As someone who has experienced carer burn-out more than once in my life, there is little wonder that statistics relating to the health of carers remain concerning. Disturbed sleep, poor diet, little or no 'me-time', diminished social interaction, financial pressure, living a half-life in some ways... a recipe for ill health if ever there was one. The bitter irony of caring for someone we love is that we often sideline our own needs in favour of theirs... as if we ourselves don't really count. At least... our needs don't count. Is that because we lack self-love in the first place?
Certainly, that has been my own realisation. I have been all too ready in my life to put others' needs before my own - my default setting, if you like. It was only during work on a research project underpinned by Bowlby's attachment theory, latterly coupled with my own recovery from addiction, depression and anxiety that I finally discovered I was codependent - and had been from a tender age. A need to be needed and to become as dependent upon the other person needing me as they had upon my care.
I would in no way presume to speak for all carers - we each have differing life experiences and a myriad of reasons as to why we've 'chosen' to become carers in whatever capacity. But having coached many female codependents, it is rather uncanny to note how many of them are carers (it is implied in the term, of course) and/or those who have been drawn to the caring professions - as I have myself. Whenever I find myself going into 'overcare', I remind myself that 'help is the sunny side of control' and remember to switch focus back to myself - however fleetingly - lest I become the 'cared for' once again.
Sometimes it has felt as if I'm balancing on a tripwire... watching out for early warning signs that my own health could be deteriorating whilst trying to ensure that those I care for retain as much independence as possible (without falling) and endeavouring to maintain a relationship with healthy boundaries on both sides. Wow! Sounds so easy... yet without my knowledge of codependency, I'd be right back to where I was 15 years ago... trying to 'help' anyone I could, when the person who needed it most was actually me, myself and I. And ending up mentally and physically burnt-out as a consequence.
And so... to all those carers out there... if this resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you. I'm looking into setting up some kind of social enterprise venture in County Durham which will focus on assisting female carers to build and maintain healthier boundaries, allowing 10 minutes alone to feel like an hour and ensuring that their own health and well-being is seen as something to be nurtured and respected - as they should be as individuals. If you believe there is a need (there's that word again) for this type of service and you'd be interested in learning more - or offering advice and suggestions, please do get in touch.
Add a Comment