I have always found it easy, maybe too easy to help others. Being the eldest sibling, the practical one amongst friends, the kind ear and shoulder to cry on has created a pattern of ‘caring for’ that can be relied upon.
Maybe you recognise this in yourself or it reminds you of a colleague, friend or family member…
What happens when this pattern hits hyper-drive?
A few years ago, my partner fell ill after our amazing trip to Kenya – all roads led to Malaria, so we thought. With his health deteriorating rapidly we headed to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London and after a few nail-biting hours, the best guess was Typhoid quickly followed by secondary Pneumonia and Shingles.
So, there I was in the groove of travelling to and from hospital every day then caring for him at home as he recovered over the following months not realising that my mind and body were being constantly triggered by all the distress, fear, anxiety and creating a new pattern of responsibility!
I was so focussed on the routine I had structured - cooking, cleaning, preparing medication, reading ‘Winnie the Pooh’ stories to help him sleep - I couldn’t stop even when he was able to look after himself more.
I didn’t trust what my eyes could see, everything inside was saying ‘no you have to be responsible for everything, do everything, make sure everything is alright’. Oh my! Was I exhausted?!
Physically, emotionally and mentally spent
I had nothing left to give and still I kept on – my new pattern of behaviour was already entrenched in who I was and what I did. I couldn’t transition out of this pattern of responsibility that had been triggered and it began to pervade my work too!
The state of depression crept up on me like river mist in the night – overwhelmed, deflated, anxious - I couldn’t find the joy in anything.
I knew I needed help and as many of you who have lived with depression know it is not always easy to voice this at your lowest times.
I remember describing what it felt like to a colleague & friend - “…I’m a duck stuck in the mud and the tide is a long way out…”
It was with a deep breath, a leap of faith and the support of my trusted friends & family I sought out the help I needed.
What worked for me
Through therapy and coaching I found my way out of the mud, able to swim again – a happier duck not so ‘stuck’ any longer.
- I refocussed on activities that
- I learnt to reset my boundaries and say 'no' so I can take care of me first
- Managing my worries – helped by serendipity when I rediscovered the worry dolls my Dad gave me years ago 😊
It's OK to not be OK sometimes
I am another year on and I don’t have this habit perfected by any means but what I have are practises and options to draw on when I notice those feelings of overwhelm building – with each experience my resilience builds.
If I take a moment, breathe and notice the little things in life – butterflies, trees, people smiling, music, macaroni cheese and so much more I will be …
A better coach, partner, friend, sister, daughter for it.
If my story resonates with you - I am happy to listen to your story too.
Reach out and share your story.