When you look at your loved one and wish that you could share – and sometimes take away – the intense pain that they’re feeling, you have officially arrived at the title of caregiver. The good news is that in order to receive this title, you have to know what love feels like. After all, the capacity for caring is born from love.
Let’s not confuse caregiving with codependency. While they may feel similar, they vastly differ in the way your nervous system processes your experiences.
Caregiving is the capacity and act of loving both yourself and the person you’re caring for while codependency is about giving or doing for someone else out of a desperation to feel safe.
In a codependent relationship, your individuality disappears, and only the needs of the other person remain. It is important to distinguish that in caregiving, you must pay attention to how you are feeling at all times so that you may retain the energy required to care for your loved one. Codependency is draining because in codependency, you no longer matter. Because of this, your exhaustion is constant. Codependency is riddled with fear; caregiving is laced with love.
Now, with radical empathy for yourself, take a look inward. Are you a caregiver or has your life focus become all about the person you are caring for? Can you still feel your own needs? Or are you focused on another person to such a degree that you live in anxiety when they do?
Caregiving is at its best when you’re in touch with how you feel and you’ve fully honored your full range of emotions, from spilled milk 😭to milkshakes 😍. Radical empathy is the capacity to love your badass self in your entirety. All of you.
For most people, caregiving is a process. Like any process, it may take time. If it feels uncomfortable or draining, it’s likely because you haven’t yet learned how to take care of yourself first. Caregiving requires a walk of self-forgiveness and love. We all have the capacity to care for ourselves and for others. It’s intrinsic. When you are truly caregiving, you may surprise yourself with your capacity to rise in any occasion. As you rise in these occasions and continuously show up for your loved one, it is crucial that you show up for yourself first.
Trauma can sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention to yourself. Practice one act of kindness toward yourself consistently every day for at least one week and check in to see how much better you feel and how much you can sparkle.