What is Self-care?

My house is falling apart. I don’t mean figuratively. My house is literally falling apart. It started last month with the water heater. Annoying but a typical home repair issue. But it took a month to get it fixed. The day it got done…and I mean THE DAY…one of my garage door openers stopped working. It’s still broken. Since then, the water pressure in my kitchen sink has slowed to a crawl.  There’s a leak in the drain of the upstairs bathroom sink AND that faucet sprays water everywhere. The A/C condensate pump is making a loud noise (just got that replaced last year). And there’s a broken window on the back porch.

Oh and did I tell you I have 15 or so relatives coming for the July 4th weekend?

Now I didn’t explain this looking for a pity party…though if you’re hosting I like Merlots and dark chocolate! But in the world of parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, we’d call this Tuesday. It’s Spring Break right now so maybe there might be the idea that things are calmer but the morning may have started with the raging because you picked blue socks for them to wear instead of yellow. Or the plan for the day is a trip to the zoo instead of the pool. Or that camp they were begging all year to go to they now refuse to attend. Or it’s yet another battle over taking medication. It could be something very minor to you but it has become a catastrophe to them.

If you manage to handle that crisis, your day has just gotten started. Maybe you have a 9-5 job to get to. Already stressed and frazzled, you have to pretend to waltz in like you got a full night’s sleep, woke to birds singing and a calm quiet cup of coffee while you leisurely read the morning paper before you got ready and came on into work, ready to hit the ground running. 

Maybe you are at home with your littles (which we all know does NOT mean you don’t work!) and you’re trying to do some housework while they play outside until you hear the screaming. Which is about five minutes in. You rush outside, mediate whatever issue has arisen and go back to your chores. Lather, rinse repeat. Every five minutes for an hour until you realize this is accomplishing nothing and you surrender and get ready to head to the zoo.

Now an outing with a RAD kiddo can be like trying to nail jello to a tree. Their impulsive nature and fearlessness will always lead them to wander off or try things that scare you. It’s hard to remember in those moments that it’s not them really; it’s how RAD has them wired. You run after them and shout cautionary demands all day until you can’t put together a coherent sentence. 

Back home, you may or may not attempt a family dinner after this kind of a day. Bless your heart if you do. Because you still have bedtime to get through. and RAD kiddos are not sleepers. If you get them down without a double digit number of attempts, take the win. 

So with a day like this, where yesterday looked pretty much the same and tomorrow is likely to be a repeat, what can you possibly do for self-care? How can you keep your head above water, your sanity intact, your willingness to get up tomorrow and do it all over again preserved, when every day is chaos and stress?

Well, in my case, I painted. Not pictures, I’m about as creative as a rock. But I have wanted to finish painting my stairs and upstairs hallway and landing which I started two years ago and yesterday I got on it. I don’t know how to fix an A/C unit or a garage door or a leaky sink. And I don’t have the money to do all of it at once anyway. But I had the paint and the time so I painted. And the satisfaction of seeing some progress on that project that I’d put off for so long felt so good. Seeing that one spot of my house looking complete and pretty helped me feel calm and relaxed for just a little while.

So here are my tips for self-care, not big grandiose ideas like massages and manicures (though definitely do those things every chance you get) but little ideas for self-preservation:

  • Do a thing, anything. Wash a dish; even one. Put away one piece of clean clothing.
  • Do another thing, anything. Wash a second dish. Hang up a jacket. Fold a towel.
  • Breathe. Inhale for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Do it as many times as you can until the screaming starts again.
  • If your children are old enough, go in your room and lock the door. Lie down on your bed. Laugh. Cry. Scream into a pillow. But have some kind of large loud emotional response to your day for two minutes.
  • Keep a joke book in your purse. Bad jokes. When things with the kids are getting tense pull it out and read some. People cannot be angry with each other when they are laughing together. DO NOT use your phone for this purpose.
  • At the end of the day, write down (or if you’re not a journaling-type), think about 3-5 things you are grateful for.

We deserve combat pay. I firmly believe that. We have the invisible-and some visible-scars to prove it. But we persevere because of our intense love of these also deeply scarred sweet children of ours. We cannot protect them without protecting ourselves.

Until next time,

Shannon

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