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This week on the Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast
Dr. Francesca Owoo is back! She shares her knowledge as a therapist and as someone living with a chronic illness who is a caregiver to family members. Dr. Owoo brings her signature straight talk and humor, giving us great advice on making caregiving relationships much healthier.
She also discusses breaking the cultural and generational cycles of feeling like you have to give all of yourself to the people you’re caring for, often leaving no time or energy for yourself.
This episode is packed with useful tips and ways to create boundaries as the caregiver and boundaries as the person being cared for. And ways we can all practice a little self care and take time for ourselves – without feeling selfish or guilty.
Guest Spotlight: Dr. Francesca Owoo
Dr. Owoo owns of FKO Therapy & Consultation Services, LLC, an online private practice focusing on couples and families navigating the complex world of chronic illness.
She was born and raised in the South Bronx, New York to immigrant parents via way of Ghana, West Africa. She is passionate about working with this population due to several chronic illnesses within her family.
While working on her Ph.D., she was diagnosed with fibroids, stage 4 endometriosis, and adenomyosis. This resulted in multiple surgeries. Both parents would also be diagnosed with cancer, and her brother would experience complications of sickle cell disease. Having these personal experiences with chronic illness has driven her passion to work with this population exclusively.
Licensed in Maryland, New York, and Ohio, Dr. Owoo graduated from a doctoral program with a marriage & family therapy specialization from the University of Akron in Ohio. Dr. Owoo also has a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from her beloved alma mater The University at Buffalo.
She has 14 years of experience using systemic-based therapies and a culturally-sensitive model when working with marginalized populations in a variety of settings such as psychiatric and medical facilities, community mental health agencies, university clinic settings, and within the school system.
Connect with Dr. Francesca Owoo:
- Website: www.fkotherapyandconsultation.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.owoo/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/therapyforchronicillness
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fkowoo/
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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.
Dr. Francesca Owoo
[00:00:00] Andrea: hey, Francesca, how are you? I'm so glad to have you on the podcast again,
[00:00:03] Francesca: I'm so excited. I'm so excited. I'm so excited. Yeah.
[00:00:07] Andrea: So in in episode 36, you shared your unbelievable story about your search for a diagnosis and all the roadblocks that you faced. Today. I want to talk about what you do professionally. I want to answer some listener questions and discuss some topics that I know are just directly related to so many of us.
I know there are a lot of people listening who are in a caregiver relationship. Either they're a caregiver of their child as well as caring for their own illness, or they're in a role where their family member or partners are caring for them. And even if they're not in a role where someone's caring for them, there's always the the question of are they going to be cared for as they get older?
And the illness changes. Cause I, I think we all wonder what's going to happen in the future, right? So this is a multifaceted topic that touches so many lives in so many ways. So I'm really happy to have you on to help us with understanding a little more about this and how to help make things a little bit easier.
[00:01:11] Francesca: Ooh, that sounds like it's going to be heavy.
[00:01:13] Andrea: be so good. It's not going to be heavy, because I don't think you and I could ever make anything heavy . Right. So tell, let's start. Tell me a little bit about, or tell us a little bit about what you do in your practice.
[00:01:25] Francesca: All right. So I started my private practice online, private practice about a year and a half ago. And I wanted to focus primarily on individuals who have a chronic illness, primary caregivers, and their families. And to a certain extent, it was almost a gift that I was giving. Families like my own. So, , parents having a chronic illness, siblings having chronic illness, , and caregiving, kind of like going around in the circle within the family.
So I thought it would be just a gift giving back to the community and taking care of individuals and couples and families like my own.
[00:02:02] Andrea: Yeah. I. I think it is a gift because I didn't do my research. I have no idea what the percentage, , of Americans, even right now are caregivers, but I can assume it's pretty high.
[00:02:14] Francesca: It's, and it actually, , has increased during the pandemic. I think the last stats I saw was 68%, , of individuals who are, well, 68% of females who took this study are caregivers, and then 20% of millennials or Gen Z are caregivers. So that percent has increased over time, especially with the.
[00:02:35] Andrea: mm-hmm. . Wow. Yeah. I mean, I think this is something that touches everybody's lives, if not directly, somehow, indirectly.
[00:02:44] Francesca: Yeah,
[00:02:46] Andrea: let's start with something that I hear, I hear a lot and I get a lot of questions, is when you are in a partnership, an adult partnership, you have a chronic illness, A lot of people ask me, when do you tell the other person that you have a chronic illness?
If it's in the beginning of the partnership and maybe they're looking like they're going to be a long term partnership, when is the best time to tell them what is the best way to tell them? My guess is it's not the way I did it, which was basically like first date
[00:03:18] Francesca: what I see absolutely no issues with that. So from my, per my personal perspective is to let the individual know right off the bat that. This is who I am and this is what I'm dealing with. And if this is something that you're, if I am somebody that you're interested in, it's coming along with this. then looking at the perspective from clients that I've seen, I've heard partners talk about feeling, , bamboozled to a certain extent that their partner did not tell them in the very beginning of the relationship that they had some form of chronic illness feeling as if they had to stay with their partner after, , , basically marrying them.
And I feel like I'm indebted to you because now I'm finding out that, oh, this illness is way more than what I thought it was in the beginning. Oh, I'm just finding out that you actually have an illness.
So train of thought is, this is something that you should talk about in the beginning if you feel comfortable with this person.
But then again, I don't know how comfortable you can feel on the first day,
[00:04:18] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:04:20] Francesca: Personally, if I'm going on a date and I'm bringing my endometriosis and adenomyosis and fibroids with me, I'm letting right off the bat. There's going to be times where you might not hear from me because I might have a flare up or an episode, but this is what I'm going through.
And if you're dealing with a emotionally intelligent individual, hopefully they can understand. Okay, so this is life. There's been so many, , stories that I've read online of individuals in, , partnerships that have no issue with caring for their significant other, and their relationships just seem so, just so romantic and lovely.
So I'm assuming that this is something that can actually be done if you individuals that actually want to be with each other. But I also don't want to take out the negative of this as sometimes it can be very difficult for the partner to cope with the chronic illness be, especially if it's unpredictable, especially if you're having like random flareups.
So it's, it's definitely important for the couple to be in counseling. Have a support system. Cause every couple's not going to go to counseling if an individual has a chronic illness or a caregiver. So it's definitely important to have a support system where you can talk to someone else or vent to someone else about your daily, , the daily happenings and what it is that you have to do as a caregiver or how you have to deal with your illness and your partner.
Because you're not just taking care of yourself, you're also making sure that you take care of your partner
[00:05:45] Andrea: right. I, , I, I think it's interesting because there's, again, there's so many different, , things that go into play, but I felt like for me, having my, my ms, I talk about this a lot. My MS has always been invisible, and that almost created a buffer, like I said, like I was, I can't even remember exactly when I.
husband, I, I should ask him if he remembers. I bet he doesn't remember either. It was such a non-issue because I was just like, this is what it's going to be, and tell me now , like, I don't want to waste myself or my time. But, but I was also older. I mean, I was late twenties by the time I was dating him. , but I thought it was, it was essential to give a little bit of breathing room.
And I don't know if that was just, , me based on, , my own biases. And maybe that wasn't actually a healthy thing to do or not, but it's like, I wasn't going to lay everything out on the table all at once with him. I was going to tell him everything that was going on, but not expecting him to like, show up at my doctor's appointment the next day, or go to the IV lab with me, , the next week.
Like, I was still letting him take the, take the time to digest it because I mean, I, I had to take time to digest it myself.
[00:07:06] Francesca: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's, it's so much to take in. So I'm not saying, , just go ahead and trauma dump and give them all the stuff that you've been going through the last couple of months. I'm like, , you have to be a little bit skilled with it and kind of give it an increments in doses.
As the relationship begins to build, you begin to form that, , close, intimate bond with your partner and letting them know, this is what it is and this is what I'm dealing with, and I just want to give you the opportunity to discuss it with me. Do you want to continue this relationship or do you not want to continue this relationship?
[00:07:41] Andrea: And either way, I felt like at that point, either way it had to be okay with me. Like I wasn't going to get mad. I wasn't, , that was, I think another reason why I brought it up early before I, cause I knew I'm not one of those people who was like, I knew I was going to marry this guy from the second I met him.
But I did know he was different than all the other, all the other boys that I had been dating. And so it was almost like a self-protection of like, okay, I can't get invested in this because I can tell, I can get really invested. Just put this up front and if it's something he's not going to be comfortable with, I can save myself a whole lot of heartache.
[00:08:17] Francesca: right. Ooh, I would love to chat with him. Mm-hmm.
[00:08:20] Andrea: he's fantastic.
I would love to volunteer him for any kind of a research study. I do notice when I'm talking to people is that there is a difference when somebody is coming into the relationship with a chronic illness, and maybe they have already in, in some way, have already digested it for themselves before they're talking to, to another partner or to, , a potential partner about it.
But what about the relationships, the partnerships where you are diagnosed at some point in the relationship? And so things are changing for both of you
[00:09:02] Francesca: That is, that is something that could, a diagnosis is something that could make or break an already existing relationship. So I'm thinking about some of the clients that I've dealt with in the past where cancer has been a diagnosis on breast cancer diagnosis and how the partners are dealing with it. So it's not only dealing with the shock of the d.
but it's also dealing with the possibility of the future of not having your partner in your life cause of the diagnosis as a toll. It's going to take on you physically, mentally, and emotionally as the caregiver and also the toll it takes on the person who has the diagnosis. So there's also a lot of, , unspoken words and intention that could formulate in a relationship because as the caregiver, you might feel somewhat selfish thinking about yourself while you're taking care of this individual.
But then also feelings of resentment could build as well because you find yourself always taking care of this individual and your life begins to focus around this individual and this new diagnosis. Then for the person who has the di , the diagnosis throughout this relationship, it feels as if you're a burden.
So the person who is taking care of you, so you might not be as forthcoming with how you're feeling. You might not be forthcoming about doctor's appointments that you want your partner to attend with you. You might isolate yourself. So then the isolation falls into anxiety and depression because you feel like you don't have the support because you're also feeling as if you're a burden to your partner and to your family members.
[00:10:34] Andrea: Right. It sounds like at the very, at the very foundation of that is communication.
[00:10:39] Francesca: Absolutely. Absolutely. I've seen so many couples throughout the years that do not communicate how they're actually feeling because they're so scared about the backlash or the consequences, especially as, , a caregiver. Taking care of your partner and sometimes saying, I'm tired, I can't do this. And being able to stand in that statement and not back down.
But then also with the department that has a chronic illness and being able to receive the message and saying, I know there's no shame in saying that you need help. There's no shame in getting a home health aid. There's no shame in asking your support system. Is there some way that you can support us or help us throughout
And it's not just about the individuals who are in the relationship, it's the the outer layers, the circle of the friends and family home health aid that can actually help you throughout the duration of the diagnosis so that your relationship can stay intact.
[00:11:34] Andrea: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:35] Francesca: No one wants to deal with a diagnosis by themselves.
[00:11:38] Andrea: no. Gosh, no. What are some tools? I think one thing I heard in there that really, , ped my interest was something we don't talk about a whole lot is not only how can someone talk about what they're feeling, but receive. What somebody else is feeling and understand not only, okay, I I'm receiving, I'm understanding that you're frustrated, but I think on, I think on a, a much harder level is receiving and understanding that this other person does not think I'm a burden.
This other person does not think that I am. All these terrible things that, that we probably have going on in our heads, right? We're so hard on ourselves, especially in that situation, we kind of assume the other person is thinking the same thing, and so receiving when you're talking to somebody that they don't feel that way and believing that they mean what they say.
I see that as being an, a really hard skill to, to learn. So what are some tools or what are some ways that people can, can do that?
[00:12:52] Francesca: There's so much that we tell ourselves as an individual with a chronic illness. That is not true. But that's just how we're feeling in the moment. We're feeling as if we're a burden, we're feeling as if no one actually cares about our diagnosis. We're feeling as if we really don't know what to do.
So we're kind of like bouncing off the walls and looking up ideas and researching how to cure yourself, , and how to like take care of yourself. But within that process, I definitely, well, once again, being a little biased here, going to therapy. and talking to a therapist that can help you process these feelings.
Because our friends and family, they're a great support system, but sometimes it is important and integral for us to actually seek an outsider who knows a little bit more about how to deal with the emotional piece of what we're dealing with as a chronic illness because we are not, we're not burden store family at a point in time.
, the caregiver might feel as if this is too much for me, but I'm pretty sure once you start that conversation in individual therapy and in couples counseling, They will flat out tell you that I don't feel you're a burden, and we're in this for the long haul,
If you have a partner or a family member who is willing to stick this out with you and go on that journey with you, it's definitely important to sit there and have an unbiased party, talk you through this about how you're feeling having the chronic illness, how you're feeling being a caregiver, and how you're going to walk on this journey together.
There's going to be times when you're not on the same page, which is perfectly normal. The fussing, the fighting, the frustration, the stress and the overwhelm is normal. It's going to happen, and it's not as if you're fighting each other. You're fighting this third entity that has made its way into the relationship.
It's a third wheel that no one wants there,
but it's a third wheel that's always going to be there. So we have to externalize the chronic illness and think of it as something, this is something that's here. This is something we have to deal with, but let's not let it interfere with our relationship. So there's so much communication that needs to go on there instead of, , being in our heads, in our minds all the time and in our feelings as the, the youth, as the youth say, it's important for us to talk about these things with our partner journal about these things and just have some quiet time with ourselves so we can begin to understand our emotions that isolating yourself, that could happen.
It happens. You have a diagnosis and you want to deal with your, with it yourself. You don't want anyone. And because sometimes when having a chronic illness, it's just you and that illness, right?
[00:15:26] Andrea: right?
[00:15:27] Francesca: certain times in the morning when you're not feeling well, it's not you, you're part of the illness, it's you and that illness.
So the, I feel like there are certain steps to this. So you being able to deal with the diagnosis and then being able to express how you're feeling to your partner and then you taking it on as another person in my life who can help me deal with the diagnosis and then head on this journey together.
[00:15:49] Andrea: Look, I'm biased too because I am a huge, huge fan of therapy. I mean, that's one of the first things I did when I was diagnosed was get therapy and it's, it's one of the best things that I have
[00:16:00] Francesca: absolutely. Absolutely. It was so helpful for me initially when I was diagnosed and sometimes I think about what I wasn't ready to receive when I had counseling the first time around. I didn't want to admit that this is going to be a lifelong issue. This is going to be lifelong pain. But as I moved out of therapy and I just started living my life, I thought, oh my God.
She said a lot of things that were actually true. There's certain things that you can start doing in order to feel better emotionally.
[00:16:33] Andrea: One of the things that I'm a huge fan of as well is boundaries. But boundaries get messy when you are worried about the other person, what the other person is going to feel, what the other person is going to think.
And we think a lot about boundaries as far as when you are the caregiver, because like you said, like you need to take care of yourself as well, especially if you have another, like you might have a chronic illness yourself, but as the person with the chronic illness in a partnership with somebody who is a caregiver, you need boundaries too.
And so what are some really good boundaries that people can have? When they're in a partnership like this, and how do they avoid feeling guilty, selfish, all of those things that come with trying to look after yourself first.
[00:17:24] Francesca: So I can, I can definitely speak to the caregiver piece of this because there are, so, especially in the beginning of my journey, there were so many instances where I felt so guilty doing something for myself and thinking, oh God, I could be doing something for my mom. I could be doing this, I could be doing that.
And then I really had to look internally and say, you're not doing well right now. So how much of a help could you be to an elderly parent? I need you to take care of yourself first. . And as I am listening to myself and repeating this back to myself, take care of yourself first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. I'm also listening to my support system of friends that are telling me, you cannot do this and be severely stressed 24 7, and go into a job that you created for yourself and be stressed 24 7. So, and, and me. I'm the type of person of, I cannot give advice or help guide someone to this caregiver journey if I'm not taking my own advice.
[00:18:28] Andrea: Mm.
[00:18:28] Francesca: I told myself, oh God, friend, you're so fake. Like you're giving people this advice, you're trying to help them. You're trying to be a guide, but here you are not taking your own advice. So I told myself, what, if you don't want to do this for yourself, do this for your clients because , that'll really get me to actually work, right?
So I told myself, it's time for you to start taking better care of yourself and get out of the sweatpants and the hoodie, fix yourself up and go outside and start exercising. And it actually literally changed the course of my, this emotional spiritual journey that I've been on for like the last 14 years of my life.
And I started to exercise more. I started to cook more. And I noticed with just having more energy and not exhausting myself being in my feelings, I was able to be a better person to the people that I was around. So yes, mommy gets three meals a day, which is going to have to stop Cause , I have carpal tunnel, but it's what, it's, , it was exhausting for me.
And I do tell her, and I let her know, Hey, I am tired. I cannot do this. But one thing I've noticed about the older generation is it's, Hey, what? We did this.
I was wife, I was a mother, I was a soldier, I was a fed,
[00:19:48] Andrea: right.
And it was snowing all the time. And I was barefoot . Yeah.
[00:19:55] Francesca: the next village
[00:19:55] Andrea: Right. Uphill
[00:19:57] Francesca: that stuff? Right? Exactly. With no shoes on,
So you're telling us this story and I'm like, I really don't want to hear this cause I don't believe anything you're saying
to me. And just letting that this is me asserting myself and setting my boundary and letting that I am tired and I cannot do this.
Cause I notice there'll be weeks where I haven't cooked anything and I'll just be purchasing food from outside. And I told myself, oh, , you can't eat these things. you're going to get sick when you eat these things, but I'm also really exhausted. So let's figure out the happy medium. Let's take some things off your plate.
You don't always have to say yes to everything. . But once again, the cultural boundary of I am the only girl in my family, I'm Ghanaian. And my parents are like, what? What do you mean you can't do this? What do you mean you're tired? Like, Hey, I'm tired. I can't do this. I have my own illness that I need to focus on.
So once I get this under wraps, I can help you.
So if I can be a better person, you benefit from this too. So that's how you get them. That's how you get the little, , our immigrant parents, . That's how you get them. If I take care of myself, you'll be alright too. You'll benefit from this. You have to let them know that this is the benefit for you.
So let me work on me right now and take care of myself and you can also benefit, benefit from it.
[00:21:15] Andrea: Yeah. Well, and that's such an important thing because I think that a lot of times we think when we're looking after ourselves that.
Selfish, but it's not, , there's this, it's almost like it's valiant to put other people before you and suffer because you're putting other people before you. And it's, , and I think it's something even within the American culture, it's just bread within us that we have to, especially like you said, as women, we have to put other people before us.
And if we don't, we're being totally selfish and ridiculous and whatever. And to reframe that and just say, look, I have to look after my health because I cannot be there for you if I don't.
[00:21:58] Francesca: exactly. what's interesting? When you look at the stats and you see on the stats of, , male to female caregivers, you have about more than half of the caregivers in the US are women,
so it was like 68%, like 34% caregivers on the call. That doesn't shock me that, , this is something that as women, we are designed,
or society tells us that this is what we're supposed to do.
We're supposed to be the nurturer, we're supposed to take care of everybody. Also suck it up and not complain
because this is what your role is supposed to be. You're supposed to take care of everybody.
[00:22:35] Andrea: Yeah. And I think there's nothing wrong with, because I, I agree that I'm not, not man bashing, not talking about anything. I think men are fantastic, but I think women do have that inherent caregiving, nurturing type of, Qualities. And I think that it has been nurtured just within our society, like you said.
And I think it's just recently that that type of quality has been nurtured within men. So it'll be interesting to see, , 20, 30 years down the road if men become more caregivers, as they're more nurturing, caregiving sides are also brought out.
[00:23:17] Francesca: that would be lovely.
[00:23:18] Andrea: would be fantastic because I don't think it's, it's not that men don't have this side, it's just I think women have been, it's been, it's been nurtured within us. And so I think it is kind of a natural thing. Like, I want to take care of my family. I, and, and it's just this innate thing within me, but we also have to get rid of this idea that to want to take care of yourself is selfish and bad and not valiant.
And I think that's just part of the societal norm that hopefully we can have already started to get away from.
I think we're at the, we're at the very big beginning stages of that to where women, God forbid, women take care of themselves and take care of themselves first like, I think that is starting to be accepted, and I think first and foremost, we have to start accepting that within ourselves.
[00:24:11] Francesca: absolutely. I've been noticing this message for the last, maybe since the, a little bit before the pandemic. There were things that were kind of changing within our society, but I think the pandemic really shifted the way we deal with mental health in general, which is, which is amazing that the shift has happened, but not amazing that this needed to occur in order for the shift to happen.
So I'm sitting back and thinking about how we really talked about our emotional and mental health during the pandemic and how important it was to actually have a sense of like community and connection to individuals. And virtual meetings just weren't cutting it for us, and we really wanted to meet and actually even like physically hold your friends and family.
And it was such a disruption to our lives. But also there was a lesson in that in sometimes it's okay to be by yourself, but I also need to have a sense of community in order to feel whole.
No one wants to sit in their apartment 24 7 and not communicate with anyone. , once again, another thing my brother and I joke about is you were perfectly fine during the pandemic.
[00:25:21] Andrea: I was just thinking that, I was like, I think, I mean, I, yeah, I wasn't, I need that connection. , I, it's like I feel like I'm an uncharged battery if I don't get some of that connection. And my husband's the same way. But yeah,
[00:25:35] Francesca: it, it really definitely taught us a lesson about just taking care of yourself and self care and I was reading so many articles about things that individuals are doing now that they haven't, , done before in the past. Even with me trying to like spice up my life a little bit and trying to find different ways to take care of myself physically, , starting an exercise program and doing my Manny and pedicure religiously on Sundays like I used to do before I became a caregiver.
But there's certain things that we might stop doing when we become a caregiver. Once again, taking care of yourself that you've done in the past. So for me it was reincorporating these things back into my life so that I can feel like I was whole again. And the pandemic gave me an opportunity to focus on me, because it's not just about the person you're taking care of us also about you.
And everyone experienced the pandemic and everyone experienced the pandemic differently. So I'm thinking about, , taking care of an elderly paradigm. She was just so scared throughout the entire pandemic. And I'm the one that's going out on a weekly basis to get supplies. I almost felt like it was a movie.
, there, I was thinking of the movie title, but I can't remember it right now. But I felt like it was, , Armageddon and going outside. Seeing human beings, but not even being able to bump into them and kind of keeping the distance, but also making sure that I need to be safe because I have to come home to an elderly parent and I need to make sure that she's safe.
Cause if I catch something, that means she catches it too. Whereas my immune system, it's shock to hell, but I can possibly deal with it. But her as an elderly individual, she might not be able to deal with it. So I had to be on my Ps and Qs about, you can't do this, you can't do that. You can't go here. You can't go there because if you had something, you're going to bring it home.
[00:27:25] Andrea: that one's like the extreme, extreme part I think of. The pandemic is that if you are a caregiver, especially if you did have elderly parents or a family member that had a chronic illness, that would've been really affected by it. You had to not only take yourself out of, , being exposed, so basically you had meant that you would stay home.
You had that extra layer of, it's not just me getting exposed, it's me possibly transmitting it to somebody that might not be able to handle it. And so it, it made you want to further isolate yourself and further, , go down. What could often be just a rabbit hole of like, how can I, ? Totally,
Like not have any contact with anybody , like
[00:28:16] Francesca: absolutely as, as much as my brother and I joke about this, I did make sure to stay connected with friends was more of a, oh, let's have virtual meetings every week and making sure that I'm, , staying close to colleagues as well and going to conferences virtually, which was amazing because I got to meet a network with so many individuals, which I absolutely love.
So it changed that part of me, , being so introverted. But friends will say, oh, she's not introverted, she just says that. But I am very much so introverted. But being able to network with individuals on the internet and meet people from different parts of the world that are experiencing the same thing that you're experiencing.
They have a chronic illness, , or they're a caregiver. I joined so many groups during that time as well for individuals who are experiencing the same thing that I'm experiencing. So I didn't feel as alone. And also making sure that I am open to receiving what it is that I am. I'm putting this out here, so I'm opening to receiving, , the feedback and any sort of.
Love that these individuals are willing to give. Cause sometimes, once again, as being a caregiver, we don't want to hear what anyone else has to say to us about how to deal with certain things. Like, we're not in this position. You don't know how to deal with it. I'm the only person that knows how to deal with it.
We need to be more open to taking suggestions, more open to taking suggestions and just being a part of certain groups on Facebook and reading other people's stories and thinking maybe this is something that I can try. Maybe this is something that I should do. So it really opened my eyes a lot. So to a certain extent, that period of isolation was helpful for me.
[00:29:58] Andrea: Yeah. And on that same vein, talking about being open to other people and what they are either suggesting or looking at their circumstance and how they've handled it and maybe taking, , some of that and applying it to yourself. I think part of the reason why we cannot be open to that and we can rely on things like, you don't understand my situation because every caregiving situation is going to be
different. I think part of that is the.
[00:30:31] Francesca: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:32] Andrea: What if I mess something up? What if, , like sometimes we feel like if we are, , working with a, , caregiving, , partnership, it's like we feel like we have to have that on lock and we can't mess up and we can't, like with the pandemic, right? Like, I can't, I can't get sick because what if that messes things up?
And what if I try something else and
it doesn't work? And it's, I think not being open can be born from that fear. So what, how do we handle that? How do we, , lower that fear in order to be able to open up to more suggestions and more information?
[00:31:14] Francesca: I think it's also about, , living in your real, not, not, let's not say your real, but living in reality honestly. Because even during that time when I'm being so cautious, I'm pretty sure I had Covid and I told myself I was, I was being so, I was isolating myself so much to the extent where the fear was just so high at that point in time.
And I have to tell myself, slow down a little bit. If this happens, if you contract covid, you will not die. Well, you could possibly , but this is something that is going to happen at some point in time. Almost everyone in this world will have contracted this or some form of symptoms during this time. I need you to relax.
, I need you to stop catastrophizing because this is. This isn't good for you, you're going to increase your blood pressure, your anxiety, your stress levels. I need you to calm down for a bit. So even during that time, I made sure I was also in therapy once again, , as therapists love being in therapy for our entire lifetime, I was in therapy once again and talking to someone who understood the fear that I was going through.
And also, once again, utilizing my support system because at my age, my ripe age of 38, I also have friends who are caregivers to their parents as well. So it was important for us to meet, like on a weekly basis and talk to each other about what it is that we're experiencing. , kind of like joke around vent so that your anxiety isn't as high 24 7 dealing with what you're dealing with.
[00:32:43] Andrea: Yeah. And that comes up again and again, this idea that no matter what the caregiving relationship you're in, or if you are the one that's being cared for, community
[00:32:51] Francesca: Yeah,
[00:32:52] Andrea: important.
[00:32:53] Francesca: it is, it is. As much as I like to, , be a hermit, I realize that it's very important to have community and people that will support you on the journey because being a caregiver can be really isolating and thinking that you're not doing something correctly or thinking that you're not doing enough, and then having the village telling you you're not doing enough and you could be doing more.
But then telling yourself, no, I'm not taking that in. I know what I'm doing. I feel like I'm doing everything I can, so please don't tell me I'm not doing enough. It's so easy for other people outside the situation to say, you're not doing enough, right? He's like, no, I think I'm doing enough. She's alive. I think I'm doing my
[00:33:38] Andrea: That's all I gotta do.
[00:33:39] Francesca: Listen. Sometimes when the neighbors ask, when they see me like, oh, how's your mother do? I'm like, she's alive and she's being fed and she looks well. That's it. That's all I have to tell you. Have nothing else to say to you.
I don't need to get into the deep, dark secrets of being a caregiver to an elderly parent. I don't have to. What you, all you will know is that she's alive and she's being fed and she looks good. That's it.
[00:34:00] Andrea: I, and what I'm hearing in that is, Is an element of self-compassion to be able to say, I'm doing the best I can
[00:34:08] Francesca: It took me a long time to get there, and I feel like I only got to that space in my life within the last two years, but repeatedly telling myself, you are doing a good job. Because I was also being met with criticism from the village of, you're not doing enough. You're the only girl in the family and you're not doing enough.
Why aren't you doing this? And why aren't you doing that? And I told myself, Ugh, because I am who I am and I'm very much so a Leo. these people don't know what they're talking about. They don't know what they're doing. I am the best. I'm an amazing daughter. You're getting amazing care for me. You have three cooked meals a day for the last three years.
do not complain about what it is that I'm doing, but also, once again, being the child of immigrants, they will not say Please and thank you. And caregivers need to hear that. Thank you. I appreciate what it is that you're doing. However, I will hear her having conversations with her little friends, She's like, oh, she's doing such a good job, but how come you never say that to the person who's taking care of you? We need to hear that, that you're doing a really good job, and I appreciate everything it is that you're doing. But she will not say it to my face. Once again, the the cultural differences, the generational differences of that generation, they're not going to say, please and thank you.
It just is, this is your job. You're supposed to do this because you are my child. This is what you're supposed to be doing. Whereas with my generation is, can we just have a little bit more emotional intelligence and say, thank
you for doing this task for you. But then you also have to be comfortable with the notion that a thank you might never come.
[00:35:47] Andrea: And I think that's where that compassion for yourself comes in. Right? Because even if the other person, and, and it's not even that the other person doesn't mean it,
they just don't say it. I'm, I'm right. I think in a lot of sense, I mean, sometimes not right, like there's no absolutes with anything but I think in a lot of cases it's, they just don't, and I think you're right.
I think it's just, it's a generational, it's a cultural thing. I think about my friends that have immigrant parents, and it's the same. It's like they don't get it from, their mothers, but it's so funny. They'll hear them on the phone talking to their family members.
[00:36:24] Francesca: your citizen or they're gossiping about kids
and I'm the farm to kill the cow with the chicken and bring it back to you and grow the leaves of the garden. I'm not doing all of that. But what I'll do is go to the supermarket and get everything it is that you need. I will come home, I will meal prep and you'll have your meals.
So the one thing I do take pride is, is introducing her to new things. Cause there was in time when I told you I'm both my parents have cancer and I guilted myself so, Throughout for how many years that if I were at home, my parents wouldn't have cancer.
So to a certain extent, I'm feeding into this of now I can actually give her healthy foods.
, now she doesn't have to necessarily eat junk food because she doesn't feel like cooking. So to a certain extent, I feel like I'm kind of, , squashing the way that I felt years ago, that I could have done better and I could have taken care of them and they wouldn't have cancer. But now taking care of her and giving her the foods that she needs, that's nutritious.
Cause I don't want to have to go through another episode of She Has Cancer and I was here and I could have prevented it because once again, I think, , being the child of immigrants, we put so much on our shoulders to take care of our ex family, extended family, but we put ourselves on a back burner.
[00:37:45] Andrea: Hmm.
[00:37:45] Francesca: Being a caregiver, you're not just taking care of everybody else, you kind of just forget about yourself after a while. And I, I've done that several times, and I had to come back to center and ground myself and say, Hey, you are worth this. You are worth just sitting and resting and restoring and rejuvenating. You don't need to do all the things all the time. Find something that you can do. Find something you can invest in.
Find something that gives you joy throughout the day. So every moment of the day, every second of the day is not going to be a rah party, But there are moments in a day that I can take to myself where I just kind of relax and let my shoulders down and think, okay, I got through another day. She's alive, she's okay.
She's fed. I'm fed. I've worked out. I've done what I needed to do for my clients. I'm okay. Everything's going to be okay.
[00:38:37] Andrea: Yeah. , you said something in there that I think is, is, is something that not only people who are caregivers of elderly parents or parents with an illness, I also feel like that's something parents can feel if their children have a chronic illness. Something like I,
if, if I were paying more attention, if I, , a lot of times there's chronic illnesses that we have that are passed on
to, , generations and there can be that guilt of, if I had done something differently, this wouldn't happen.
[00:39:11] Francesca: Yeah.
[00:39:12] Andrea: or if I had just given more of myself
and spent less time paying attention to myself and my own health, this wouldn't happen.
[00:39:20] Francesca: I noticed that with my parents' relationship and growing up and thinking they're giving so much of themselves to, , my brother who has sickle cell and so little to the. It was a constant, especially with my mom. It was a constant working and doing overtime and whatever she needed to do to make sure that he was taken care of.
But I will say in being, , a marriage family therapist, that also means you're neglecting everybody else in the family and that they don't get the care it is that they need until they move out and start taking care of themselves.
, and I, I made sure to insert that piece into my dissertation and I remember a specific participant. She said everything she needed to say while the recorder was on, but as soon as I turned it off, she gave me a completely, , more in depth reasoning as to why she was feeling the way that she was feeling. She did not want that to be recorded, and I, , definitely respect her wishes, and she wanted me to talk about this more in my dissertation than I did.
She said she felt extremely guilty. , taking care of a child with sickle cell disease while having healthy children in the household. How do I take care of my daughter? How do you do it? And I remember sitting there in complete shock, like, why aren't she asking me this question? I'm the researcher. I'm not the therapist at this point in time.
I'm the researcher, not the therapist. And I kind of just sat there and I thought, I'm just doing it. But internally, I knew exactly how I felt. I felt like the black sheep of the family. , I felt like I was the scapegoat. I felt invisible throughout my entire childhood, even into adulthood
[00:41:09] Andrea: As the healthy child
[00:41:11] Francesca: as as a healthy child.
[00:41:12] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:41:13] Francesca: And she sat down and we kind of talked about it, and I said, it's so important for you to make sure that you incorporate her in everything it is that you do. It's not just about having all your children at the same time as a parent. It's important for you to have individual time with each child. So you need to start hanging out with her more.
Whether you need to take her for a beauty day and have a set day on Saturdays. This is what mom and , mommy and me do. That'll be great because there's a lot of children out there who don't get that. And as, once again, as a therapist, I guess to a certain extent, we tend to rationalize certain things.
And I remember a friend telling me, that I have to make sure that I'm also investing in myself. Because your parents were so invested in your brother would sickle cell who was giving you what you. And once again, even as a child being a caregiver, knowing, oh, he doesn't look well, I should go and tell mom and dad. So it almost seems like the caregiver role was always in me.
So that's what they expected as I got older. So driving back and forth and, , going to chemo with my parents or making sure that my brother was taken care of. And then I started slowing down and I started getting sick. And then I thought, who's going to be there for me? And it wasn't the same. So granted, , they were there for me, even certain aspects, but there were times where they dropped the ball.
And I, once again, I rationalized it and I said, have so much to worry about because they have their own illness. And I remember my mom saying, before my first surgery, she said, and she was whispering, she said, I can't have another sick child. So then that tells me, I was like, I shouldn't be telling her too much because she already has to deal with, , my brother was sickle cell, even though we're all adults and she's so worried about him now she has to worry about me.
And I told myself, don't be a burden. Right. , don't be a burden to your family by always expressing how you're physically feeling with the illness. So then I internalized that and then I stopped talking and I'm like, oh yeah, everything's fine. As I'm here laying on the floor with the phone in my hand, like, yeah, everything's great.
So there's so, so much that goes on when someone has a chronic illness within the family unit, the couple unit, the sibling unit that we don't address. A lot of the research will focus on the individual with the chronic illness, but we're not necessarily talking about how were their parents dealing with this.
How are the healthy siblings dealing with this and what happens with the family throughout the course of this illness? What has happened to the family? Are they still. integrated with each other, or has everyone gone to their separate places and everyone's dealing with their own stuff by themselves.
[00:43:55] Andrea: Right. And it's, , you brought something up that I thought was interesting. It's how do you communicate without it sounding like you're assuming that the other person is going to take care of it? Right. How do you tell somebody how you're feeling without them, , and I'm talking about loved ones, right?
Who only want the best for you, who only want to take care of you? How do you tell them how you're feeling without it sounding like you want them to fix it or to do something?
[00:44:23] Francesca: That's the hardest part. And that's, I feel like with that you have to understand your relationship with the individual that you're giving the information to. If you're not as comfortable with this individual, I wouldn't suggest sharing almost everything it is that you're going through. But if you are comfortable with that individual, just having a candid chat with them about, this is what I'm feeling and this is what I'm going through.
and once again, hoping that this individual's able to receive the message and actually have and continue the conversation with you. Cause it's difficult. It's difficult just having to reveal pieces of yourself that to a certain extent you might not have even processed. So having the chronic illness, there are certain pieces you might not have processed on your own.
Being a caregiver, this is a new role for you. You might not have processed. I never thought that my life would be this way at this point in time. I never thought I had to take care of my significant other. I never thought that I'd be taking care of my parents at such a young age. There's so many things that we don't process, but it's also just using discernment and being careful about who you're giving the information to and who you're sharing this piece of your life with.
[00:45:32] Andrea: I think one of the most profound conversations I've had with, , someone very close to me is telling them that they are not in charge of making me emotionally feel better.
They're not, , I was experiencing, I was, I was really upset about something and I was, I was just almost, I was dis venting about it because I was just really upset and I just, I'm a, I'm a verbal processor.
Like I have to say things out loud or else it's, it's not going to, it's not going to work , but it's just, that's just, that's just my process. Some people are like that and I could tell that they were almost like internalizing how I was feeling and feeling like they had to do something. And I think that's something very common for family members or loved ones to feel.
And so having that conversation and telling them, you're not in charge of my happiness. You don't have to make me feel better emotionally. You don't have me, you don't have to make me feel better physically either, but Right. Like, that is not your role, nor do I expect you to do that. It's not up to you to cheer me up and.
Letting them know this. I could feel the air in the room just lighten. I mean, it was, it was really amazing just letting them know, like, look, I know you want to fix this for me, but
I don't look at your role as being the fixer, so don't feel like you have to do this.
[00:47:06] Francesca: And sometimes it's so hard trying not to be the fixer.
[00:47:09] Andrea: Yes,
[00:47:10] Francesca: And once again, I was in that position and I was having this conversation with my brother. I told him, it's my responsibility to take care of you. And he said, no, it's not. It's not your responsibility to take care of me. I can take care of.
And you need to make sure that you're taken care of. It's not your responsibility to take care of anybody in this family. You can do what it is that you want to do. I'm just like, okay, you're saying this now, but we know how our culture works because they will look at you and say nothing, but they will look at me and say, oh, Coco's not doing what she's supposed to be doing.
[00:47:47] Andrea: Hmm
[00:47:48] Francesca: I took in that conversation. I still think about it to this day and like he's absolutely right. I'm not responsible for taking care of him. I'm not responsible for taking care of anyone in this family, but it's something I do out of how out of love.
[00:48:04] Andrea: hmm.
[00:48:04] Francesca: Others might not see it that way, but for me, I can't imagine someone in my family being sick and not being there for them.
But I also understand that I have to set boundaries for myself to make sure that I'm there for myself and I'm taking care of me. And this person isn't, , on the forefront of my mind of everything it is that I do. I matter too, so it's important that I take care of myself.
[00:48:29] Andrea: Yeah. It's almost to me the difference between understanding this deep conditioning
where you were raised
with, right. Saying what your role is, but versus the fact that you're just a kind, compassionate, moral person that wants to help.
[00:48:49] Francesca: the sad part about that. People will take advantage of that
[00:48:52] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:48:52] Francesca: You're doing all these things for everybody else emotionally especially, but what are you doing for yourself?
[00:49:00] Andrea: And sometimes that can be hard to turn that ship around.
[00:49:03] Francesca: it is very, it's, we're so conditioned as, I guess, first generation children to believe that is our job, to take care of everybody. , and I was so conditioned to believe that this is my role and this is what I'm supposed to do. And when you start unlearning it and changing and setting your boundaries and asserting yourself and saying, no, other people might not receive it, , the way it needs to be received.
Like, , she's right. She does have to have a life of her own. She does have to do things on her own. But it's more so of, , in our culture, it's a disrespect. It's like, no, this is your job. This is what you're supposed to be doing. And making sure that I'm not feeling guilty when I say, no, I can't do that.
[00:49:46] Andrea: So how do you not feel guilty?
[00:49:48] Francesca: Wine It's, it's a process. Its a process. It is a process. And I remember talking about this in therapy and telling myself that this is not going to change. You can only change the way you interact with these individuals. They're going to say whatever it is that they need to say about you, but you are going to feel however you need to feel about yourself.
And just making sure that I'm using positive affirmations. And even when I was sick, I had to do the same thing where I didn't want to look myself in the mirror because I looked so physically different. I did it this time around as well. You're doing a great job as a care caregiver. You're an amazing daughter.
You were doing everything it is that you can do. You've managed to set up a business during a pandemic. You've managed to lose some weight during a pandemic. Granted, I got a little plump, but I did lose some of the weight.
[00:50:40] Andrea: I think we all got a little bit plump during the pandemic.
[00:50:42] Francesca: like you've managed to do so much. Within your 38 years of living, don't allow these individuals to come in and tell you that you're not doing enough. I don't ever want to be in the position where I'm in my sixties and seventies and likely blaming my children for how my life turned out or being resentful towards my partner.
I just don't want to live that life because I've seen it in my elders and I told myself, take these tidbits and make sure this isn't what you carry on into your own life. And I think that's another reason why I became a marriage and family therapist and just looking at tidbits of my own family and extended family and telling myself, I don't want you carrying this into the next generation.
Someone has to break this generational curse. Someone has to break this generational pattern that all of us seem to be living, but no one wants to talk about out loud. It's okay to take care of yourself. It's okay to not do what your parents did. , it's okay to be single. It's okay to not have children.
It's okay to not take care of everybody. And I have to constantly tell myself this because as I told myself, the second half of my life is going to be so much better than the first half because I feel like once you hit 40, that's when you start learning things and that's when they start implementing all the trash that you've been through from your teenage years into your thirties.
Just learning more about yourself, learning more about the people you're choosing to surround yourself with, learning more about your family and just everything just to me, everything becomes integrated at around that age. And I've always felt that way. I've always been
like an old lady and I always said, I can't wait to be 40. And people say like, why does she keep, why does she, why do you want to be older? Who wants to be? But I told myself at 40, you should already have your money. You should have your time. You should, to have your life set, you should know who you want to be around. And granted, there's some people out there who are not like that, but for me,
[00:52:40] Andrea: Like as somebody who is lightly in their forties,
, I'm not going to say I have all my shit together now that I'm in my forties. That is not true. But I also, I do think, though, I think that it's something that happens just as we get older. It's, we, I don't know if the word is like self-actualized, but we just,
we get more confident.
We get, we kind of drop a lot of the
I work with a lot of clients on not beating themselves up so much
[00:53:12] Francesca: Mm.
[00:53:13] Andrea: so hard on themselves and. I feel like the older you get, the more willing you are to say, okay, what, let's drop this.
let's really look at this. , it's not that it happens automatically when you turn 40, , but it's, it's, you just kind of, you get sick of your own shit almost sometimes. Right? And you realize things like internalizing whatever conditioning that happened during our childhoods, whatever that may be, that maybe we don't like, we start to see it much more clearly for what it is.
We start to realize it does not help us and we start to, just have that confidence that we are more than that. And I think that just happens as we grow. I think a 30 year old is going to have it more than a 20 year old. And a 20 year old is certainly going to have it more than a 10 year old.
it's I think it's just something that comes as, as we get older,
[00:54:05] Francesca: Hmm. .And that's, that's the beauty of getting older is, well, not for everybody, but wisdom comes with age, not for everybody. I've seen some elders that are just, oh no, haven't grown one, and you learn one lesson.
[00:54:20] Andrea: Es no absolutes here.
[00:54:21] Francesca: I wanted sure that I was learning lessons the way of not to do,
but then I also realize there's a certain aspect of that that means I feel I need to save all the families that were similar to my own.
So that's something that I also work on to make sure that I am not overstepping my boundaries. I'm not over empathizing to the point where I'm imposing on my clients, but also making sure I check myself to make sure that this is not something I'm trusting on to the client in any way, shape, or.
[00:54:52] Andrea: Yeah. And I find it's, it's interesting as , because I do something that's very similar. Helping people in a professional way and I feel like doing that creates, space in between you and what you're treating and what you're helping the people with.
And that space that wouldn't necessarily be there if it was like a partner or a child, or a sibling or a parent. And so I feel like that is a really effective way to break that cycle, like you said.
[00:55:22] Francesca: Absolutely. Cycles need to, this is, I feel like this is the generation and this is the year of breaking cycles,
it's also more. November for me, it's a very November up until the new year. It's very spiritual, but it's also the season of, , seasonal affect of disorder. But , it's the season of changing things in your life.
, me just having eclipse. , it's the season of changing certain things in your life and realizing certain things that need to be changed, and also being able to take accountability for your own actions. So if there is something in my life that I don't like it, I can change it, it's possible for me to change it.
I don't need to take everybody else's opinion of me and criticisms and, , put it into one nice little ball and make sure that I hold onto this as a grudge. Once again, as you get older, there are certain things you just have to let go of.
You just want your life to just be, just to have a sense of ease.
And ease, peace and quiet. I always say that and my brother laughs at me like, you in this damn peace and quiet. I'm like, listen, I like my peace
and I like my quiet. It's very important. It's very, that's the introverted side of me. It's very important to have that peace and quiet can sit down and talk to God and figure out what it is that I need to do in this season of my life.
You don't always want to be stressed. You don't always want to be upset or frustrated or overwhelmed. So how can I make my life better in the upcoming months?
[00:56:48] Andrea: I always laugh and I hear people talk about, , like, this is an introverted thing, or because I'm, I'm a pretty extreme extrovert, but I still need peace and quiet. I still need that quiet time to get in touch with my gut
and to find out what it is that I, I need to do.
[00:57:06] Francesca: it is, yes. I love being in touch with my indigestion. , just to. Checking in with myself to make sure that I'm doing okay. Like, how are you feeling today, Fran? Are you physically feeling okay? What is it that you, what do you need to give yourself at this point in time in order to feel great for the rest of the day?
And I've noticed that really works for me. Instead of pushing through, if I'm having pain, it's okay to lay down and take a nap. Other people might fuss about it. Especially when I first got here and I took two years off.
[00:57:39] Andrea: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:39] Francesca: Actually everything I've been through in my doctoral program, I think I deserve some time off
Like I, I think I do. And even telling myself that now you deserve to rest. You don't have to accomplish everything on your to-do list in order for you to actually receive something. I don't have to check off everything on my to-do list. It'll get done eventually. It is what it is. So I try not to stress too much about it.
I know at times I can be high anxiety. I need to accomplish these certain things, but at certain time I have everything written down in the timeline. After a while, especially with the chronic illness, I kind of laughed and through that timeline out the window because I had everything mapped out by 25. I need to be in medical school by 27.
I need to have, , a husband by 29, I need to have two children at home. I had everything mapped out, but once the chronic illness hit, it really helped me process things from a different perspective of why did you make this plan? Did you need this plan? Is this plan a good plan for your life? Or did someone tell you this is what you need to be doing?
So, whereas I see my friends and they're cute little kids on Facebook. Oh, they're so adorable. And they're so grown up. Now they're teenagers, some of them are teenagers, , and I love that for them. But I also realized that my life was heading in a completely different direction. Yes. You went off and got your PhD at 23.
Yes. You started your own business at 30 something. I can't remember how old I am now, but this is how your life turned out. I don't want you to have any sort of regrets for what it is that you're doing, because you're still giving back to the community, which is what you said you wanted to do. You're a caregiver.
I didn't expect this, but I also, my parents are older than Dirk. It is what? It's, they're a little old.
[00:59:22] Andrea: Well, I, and I feel like.
[00:59:25] Francesca: so
[00:59:25] Andrea: I
don't feel like anybody expects to be a caregiver. Like we all kind of feel like maybe it's going to be in the carts at some point. Because
logically that's, that's kind of how things go. But I don't think any of us say like, oh, okay, I'm going to be, I'm going to be a caregiver. And that alone is like, okay, I need to, I need to realize that this is what's happening and
[00:59:45] Francesca: Right, exactly. And I always tell, , my parents when I was working with parents with, , younger children, be careful about how you treat your children now because it'll determine whether you go to a nursing home later. So , just make sure.
[01:00:01] Andrea: just
[01:00:01] Francesca: Just make sure that you are taking care of your children's emotional needs because you don't want to end up in a nursing home.
[01:00:10] Andrea: funny. It's funny, , it's funny and it's true. what the theme here is, I think is looking after yourself. If you're in the caregiver role, or if you are the one with chronic illness, that is, being taken care of, looking after yourself, being compassionate, giving yourself that moment, giving yourself that quiet, that stillness, listening to what it is that you need, and then being confident, knowing that you can take that time for yourself.
You don't have to make other people, heal you or make you feel better. Right? Like you can take that responsibility and you can, and I think that almost gives us more of that confidence when we realize like this is, I can do all of this. It's, yes, we need community. Yes, we need caregivers. Yes, we need everybody around us, but there's so much that we can do on our own.
And I think when we do that, we are. So much more independent
Emotionally, spiritually, physically, there's just, there's an independence to that that I think helps that caregiving relationship, helps that relationship with all of those people around you, but also takes the, it takes the, , the importance off of what other people think
of what other people are saying.
Because as we're talking about this, I'm thinking, we've talked a lot about when other people want to care for you or when you want to care for other people, but what happens when you are in a family or in a partnership and they don't believe you, they don't believe, maybe your symptoms are things like chronic fatigue and things like that, that they can't see, they might not always think about it because sometimes with, I know with my illness and with a lot of people, it's like, you're, you're feeling pretty good on some days, and then other days it's, , you feel pretty wrecked.
[01:02:12] Francesca: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:12] Andrea: so it can be hard for other people to take us seriously, even think about it. And so having that, that confidence, having that compassion for ourselves, I think takes the importance off of other people seeing our illness or other people like letting them, if they don't want to take it, take it seriously.
If they want to be in denial, what? Fine.
[01:02:38] Francesca: Exactly,
[01:02:39] Andrea: because I don't need you. I don't need you. I don't need you to understand and be in this for me to take care of myself
[01:02:47] Francesca: exactly. And I always say the most important relationship you will ever have in this world is the relationship you have with yourself.
[01:02:54] Andrea: ugh, yes.
[01:02:55] Francesca: Everyone else's opinion, they can have an opinion of you. They can, they can say whatever it is they need to say about you. That's none of your business. Just make sure that you are living your most authentic truest life.
So when you are on that bed and talking to whoever is up there apparently, , that that you lived your life the way you wanted to live your life, and you did everything you needed to do for yourself.
[01:03:18] Andrea: Yeah. Beautifully said. Well, I thank you so, so much. I think this has been a really just. Full conversation and talking about a lot of things that people have anxiety about, a lot of things that people have questions about. , and I think one of the things that you did so beautifully was just give people permission to be okay with their boundaries.
Be okay with being, , selfish, right? Taking care of themselves, being okay with putting themselves first. I think just having that permission. It sounds so little, but it's such a huge thing I think that a lot of people need to hear.
[01:04:07] Francesca: Absolutely I hope if when individuals are listening to this podcast, they can take away that one lesson is it's okay to take care of myself. It's okay. You're going to have your ups and downs. It is what it is. This is life. Like I said, every day of life is not going to be a rah party. , every day, every day of your life is not going to be exciting.
We're going to have our ups and downs. That's the reality of our situations of having a chronic illness and being a caregiver. Even if you're not a caregiver, and even if you don't have a chronic illness. That's just the reality of the life that we live. Everything isn't going to be amazing every second of the day.
So the reality is sometimes we have to sit in our emotions, feel the emotions, feel your feelings. Check in with yourself, make sure that you're okay. What do I need to give myself at this point in time so that I can move on with the rest of my day? And sometimes, especially if you're dealing with anxiety or depression, you might not be able to move on with the rest of your day.
This could last for days. It could last for weeks. That's what depression does to you. Depression tells you things like you're not worth it or you're a burden to your family. You're not doing enough. But it's important for us to process those feelings. Not just by ourselves, but with a therapist who can tell you, you are doing everything it is that you need to do to take care of yourself and to take care of the individual that you need to take care of. That's, I don't know if you remember that commercial with that little white ball. It was actually kind of cute. The little white ball that jumps around the depression ball that follows you everywhere. , it was for a specific medication and he was like sitting on the person's shoulder
[01:05:39] Andrea: yeah, I do.
[01:05:42] Francesca: I, I don't, what, what was the name of that little ball?
[01:05:44] Andrea: I can't, I don't know, but
[01:05:45] Francesca: I don't remember. But once again, that is the nature of depression. It's going to tell you that you're not doing enough, you're not worth it. But we know in reality this is not true. And the person that is going to interject and intercede and let that this is not true as a therapist,
[01:06:06] Andrea: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I,
like I said, Huge believer. I actually think this would be a better world if every single person got therapy. . I really do.
[01:06:18] Francesca: You're with me? Absolutely
[01:06:20] Andrea: Yeah. Well, I'm going to have all your information in the show notes, but tell us how we can find you, how we can get in touch with you if people have more questions.
[01:06:30] Francesca: awesome. So you can find me on Instagram at fko therapy where I post about, , chronic illness and being a caregiver and also every now and then, some funny blurbs and candidates. , you can also find me on Facebook Fko Therapy and Consultation Services, and you can also find me on my website, www.fktherapyandconsultation.com.
is the longest title ever and I hope I can change it soon.
[01:06:58] Andrea: Well, like I said, it's all going to be in the show notes, so any kind of links, , you can go to the show notes for this episode and they will be there. Dr. Francesca Owoo Thank you so, so much for being here and talking about this. Like you said, a pretty heavy topic, but I think we did a good job. I don't think
[01:07:16] Francesca: I think we did. I think we did.
About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis
Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.
I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.