I haven’t written in a while. Caregiving still takes up a good bit of my time- actually my world still evolves around it. But I think I am just so tired of it all, that I don’t have the energy to write about it. It just gets old.
I have been thinking about guilt. I always feel guilty, it is one of my greatest talents. ( “Ha”, she said, sarcastically.) But lately, I have been trying hard to make some sense of it, to figure out a way to help other caregivers manage it. Recently, I read two articles on caregving. In one, the author called caregiving ” a crucible”. Now that certainly evokes positive images – NOT. I looked up the definition and one of them is ” a place or occasion of severe test or trial.” And of course, it was a play written by Arthur Miller ( once married to Marilyn Monroe for all you trivia fans ) about the Salem Witch trials. Then today, on Facebook, I read an article about the top ten emotions to be mindful of if you are a caregiver. Guess what was number one? Yep, that pesky guilt.
It seems to me, the biggest reason caregiving can be called a crucible is the emotional burden. Yes, caregiving can be physically exhausting, and financially burdensome, but the emotional burden is the one that is most difficult to manage. One can find ways to get some physical rest. You can sell something to make money, get a reverse mortgage, etc. to deal with some of the financial burden. ( Not implying it is easy, just saying there are ways…) But it is difficult to come up with a plan to ease our emotions, especially guilt. Guilt is the one that seems to really hang on with a vengence. I hear it from members of support groups, and other caregivers I encounter as I speak around the country. It seems to be a universal commonality.
As a reader and a writer, I know that words have power. That’s why we can become so upset about what we read on Facebook. Those fools who post those inane political statements can really get us riled! But seriously, we know how words can hurt. And occasionally they help. When someone tells us ” Good job!” it sticks with us for a while and buoys our mood and spirit. And when the person with dementia for whom we care says ” Who are you?” or ” I hate you!” we know the power, the pain in the gut and the soul those words can render.
So I have been searching for some words that might help us with guilt. I have found some words that we can memorize, or tape on the bathroom mirror or read over every night before you go to bed. Just some words to try to put things in perspective for those of you carrying the enormous emotional load of guilt. I hope you find them helpful. Because I know you are doing the best you can.
“It is not the strongest of the species
that survives, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.”
“Guilt is a weight that will crush you whether
you deserve it or not. “
Maureen Johnson, Author
“Guilt is a useless thing. It’s never enough to
make you change direction, only enough to
make you useless.”
Daniel Nayeri, Author
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom, Author, Nazi Prison Camp Survivor
“You can do anything…but not everything.”
David Allen, Productivity Consultant
“Caregivers are not superheroes. Superheroes don’t get weary beyond their breaking point. Superheroes don’t hurt, cry, shake and struggle to hold it all together. Superheroes don’t cry themselves to sleep at night with a mixture of worry and exhaustion.”
Jeff Davidson, author
“Sacrifice – it’s difficult to handle any level of sacrifice if you don’t
receive acknowledgement of what you are doing, compassion for your
plight and endorsements of your reason for doing what you are doing.
The platonic ideal that a family caregiver should be patient, generous
and strong. Sometimes we get this from images we see of others…
like Nancy Reagan caring for the President…
or from past actions of others – “ my mother took care of her mother
without ever complaining, so now I must do the same.”
Or religious convictions, “God has placed this challenge before me
to test me or teach me.”
Barry Jacobs in The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers.
” You are not perfect. You are merely the person trying to provide comfort, care, and love to someone who is succumbing to an illness or a condition over which you have little or no control. What you can control is how you take care of you.”
Jane Marks, Dementia Specialist, Caregiver, and Caregiver Advisor
Hope your burden is eased a bit.
As always, with love,