Sadly, it’s possible for those supporting loved ones with Mental Illness to become ill themselves. Our hope is that the resources and ideas in The Rock Pool will help prevent this.
This article is focused on importance of knowing yourself and loving yourself; so that you can recognise the signs that you need some space and your own support.
The most important thing to remember is that to support others you must put yourself first. I know this sounds counter intuitive; however how can you possibly help those you love if your own resources are low? If you are tired, stressed and feel unloved it’s only a matter of time before you crack, so putting yourself first is not selfish.
By understanding and allowing for your own needs you can ensure you have the strength to look after those you love.
This isn’t an easy journey either, for many it’s hard to focus on self-care and to recognise your own emotional state. It’s taken me many years to get to a place where I know what triggers me, how to recognise that I am low on resources and how to recuperate, and I am still learning. I’ll give you the short cut and take you through how I learnt about my own limits and how I self-care.
My hardest lesson was to put myself first, the familiar, “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me”. Overtime I started to recognise that I was better able to support my husband when I felt happier and more stable. Sounds obvious I know, however it’s very easy to let things pile up and it suddenly becomes too much.
Before I accepted that I too have limits and I need to take care of myself, there would be a tipping point when I would just loose it and would end up shouting at my son, primarily, and sometimes my husband. That isn’t healthy for anyone and certainly not for someone already suffering from a lack of self-esteem.
I recognised that I needed to make changes. I started to listen to podcasts to learn about our emotions and behaviours and how to break habits and cycles. Over time this became therapeutic for me and my time in the morning listening to these feels indulgent and my space. I do it when I am putting on my make up, so it has become part of my routine. It’s special time for me and prepares me for the day.
Starting your day with something which gives you space and feels like you are treating yourself, is essential in my opinion. The rest of your day you are going to have demands placed on you so start off well and love yourself.
Ideas for this could be:
- Exercise – releasing those lovely endorphins
- Listening to a Podcast
- Walking in nature
- Reading a book
- Just sitting quietly with a cup of tea
None of these need to take long, when I am really in need of a boost, I meditate for 15 minutes. The point is finding what works for you and take the time.
These things help to keep me going on a day to day basis, however there are times when life’s pressures naturally become tougher and you need to dig deeper. These moments can sneak up on you.
I’m a person who can take on a lot and then I can flip over something as stupid as putting things away in the wrong place! I’ve learnt now that I can feel that build up because silly things start to irritate me, so I need to take a bit longer over my self-care.
If I miss the warning signs and I do flip, I hear the emotion coming out and I know myself well enough now to say, “oh okay, it’s not the potato peeler in the wrong drawer, I need space.” When this happens its usually because I’ve compromised on my self-care and fallen into bad habits and it’s a reminder to return to what works for me.
Everyone has different limits and the trick is not to judge yourself by the limit of others or what you think yours should be.
“Should” is a dreadful word; “I should be stronger…” Saying “I should” creates feelings of guilt and feelings of not being enough. I’m working on banning “should” from my self-talk.
There is a level of acceptance here also. Accepting who you are and loving yourself for who you are is a huge step, especially when those close to you are currently unable of expressing their love for you. Loving yourself first and caring for yourself first enables you to care for those you love and goes a long way to keeping you well.
For me this has made the difference between feeling isolated from my husband to feeling his love. I love myself, so I am now open to knowing that whilst he may not be able to show it right now, he loves me too.
It starts with loving ourselves.