Are you a type D Personality?  Here’s the Antidote
By Debbie Mandel

Most of us feel frustrated when we think we have no control over what is happening to us. Living in ambiguity or uncertainty, we turn to our crystal balls and forecast gloom and doom in our lives. We tend to create a fictional certainty to counteract the ambiguity and usually this version of “our certainty” ends in failure. Anticipating a negative outcome, we bring it on ourselves, or at best waste precious time dreading the outcome which luckily never happens the way we imagine it would! This hopeless and helpless attitude is not only stressful, but terribly unhealthy for us and those in our care!

According to the American Medical Association, a new personality type has been identified to be more prone to heart disease and stroke than the Type A (which pales in comparison); it is the Type D personality who is distressed and distant. Caregivers, in particular, tend to feel distressed taking care of everyone’s needs but their own. Also, because caregivers feel overwhelmed with the daily to-do list, they feel isolated by a wall of grief and guilt. The antidote is to understand what is slowly poisoning our innate zest for living; in other words, what is holding us back from leading our lives. Could we be the authors of this distress, creating the irreconcilable distance from all those people we blame for not helping us and not being sensitive enough?

The unknown invites fearful visions. Consider this: We can confidently walk a plank on the ground. Now elevate that same plank ten feet high and we are frightened that we will lose our balance and fall. It is not our bodies that fail us, but our minds which conjure up failure. We are terribly afraid of living: What will people say if we have fun – shouldn’t we be grieving and humble? How will we measure up – are we good enough? What if we are rejected when we ask for help or some free time for ourselves? The good news: We can exchange our negative crystal ball for a positive one.

Even when we think that we have absolutely lost all control, such as in the aging and disease process, we can exert our powerful control center, the mind. Observe how some people look young, act young and are vital even when chronologically they are advanced in age. Some people get cancer and come to their senses. In both cases, people have made up their minds to live their lives with enthusiasm, experiencing one focused action after another. Obviously, no one is going to live forever, but we can really be alive because our life depends on it. Let’s turn adversity into advantage. After all, unlike most people, we know the facts; the next step is how we choose to perceive them. Caregiving need not be a case of identity theft. Rather, this might be the time in your life to reinvent.

When my mother was sick with Alzheimer’s, I realized that Alzheimer’s teaches us a powerful lesson — to let go. Alzheimer’s forces the patient to let go of the past and live in the now, moment to moment. My mother, who didn’t know what planet she was on, knew me, her daughter. When everything melted away in her memory, our visceral love was there – so thick you could touch it. How blessed I was to have experienced that kind of love and forever keep it in my heart! How blessed I was to see the world with Alzheimer’s eyes and live in the moment and appreciate the little things with my five senses! Because I was experiencing a painful time in my life, I decided as a caregiver to fill my life with creativity to counteract the destruction. I wrote two books on stress-management and put them in my mother’s hands! I found my passion and my true identity.

Here are some suggestions to lead your life, instead of blindly following wherever it takes you:

  • Accept responsibility for your life. Either make things work out better where you are, or select a more suitable environment like a nursing home or assisted living for the person in your care. Learn to rid yourself of the victim mentality. If you use the word “stuck” to describe your life, then you have given away your power. Words train our spirit. Loosen your addiction to the word “stuck.” Use words like: “choose,” “free” and “decide.”

  • Express yourself honestly, but pay careful attention to how others receive your words. Communication is a two-way street. Plan to do a lot of listening and you will learn vital information that can help.

  • Balance your needs with the people who inhabit your life. When you know what makes you happy, make those around you happy too. That means compliment them by finding something positive to say to trigger their positive energy. Touch and hug to transmit the loving, healing energy deep within you. Good energy rebounds, settles an agitated heart and promotes improved health.

  • Can you learn from criticism? Associate with a person or persons who don’t always agree with you. Hear their ideas and suggestions. Avoid being right all the time!

  • Don’t let your need for emotional security and control run your life. Try to leave your comfort zone and seek out change. Emotional security can serve as a cage.

  • Don’t let anger fuel your future. Anger and resentment are energy vampires that stunt your growth.

  • Don’t be the archetypal rescuer who forgets to rescue the self. As per airline instructions, put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on the person in your charge. Because if you pass out, so will your patient. If you are stressed, the person you love and care for will absorb that stress.

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate! Ask for help. Community centers, houses of worship, colleges, etc. have volunteers ready, willing and able to help you out. Live in greater balance with a sense of who you are.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers’ Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more, visit:


 Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter