Epilepsy Blog Relay: Caregiver Fatigue

As seen in livingwellwithepilepsy.com

We all have someone who cares for us a great deal. For those of us with Epilepsy, or any chronic condition, there’s always a person or two who have extra responsibilities. Even if we are independent and can manage our epilepsy, there are those family and friends who look out for us daily and notice any changes. I certainly do this for my family and friends. Sometimes it is very tiring.

I never really thought much about the concept of caregiver fatigue until I became a therapist. I enjoy what I do and love caring for others. If I’m honest, though, it can be exhausting. For me, that took a long time to admit. In my caregiver role, I always want to seem strong in my mind, body, and emotions. That’s not realistic. We all have times where we’re strong and times when we need extra support. I was almost 2 years into my job before I finally could admit to myself that I wasn’t well. I gave so much of myself to everyone else (professionally and personally) and I was running on empty. I wanted to keep pushing through–I’m pretty stubborn like that. I was exhausted (more so than usual). I had no energy or desire to do anything other than lay on the couch or sleep. I cried a lot and my headaches increased. I knew I was neglecting myself but I felt extreme anxiety about taking any time away from the care I gave to others. Ultimately, my entire life suffered and I had to take a step back.

How I use self-care

For me, it meant giving myself permission to take Saturday mornings and watch a little more TV than normal. It meant extra long, hot showers to relax. I spent less time on social media and left my phone at home more often. I spent more time writing with a nice smelling candle right next to me. I started doing yoga and let myself be comfortable with letting a dish or two go unwashed for an evening. It took some support from others to get into a routine of relaxing…weird, right? I needed people reminding me to slow down. I learned that it is okay to take that step back. It doesn’t mean I care any less or I don’t have the same drive to help others. I wasn’t ignoring others and I wasn’t undermining anyone else’s needs. I was giving myself rest and using self-care, something caregivers don’t typically think about.

Signs of caregiver fatigue

Don’t be afraid to admit you have some caregiver fatigue. It just means you have to take some time for self-care. It will be okay. The world will not fall apart when you take a nap or spend a couple extra minutes in the shower.  As hard as it might be, loosen some of your control and delegate tasks to others. Ask someone else to fold the laundry and sweep the floor. Remember, there are people who want to support you! Make yourself aware of signs of caregiver fatigue and take a moment each day to notice what you’re feeling. Once you care for yourself, you are able to care more for others.

As seen in livingwellwithepilepsy.com

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