It's okay to ask for help as a caregiver

By Kristi Jacobsen
A mother and son are standing in front of the ocean for a selfie. The son has green googles on the top of his head, his mom has a white straw hat and is smiling. They both are smiling

This guest blog is from Kristi Jacobsen. Kristi is a mother of 3. Her 27 year old son Jonathan, has autism . She worked as a behavior analyst for the past 13 years supporting students with a wide range of behaviors and abilities. Kristi started her blog with a mission and passion to help others on their journey.

Life can be very demanding. Demanding of your time, your energy, your efforts and sometimes even your sanity. Add caring for a loved one in any capacity from autism to Alzheimer’s, and the demands increase. When we look in the mirror, does the possibility of self care even exist or is the image so fogged over from the daily demands that it’s no longer visible? Even if we happen to catch a glimpse, at what point do we allow self care to take precedence over everything else we see?

I’ve been a self-care saboteur on countless occasions. Let’s face it― there’s always something else we could or should be doing. Most of us count ourselves lucky if we get a shower in or sit down eating a meal. It’s a slice of heaven if we go to the salon to get our haircut or to the grocery store solo!  Our world of self care― that’s what we tell ourselves. It would be so selfish to put ourselves first before the wants and needs of others, right? But where does that leave us? Exhausted, resentful, often overwhelmed as well as emotionally and physically drained. Would you want someone like that caring for you? It took a long time before I recognized myself in that mirror. The reality was I had become very adept at caring for everyone with the exception of myself. The second reality― I was a novice to self care and I needed help.

Ah, the sister of self care: asking for help. At times it’s the evil twin. Caregivers don’t need help, we’ve got this, besides it’s easier just to do it ourselves. Yes, it may be true sometimes, but the less often we ask for help, the bigger the divide in our own self care. I’ve been a frequent offender for years, til I found help that opened up a world I thought only existed for others. Those who didn’t walk the path of a caregiver of a son with autism. Those who lived a privileged life. One radically different from my own. 

Turns out, radical was exactly what I needed. Her name is Jill Seebantz, Radical Wellness and Mindset Coach. I happened to be watching a podcast and there she was talking like she’d known me and my life for years. At the end, she offered a free 30-minute consultation and though completely out of character for me, I signed up. It was the first step forwards taking self care seriously and asking for help. I felt a sense of relief mixed with empowerment at putting myself first.

That 30-minute phone call (which, if I recall, went over 45 minutes) was a liberating experience and I knew I was ready to start down a new path. One of self-discovery and self care. Empowerment, support, guidance, accountability, and confidence to blaze my own trail, letting go of experiences that have hindered some of my own self growth. Recognizing that by doing for myself what I want or need is exactly what enhances my ability to be the caregiver my son needs, as well as my family. It is not selfish or self serving, it is self preserving and self loving. 

Putting yourself first, while a foreign concept for many caregivers, is how we stay caring givers. It is my hope that if you see your own reflection in this post, you’ll take a long look in that mirror. You need to take care of yourself, wherever and whenever you can. Even if it’s for a few minutes. So make time for yourself, in fact, demand it. Take the plunge and ask for help. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Once you catch a glimpse of how self care in any capacity can enhance your overall outlook and well being, you’ll no longer overlook yourself or settle for less than the image you desire.

You don’t need permission for your own self care. Instead accept nothing less than a mirror image of the care you steadfastly give to others.

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