The Importance of Self-Care: A Busy Military Spouse Shares Her Story
By Guest Blogger Crystal Wilson, Project Sanctuary Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
In my everyday life, I am a wife, mom, military caregiver, dog handler, Cetertified Therapeutic Recreational Therapist (CTRS), Personal Trainer, business owner, athlete, sister, daughter, friend, advocate, homeowner, and oh yeah, Crystal Wilson. For so long, the last part was defined by everything else that came before it. For so long, my own needs came after all of my other duties and responsibilities. I rarely took the time to sit for five minutes by myself because someone else could always need something more.
When my husband and I started dating, I gave him 110% of myself, because I got tired of him living on the sidelines of his own life. I got tired of him getting less than appropriate care and hearing people tell him what he couldn’t do because of his combat-related spinal cord injury. I vowed to help him advocate for what he really needed and show the world what he actually could do, and what we could do together. This was an incredible journey, but very quickly I became an afterthought and forgotten participant in my own life.
Within our first year of marriage, we also bought our first house and had our son. This meant adding more and more responsibilities, roles, obligations, appointments, longer days, and even more sleepless nights. I never complained about any of this, nor am I now. I knew I was signing up for a lifelong marriage where I would have to do most of the heavy lifting, and a relationship with my son that would be one of the greatest and hardest things I have ever done. However, around eight months into my new role as “Mom,” I was drowning. I was drowning in exhaustion and felt like I didn’t matter in my own life, let alone anyone else’s. I had worn myself down. I had allowed myself, and therefore everyone else, to put me in the background. I had allowed my husband’s combat injuries, our new son, and every other role I filled to become a priority over taking care of myself AT ALL.
Just because I recognized what was going on doesn’t mean I did anything about it. I continued to suffer in silence and slowly sink even further for another month. At that point, I hit my breaking point. I became seriously ill and was unable to take care of most of my responsibilities for about a week. That breaking point became a realization not just for myself, but for my husband as well, that because of the chaos and business of our lives I had failed to take care of myself. By not taking care of myself, I was letting down everyone else who needed me and everyone that I was responsible for helping. By always prioritizing what others could need, I was ignoring what I actually needed.
After this final breakdown, both my husband and I realized the importance of my own self-care. If I wanted to continue being able to effectively fill the roles I had chosen, I needed to also take care of myself. This is still something I struggle with and something I have to actively work on. But I now know firsthand what can happen if I don’t take a little time here and there for myself.
Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant girl’s weekends (though those are pretty amazing if you can swing it!), it can be as simple as getting up 15 minutes earlier to read in silence and have an actual hot cup of coffee! The key to effective self-care: make it something you truly enjoy and benefit from. Recharge your own battery, because that old saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. Remember that the time you spend taking care of yourself is what allows you to take care of others; you ARE worth it!
Beginning the journey to self-care can seem daunting. Here are some resources to help:
- 21 Days to Master Extreme Self-Care and The Art of Extreme Self-Care, both by Cheryl Richardson
- The Self-Care Solution, by Julie Burton (this book is great for mothers!)
- The Caregivers Companion, this free, PDF guidebook was created by Dr. Wayne Jonas who in addition to being a retired Lt. Col from the US Army Medical Corps, has extensive experience in the fields of healing processes for pain, stress and resilience.