Have you hit your breaking point?
“I can’t keep going,” Micah lamented. “I don’t want to keep caring for my wife. We were supposed to grow old together and enjoy our retirement years. Life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this!”
Can you relate to Micah’s experience? Are you caring for a spouse, parent, or sibling when you had dreamed of enjoying your retirement years?
If you are not at the retirement stage in life quite yet, perhaps you can relate to Beth’s dilemma.
“I no longer want to live like this.” Beth was crying as she told of all the atrocities happening in her home. She was the parent of a stubborn child.
Beth’s friends tried to cheer her up by saying that she was just going through the teen years. Beth always responded the same way when someone told her the teen years would be over soon, “This child has been a teenager since birth. I have been dealing with teenage attitudes for 15 years.”
Before you breakdown:
Recently I heard that the number one reason for doctor appointments in America is stress and anxiety. If you are at the point of breaking down emotionally and physically, please seek medical attention. You can refer to my earlier blog post “Depression in Caregivers” for a checklist of 20 areas you need to be on the lookout for.
In this post, I want to give you 20 “I am” statements to test yourself for stress and anxiety.
Do you see yourself in any of these?
- I am no longer receiving appreciation from the person I care for, nor do I receive appreciation from anyone else.
- I am finding that I do not have enough time for myself and cannot get enough rest.
- I am no longer able to feel good about myself. I cannot remember the last time I was able to take pride in anything I do.
- I am unable to find time to be with friends or family who encourage me because all my time is spent with the person I care for.
- I am no longer able to feel joy in any part of my life. The “good old days” are long gone.
- I am providing more care as the days go by. I work harder every day, yet it is never enough.
- I am having increasing conflicts with the person I care for.
- I am nothing more than a shell of a person. I have no satisfaction in caregiving. It started out as loving care, but has now morphed into resentment.
- I am left feeling guilty, about various aspects of caregiving, much of the time.
- I am no longer doing things I once enjoyed because I feel it is selfish when I think about my own needs.
- I am worried about finances.
- I am afraid to admit to failing, so I shut people out.
- I am resorting to destructive behaviors in my effort to cope (i.e. – using drugs, overusing alcohol, overeating junk food).
- I am left feeling as though I do not have enough knowledge, experience, or support to give proper care to my loved one.
- I am not caring for myself properly. I even had to give up my career.
- I am trapped.
- I am feeling as though I am all alone in caring for this person, while the rest of the world is going on without me.
- I am jealous of people around me who enjoy their lives.
- I am watching my health break down, due to the pressures of caregiving.
- I am feeling helpless and hopeless because the situation is getting worse, no matter what I do.
Do not be discouraged if the list above describes you.
Do any of the 20 statements above reflect your current lot in life?
You are in the right place. The other caregivers reading this blog are in the same position as you. They understand.
You are not alone in your feelings. Caregivers, around the world, who are also at their breaking points know how you are feeling. We have said it many times, but please get yourself physically and mentally healthy, even if it means another trip to the doctor’s office. Do not feel guilty by taking care of yourself first. If you are running on fumes, you have little that you can give to others.
What can you do next?
The list of 20 statements is not meant to bring you down or cause you to lament. Being a martyr will not solve your problem. Worrying and stressing about your situation will not make it any better.
Research and reassess!
If you feel the same way that Micah and Beth felt, in the opening stories, start researching resources. Many people say there is nothing that can help them, but perhaps they can reassess all the things they have to do on a given day.
Try this activity now: take out a piece of paper and make two columns on it. In one column, write down all the things that drain your joy and energy in a given day. Once you see all the life-depleting activities, do not host a pity party. Rather, make the deliberate choice to do one thing differently tomorrow.
Before you say that you cannot cross anything off your list, reevaluate the list from a different perspective. For example, instead of washing dishes perhaps you could eat on paper plates or get takeout for one meal. (I am not advocating harming the environment night after night or eating unhealthy. This is simply to change the way you view your daily “to do” list.) Just try changing one aspect of your routine and see how much lighter you feel. If you can get your brain to refocus, you can bring some joy back.
If your first idea for change does not work out as well as you hoped, you have lost nothing. Pick a different idea to try another day.
One of the tricks I learned in a seminar was to rewire your brain by doing something differently. If you put your watch on the opposite wrist, or eat dinner in reverse order, or drive a new route to a familiar place, you are rewiring parts of your brain. You can actually train your brain to view circumstances differently.
Researching, reassessing, reevaluating and rewiring cannot make things worse.
What do you have to lose? If you are feeling as though you are as low as you can go, then the only other direction is up!
Soon, we will have part two of this post. It will contain 20 counter-statements to our list of wearisome statements from today. Please join us back for that special post. In the meantime, I would like to empower you in your journey.
Our goals for today are to get you healthy- make an appointment with a doctor, psychologist, or pastoral care team member. Then, make a change in your routine. Maybe the idea you implement works brilliantly, or maybe you just get a good laugh from it. Either way, you are action oriented and putting a little more control back into your out-of-control caregiving environment.
I would love to hear your stories! What is one thing you have reordered, in your caregiving world, which has revolutionized aspects of your daily grind?