Valerie Foley

What the Hell is Self Care?

In Parent issues on January 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

I bristle at the idea that autism parents should spend any time at all congratulating themselves for our awesomeness. I don’t see the job we do as any more awesome than the job that any other parent does. We care for our children. That’s the gig.

But, that doesn’t accommodate for the fact that we have a complex job. It’s time consuming, it’s heart stretching and it’s not actually what we thought we’d be doing when we started buying pregnancy tests.

However, rather than bleating about how hard everything (it is) is or how no-one understands (few do), and turning any kind of spotlight on us (dear god, is that what my eyebrows look like?) , I’ve learned it’s way more helpful to pay some serious attention to the issue of self-care.

I’m not talking about having your nails done, though if that’s what buys you mental space, then by all means go for it. I’m talking about being ruthless with yourself, in a good way. I’m talking about valuing your own health and well being, knowing that you are next to useless to your child if you are on your last legs.

In the last twelve months, after the fight of our lives (Hollywood movie deal pending), I have paid some serious attention to self care. I was initially very very reluctant, but it was that or run down the street stabbing random strangers with forks, so… I overhauled my physical health by fixing my diet, putting regular exercise in every single day and rebuilding a solid relationship with my GP. To sort out my brain and heart, I refocused my role in online support groups, and I started seeing a counselor.

This process has helped everyone in the family, and probably made me a better friend/extended family member as well. It has felt indulgent, financially and time wise sometimes, but… it has been ridiculously worth it.

It wonder how I managed before I gave myself the time to reflect in a healthy fashion. I will not let that slip again, because without self reflection, I believe I am not useful to myself, my child or my community. Without adequate self care, I am giving myself permission to remain wallowing in constant crisis, and handling it poorly

I did not like that phase. It made me sick, and boring as hell.

Here’s some stuff that helped me.

– If you are in Australia, it’s worth having a look at Carers Australia. I’m assuming there are similar resources in other places.

 – This article is from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, focused on parenting a child with a disability.

 – This article is focused on Acquired Brain Injury, but the information is brilliant, IMO.

– A great DVD.

– And… an organisation that is there to help you find help – Beyond Blue.

This is NOT about indulgence. It’s about responsibility.

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t do this caring job well, without solid reserves. And you don’t get those reserves from coffee and whining.

Well, not just from coffee and whining.

  1. I believe that your motivation for getting on to the road to self care, or good health (perhaps for want of a better term) is quite similar to mine. Just two years ago i was approaching 40, and my body was starting to give out health signals, so i thought about what my children, not just my autistic child needs. They need a physically, emotionally and mentally capable parent to be a positive role model for as long as possible. I don’t think we are any different from any other parent, as you point out. Perhaps we’ve heard the call a little louder, or maybe our children’s uniqueness gives us that persepctive we need to make this positive move. Great to hear that you are taking care of yourself 🙂

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