Caregiver Abby Maslin laughs about how hard it was to take the advice to find time to care for herself after her husband's brain injuury but over time, she realized it was crucial for the whole family.
I think the most annoying piece of advice that I got during the beginning of TC's recovery was "Don't forget to take care of yourself..." because that's just not going to happen. There was nobody in the world who was going to convince me that I should not be at that hospital every single day for TC or spend the night for the first week or two. There was nobody who could have convinced me, at that point, that I needed to go home and rest, take a shower and exercise. It just wasn't going to happen.
I think that taking care of yourself is important, but you have to be in the right mental space to let that advice kind of sink in. For me, that advice didn't sink in until my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about four months after TC was injured. It was then that I realized, "Oh my gosh, this is it. I am it. I am the one who is conducting this train. If I'm not in good shape and I'm not taking care of myself, then this whole thing is going to fall apart. At that point I did get serious about self-care: I started reprioritizing exercise and sleep.
Two years into TC's recovery, I went back to work. I had to keep self-care in mind because as a teacher I work a lot of hours and it's easy to get carried away with work. I had to lay down the law for myself: seven hours of sleep, no less and five days a week of exercise. That was as big a priority as anything else because if you cannot get up and be actively prepared for the challenges of each day, then you're not going to make it.
I think taking care of yourself is essential, but I also can sympathize with caregivers who kind of scoff at that advice. It's just really not feasible every day and it's not possible in every phase of brain injury recovery.