Refilling the empty cup…

Lizzie Deeble by Lizzie Deeble Additional Needs

Lizzie Deeble

Lizzie Deeble

I’m Lizzie, mummy to two beautiful boys. My eldest son, Sebastian, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in October 2016 at the age of 2.5...

So many people have talked to me about self care over the past three years.

The analogy of the empty cup has been used a number of times.

I am sure I am not alone in finding both the concept and the practicality of self care a challenge.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to carry on and on pouring from that cup.

There have been times in the last three years when I know that if I stopped and put everything down to think about what I needed, I wouldn't have been able to pick it all up and start again.

So it is possible. But it's not a recipe for happiness.

A long bath, a massage, a spa trip, a glass (or two) of wine with friends, a run, a swim, a trip to the cinema, a long chat to a good friend, a cup of coffee looking out into the garden, 20 minutes playing the piano.

All examples of ways to take care of myself, of giving myself a physical or mental boost to enable me to better take care of those around me.

I am lucky that there are lots of things that I know help me to feel better.

But while these all sound like textbook examples of self care, it is the bit underneath it all that I find very difficult.

I find it hard to value myself enough to do it. I find it difficult to believe I deserve the investment in either money, time or effort.

Something hardwired in me, and I believe in many of us, feels that my value is in the care I give to others.

Having a child with additional needs has only compounded that.

I know that I need to keep myself well in order to do that, but trying to make that ok in my head still takes work.

It also takes acknowledgment of the need, which is more complicated than it sounds.

It means accepting that there are things about my life that mean time out from being a parent and a carer is important.

And that means accepting that Duchenne has changed our lives, has changed my role, my responsibilities, the level of anxiety I live with, the things that take up my time.

It means acknowledging not just the physical but the emotional toll of endless hospital appointments, of the huge impact of incorporating a disease like Duchenne into our day to day lives.

I have a need to have it all together all the time, to present myself to others as being consistently positive.

For me, self care is less about things I can do for myself and more about getting rid of the "should" from the way I talk to myself.

It means letting myself off the hook when I feel overwhelmed, not feeling that I have failed when I need an hour to cry before I pick myself up again.

It means not feeling that I "should" be coping better, doing more, being more positive. It means not feeling guilt for sometimes needing an identity beyond a caregiver.

Self care literally means caring for the person I really am rather than the person I feel I should be.

Caring for myself not in a practical way but in an emotional one. It means getting rid of the voice in my head telling me I should be doing it better. It means believing I deserve care too.

While the massages and cups of coffee are good, the cup doesn't refill without the bit underneath.


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