Burnout · caregiving · Nursing · Self-care

The Warrior Within….

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It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, but for good reason. My beautiful mom was here for a week-long visit and in finding the balance of my daily responsibilities to others and myself, the rest of my time was prioritized as being truly present with and for her. My mom is young, all of 63, but having already lost one parent, I really cherish and am so grateful for the time I have with her.

As one ages, the parent-child relationship evolves. One sees their parent for the person they are and at some point makes a conscious choice whether or not to have a meaningful relationship outside of the parent-child bond. My relationship with my mother is this….I love my mom as who she is, but there are times that I miss the mother that raised me. This dynamic has taught me a lot about my own evolution, this journey to radical self-care and loving who I am. I have found that this in turn allows me to love her more fully.

To elaborate, the untimely death of my father was a moment that really created a fracture in our family history. There was our family before my dad became ill and our family after he passed.  He was diagnosed and passed within such a short amount of time that when combined with our young ages we were truly traumatized by his death. My mother was 36 when she became a widow and had 4 children to raise. She and my dad worked very hard to break the cycle of addiction in our family and be the mother she felt she should have had. She endured an upbringing of abuse and addiction which created wounds in her that affect not only her interactions and relationships, but her behaviors. My father was that pure miracle placed in her life who loved her for exactly who she is….faults, traumas and all.

While I was growing up, my mother was somewhat of a wonder woman. Birthing and raising babies, teaching aerobics, sewing our clothes, cooking dinner, gardening, canning vegetables, volunteering and doing it all with a beautiful smile and rare complaints. She went back to school when I was 14 and received her nursing degree. She was truly a warrior, a bad ass if you will. After my dad’s passing, I saw a very different side to my mom. A side that was broken and fragile and lacked confidence.  I was angry with my mom and couldn’t reconcile this shift in her behavior and presence. After too many years of this attitude, I had come to a realization the moment I turned 36. This was the age she was when she was widowed. How terrified and completely devastated she must have felt. I could barely take care of myself at this point much less 4 children. I decided in that moment to let the anger go and allow for pure gratitude of heart to take over and guide my relationship with her. In this reconciliation, I learned how truly dysfunctional her childhood was and to say that she was able to accomplish motherhood in general is phenomenal. I was truly blessed in receiving my parents best selves and I did everything I could to unravel their dedication and hard work of guiding me into adulthood. I became an addict, I allowed my trauma to dictate my desires and I settled for behaviors and treatment by others that did not contribute to the health of my soul. My journey to learning self-care and the honoring of my spirit was ignited by my gratitude for her warrior within that created that stable and loving  environment I experienced growing up.

As my Mom and I spent the week together, I observed her fragility and woundedness and wondered if she would/could truly heal. About 2 days prior to her leaving, she said that she was going to take my yoga sculpt class. While I encouraged her, I was more than nervous for her to take this on in an effort to support me. These yoga sculpt classes are intense, fun, but intense. Lots of heat, humidity, bodies moving, high tempo music and muscle work within the flow of yoga. I prepared her for class and disconnected from whatever outcome was about to take place. Would she get overheated? Become discouraged? Leave class? Feel failure within herself? As I taught class and our eyes would connect, I saw her warrior within. She was there, in that instant, in that studio on her mat, sweating, but hitting every posture and smiling. In this moment I realized her sense of self lies within her children, her place as a mother and caregiver. I was proud to see that side of her rise to the surface. How I wish she could transition to develop this warrior for her self.

As caregivers, we go to endless lengths for our patients, students, family members and children, but we end up last on the list. Why is self-care such a difficult concept to grasp and then adopt? Why do we sacrifice the care of self and soul to all of those around us expecting that this selflessness will provide the passion we need to sustain the practice of being happy? There were so many days as a nurse that I would hit the floor running at 6:30 am and not even have a sip of water or use the bathroom until 5:30 pm. This pattern of putting everyone’s needs before my own lead to my own burnout which I ultimately realized is disconnect. The disconnect between your sense of self and your purpose is what buries the warrior within. Fortunately, I have found the ability to call upon my warrior within for myself. I do recognize that there are days when I get caught up in caring for others, but it’s a process, a true practice. My practice includes yoga, meditation, exercise, sleep and self-reflection and everyone’s “practice” is different, but it needs to be cultivated and protected fiercely. Your only daily responsibility is to connect to yourself. Create the time and space to do so and the warrior within, even if dormant, will rise again and allow for the best you to come forth and eventually, with time and love these positive shifts will allow your purpose to be discovered or rediscovered with happiness as the result. 

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