Self Love Required – Being a Caregiver over Christmas

Old age and illness don’t take time off, even during the holidays and being of service to someone during this ‘somewhat’ overwhelming time can play havoc on our personal space by invading our emotional capacities. 

As my Christmas placement approached I felt like I was experiencing the spiral quality of events – a birds-eye view of my initial footprint, lessons that still need to be learnt and an opportunity to see what I couldn’t see before – in my case, it was all about revisiting the concept of self-love.

Not only are we away from our loved ones but we have to find pleasure in the happiness of others, remain discreetly in the background and offer support to those in our care when family dynamics entice combative behaviour.

Of course, there is also the portrayal of the ideal family unit during the Christmas period – expectations that are sugar-coated and consequently impossible to meet and the staggering bout of depression that follows when your current experience falls short of the picture-perfect family gathering shared by your friends on social media…

As Christmas approached and family started arriving I soon realized that I was looking outside myself for fulfilment and happiness. When we look to external conditions for self-definition and self-worth we are giving our power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. 

I couldn’t find comfort in blending in with the family and started to feel like an outsider – my external environment had failed me.

I validated myself by comparing my situation to others which had empowered the illusion of separation and made me feel that I was not good enough. Toxic shame was the enemy and the only way to defeat that was to love me. I had made a conscious choice to work over the Christmas period and despite the resentment of that decision, I needed to take control and not let what was happening around me, get inside and weigh me down.

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets inside them. 

It was time to upgrade to a Christmas with NO EXPECTATIONS and remember that happiness is an INSIDE JOB! I had to get out of my own way and focus on the positive reasons behind giving up family time – to switch from feelings of guilt to an attitude of gratitude.

I personally made a list of all the people and circumstances that would benefit from my relinquishment of family time and soon realized that I wasn’t missing out at all – the people I love are the best gifts I could ever ask for and their happiness would be the meaningful motivations that would sustain me through this holiday period.

And so, I decided to acknowledge the things I can control. When I start to feel discouraged, I remind myself that everything I do matters and began to celebrate the small victories. It was that first glass of wine that broke the cycle for me – when I moved from employee to guest and gave myself the status that I was worthy of celebrating the day just like everyone else was doing…

I learnt to applaud my own efforts – combining pleasure with work and offering a safe space for my client away from the ‘madding relatives’, exhausting conversations and strained attentiveness.

This Christmas has provided me with an opportunity to revisit an unresolved issue – that of always putting others first, placing little value on my own needs and discovering that there is tremendous gratification in feeling worthy of satisfying my own desires. I had the most beautiful day as soon as I dropped all defences and have continued to take care of me first…

“How you treat yourself is how you treat God, ‘cause you are the representation of God in your life. So when you are putting yourself last, you are putting God last” Iyanla Vanzan