a lupus caregiver on a sliding scale between self care and friends

From a Caregiver’s Perspective: Putting Yourself First Is Not Selfish

Being an outsider, watching my mom cope with lupus, I have come to realize that one of the hardest things for her to do is to feel okay putting herself first. It seems that she grapples with the idea that putting herself first is akin to being selfish. I have known times where she has physically felt terrible, but the family may have pressured her to do more. Having grown up with my mom and knowing her nature, I could only imagine the number of times where she may have felt conflicted about saying “no” — she may have had a level of guilt or the desire to not disappoint one of us. But, from my perspective, in my more mature years, I have learned that it is vitally important for her to reestablish what selflessness or generosity actually looks like.

Self-care is not selfish

There are times that I know that she wants to help others and do most (if not all) of the things that are asked of her. Unfortunately, for the sake of her health, it is not in her best interest to be timid with saying “no.” At first glance, some people on the receiving end of that “no” will immediately feel like she may be being selfish. But, I have a different view on this...I think that if this power to say no is not abused, then this act of “selfishness” can actually be positive.

I have gradually seen my mom grow into a person where she understands that it is okay to think of herself, do things for herself, and address her needs sometimes before the needs of others. In order to maintain healthy relationships, she has to ensure that she is remaining healthy and that her needs are taken care of in order to adequately address or take care of others. This is actually a requirement—she has to take care of herself if she intends to ever help others. However, the opposite scenario is one that is not necessarily true. If she would consistently take care of others before herself, over time it would become more difficult for her to fully care for herself.

My perspective on lupus self-care

From an “outsider’s” perspective, there are 3 key reasons why I felt it was important for my mom to take care of herself first sometimes.

  1. When our time is filled with the obligations of others, we find that we quickly begin to drain ourselves. Where we were once eager and willing to give, those feelings may quickly fade as that desire is replaced with the obligation. The actual tasks being performed may largely remain unchanged, but our demeanor towards performing them can quickly turn negative.
  2. When we do things for ourselves or the things that we enjoy, it can actually reenergize or recharge us. This can be very important when you’re managing a lifestyle that is often plagued with fatigue. Doing things for yourself, that you enjoy, does not necessarily mean that you are denying the needs of your loved ones. In fact, I would argue that feeling recharged as a result of you doing things for yourself, can make for a better time with your family.
  3. When we are consumed with the obligations of others, we can sometimes lose ourselves in those tasks. How can our loved ones ever experience our real selves, if they are constantly being suppressed?

Self-care should not be confused with selfishness—it’s necessary and important!

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