“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

Benjamin Franklin

Self care first

Self care is often portrayed as selfish, self centred and indulgent, so I am here to tell you why that is, simply not true.

I’d like to tell you a story. It starts a number of years ago when I was still experiencing the symptoms of ME/CFS. This illness coincided with twin teenage time in our house, a tragic combo which helped me learn an enormous life lesson. 

Self care is paramount.

Additional needs

My reserves of energy, patience and understanding were seriously depleted. As if that wasn’t bad enough, “more than normal parenting,” was required.

Sadly this is increasingly common these days. The levels of mental illness, learning difficulties and physical ill health in our children is shocking. There is barely a parent I have spoken to who has not had to deal with some level of higher than normal mental distress, in at least one of their teenagers. 

Rates of depression

In a 2016, 4 years ago, an article in the Independent stated that,

“Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. The number of children and young people turning up in A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009.”

I know I was not alone in dealing with additional parenting, but that doesn’t make it any easier. For me the big problem was the added dimension of ME/CFS. I barely functioned at times, and certainly did not have anything extra to give.

Less than perfect

This sad tale has me squirming.  A part of me still feels ashamed because I was often a far from perfect mother. I didn’t want to, but nonetheless, I did shout nay even scream at my children. I really struggled to cope.

Sometimes expletives, unkind words and ridiculous statements exploded out and of me as I grappled with ill health and the demands of parenting twin teens. Things were not ok in our home.

Eventually I decided we had to get out of the cycle of messy messed-up parenting. 

So what did I do?

Change things

I decided to take my self care seriously, I mean mega seriously. It was imperative that I got well. As the parent, I was the responsible one and therefore it was down and up to me to change. 

I took myself on and applied myself to self healing. There’s nothing quite like an emergency or disaster to create a compelling reason to change, to activate motivation. With a steely determination I dedicated myself to recovering from illness. It was hard, very hard. Changing as much as I had to was tough as hell.

I didn’t want to

I didn’t want to mediate every morning, or lie down every afternoon, or sit in my chair and stare. But I did. 

I resented having to practice EFT and other techniques to change my mindset. Delving into how I ended up where I did, was painful. Facing up to my part in my own downfall, was humbling.

I didn’t want to eat f—ing perfect, prepared from scratch, meals every bleeding day, or drink the required amount of water come what may. No tea or coffee Mairi only herbal teas. I would have loved a blowout on alcohol, but even a few sips of wine made me sick.

Heartbreaking

Popping supplements like sweeties became the norm. Some before meals, some with, some after and just for added complication some just before bed, jeez! I had to design a blinking chart to keep track of it all.

Treats were a thing of the past, staying up late was a luxury I could not afford. I went to go to bed early, missed the film or board game and had to listen to the fun and laughter, without being part of it. It was heartbreaking at times.

Saying no

I hated having to say no, I can’t come out, no I can’t do that thing. In fact, just take me off the contact list, I won’t be coming again. I lost friends, lost activities, lost connections and I missed out a lot.

Constantly saying I can’t was horrible; I can’t drive you there, can’t pick you up, can’t do this, that or anything much really. On and on it went, the list of what I could not do.

A kind of hell

Does it sound like a kind of hell? It was, and may be it wasn’t. Looking back I am deeply grateful for what it brought me, because I learned the value of self care. By clawing my way back to health and wellness I gained a respect for feeling well and being able to function normally, it is a precious gift indeed.

Self care is paramount

Now, if I start to “loose it”,  feel overwhelmed or like “it’s all too much”, it’s a sure sign that I have not been taking good care of myself. Obviously it was vital for me to get well but self care is about so much more than just us. 

My self care was essential to parent through challenging times. To parent in a way I felt comfortable with, I had to look after myself like our lives depended on it. 

Basically I am saying that taking super good care of ourselves, is not selfish or self-entered or indulgent, it is a necessity.

Serve from your saucer

Not everyone has a family or children to care for, but we do all have people, place or things we need to attend to. They need us to be our fully functioning, super duper selves, not depleted, done in, can’t cope martyrs.

Self care is a win-win for all concerned. 

As a wiser person than me once said, “Mairi serve from your surplus not your substance.” In other words, fill your cup and serve from the excess that flows into your saucer.  When I do this I offer myself and the world the best of me. I have energy, enthusiasm and something beautiful to share.

Scrabbling around in the bottom of our cup, trying to scoop up the dregs is no way to live. It doesn’t serve me and it sure as hell does not serve the world.

“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”

Parker Palmer

Disclaimer
The views expressed here, in blog posts and on the website Change Is Always Possible are those of the author Mairi Stones alone, and do not represent the views of any associated bodies. We do not diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Information provided in this blog is not intended to substitute advice, treatment and/or diagnosis from qualified medical and nutritional professionals.