"I'm sick honey. I think I'll go to bed."
These are words I'm not used to hearing from my other half. He is the fit one in the family, rising early to go to the gym or on a long bike ride. So when I heard these words I knew something was wrong.
It wasn't anything awful mind you. Well not at that point anyway. My hubby was sick, yes, after having just recovered from whooping cough and now, a few short weeks later, he was back in bed with a high temperature and headache from hell.
Like most women my age, juggling all of my commitments was enough to keep me busy, but add in a sick husband again and things became even crazier.
Now I'm not talking "man flu" here. I'm talking bedridden for two weeks, two visits to the emergency department, three to the GP, four blood tests and four kilograms lighter later -- and still no answer to why Hubby was sick. All we heard was "go home, rest and you'll get better soon."
I don't know about you, but those words normally send chills down my spine. Surely no doctor who has said them has had children at home on school holidays, has been working on the launch of his or her new website and book, and had the worry of a sick partner thrown in for good measure. Oh, and the normal responsibilities of running a household.
I'm not begrudging my hubby for getting sick. We've been married for nearly 20 years and I've never seen him as sick as I have over the past four months. But I will admit that having the emotional and physical pressure of caring for him was enough for me to have a completely new found respect for nurses and carers. What amazing men and women they are, to turn up each day and fully care for another person? To say I admire them more after this experience is an understatement.
What I realized pretty quickly amongst all of my emotional and physical turmoil was that I desperately needed to care for myself just as much as or even more than I was caring for my hubby. I was super worried that I was going to catch the awful virus he had and I knew that if I came down with it too there was literally no backup.
Yep, you see, like most modern households Hubby and I do it all. We have some family close by but with their busy lives and personal commitments we can't always call on them.
So to help me get through the two weeks Hubby was bedridden, and the weeks after when he truly was still only operating at 70 or 80 percent at most, I did what I always do.
I went inside myself as much as I could.
I paused, breathed, connected with my body -- because all this external chaos and worry about Hubby was creating havoc with my nervous system.
So what did that look like?
I'd drop our son at Vacation Care and stop off at the park on the way home -- just for ten or fifteen minutes, to sit in nature, and breathe in her healing powers.
I took myself off to see a movie -- one that would lift me up, make me see the funny side of life, so that I could home feeling lighter and happier.
I took plenty of deep breaths and meditated wherever and whenever I could -- in our garden, on my bed at night, in the car when I was waiting outside school for pickup -- so that I felt centered, grounded and less stressed.
As well as pausing, breathing and connecting with my body I did practical things that helped nourish and energize me.
I drank a lot of water and ate well. I also encouraged Hubby to do so but this was a little difficult -- he knew how important it was to keep his fluids and energy up but he was really sick (thus the visits to the emergency department).
I used my time wisely. The washing up/vacuuming/collecting the mail could wait -- they weren't by any means urgent.
I got offline as much as I could. My life was challenging enough at this time -- I didn't need to add to the overwhelm.
I went to bed early -- I was exhausted and knew I needed extra sleep myself.
I created with my hands -- because this helped me get out of my head and focus on something else other than the emotional turmoil I was feeling.
But most importantly I took little snippets of time here and there to help me cope. I stood on the grass for ten minutes watering the garden. I had a cup of tea on the deck in the morning after seeing that Hubby was OK. I jumped in the pool and spent a lot of time underwater blocking out all sound.
I hugged Hubby and gave him as much love as I could -- after I'd given myself enough in return.
Because that's the thing. I needed to give to myself so that I could give to Hubby and our family, and to keep myself in relatively good running order.
I don't think this was selfish. I firmly believe it was necessary. Because you see none of us can give from an empty tank. We can only give if our tank is full or, in my case, getting close to empty and making the choice to fill it.
This is what got me through what could only be called a very stressful and difficult time.
I know in the scheme of things Hubby's illness and recovery may not even register on the scale of stress, difficulties or challenges you are currently facing in your own life. Please know that I know that. But please also know that if you choose to give a little to yourself whilst in the midst of the chaos you will find it much easier to give to those in your life who need your support right now.
Even if that person is you. Because you are the most important person of all.
Helen Joy Butler helps busy Mums connect with what's important to them through the help of their home. By focusing on the energy in the space as well as in her clients, Helen helps her clients make real change, to move closer to the life they deserve. You can connect with Helen on her Facebook page and sign up for a free copy of the 'Your Heart, Your Home, Your Sanctuary' ebook on her website.