OK, my caregiver brothers and sisters:
Today I want to talk about some of the struggles I’ve been having recently. I openly admit and own the fact that I am a type A personality. And I also love being able to control all aspects of my life. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in the last 7 years as a caregiver, is the lack of control over the things in my world.
I’m guessing that there are a few other caregivers out there who struggle with the same thing. It’s like you have the best intentions for your day, but due to your caregiving responsibilities, the person’s level of dependence on you to provide care for another, issues with symptoms, doctor’s appointments, weather, traffic, and all of the other things that try to throw wrenches in our well laid out plans.
So today I just want to talk about my resolution for New Year’s:
This is focusing on the things I can control and getting my mind off the things I cannot control.
This is a big one for anyone who is in the caregiving role. Some days we feel like we have it all managed, then other days we feel like we can’t get anything right. Being the responsible one in the caregiving role can cause all kinds of chaos to our self-esteem as well as our stress level.
So after 7 years, I’d like to say I have mastered my perspective of the situation. However, there are still days I carry bitterness, anger, and resentment. Not at Mark and his situation, but rather my expectations of other people around us. I always felt like I would have a lot of support from family members, and while some family members have shown up and done wonders for my survival as a caregiver, there are a lot of other people in our lives that have not helped at all or have done the bare minimum.
So I have to have the perspective that my expectations do not dictate someone else’s behavior. This is been very difficult for me. I do work on this daily, but the sooner I realize that no one is coming to rescue me and that I’m in this on my own, I think the better off I will be. This doesn’t mean I won’t still ask for help from those who are willing to help, but it does mean that I need to drop my expectations that the people who don’t want to help are going to suddenly show up for Mark.
This has been very hard for me and I don’t want to waste any more time or energy on having the perspective that everyone has the same heart as me. I also need to make sure that I am focusing on all of the good things in my life which brings us to our next point.
This year my plan is to work on staying in gratitude. While I have done this sporadically over the last 7 years, I’m starting a new habit of writing down 3 things that I am grateful for every day. My attitude in this situation, as a caregiver for my husband, will make or break my overall quality of life. Which will also impact those around me. I don’t want to spend any more time in this fleeting blink of an eye we call life being bitter or angry or jealous. So while I can’t control my situation or those around me or circumstances that might come in our future, I can definitely keep a good attitude and know that it will all work out, as it always has, and it always does.
This has been a big struggle for me. While I’m very good at keeping my mouth shut when people say or do things regarding my caregiver role, I generally keep it bottled up and make myself sick with anger. This response does not solve the problem and it does not change anyone’s interactions with me. So for example, if a family member has a critique or criticism about my caregiving, I often just keep it locked inside and then come home and cry later! I’m not sure that there are very many things that could be as unhealthy!
So one of the things I have committed to work on this year is understanding that I cannot control what people say, what they do, what they don’t do, or how they feel about me and my situation with my husband. What I can control, is keeping in mind that since I am doing this on my own, it’s not really anyone else’s opinion. I am not responsible for making people happy about the choices I make for our family.
Spending my energy
The final thing that I am going to work on for this upcoming year and my caregiver role is being very selective about how I spend my time and energy. I do spend time in meditation, journaling, exercising, and all of the good self-care things we caregivers are taught. Here’s the thing though, unless I really am intentional with how I spend my energy I can easily undo all of that good self-care work that I’ve done. So if I choose to spend my time mindlessly scrolling social media, being in comparison with someone else’s life, or simply spending time watching negative things, like the 6 o’clock news then I am not doing myself any favors for my physical or mental health
It comes to my attention that I can take all of the vitamins and eat well and exercise, but if I don’t manage my stress response, I’m really just playing wack-a-mole with my health. So it’s time to say goodbye to the muscle tension, digestive issues, chronic headaches, and restlessness during the night, and start focusing on keeping my mind inward and nurturing my own soul.
I am going to learn and remember that I am not responsible for waking up every morning and spinning the planet. My 52 years of being a control freak have to be set aside and I’m going to work very hard to spend my time and energy on making sure that I don’t let my life and happiness pass me by because I was busy trying to control everything else. I hope you will join me in this commitment caregivers, I think this should be the year that we decide we’re going to make ourselves a priority, even if we are in the caregiving role!
Thank you for all you do caregivers!