Self care saved my life.
My first ever blog…by Karen.
Self care…not just a word, but something that saved my life.
Self care is not just a luxury us carers crave and need, but is in fact a vital tool in order to survive.
Hi…I’m Karen and I’m mum to 3 incredible kids. We have faced many challenges and been labelled extremely rare and complex. You know when they give you that ‘worst case scenario talk’…well guess what…we’ve had that so many times I’ve lost count.
So as you can see from my above statement, and as a mum who struggles with chronic anxiety and PTSD, I pretty much qualify for a one way ticket to the funny farm. Heads up…I’ve actually spent 4 weeks in the funny farm but that was because of my delightful narcissistic ex husband and nothing to do with the 3 kids ongoing issues.
Where do I begin…how about the very beginning. Ok so 27 yrs ago I was pregnant and living on a remote island expecting my first baby. At 22-24 weeks, I became really unwell with what looked like influenza. After 2 weeks, I unknowingly went into labour whilst doing people’s hair at the salon I worked in. Felt like stomach/bowel craps and I put it down to something I’d eaten. My last client of the day was the matron and midwife of the local cottage hospital. Even she didn’t realise I was in labor until a few hours later when I went to the hospital. Not only was I in labor but was 4cm dilated.
PANIC STATIONS….remote island…24 weeks pregnant…can’t find the doctor…no mobile phones so police tracking skills engaged to round up said doctor….no humid-crib….no foetal heart monitor….the list goes on.
Sick as a dog…I laboured all night and had to pay for my evacuation the next day on a commercial fight to Sydney. I was originally from Brisbane but there was only one flight that day, so Sydney it was. Cheeky sods made me pay for my ticket, and a return ticket for the matron/ midwife to escort me on the plane and if needed, deliver the baby mid flight.
Hung off delivering the baby in the aisle…think the other passengers were quite thankful that didn’t happen whilst I was on the plane and they were enjoying their inflight meal.
Arrived in Sydney to find out there were two babies inside and not just one…WHAT !!!!!
Lasted a week in acute care, almost died due to an unknown infection, which turned out to be the first documented case of Listeria in Australia and NZ in over 25 years.
PANIC STATIONS ONCE AGAIN:
Given less than 20% chance of surviving, I was made to deliver identical Twin boys 25/26 weeks premature. They were so tiny weighing in at 790 and 860 grams. They went down to 600 grams in the days after they were born and thus began the journey that has been full of challenges…scary and hell…and changed me in so many ways it’s not funny.
So back to self care…for me it’s about looking after ‘me’ as there is only one me, and these kids need me.
I returned to the remote island with babies weighing 2-3 lbs and was consumed by guilt…I was sick from all the trauma we’d gone through….trauma that didn’t just go away once we left the hospital 3 1/2 months after their birth. I was isolated, I had no friends, was incredible lonely and absolutely terrified with the mammoth job of caring for 2 very sick tiny babies.
I became obsessed with cleaning. My self talk was…‘once I get this house spotless I can sit down and relax’….that never happened. I didn’t know until much later that when we are faced with uncontrollable circumstances, then we try and control the things around us like cleaning so we can try and bring so sort of balance back into our lives.
When the twins were approx 8 years old, I went to a lovely, motherly social worker, who gentle helped me and taught me about the importance of Self care. She helped me to break my cleaning obsession…not an easy feat. She taught me to not feel guilty for stopping and looking after my self. She helped me to identify what things I could to to ‘minister to self’. I really enjoyed watch CSI shows which were all the rage back then and would tape them so I could watch them another day. For me that other day never came as life was so hectic. My social worker supported me to make the changes needed so I could sit down during the day and watch part of the taped CSI show and not feel guilty for doing so.
Do you know how hard it was to turn off and take timeout to look after me…almost impossible but I was determined to do this so I could become a better mother and not be the stressed out, frazzled, neat freak, who had no time to scratch myself.
I wasn’t easy but I mastered the art of self care and became very protective of my special ‘me time’. Kids were at school…chores done till lunch time. Telly on…cup of tea and chocolate beside me, with CSI ready to rock and roll in the Video player.
The more I practise the easier it got. As time went by ‘Mr Guilty you should be cleaning’ finally gave up and left me alone. Even ‘Mr condemnation…what sort of mother are you lazing about watching CSI’ eventually stopped harassing me and I noticed I became calmer, more tolerant of the twins needs and slightly less frazzled.
One of the secrets I learnt along the way, was that the more intense things became, the more important it was for me to find ‘me time’.
It’s about finding that balance and knowing yourself well enough to say…not coping…stuff the housework it’s back to back Netflix today.
27 yrs later and things are just a intense…but hey, that’s another story and for another time…and I now laughingly tell people I have a PHD in self care.
Hey if workers can have ‘Mental health days’ then why can’t us carers.