TM relates a story that tugged at our hearts, a humanizing tale from its courageous and loving author. TM’s story reveals yet another side of the self-care theme we stress in Journey Well, an aspect few consider: How self-care fosters stronger families, especially with the ingenious approach TM used as part of the therapy, leaving a journal out for her child to read.
It’s difficult enough today with frantic work, plus the Covid virus, and family responsibilities. Throw in a crisis of sexual abuse, and
self-care goes from luxury to necessity. Here is TM’s story, initialized because of the sensitive nature of the topic.
The importance of self-care became profoundly apparent to me following my daughter’s disclosure of sibling sexual abuse. As a counselor I would always preach the necessity of self-care regularly to my clients. I quickly realized during our crisis that I certainly did not have the balance right, and I put self-care on the backfoot. It led me to burn out rapidly.
I poured all my energy into my daughter, and all my other family members, leaving little to nothing for myself. It came to a make-or-break point for me when I realized if I continued, I would very quickly drown. I was of no use to anyone. I spent most nights comforting my daughter until the early hours of the morning, and still getting up thinking I could function and continue as normal.
I worked 3 days a week, trying to homeschool 5 days a week due to Covid. I had a young baby, and a spouse who had a successful business. We built a beautiful house next door to my in-laws as they were getting older and required some caring responsibilities. This meant I was 45 minutes away from my own family, so didn’t have the physical support of them when required. My spouse had self-care in abundance, attending the gym 5 days a week, golfing at the weekends and other activities. This left very
little room for me, and I’ll admit I was quite resentful that I did not have the opportunities and felt very restricted and limited.
I had to change this, and I did. This was the turning point for me and my family. The first thing I needed to do was relinquish some responsibilities, to allow myself to breathe and not become so overwhelmed. The first thing I started with was boundaries. You may ask what has that to do with self-care? This is the pinnacle of self-care in my opinion. I was the ‘people pleaser,’ the rescuer, the person everyone came to if they had a problem. I couldn’t do or be that person when I was going through this major trauma. I had to put myself first, something that was alien to me, but eventually liberating.
I had to distance myself from others as their negativity brought me right down. I also took an extended break from work. I had to minimize as much responsibility as possible and focus on my priorities.
Covid restricted a lot of the social connections I once had i.e. hobbies like netball etc. I hated walking, but I recognize that was an excuse to keep me demotivated. I started walking the dog in the evenings, even when I had no energy. It was vital to push on through, and I am so glad I did. The time and space alone helped me clear my head and replenish.
Throughout this process I recognized I was being everything for everyone and losing myself in the process, so I also took to journaling. I kept a diary for when I was becoming so overwhelmed to process my feelings. This was very cathartic. I used the journal to communicate with my daughter, leaving it open at times so she could read it. Obviously, I kept it quite censored, but I used it as a platform to communicate what I needed to tell her in an indirect way. She found it difficult talking about the situation, her feelings, the processes etc, so anything I wanted her to know I wrote in there.
It also helped me gain much more clarity. It inspired me to do and be more. It helped motivate me and energize me. I am a firm believer that ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup.’ First, we must fill our own. It is only by doing that we can be of benefit to anyone. People think self-care is selfish; I call it self-preservation. It doesn’t have to be spa trips or shopping malls. It doesn’t even have to cost money. A simple bath, dedicating 30 mins to yourself daily, pamper days in the house. I wholeheartedly don’t know where I or my family would be if I didn’t take a step back and focus on me first, as I am the glue that solidifies us.
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