After my son’s diagnosis, my level of self-care decreased significantly. Four years later, and I’m in a place where that slow decrease in self-care has left me unhappy with how I feel and the state of my current health.
The path that got me here is pretty obvious. I have no data to back this up, but it’s clear to me that when you receive a diagnosis for your child, all your attention shifts to taking care of them. Any remaining attention is given to work, other kids, or just trying to make it through the week.
Very little attention is available for things like staying in shape and eating right. That might not be how it is for everyone—and if you’re the type of person who can do everything, congrats, and please teach me—but that’s how it was for me.
I’ve had a recent epiphany about how important it is for me to stay in shape and eat right. The only way I can serve my son as long as I will probably need to is to keep myself healthy. So, just as I’m putting away money to care for him, I need to put away time so that I am physically able to care for him as well.
Self-care for caretakers of folks with disabilities needs to be a larger and louder conversation that we need to be having. And it’s not just physical care, it’s mental health care as well.
What we are going through on a daily basis is our normal, but it often takes abnormal superhuman strength to make it happen. And the only way you can muster up that abnormal superhuman strength is by investing in yourself.
So I’m going to stop thinking wistfully about how in shape I was back in 2012 and start thinking about routines to get back to a healthier place. And just as I wouldn’t ever skip a doctor’s appointment or a therapy session for my son, I’m going to hold myself to that same standard.
We need this. You need this. Your children need this. Take care of yourself so that you can effectively take care of others. And maybe for you as well!
Learn more about self-care. It is important.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.