If you are a parent in pain with a son or daughter whose choices or challenges have broken your heart, your world revolves around them. The worries of having a child with mental illness, an addiction, is incarcerated, estranged from you, or has gender identity issues, drains you emotionally, physically and spiritually. When this happened to me with my daughter, I lost sight of myself. She came first. I came last. All that mattered was her welfare. My sole focus was to keep her alive and healthy. Over the years I became an unhealthy mess. If you can relate, there is a question you need to ask yourself …
How well am I taking care of myself?
If you are anything like me, when you go through times of heartache with one of your children, you get caught up in surviving moment. You do your best to cope, to hold yourself together. You can’t think about anything else. Your only goal is to keep functioning and get through the day. I would stay up too late and not sleep well. I either forgot to eat or couldn’t. Exercise wasn’t on my radar and I isolated from friends. Ashamed and embarassed, I would work more to distract my thoughts or work less letting details slide. My relationships suffered too. Overall, I ignored my self-care because I just didn’t care. Everything in my life felt unimportant compared to saving my child. When I most needed to take good care of myself, I did the opposite.
What about you?
What about you? Friend, if you struggle like I did and you’ve had this pattern for a long time, you may have developed some damaging coping strategies. You may even have become a martyr, thinking about everyone else to the detriment of your own well-being. Living in a constant pity-party is miserable. You never intended to do this, but that’s where you are. Please don’t neglect yourself any longer. If you already have:
Give yourself the same tender loving care you would give your family or friends when they’re going through a difficult time. If you don’t take care of you, sooner or later you will suffer the consequences.
A Few Suggestions
Here are a few suggestions to take better care of yourself: Choose one to work on, then add another. Do what you can, but set a goal to start making some changes. You want to be as heathy as possible to be prepared for whatever the future holds.
A healthier you will help your child too, no matter what happens.
- Get adequate rest. Take a nap if you can. Go to bed a little earlier.
- Make yourself exercise – at least get some fresh air. Even a 15 minute slow walk will help.
- Be sure you eat three meals a day and have healthy snacks. Good nutrition is a source of energy.
- Drink more water. Hydration has amazing benefits.
- Make an appointment for a physical. Get caught up on your doctor visits.
- See a counselor or clergy person.
- Go to a support group meeting (in-person or online). Commit to attend regularly.
- Slow down. Simplify your life. Do less. Say no to anything unessential.
- Be kind to yourself. Do what renews you.
- Read something uplifting. Spend time with God in the Bible and prayer. Go to church.
- Make time for fun. Engage in one of your hobbies or pursue one you never had the time for. Watch a funny movie. Maybe invite a friend or two to join you.
We spend a huge amount of time and energy focused on our troubled child, often forgetting about ourselves. Mom, dad, you are important too. Twelve Step groups teach that if you do more to strengthen yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually, those efforts can make a difficult time a little easier. We at Hope for Hurting Parents add a hearty Amen!
Encouragment for You
Here are a few Bible verses that can encourage us:
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me (Pslam 54: 4).
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall (Psalm 55: 22).
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (Psalm 105: 4).
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word (Psalm 119: 28).
*(These verses are from the NIV)