Brown Girls are born into the world expected to give care. In some cases we are taught to mother before we are ever mothered ourselves.
Sometimes we mother ourselves.
Strong Brown Girls are seen as warriors before they are seen as human, before we walk or talk, we are fierce, pretty things. We are pushed to survive and expected to endure. We are raised to care more about the needs of the many over our own.
So I come today with a word about caregiving. About depletion, about expecting too much and not getting enough.
Caregiving in the United States
- Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.
- About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
- The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults.
- Approximately 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness or 16.6% of Americans.
- About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
[National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2015) |Coughlin, J (2010) | Alzheimer’s Association (2015)]
Whether you are a parent caring for children or a child caring for a parent, grandparent, aunty or uncle, if you are living in a multi generational household, if your partner or other loved one is differently abled and you are the person, their person…this is for you.
Studies show that ethnic minority caregivers provide more care than their White counterparts and report worse physical health than White caregivers (McCann et al, 2000)
For “ethnic minorities” in the United States, our access to mental health services and support is extremely limited, if at all, affordable. It is imperative for us to seek help and support often and to remind ourselves over and over that…
#1 – YOU ARE ENOUGH – say this while taking a selfie and sipping some tea. You are enough – say it while running your millionth errand and responding to your millionth phone call, that will surely be sending you on the next errand. Repeat it over and over in the parking lot, with your head bowed on the steering wheel, like in prayer or meditation. Repeat after me…. I. Am. Enough. Keep going until you feel it. Just be careful not to fall asleep, there’s more to do. Always a seemingly endless lists of things to do…
#2 – YES, CAN YOU – whatever it is, however impossible, if it’s critical enough, you can and you will. That’s because without you realizing it people manage to love you back in spectacular ways that almost restore your faith in humanity. Faith in myself, however, is the most difficult thing. I just honestly don’t give myself any grace. When people drop out of my life, I’m never surprised, my life is overwhelming and messy. I get why people can’t. Rejection is a normal thing for me. For this reason, faith in myself is difficult, at least until I see myself in hindsight. Then I can see how far I’ve come. If you are this far into our talk, practice this for yourself. See yourself in hindsight surviving, thriving, being. See where you’ve come from and see yourself now, existing… cos you are here and that’s enough. (When you forget, see #1.)
#3 – HELP ME – practice saying this in the car, by yourself, with the radio turned all the way up, cos it’s uncomfortable AF and it takes some time getting used to. God forbid anyone hears you. Asking for what we need is a process, but practice makes perfect. When it finally feels comfortable coming out of your mouth, you can practice saying it to people you trust. If you are met with opposition or shamed for needing, see #1 and eject that person from your life immediately. No one needs that kind of negativity. You deserve support and help from your village. You deserve support from outside your village too. Get as much assistance with your life as you can!
#5 – NO. – Just say, “No.” and see #1. Whether or not you have the energy to provide some follow-up depends on you and the person you’re saying it to. If the relationship in important and the bond is true this will be easy. If not, this may be a challenge but you are under no obligation to explain your life to people who play no significant role in sustaining you.
SEE NUMBER ONE…
#6 – I MATTER – Say this because loving our people comes easy but, loving ourselves is hard and you matter. Your health matters, your pain matters, your grief matters. Acknowledging that doesn’t make you selfish. Recognizing your needs is a critical part of your caregiving duties. It is the most difficult part for me, if I am being honest. If you are the designated person, a breakdown of you is a breakdown of the village. With self-care comes acceptance that we are in fact enough in this world.
Caregivers, make caregetting a priority.
CAREGIVERS: MAKE. CARE. GETTING. A. PRIORITY.
If you need support, you can start here.
Family Caregiver Alliance
American Psychology Association – Advocacy for Caregivers
APA – Caregiving Resources
If all else fails, see number one!