Why it’s okay to think of yourself first.

Caregivers are often unaware of their own stress and depression, but many of them are depressed 50 percent of the time. Not only is the day-to-day caregiving difficult and challenging, but the financial impact on caring for the disabled can also be overwhelming. – Amy J. Wilson, M.D., chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation for the Baylor Health Care System

Photo taken by Mike Ewen of the Tallahassee Democrat

Photo taken by Mike Ewen of the Tallahassee Democrat

Almost everyone had left for the night, the lights were off, balls were put away, and the Miracle Field was locked up. We had just finished our first night of kickball with Miracle Sports and it was a great night. Athlete enthusiasm was at a high and the volunteers were particularly excited themselves. We had a lot of fun.

As I was leaving, I had a brief conversation with the mother of one of our athletes. Her son is extraordinary and wonderful. He tries to wrestle with me almost every Thursday. She mentioned beginning a Bible study that night and the struggle she had in making the choice to do it.

If I may paraphrase her words, “It’s just hard to do stuff like this [Group Bible studies] because I am always putting him first. I feel guilty not making his needs primary, but I think I need to do this. Thankfully, our friend offered to bring my son tonight so I could participate.”

I know her feeling. I bet you do too. Some of us have family members who require extra care, some who are totally dependent on a caregiver, and loving parents, siblings, and friends rightly want to help them as much as possible. Do unto others, right? Well, if we are being honest, providing that care can be exhausting.

I’m a 6’5″ 250 pound, ex-college football player and the physical care for my 45 pound son gets the better of me sometimes; I can only image the toll it takes on his much smaller mother. I know families where the caregiver is smaller than the person she’s caring for. Those people are almost super-human in their emotional and physical dedication, but I bet they hit the bed hard every night too.

Reading House Rules gave me a better picture of the emotional burden, sometimes physical too, of caring for someone who’s got Autism.

Whether it’s emotional, physical, financial, relational, vocational, or spiritual weight, the burden can overwhelm us at times, which is why I was so happy my friend was participating in her new Bible study. She made a choice to care for herself, and taking care of yourself first is essential to providing good care for someone else.

Can I offer a few thoughts on this?

  1. There is no sin in being tired. We are finite creatures, dependent on things like food, water, and sleep. We aren’t robots, aren’t really super-human, and don’t have to pretend we are. Even those whose lives seem most at ease get tired, so it should come as no surprise that you will too. It’s okay. In fact, it reminds us who God is and who we aren’t.
  2. You are a multifaceted person. Where the ancient Greeks tried to subdivide us into a physical being and a separate but equal spiritual being, modern thought has tried to eliminate the spiritual all together. The truth is we are a living breathing duality, both spiritual and physical. You can eat, sleep, and exercise perfectly, but if you neglect your spiritual health you’ll crash. My friend is actually addressing both in one cool Bible study called, Run for God which trains people for a 5K while keeping their focus on Christ. (Last night was the first I heard of it so proceed with your own discernment.)
  3. We need community. We were not designed to go it alone, and there are no exceptions. Event the most introverted among us needs healthy interaction with other people. And facebook doesn’t count! Social media is a great avenue for communication, but it’s terrible avenue for community. You need to get around others who can encourage and even challenge you sometimes. Make this happen.
  4. They understand. Those that need us aren’t expecting us to be perfect. They love you like you love them. Some may not be able to say the words, some may struggle articulating the emotion, and some may lack the ability to return physical affection, but I can assure you love transcends ability.

Far from an exhaustive list, but a good starting point in caring for yourself. Others reading this post would love to learn from you, so if you have any good tips for taking care of yourself please share them.

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