Life begins at.....


When I turned 50 I felt it was a new beginning, a time to look forward, to embrace my new life.

I was back at work, dipping my toe in online dating and busy with multiple writing and speaking engagements.

I was creating a new life, meeting new friends, carving out a new path....but things didn't feel right.

It took me to the point where I was at burnout to realise that in order to face and embrace the future I had to take care of the past.

I had spent many years caring, worrying about others, dealing with the multitude of curveballs, and challenges that life had put my way that I had lost sight of exactly who I was.

And now here I was, trying to navigate this new life without really knowing what I wanted from that life, not really know who I was anymore.

Two years later I feel like it's all a lot more clear, I just needed to give myself time. In order to move forward I needed to understand what had brought me to this point, and I realised that I'd really not done that properly...

In all the years of caring, of thinking about everyone else and their needs, I'd forgotten about myself.  So when I had the chance to think about my future and what I wanted from it, I found I couldn't.  Because I hadn't really had that luxury....the time and space to think about who I was and what I wanted from this next chapter in my life.

We're brought up to believe that being selfish is a bad thing, but perhaps, as carers, we need to be a little selfish occasionally in order to not forget who we are.  Caring can become so all-consuming that we lose sight of ourselves....our identity becomes wrapped up in what we do and it's really easy to just lose ourselves in all the constant plate-spinning and tail-chasing.

I needed to unpick all the layers to remind myself of who I was, before I was a wife, a mother, a carer, an advocate..and then I needed to understand how all of those life experiences had shaped and moulded me so that I could start, at last, to think about what I wanted for myself.

I often get invited to speak about the role of carers and someone always asks me what advice I would give to carers based on my own personal experience.  It's always the same; "don't lose sight of yourself". I don't have all the answers for how you do that, hell I'm just marking two years of intensive therapy just to be able to think about what I want for the next stage of my life. But find a way to be a little more selfish, to reflect on your own needs. Write, paint, talk...find a way to celebrate yourself and remind yourself that all the time you are advocating for your child or loved one, reminding professionals to see the person not the disease, it's important to give yourself the same advice...see the person you are, who you were and who you will be.

Turning 50 was a transition for me, I entered that new decade thinking that I would be able to flick a switch and begin to move forward, but it's only now, two years in I am starting to feel comfortable in doing that.  I no longer feel that I'm flailing around in the ocean, looking for land, I know where I am now and who I am and where I want to go.  Most of all I've been kind to myself and given myself time to reflect in order to begin to look forward.

I can't go back in time and remind myself not to lose sight of myself, but I can use this blog to remind other carers to do so.

In the midst of all of your caring and giving of yourself, don't lose yourself, you still have hopes and dreams and you are you....please don't ever forget that.