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Are you a caregiver? It is easy for caregivers to forget to care for themselves while caring for others, but I wanted to share my story with you.
I have to admit that I have been a little nervous about writing this article. Mostly because I am going to get really real and being vulnerable is not the most comfortable place to be. The reality is that I feel a bit like a fraud lately. Why? I’ll get to that in just a bit. I’m sharing this so that other caregivers are more educated about the importance of self-care and stress management.
Over the past 8 years, I have spent a lot of time as a caregiver. Both for my husband with his host of illnesses and then for my Mom and her cancer. In that time, I’ve seen the power of a real food diet and how removing all of those toxins from daily life can help heal. I saw that in my husband along with a complete reversal of so many of his debilitating physical conditions. All from committing to making the changes necessary to heal. I’ve also seen what can happen with chronic illness when someone refuses to commit to caring for and helping themselves heal. I saw that with my Mom and her cancer.
It’s hard to believe that my Mom passed away three months ago already. I miss her every day and one question that I have asked over and over is why she refused to commit to helping her body heal. That is one question that no one in my family will ever understand, at least not in this life.
The last three months of my life have been the biggest wake-up call for me. My Mom was a big caregiver and always put everyone else before herself. Like so many other women, she felt guilty and a little selfish doing things to care for and nurture herself. That cost her her health and ultimately her life.
Being like Mom
I am a lot like my Mom, and I am grateful for the good ways that I’m like her. But I am also a caregiver by nature, just like she was. I tend to put others first, just like she did. Several years ago, when I started my own real food journey, I lost a significant amount of weight and was healthier than I had ever been. I was taking the time to take care of myself daily. But in the past year when my Mom got sick again, I got so lost in trying to help her that I stopped taking care of myself. I was also trying to continue taking care of my husband and providing him with what he needed to keep him healthy. I forgot to ask for help and forgot to take care of myself.
Here is why I feel like a fraud. In the process of caring for others and neglecting myself, I have gained 45 pounds, and have had some of my own health issues return. So here I am sharing great information with everyone else, and not practicing what I preach. It is a bit embarrassing having to admit that I put myself last and let myself down. It also makes me feel very ashamed to know that I neglected myself so badly. But it’s also somewhat liberating to say to the world…” I am NOT perfect! I have not been loving myself the way I should and I’ve really let myself down!” because then I can’t live in denial and it holds me accountable to the world.
The impact of not caring for myself
I weigh 225 pounds right now because I focused all of my time and energy on everyone else, instead of finding balance and giving myself some precious time and attention. I stuffed down the stress by eating too much food. Yes, even too much real food will pack on the pounds, particularly when you are not listening to your body. And eating even when not really hungry. I didn’t stop and take time to manage my stress in healthy ways. This is common for a lot of caregivers….and it is causing not only an extreme amount of stress but chronic health issues which prevent these caregivers from being at their best not only for themselves but for those they take care of! That is definitely what happened to me…a holistic health coach who should’ve known and done better!
A wake-up call
So yes, my Mom’s death was a wake-up call for me! I don’t want my life to end up like hers, but I have definitely been on the same path by not taking the time to care for myself. So one of the things that I’ve done in the past couple of months is to commit to myself and my health. I am taking care of myself and for the first time in quite a while, I am not neglecting myself anymore! I have gone back to the gym and am working out regularly and am still cooking real food for myself every day.
And I am using many of the stress management techniques that I know work well so that I can manage my stress instead of stuffing it down with food! Because my husband and I have separated and my Mom is gone, I don’t have to be a caregiver right now, and can freely focus on myself. I’ll admit that it has been a little strange learning to say “no” and I have had to start learning to let go of the guilt and the feelings of selfishness. But it has been empowering for me as well!
Helping myself heal and inspiring other caregivers
I am excited about the future because I know how to help myself heal. I’ve seen it work with so many other caregivers that I’ve worked with. But now it’s my time to focus on and heal myself. The coolest part is that I’m going to bring you along on my journey because I know that there are so many people out there who struggle with the same issues. You have probably seen my real food recipes for one. With myself and my Dad being single again, I’ve recognized how much of a need there is for easy and accessible real food recipes.
If you’re not single, never fear! I will continue to share vital and relevant information on living a simple clean life as well as real food recipes for families. And we are going to be focusing more on simplifying life even more!
I really want to share what I’ve found to work so that other caregivers have the knowledge to help themselves have the healthiest life ever!
If you feel like you need additional help, there are support groups for caregivers. You do not have to go through this alone. For more support check out this list of support groups.