deal with someone like us and it is much easier to walk away.

Questions:  Where do you find yourself in the care you give to others?  What helps you remember your intentions to love yourself when stigma or guilt bang you upside the head?  How do you see that caring for yourself is consistent with your goals to serve others?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Care for yourself and you will see yourself giving care to others.

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33 thoughts on “Take Care of Yourself And You Will Be Taking Care of Others – “Care-Givers”

  1. Caring for myself is the the most important lesson I have had to learn in my life. (Well one of!) I heard someone say long ago, if you don’t take care of yourself how can you take care of another.

    I seemed to be hard wired to be a care giver and its something I have had to learn to dial down. Not everyone wants to be taken care of.
    Boundaries! I also have to look very carefully at why I care give. Growing up in my home, care giving wasn’t done for the children, it was done for the adults. By the children. And when we weren’t good enough at it, look out. We didn’t realize this pattern obviously as children so its something we have looked at as adults.

    When I care give I look at my motives or intentions. Sometimes I have “gifts” to give and people just don’t want them or can’t see them and it hurts me, I can’t understand why the don’t want to receive, this is all pretty subconsciously (but I have seen a pattern and I am learning) Then I have to step back and ensure I am giving the right care (at work or home) and at the correct level while maintaining what I believe to be true in my job. As a fitness inst. I believe fitness is body, mind and spirit, I believed it before I certified and it was apparent in my education that my educators believed this too. However, not all participants like that aspect. Okay, so learn and move on. Some people just don’t want the care. Lesson – some people just don’t want the care.

    Care giving for my in-laws as Dad was dieing was very hard. My mother in law resolutely stood by and did not accept help etc. Until the point where she passed out fell and hit her head, concussed herself and broke her foot. Great we had both in bed at home now. Had she accepted help we could have made her time with Dad so much easier.
    But in her mind all that she was doing was taking care of her husband. Instead of sitting with him and just being.

    Lesson – do we allow ourselves to be taken care of?

    Doc – this question you pose could be a book in itself. Its mulch-faceted and thought provoking. THANKS!

    • Hi Col! long time no connect. reading this response from long ago, feeling the distance. Hope you are wonderful.
      I was thinking about your response at this distant moment, and wonder about the interplay temperament has in this. You alluded to it too. the way people “just are”, in so many words. Having a high rejection sensitivity is more of a proclivity in some temperaments rather than others. It’s normal and healthy, until…
      Smile.
      then you touched on our need for validation. This topic is gripping.
      I hope you are great. Keep on.

      • Hey Sana

        Interesting that you should write today. Its my birthday! : O ) I just put down my birthday dessert and was switching something on my laptop. I am so glad to hear from you and it was interesting to go back and reread what I wrote before and your reply today. I like your wording “high rejection sensitivity”. Sheesh. That could be me! This is a gripping topic and it can swing both ways in extremes redlining way out either direction.

        Two and half years later would I answer the same question the same way?! Hmmm . . . I have continued to learn that I must take care of myself. It is a struggle some days with guilt and shame that I would put myself before another. However . . . (there’s always a but) as I have eased into it I find that with radical honesty I am feeling less and less guilty. I am becoming more and more honoring to myself. To what I would like, to my feelings and thoughts, to what I want to have and not have. And you know what?! The world is not coming to and end, I am being radically honest and the house has not fallen down, the sky is still blue and the mountains are beautiful and my loved ones still talk to me, and my life is more peaceful and happy. My family is more peaceful and happy because I am living authentically. This doesn’t mean its all roses every day, but its pretty darn fine. Its still days of work and business, but it’s my mind. Its where my thoughts are as I go about in this world and not of this world that are really beginning to soften. My monkey brain is slowing down and I have begun to really see where my ego has told this story (ad nauseam) of how I needed to take care of everyone around me so I would be liked. Where did that come from?! What belief system do I have that everyone around me doesn’t like me and I have to do or be something to be liked?! To win favour. Where did I get the notion I wasn’t liked and had to do something about it?! What truth is there in that?! And really what I am doing is telling people close to me that they aren’t capable. Which is the farthest from the truth of what I actually think (or in radical honesty do I subconsciously think they aren’t capable and need to save them from themselves?!) I am the super hero and I can feel better about myself. Oh its fun to occasionally go down this rabbit hole with you Sana! I think they are capable but that its my job to care for them. That is my script. NOT ANY MORE! Or at least its not so loud. I love the quote “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I am learning that I can have a new script which is no script. I can let the script go into the recycling bin and allow peace to come to me. Not to even fight it but simply let go and remember the truth. Because that truth will set me free. The Truth is “I am loved thought in the Mind of God”. I believe I am separate from God and the Truth is I am not separate from God. We are all one and I am here to see the innocence in all my brothers and that we hold each others hand to walk one another home. (I am a Course in Miracle student for a year now and my life has become softer and simpler and I am so very grateful for that). ego is softer and not so clammering and I deeply appreciate that. I am on this journey to listen to the Holy Spirit and see things here in a different light. In a softer light with grace and love. So that is what a caregiver is to me today. I give care to myself. And in turn it flows to all around me because what I give to myself I give to you. And what I give to you I give to myself, because we are all One. I love you Sana. Thanks for the birthday message that was unbeknownst to you. Col

  2. It is an honor to be a caregiver; yet in order to do the job well, one of the most important items to remember is to take care of yourself or rather…’Be a Friend to yourself.’

    By our nature, we are all caregivers; yet care-giving is not for everyone. If you lose yourself in another, yet cannot take care of yourself, what good has been obtained?

    As much as you worry about the loved one you care for, the reverse is two fold. Your loved one will appreciate knowing that you’re caring for yourself, just as much as you are caring for them because it will add security and longevity.

    It is important to be a friend to yourself!

    • hello chris maclellan the bow-tie-guy. that name is just so fun, i had to say it all. thank u very much, very much very much for commenting, coming by and letting us meet u. i luv that perspective on those given care towards those giving care. rich thought. keep coming if u will. u r a voice we need to hear.

  3. Steve had double hip replacement so take him to physical therapy now and then. In 2006 when I had triple by-pass was two weeks in hospital then home and could not drive and my aged parents live with me do not drive. No other family to help. A young man happened to be visiting in the townhouse next door and took my parents grocery shopping, to visit me hospital and then take me doctor visits. Then he went home and never heard from him again. Isn’t it astonishing how God put that kind fellow in our lives for that month. We would have been helpless without him. So must be available for charitable acts to others.

  4. Col’s question above is interesting: Do we allow ourselves to be taken care of? I am going through a hard time now but have rejected the notion of self-care thinking that I don’t need to worry about it – I’m fine, or that it is a sign of weakness. And maybe I’m just not sure how to?

    As a child I was forced to grow up at a very young age being the care-giver for my chronically, terminally ill mother. Now I am a mother and am caring for three boys. It seems I am always in a position of others’ needs coming before my own. And now there are parts of me that look at that as a form of strength and independence but I’m not fully convinced that I’m doing myself any good. (Which is why I started coming to your blog in the first place.)

    • Hey Cathy

      I too had to take care of my adults, alcoholism, abuse etc. Different from your mom but, still we were put in roles which we still carry with us today.

      I look at who I would be today had that not happened. I need to evaluate why I am in a care giving role. What is it in care giving that “feeds” me, what is the pay off.

      I know that some people may look and say its about serving others etc. and I am all over that. But, I think we have to be honest and ask ourselves why are we in the care giving roles, when others really couldn’t give a rats butt. If you look at families traditionally there is always one person who is the care giver. There is many siblings and yet there seems to always be one that is the major care giver etc.

      What is it about our own self concept that makes us care givers. For me I have to really keep watch for Ego. People often look at care givers in a Florence Nightingale type of view, selfless and contributing. But what is the pay off? Because there often is. I look at whether I am doing God’s work, because that is certainly a pay off but, again its keeping my ego out of the way.

      I have several friends who do everything for their children with the belief that their children come first, and when they are young there is truth in that. But where do they stop and we begin. And if we don’t take of ourselves we end up wondering who the hell we are. We are not “all that” that the world could get along without us. It would be inconvenient for some time as people around us figured out how to do our “jobs”. Our friends and family would miss us. To me what is most important today is not the “doing” but the “being” human beings. Being with my family and friends, being involved with them. Doing happens because it needs to but doing it together.

      Its hard to allow others to take care of us, to let our children bring cups of tea or make a meal, to feed us and care for us. But, when we care for them it makes us feel good, so why do we allow ourselves to be short shifted in some misguided belief that we should be the be all end all as caregivers. We are showing our children how to be giving by receiving. It feels really weird at first but its pretty darn cool too. Because the people around us become empowered because we allow it.

    • hey there cathy. u bring a lot w u and we are really glad u r here w us.
      who can b fully convinced about this or that? it isn’t easy to b “fully,” like vacuum packed beef jerky, no air, no float, no movement to b used at will.
      that’s a rough start w Mom. ouch. and the boys, i know parenting can take it out of us. many of us know that, like u, these roles we find ourselves in are confusing. I’m so glad u r with us. did i say that already? smile.
      i am wondering if “coming to (this) blog” has and is what u want from it? what directions would u like us to turn, what content to expand, what r we leaving out? keep talking.

      • I’m not sure how I stumbled on your blog. The title certainly appealed to me. I like what you propose and say, but is difficult to internalize. I will keep reading (as time permits).

        • thank u cathy for your thoughtful comment, taking the time and such. that was swell. i’m especially interested in the difficulty internalizing these things. we all feel the same, i’d think and i was just wondering if u could expound on your struggle w that. would u describe your efforts and results a little more and perhaps what might make it better for u?

  5. Through church, I was trained and became a Stephen Minister. I did this while I was in the midst of recovering from an emotional breakdown. All of us in training had, at some time, suffered some kind of emotional problems and, as a result, we were what the Stephen Ministry program called “Wounded Healers”… we understood, so some extent, what those with whom we were going to work were going through.

    My care receiver was dying but had not yet been diagnosed with what finally killed her. The first year or so of working with her, therefore, was fairly easy. We talked, prayed and shared with each other. It helped me to keep my mind on something or someone other than me. But then she was actually dying (unfortunately at the same time my mother was dying), and caring for my care receiver became harder and harder on me. I knew that she and her family needed me as a Stephen Minister but even the act of getting to the nursing home was more than I wanted to do. It took me WAY too long to decide that I needed to stop and, once I did, the guilt was awful. It took a long time for me to get over the guilt of her actual death, even though I had stopped being her care giver several months before then.

    We, who need to be friends to ourselves, need to be very, very careful about giving of ourselves to others unless we know for sure that we are okay to begin with. It’s a hard call and, now that I know what I know about friending myself, I would never do what I did when I was as ill as I was. It did no favors for myself and none to my care receiver in the end. Lesson well, if not painfully, learned.

  6. I work with Hospice and give of myself everyday to terminally ill people. I have to take care of myself in order to give fully. I need to be a friend to myself so that I can be a friend and caregiver to those who are on their last journey. It’s been a long hard road to realize that i am important too, I’m still learning…

  7. I am agree about to care ourselves before care other. I have two friends who stay together with me in one room. Because of my care to their healthy, I always take water for them. I fill three bottles waters everyday. Till I was sick one day and I realised I feel uncomfortable because the water is empty and nobody filled it. Now, I have change myself. I can enjoy my self. What I want to say to you is just do what you can do happily and know what’s time to stop if it really needed to stop. Before I cann’t say no to other if they ask my help till I feel my time is almost all for others, I don’t have time to cure my soul. Now I can say no if I have other priority thing to do and it can make my relation with other be better because they will find me a energetic and happy people not the powerless people.

  8. It’s like with the oxygen masks on planes isn’t it? Please fit your own mask first, before helping someone else.
    That way you’ll be in a position to help them and not gasping yourself.

  9. Leading by example…take a moment to take care of even little things about yourself…taking the extra time to put on some makeup etc…rather than helping your 3 yr old put on his socks and shoes….end result..you look better and probably feel better and your 3 yr old put their socks and shoes on their self because it had to be done now…..maybe backwards but they are proud of their accomplishment. Viola…I just killed two birds with one stone while taking care of myself.

  10. Yes, we certainly must care for ourselves if we wish to care for others. If we aren’t at our best, we can’t care for others as well. The simplest way I see it is it’s like if you are in a bad mood, you may treat others badly, too. If you’re happy, you can treat others well much easier. In the same way, we must take care of ourselves physically to give the best help we can to others.

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