Confessions of a Stressed-Out Caregiver

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Often, when I meet someone who has just become a caregiver, they ask me how I do it; “How do you handle the daily stress of working and caregiving full time while still managing a home?” I always reply, “I try to take it one day at a time and just deal with what’s happening that day.”  Pearls of wisdom, right? Well, I’m here to confess I apparently don’t deal with stress very well, so I’m not sure I should be giving anyone any advice on this subject. I’ve been caring for Lynn full-time since 2009, and I can tell you, it’s starting to take its toll.  Here’s my confession.

I do not take things one day at a time.  I try to, but I’m not very good at it. 

  • I always have a running list of things I need to do in the back of my mind. For example, every time I run out of an item, I try to remember to write it down because I know I won’t remember it when I go to the store. Forgetting things stresses me out, including forgetting to write them down.  
  • I keep a calendar of all future appointments and upcoming events because, without it, I won’t remember them. However, I don’t think about the appointment until the day before it arrives. Then suddenly, I have this “interference” with my structured day, and I’m faced with how to get everything that must be done at home and work accomplished along with the doctor’s appointment, which always takes 4-5 hours out of my day.
  • I try to stay organized and structured, yet my life still seems to be full of chaos, and I can never seem to catch up. I always have those things to do that I’ll do when there is time, and years later, there still is not time.  For instance, I want to clean out my attic to give items to our church for a mission project but I don’t have time to go up there and sort them out and label them. Hopefully, when Lynn and I are both gone, whoever gets the house will donate them to someone who can use them because it’s likely not to be done before then.
  • I have a ton of ‘want to’ projects, but since they are not ‘have to’ projects, the thought of them just sits on the back of my brain, nagging at me repeatedly as something I ‘need’ to eventually do. I can’t separate ‘want to’ from ‘need to,’ and the stress of trying to get caught up to do those ‘want to’ projects just never seems to be relieved.

I have what is referred to as a Type A personality.  I come by it legitimately; my Mom has one, too, and I’m sorry to say, my daughter is just like my Mom and me, so this curse seems to keep getting passed from one generation to another. My Mom has terminal cancer, so I advise her to take it easy and do only what she feels like doing.  Her response is always, “I will,” and then I hear of her cleaning up and cleaning out as if she isn’t ill at all.  I worry that she will overdo it, but on the other hand, I think it’s also her way of living out her life, so I don’t push that point too much. I think she also hates to ask anyone to help her accomplish something that is “her” job. I’m like that, too. My daughter also pushes herself to her limits daily.  She has a special needs child who has an “invisible” condition, but it takes every spare minute she has to meet his needs and keep up her home. She constantly worries about others, thinking she is making a mountain out of a molehill regarding his condition, so she doesn’t ask for help. I encourage her to nap when her son does, and some of the time, she actually does (so there is hope for someone in this family to learn), but often, she runs on only a few hours of sleep (see, she’s just like me). 

Me?  I listen to no one. What’s worse is that I know what I am doing is going to likely shorten my life, but I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I’m alive now, and the things I need to do won’t wait till the next day, so I just keep going and going like the Ever-Ready Bunny. I feel guilty if I take a day off, even if I’m forced to take one, like when I’ve been hospitalized three times in the last two months. Each time I was discharged from the hospital, I came home and worked to get caught up until I was exhausted.  Is there any wonder that my stomach lining is eroding away from stress? 

So, you see, I feel like a hypocrite when someone asks me how to cope with stress.  I’m overweight, so far out of shape that I breathe heavily just walking a short distance, and I don’t get enough sleep.  I’m a perfectionist who feels like if I don’t do everything well, then I’m not doing my part.  I never feel like I do enough, and I am constantly feeling frustrated and depressed.  I know what needs to be done. I even know how to do the things that need to be done.  My problem, however, is balancing my desire to keep everyone else happy, safe, and well with my own personal needs.  That I don’t do well at all, and it’s not because I’m such a saint; it’s because I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

So there; that’s the confession of a totally stressed-out caregiver who has not found a way to manage the stress successfully.  I know that the only way I am going to be able to get this under control is through Divine intervention, so I’m praying for Jesus to step in and give me the strength and perseverance to change. I can’t do this on my own, and I don’t have the willpower to stick to a regimen of diet, exercise, and going to bed earlier.   I expect this confession will resonate with many of you.  I share it mainly because I want you to know you are not alone.  It’s something we all struggle with…daily. I don’t think any of us have an answer on how to handle it all alone, but I still think “one day at a time” and prayer may be the best ways.  

This article originally appeared on Multiplesclerosis.Net by Health-Union, LLC, and has been reposted with permission.

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