Caregivers, I say this in love–Get a life!
People used to suggest that I attend a caregiver’s support group when I was caring for my mother full-time. I’m sure that a good part of this advice had to do with the fact that they just wanted me to stop griping and whining to them.
I do believe that support groups are vital.
They make you feel less alone. They pass along great information about resources available in your own community.
You realize that your loved one’s behaviour is not that unusual, and you’re able to see those who are further along on their journey and help others who have just started.
Support groups can be like a war vet center where everyone comes in with their physical and psychological wounds–and everyone there understands.
But I also want you to know that caregiver’s support groups can be depressing, if you’re not careful. Sometimes it’s just a gripe group.
Now, I know venting is important, but so is knowing when to stop venting. That old law of attraction thing again. If you’re griping mom won’t take her meds, then all you’re doing is perpetuating that mom won’t take her meds. (I’m the queen of griping, so I say this with understanding, but I also know that after a while, I just wear it out, and then I’m over it–but the problem is, I’ve worn out everyone else by talking about it so much!)
I used to recant and say, “If I do happen to get a chance to get away from my mother for a few hours, the last thing I want to do is leave her to go TALK about her.” I also added that if I could leave, I might pull into the nearest bar, be too tired to get out of my car, and sleep in the sun for a few hours. I wasn’t kidding. Navel gazing is important too.
I felt like it just gave her more of my life, more power, and as terrible as it is to admit it, some of our loved one’s enjoy their new found power to dominate our lives a little too much.
So yes, I attended some support groups, but you want to know what I did consistently? Once a month?
I went to a writer’s meeting.
Caregivers, we have to plan for our futures.
We might have dreams, plans, goals, aspirations we put on hold or unearthed during our years as a caregiver. We need to start making baby steps in that direction.
It’s not good to create such a circle of care that it becomes a vortex.
And it’s easy to do. It’s hard to fight the “suck” of the vacumn that’s created. It’s easier to hang out with other caregivers than to force yourself to mainstream into the world–to have to shut up about how difficult mom or dad or our spouse is being and talk about something else. But it’s good for us. And for them.
After a few hours of doing something not caregiving related, I came back invigorated, smiling, and ready to tackle my responsibilities as a caregiver–and able to be more loving and patient because my well as been refilled.
And today, I’m a writer.
My favorite quote is from poet Mary Oliver,
“Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?”