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Learning To Take Care Of Oneself Vs Selfishness?

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A couple of years ago, a very good friend called and asked me some rather "uncoordinated" questions about me and my health. He is 10 years older and to my surprise had had a stroke. Now this friend of mine is very close. I met him in my late youth and we became fast friends. He is Swedish and a long story short, we worked together in his country for a couple of years. We know each other very well and he eventually introduced me to my wife. We were speaking Swedish and I didn't pick up the gist of what he was saying. He asked me when I think of my family whom do I put first. I answered, My wife and kids. He said "exactly". As we continued on he began urging me to put myself first as if I "fell down" who would take care of my family. What a concept I thought and tucked it away with other advice I have been given over the years and it was back to the usual.

Fast forward a couple of years, as primary care giver for my father, friend and best man at my wedding. 8.5 months of being on call, working from hospital lobbies, parking lots, airports on my way back home and just about anywhere else I could to be able to take care of my father. He dies, I am numb and the grief counselor I set up for my my mom calls me on my cell phone a couple of months later. "Are you taking care of yourself?" she asks. Trying to move out of this conversation as quickly as possible, I reply "I'm fine." Little do I know the meandering journey that is in store for me.

This last weekend, I am determined to get to know what I don't know about taking care of myself. Yes, I feel a bit guilty when I am not available for my wife or kids but there is somethng to what my Swedish friend and the grief counselor are trying to install in to my rather hard head. I am trying very hard to take care of myself. I have always gone to the gym but I think this means more(??). I took a nap this weekend, yea I know, but this was huge for me. I am trying to find other things that will connect me with the advice I received and now am beginning to act on. Anyone out there know ow to balance taking care of onself and selfishness?

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In addition to taking care of yourself physically, there is also the psychological dimension. You may treat your body as if it were a temple, but the belfry needs a good sweeping out, too.

If you do not attend to the interior life in these times of grief, you may not find yourself being very useful to your family. Family should be a priority, too, but in order to properly care for them, you have to be physically and mentally capable.

Selfishness means focusing on you and taking things for yourself without any regard for others, putting yourself first ahead of others. "Taking care of yourself" may look similar, but it is done with the idea of being made more useful to others.

I am a recovered alcoholic, do AA when I need to. In AA there is a saying that "you have to be selfish before you can be selfless". This means that you're not gonna be too terribly useful in helping other people unless you've gotten your own house in order.

You've been rocked by major losses, that means that there is a lot of healing in the noggin' that needs to be done. Unless that is taken care of, you may have problems down the road in coping.

Napping is good. It is one of my favorite things, and I do it rather well.I'm proud of my napping skills. But there are other ways to attend to your interior life. You need to dwell on 'working on yourself', and this means that in addition to physically working out, some attention need be made to what goes on inside. Pray, meditate. Don't worry about proper ways of doing it, just sit quietly still and listen to the voice within. Prayer is simply talking to God (the God of your understanding, whatever your religious/spirituual beliefs are)It takes time to develop this, but it is a major step in being useful to others if you are comfortable with being with yourself. If being by yourself and getting in touch with the voice within gives you the heebie-jeebies, then that is a telling sign were work needs to be done. Be alone, go for walks, let the mind wander.

There's a whole buncha things, but that's my take on your topic.

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I agree 100% with what Paul wrote. Since my Dad died two months ago a lot of people have kept telling me that I have to be there for my Mom but none told me that I have to also be there for me. Of course I'm trying to do what I can for my Mom but I understand that if I don't feel well I can't shove my pain away, even it means not being there at all times. In my Dad's last letter to me he wrote that I have to be strong for Mom. What about me? It does sound selfish but until you know you have a grip on things mentally you're not helping anyone by ignoring your feelings. I found myself resenting everyone who seemed to forget that I'm hurting too. People apparently believe that there are all sorts of things you should do but on the flip side don't understand that it takes time and a person has to cope individually before they can fully be "there" for others. Here I am rambling again but Paul is right to say that being selfish and selfless are two very different things.

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When people are clueless, and 'just don't get it', my prepared responses are: "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "Thanks, I'll think about it." These mean different things, depending on the person I'm speaking to and how much I respect them (a short list, that one).

The first acknowledges a difference of opinion, but automatically states that I'm not going to agree with it anyway, so let's not continue this, and extends an apology for my attitude. It deflates the issue, and what really can the other person do? You've already apologized, seem firm in your conviction, and works well if you start to make like a tree and leave.

The second is even better. Unlike the first, which actually may invite further conversation to the clue-challenged, it acknowledges a value to what the other proposed. The other needn't know that said value is rather low. It gives them a happy feeling that they actually have contributed to your griefwork, and they may leave you alone. You still may have to edge slowly away for greater effectiveness.

Hope this helps. :)

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As usual, Paul is full of good and sound advice! Not much I can add to what he said. And, Paul, your two responses are great! They will now be firmly planted in my mind when talking to idiots! Charlie and Kathy, boy can I relate to the "selfish" feeling. When my dad died, my mom became very confused and helpless and I have been taking care of her ever since (a year and three months). I still have a hard time doing anything for myself without feeling guilty. Everything you read says you have to, so that you won't burn out and be of no use to anyone, but it is hard to do! I feel like the juggler who, if he drops a ball, will have the whole thing fall apart. It is exhausting, but I do remind myself sternly that I DO need that nap (a big deal for me too, Charlie) or to piddle around in the garden or read a book.

And Kathy, I SO understand how you feel. I am constantly asked "How is your mom doing?" and I just once would like to hear "How are you doing?" Not to take anything away from my mom, but it was my father that died too, not just her husband. But people act like that's nothing. That is why I am so glad I found this site. I can talk about how I feel and know that people care about ME. If that's selfish, then I'm sorry, but I am trying to cope with everything at once and need a little TLC too. I love my mom more than anyone on earth and am so glad I can be here for her, but I also feel alone and scared, like all the responsibility is on my shoulders and what if I get sick and can't be there. That is one thing I think of that spurs me into "taking care of myself".

Everyone hang in there and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES!!!!!


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