/ Jan - Feb 2006
/I'm Fine, Thanks
By Pat D’Andria
the life of a caregiver. You are always fine because the focus is
always on the person that you care for. You are “just fine” because
if you think of allowing yourself to be anything other than fine,
your legs will come out from under you. You just keep moving along,
all the while knowing that the person that you are trying to
convince that you are “just fine” is you. It would have to be you;
everyone else in creation can see the dark circles under your eyes
and recognize the tension buzzing through your system like an
overdose of caffeine.
Let’s assume that it has been a while since someone in your life has
had a diagnosis or an accident that leaves you in charge of
everything. Not just them and their care, but everything from
cooking and cleaning to paying the bills and getting the vehicles
maintained. It might be accurate to say that you had a few minutes
to adjust to the whole idea before you had to start making some
pretty big decisions and it probably has not stopped since then.
It is a sure bet that the personalities involved get all the more
interesting to boot. Not necessarily those directly involved, but
all the folks that sort of buzz around just wanting to cause more
drama; as if there is not enough already. Oddly enough, the drama
that used to be so upsetting in life can become so tiny in the
scheme of things when real life rears it’s head.
It’s right about now that you get cocky. You think to yourself,
“Stress? Ha! I laugh at stress. I have everything under
control.” You have it all figured out, you are working, you have
aides coming in and taking care of your loved one, you shop, you
cook, you can find things—life is just fine. Out of the blue, you
find yourself in the shower shaking and crying and you don’t even
know why. Ahhh. I guess I am not so fine after all.
This is where you realize that you really do come into the picture
after all. You have to fit yourself in or you won’t be o.k. If you
have a counselor, you go. If you don’t have a counselor, you find
one. You start to learn that you are still present and need to be
cared for also. The only one to care for you is you.
There is a lot of talk about finding balance in your life. When you
are a caregiver, balance seems to be the pot of gold at the end of
the rainbow. It seems that you need to tie together different
skills in the hopes that in unison they will deflect some of the
stress in your life.
Remember that life was
hard to deal with before you were a caregiver. Not that much has
really changed; there is just a
whole lot more of it and it feels so huge.
Attempt to find balance anyway. Understand that you need to accept
help from others with grace and they
need to help, it makes them feel good. If all you do is give, you
will come to resent it and get cranky. You need to make sure that you also receive from others;
whether this is in the form of massage, a pedicure,
manicure, getting your haircut—all of
those hands-on things that make you feel more connected. In an
ideal world it would be nice to have your
give/receive ratio be equal, but as a caregiver you will not get
close to that. Shoot for what feels
right for you.
Active relaxation is so helpful—meditation, self-guided
relaxation, yoga, Tai Chi or any form of exercise that works
the knots out. Do something that helps you develop an ability to
let stress slide off of your body.
It is o.k. to think about you. Most of the time your focus is on
the person that you care for. When you do start to
think about your own needs, it feels uncomfortable,
like new shoes. Get over it. It is so easy to lose yourself in all of the “stuff”. Re-create
a life for yourself, this is the perfect time to take a
breath and think about what you really want for you.
Take a break from drama. The inconsequential “who said what about
who” stuff that people love to lay at
your feet. Just let it pass on by and pay no attention to it.
Swear off of guilt forever. I could go on and on about this one.
Just suffice it to say: Stop with the guilt already. Feeling it, giving it or getting it.
Live in the moment and
kick back and relax when you can. Not many people understand what
an honor it is to be someone’s
caregiver. Give yourself a good healthy pat on the
back, but hurry it up; you have places
to go and things to do.