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It Was Never a Dress

Most of us have taken on the role of caregiver at some point in our lives–some more, some less. Whether by choice, career path, or life circumstances, we end up taking care of others in some capacity or another.

I’m wired to care for people. In the earlier years, I was labeled as codependent (I don’t feel like getting into that right now, but I encourage you to look up the term!!!) in that I got a lot of my self-worth and confidence from caring for others. You can imagine that if my self worth was based on the health of someone else, that my own sense of self would be a little…shaky. If you find yourself being a little needy for approval, then I encourage you to examine the whys; nobody’s self worth should be dependent on anyone else. But for caregivers in general, here are some guidelines that I follow:

BOUNDARIES. Establish boundaries. Put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else otherwise you will seriously die. No, seriously. You’ll get some weird virus in your heart, or an autoimmune disorder like psoriasis and it’ll get infected and you’ll be so the fuck worn out that your body will just be like, I’m done.


DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. As soon as you bring it into your own mind and body then it sets up camp there and then all of a sudden you’re sick too. This isn’t a free pass to be a cold bitch, but simply a warning to stay as emotionally healthy and mature as possible and if you need help, then go get it. Which brings me to…

DON’T TRY AND BE A HERO. You’re already a hero because you’re there. It’s not your responsibility to save anyone. You’re only responsible for yourself, and if you feel like your own self needs help, then go get it.


BE HUMAN. At your healthiest self, you’re going to sound like a therapist to the person you’re helping and it gets a bit nauseating. Feel free to throw a fit, eat 4L of ice cream, take your clothes off in public, kick a jogging stroller, chain smoke a pack of cigs and puke into the dead planter on your balcony. And then get up, brush yourself off, pop a piece of gum and get back into the game.


I think that’s it. I’m no pro; I can only speak from my own experience.

Do you guys have anything to add? Tell me your story. Are you a caregiver? How? Are you on the receiving end? How does this post make you feel? What can you add to it?



{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Sheila August 9, 2016, 4:21 pm

    Thank you!!!! This post is truer than true! Lives have issues – and I won’t even start listing issues since that list is a bottomless pit. The glory in all of those issues is….lives have choices!!! This thought is refreshing to me. I am loving that quote and there certainly are not many quotes I love! I do what I have to do to function and re-function and some of it is not pretty but it gets me to where I need to go. So far all we know is we have one chance at life and we better take care of all our parts – emotionally, physically, spiritually and cognitively. And yes to caregiver….distorted reality 7.5 hours of my work day but all is well. That is why I have a puppy.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 9, 2016, 5:01 pm

      Sheila, you know what stood out to me the most in your comment? Your use of the term “re-function.” I haven’t heard that term before but I really like it because it implies a fresh start, which is what we ALL need. Nobody gets a free pass and from time to time we all end up NOT FUNCTIONING. So, yeah. If you can see a re-function button, can you press it for me? Push hard. Thanks. xo

  • Helly August 9, 2016, 4:21 pm

    My mom is a caregiver. She is such an amazing person. It’s like she was put on earth to take care of people–she loves it and everyone loves her. At first, it was with my dad and his alcoholic and drug dependencies, but then she made it her life when she finally left him and worked for the Red Cross transporting patients with disabilities. Now she takes care of a disabled woman at in-home care. She has such patience and finds happiness in others’ happiness. I look up to her so much and definitely think she’s superwoman.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 9, 2016, 4:58 pm

      Your mama is a special lady with boundaries on point. What strength and grace she has. I wish I could meet her.

  • Megan @ Meg Go Run August 9, 2016, 5:56 pm

    I have cared for Paul through some horrible shit but luckily I think that is all behind us for now! He would do the same for me. 🙂

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 9, 2016, 6:49 pm

      <3 Happy Anniversary you two. <3

  • Lisa @ Running Out of Wine August 10, 2016, 2:10 am

    I feel like I have been drawn to taking care of others although I haven’t had to really do it in my personal life all that much. But I’ve been in a caretaker role at a few different jobs and it was difficult to maintain the personal boundaries because it’s so easy to grow attached to the people you are taking care of. One of the hardest things for me throughout my career has been learning to respect those boundaries. I think it would be even more difficult to have boundaries with family/friends we are taking care of.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 10, 2016, 7:59 am

      YES! SO HARD. I can imagine that you’d have a difficult time not taking your emotional work home with you once your shift was over. You’d have to work really hard at disciplining your emotions, I guess, so that they don’t drive you to overwork, or affect your down time too much.

  • Susie @ Suzlyfe August 10, 2016, 4:04 am

    I want to badly to give care to others because I feel like they have done an incredible job of taking care of me, but I’m also horribly selfish (but it is their fault for making me this way ;D). But seriously.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 10, 2016, 7:57 am

      Selfish people aren’t self aware enough to admit they’re selfish so I’m thinking you’re probably A-okay on that front. And my experience with you is the complete opposite. You always make time to help ME, anyway. And I really needed and appreciated it.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes August 10, 2016, 5:43 am

    Being a caregiver doesn’t come naturally to me. I worry often about if I’ll be a good mother because Ryan and I are both independent, self-sufficient types that I won’t know how to handle being in a complete caregiver role.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 10, 2016, 7:56 am

      We all have our strengths and just because you’re not pressing your children’s heads up against your bosom all the time doesn’t mean you’re not a nurturing parent and in fact a lot of the nurturing types can be a bit smothery, inhibiting their children’s independent development, so… there! I’ll babysit. 🙂

  • Kimberly August 10, 2016, 6:45 am

    I just recently discovered your site and it enchants me. I really like how you relate your experiences. I am a caregiver to young children and some days it is exhausting! I need to find a way to charge my batteries.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 10, 2016, 7:54 am

      Hi Kimberly! Taking care of young children is SOOOOOO exhausting. I know when I’m self-regulating (aka using all my self control not to kill anyone) when I talk in what I call my, “preschool voice.” Where my voice is all high-pitched and sweet and I say things like, “I’m not SURE where your white tee shirt is, Billy! Maybe if you ask me 100 more times then it might just magically turn up!” ARGGGHHHH. So if I had to take care of a bunch of young kids all day long? I’d be constantly self-regulating. I’d have to wear ear buds and listen to an audiobook all day or something lol!!!

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets August 11, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Yes, yes, yes to all of this. I’m a “fixer” so I can relate.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 11, 2016, 3:37 pm

      Well, yeah. That doesn’t surprise me. You’ve helped me numerous times and then I find out later that you were going through your own shit the whole time.

  • Nikki August 11, 2016, 2:21 pm

    Caregiver, co-dependent? *Raises both hands*
    Well, you know parts of MY story, and holy YES I’ve been a caregiver and co-dependent! Which is what really ended up driving me BACK into running – I NEEDED an outlet. I needed ME time. I got it! And THEN I was able to be there for him in a better, healthier way.
    There is still some co-dependency and dysfunction there I think, but I’m working on myself… 😉

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 11, 2016, 3:34 pm

      Yep, you crossed my mind when I was writing this post!

  • San August 25, 2016, 10:53 am

    This is such great advice. It’s hard sometimes, when you’re in the midst of things, to realize that stepping back and taking care of yourself is just as – if not more – important than helping someone else.
    And sometimes, helping someone means not (actively) helping them, too.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 3:57 pm

      YES YES YES especially to your last sentence. SO TRUE and not many people really hear about this concept, understand it or take it to heart. Only the few of us who have learned the hard way (by doing too much) really know how important it can be to step back sometimes.

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