Taking Care of Yourself
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I have been struggling lately as the summer led to some physical manifestations of extreme stress. They are easing some, but I have more changes that need to be made. This means support systems bolstered and changed. Thank you, so much, to the people (friends and family from far and near) who stepped up to help when things were very critical, and whom I lean on far too often. I appreciate you mightily and am glad I have the chance to be supportive of you and yours in return.
Unfortunately, I also got some unsympathetic responses when I asked for specific help. This feedback speaks greatly to the need for support in the person’s saying it. We all need support and empathy and compassion, whether we’re in crisis or not. Whether we appear to have it all or not. These negative messages quietly tell us that we’re in this on our own and shouldn’t ask for help. That we’re selfish, and should be ashamed, if we take time for ourselves, if we need downtime. It’s pervasive, and comes from mass media, societal messaging, family, friends and ourselves. These were some of the responses:
Now You Know How I Felt
Our situations are not the same. Every situation is different with joys and troubles unique to it. This isn’t a competition. It’s not a challenge to see who had it worse. That you didn’t feel you had support doesn’t negate my need for it.
Everyone Suffers, Why Shouldn’t You?
Why are you willing to suffer? Why not try to build supports into your life so you’re not struggling? So you have down-time and so you have breaks and people to talk to? I do not accept that because you’re suffering that means I have to. Let’s help each other instead.
Why should you have a life? I don’t have one!
Because I only have this life and I will not spend it miserable. Why shouldn’t you have a life?! Why shouldn’t I?!
I realize this is mostly hyperbole as you certainly do have a life and make your own choices for how you want to spend it. I whole-heartedly reject the idea that I don’t deserve to have a life, to date, to have friends, to make the best of my life.
What am I showing my kids if I only work and look after them? I’m showing them that life is a grind and it doesn’t have to be. I keep mentioning this, but Sheridan summed it up one day doing the dishes: “Just because you can do something on your own doesn’t mean you want to."
Yes, I need a break. From them, from responsibility, from all sorts of things. Short breaks, long breaks. So do you. We need to start taking them without feeling we’re bad people for doing so.
No One Has What You’re Asking For
This is just heart-breaking. No one has people who say, hey, you’re doing this all on your own, let me take the kids for a weekend? No one? That’s horrifying. Give me your kids for a weekend, next month you take mine. We can make our own realities better by supporting each other.
You Think You Have It Bad, I....
Again, not a competition. If we are in a car wreck and you break your legs and your arms, and I only break my legs, your broken bones don’t mean my broken bones don’t need setting. Your injuries do not mean that mine will not need healing. And that we are both injured doesn’t mean we cannot support each other with kindness, understanding and compassion.
Why do you need support so much?
It’s a curious thing “so much”. I need more support now than I thought I would because I haven’t gotten it when I needed it, so now the need is far more critical. Part of that is on me. Part of that is circumstances. I need it now. Sounds like you do, too.
What Kind of Support?
More than anything, acknowledgement when I raise issues and challenges I’m trying to get past, work through or handle, instead of dismissing or downplaying them.
Next type of support? Listening without judgement. Just listen. Don’t try to solve it, just listen to the problems and commiserate. Have empathy. Then back to acknowledgement.
After all that, listen to what’s being asked. Is someone asking for time? For extra hands? For insight? See if you can help in the identified ways. DO NOT insist that the type of help required is something else. Don’t judge, don’t force, don’t insist and most of all don’t require that someone accept the help you want to give if it’s not the help s/he needs.
You Should Work Harder So You Have More Money
I don’t know how to respond to this calmly. It’s offensive and naïve to believe that me needing support is just a matter of me not working hard enough. Yes more money would make things easier because I could just throw money at problems instead of handling them myself, but it’s not money that’s the issue. It’s emotional support. It’s companionship and company and other adults engaging with my children, and it’s also having time alone to decompress once and a while.
Money helps, but it’s not the whole answer.
Can’t You Just Do It On Your Own?
No, I can’t, and neither can you. Neither do you. Neither do I. That I have some support doesn’t mean I have enough. That you don’t have enough doesn’t mean I don’t deserve enough. We both need to have support, and we can support each other.
Must Be Nice to Have Time to do Yoga, to Swim, to Knit, to Crochet, to See Friends
I do those things to stay healthy, and they still aren’t enough. I do them to reduce my stress, to try to stay on an even keel. Removing those to “work” will only reduce my ability to work effectively. If you’re not making time for those things, maybe you need support, too. We should work on that together.
Your Kids Aren’t Little Anymore.
You’re right, they aren’t little anymore. Their needs are more complex and the time I need to dedicate is both shorter and far more involved. I don’t have to bathe or feed them, but I do need to cook and help with homework and console and discuss and mediate, and that all takes time and emotional energy and thought. It takes compassion and empathy and those things need to be filled up regularly in me so I can share them with the kids and friends and family. It’s all interconnected. It always has been, and it hasn’t stopped being that way.
Why Aren’t Your Kids Helping More?
Because they are kids. Because they have a job to do: grow up and get educated. Because they do help, and them helping requires that I engage with them and teach them and train them and that takes time and energy on my part. Because they aren’t adults.
For the record: the kids handle the animals, the dishes, the laundry, the lawn, the recycling, the garbage, the vacuuming, the dusting and the snow shoveling. They walk back and forth to school on their own, they make their own lunches. They are currently 11 and 14, and frankly I think that’s just wonderful for where they are now in life. They can (and do) make their own breakfasts and can make a couple of meals with support.
Why Are You Helping Other People If You Need Help?
Because we’re all in this together. I have the means, sometimes, or sometimes the time. Other times I can trade this for that other thing. It’s not a one-way street, and if I’m asking for help, it comes with a guarantee that if you need help, I will be there for you.
Here Are All the Solutions You Should Do
I have thought this through, talked it out, worked through issues and tried multiple solutions. I am happy to listen to your ideas, but please understand that if I reject them, it’s not because I haven’t considered them. I have. For years. Some things don’t work in reality, even if they work in theory. I’m not offended to hear ideas. But I need you to trust that I have thought these things through ad nauseum, and when I ask for specific help, it’s because that’s the help I need, and if I have a reason for not doing something you suggest, it’s not just to refuse it, it’s because it doesn’t solve the problem at hand.
Why Can’t Your Ex Take the Kids?
Do me a favour and believe in your heart that this is not a good solution and that every effort on my part was made to attempt it. Yes, some fathers are dedicated and make things work so no one person is taking all the weight. But that takes two. It’s not my job to force him to accept that role even if it weren’t going to be damaging to my kids. It’s not my job to ensure he steps up. Again, if it were, that would be a considerable addition of cognitive overhead on my part, which only increases my need for support. Every situation is different.
Don’t You Get Child Support?
Ha, yes, yes, I do. And if you think child support represents an equal financial contribution to raising kids, you need to sit down and look at the numbers again. Hard. Child support represents maybe 1/4 of the monthly costs, so not only am I shouldering 100% of the parenting, decision-making, guidance and 97.9% of the time with them (66.7% when they are in school, 52% on Fridays when they are in school), I’m also shouldering 75% of the costs. It’s one type of support, and I’m glad I have it, but it’s not the whole answer. There are people who don’t get child support, and people who get much more. Every situation is different.
You want it all!
So should you.