Posted in Healing

How Caregivers Cope

In this season of my life, I am one of the primary caregivers for my mother who was recently paralyzed. The complications that followed have piled high, requiring a great deal of care, energy, and time invested every day. With personal challenges for the caregiver and health challenges for the person in need of care, it’s essential to create boundaries to make sure well-being is a priority.

As a mindfulness teacher and a student of self-improvement, I understand the significance that my mindset brings. Starting each day without thinking about what I need to be at my best is a recipe for personal neglect. The more I make a habit out of pushing my needs to the back burner, the harder t will become to provide excellent care for those who need me most. Although I’ve lived by these principles for years, and even began teaching others, my mother’s physical trauma pushed me out of alignment with my core beliefs. So I went back to the drawing board to get to know myself and all the ways I could improve.

For the last few months, I’ve noticed a pattern of unhealthy habits and choices. Most days I find my energy to be sluggish even with a full night’s sleep. The mornings are the most challenging for me when they used to be when I was at my most creative. My appetite has dwindled while my headaches have increased. This dip in energy causes other areas of my life to suffer such as memory, organ health, and overall mood changes. Before this major lifestyle change, I would get the occasional headache and sinus infection, but now I felt more ill than well often. I knew that this was a trying time for my family and me, but I also knew I wasn’t living as my best self. In order to provide the best level of care possible for my mom, I needed to make my health a priority.

I began to take stock of what was helping and hindering my overall health. Looking into the foods I was eating, my level of hydration, the information I was consuming, the environmental factors playing a part in my mood, the media I was focused on, the community I was in contact with and what it was doing to my performance. It was shocking to see just how much I was aiding to my own discomfort and dis-ease without even being aware of it. Once I knew there were choices being made each day making me sick, I knew how to go about making changes.

Coping Mechanisms

Each morning had a ritual of coffee on an empty stomach, sometimes with almond milk and sugar, sometimes just black. Afterward, I didn’t eat for a couple of hours and didn’t hydrate for even longer than that. While each cup of coffee was dehydrating my body I was running on empty wishing for the energy to push through, so I’d had another cup. This cycle continued for a few months.

At the end of the day when I was no longer needed by other people, I would overindulge in relaxation. I’d roll a joint or pack my bong and smoke the evening away. Now I’d like to make it clear that marijuana has been an incredible factor in helping me cope with anxiety, gain my appetite back, and when used with intent, given me a boost of creativity for my writing. But for months I wasn’t using it with the intention to come back to myself, to release the day or to gain focus on what was important. I was medicating so that I didn’t have to feel, deal, or handle life at the end of the day, only to wake up each morning to the reality that it was all waiting for me again.

Every few months I would finally muster up the energy to go out with friends. I’d look forward to grabbing drinks and not talking about what my daily life was like. Caregiving isn’t necessarily an easy thing to bond over because, thankfully, not many people live in that world. So when I made plans with friends it wasn’t to vent about the tough times or celebrate the triumphs my family made together. In my mind, getting together with friends became about stepping into an alternate reality where life wasn’t as hard and I could drink my troubles away.

As I took a non-judgmental view of my coping mechanisms I realized I was hurting myself; putting my body through the pain of not enough nutrients and hydration, putting my mind through the ups and downs of stimulants, putting my spirit through the pain of never being still. If I were going to be a better daughter for my mother, I had to become a better self for me. Because in a world where the circumstances are out of my control, the response to it all is in my hands. Rather than facing the terror, pain, fear, and unknown head on I was choosing not to face it at all. Instead, I chose to numb myself to the reality I was living in through cups of coffee, staying high, and drinking the pain away. I saw the toll it was taking on my daily routine, how long it took me to recover from everything and decided to make a change.

After lots of prayers, self-compassion, and forgiveness of my own actions I decided to cleanse for 40 days. Taking coffee away and staying sober to gain clarity on how to maneuver this season of life. Giving things up to challenge myself is a common theme. It pushes my personal limits, cracks the shell of limiting beliefs I hold, and starts to pave the way for even more possibilities. This, however, is probably going to be the most all of nothing personal challenge I’ve given myself because I’m removing the outlets I use to cope with pain. The pain will still be there, waiting for me, like an annoying family member who wants to retell that awful story for the 35th time. It’s going to test my patience, causing me to question what I can and can’t handle on my own. But being my mother’s caregiver has taught me a few lessons:

1.) Resilience is a choice and you can choose it every day.

2.) Learn to laugh at the difficult stuff and it’ll begin to sting a little less.

3.) Your emotions are trying to tell you something, sit with them and listen.

4.) Stop letting your thinking mind rule your life, not everything is a catastrophe.

5.) Even if it’s the worst news you’ve ever received, you can move with grace and love.

The point of this post is not to judge yourself on how you cope with pain and suffering. It’s not about how healthy you are or all of the things you’re not doing for your mind and body. It’s absolutely not about the right and wrong ways of dealing with responsibility, because girl let me tell you I’m still trying to navigate these waters myself.

What I would love for you to take away is that there is most likely something in your life that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Maybe it’s the lack of healthy food your eating or movement you giving your body. Maybe it’s the way you deal with the hardest challenge in your life or the troubling emotions that feel too impossible to handle. I’m telling you to pay attention. Look at how you treat the unpleasantness in your life, and how it returns the favor in your lifestyle. Notice the lack of attention you give yourself, while you glorify the attention you give others. Raise your level of self-awareness so that you can truly begin to deal with and heal from whatever is going on in your life.

You owe it to yourself to face your life head on, and you can start today. Start by forgiving anything you’ve done that may have hurt you. Start by flooding yourself with love and understanding for doing the best you could. Just start paying attention to all of the things you’re neglecting. Because nobody needs you more than you need you.


Mindfulness teacher, intuitive healer, energy worker, and wild woman living by the moon. These are my teachings, this is my journey.

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