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Caregiving means in many ways that we’ve come home.

Whether our parent  (or a spouse) lives with us, or us with them, or even if they’re in a care facility–they’re back in your life–big time.

Just when you gained your independence, figured out who you were, escaped that incredible gravitational pull to be the child they always expected you’d be you find yourself trying to keep that “adult” you intact. You’re confident, relaxed and not threatened around others, and you want to give–your heart and your hands openly–but you can’t. 

You’re 40, 50 years old and yet you have found yourself right back in that concentric ring. No matter how educated or traveled you are, or how long it’s been since you left your parent’s home you feel four or fourteen and wonder how you collapse under their words when you can be so strong, so accomplished in other relationships and areas of your life..

There’s a fine line between a person who tends to be bossy, has lots of opinions and an overbearing person. 

A person who is overbearing demands that life be on their terms–just about all the time.

An overbearing person uses “tactics” to get you to do what you wouldn’t otherwise choose to do–guilt, manipulation, and belittling words are used too often. You have little say, even about the smallest things.

An overbearing person makes you feel small and doesn’t take in account your needs, much less your dreams.

We’re all like that from time to time, but we strive to be considerate of others. Overbearing people truly believe that their needs are more important.

We never outgrow our need for parental approval.

Even if you’re that black sheep of the family you can’t escape the parental pull. Rebellion is just an acknowledgement of how very powerful our parents are in our life in the first place.

But if you’re caregiving, doesn’t that mean that you’re the one who needs to make the decisions?

Yes, and no. Dad needs you. Mom asked for your help. You took that as a sign that they’d be somewhat agreeable.

 

Being overbearing can be  a familiar and satisfying pattern.

Let’s face it. We bought into it and gave them what they wanted–so why wouldn’t they try it again?

Hey, part of me get this. I’m a parent, and I sometimes pine for the days when my young children adored me, wanted to be with me, and like my ideas. They thought I was so cool when I made tents in the living room out of blankets and sheets. They loved our face painting, mud pie, sand castle summers. And yes, I miss that (terribly). It feels good to be in charge–for others to trust you, respect you, think you actually know a thing or two. Who wouldn’t want to try to recapture those feelings? 

Many of our elders long for family togetherness, for things to be as they were decades before. They can’t emotionally adapt to the fact that they’re not  in charge, making the calls, and that others aren’t “hopping to it.”  Their brains conjure not only memories of their days of glory, but also the emotions..But being overbearing is a lot more than normal childhood parenting. Even as a parent your child has a right to their personhood.

Did you know that Alzheimer’s patients who can’t remember anyone’s name or even what to call that thing you grab and stab into food  can remember “social appropriate language?” 

That’s why mom, who can’t utter a sentence, can still say “hello,” “how are you? I’m fine,” and “come back to see me.” Those words, those familar patterns are so deeply ingrained that the brain almost bypasses thinking and the mouth just says them, like a rubber mallot hitting a knee. Maybe our parent’s (or spouses) overbearing-ness is like that. It’s on auto-pilot. 

 Maybe it’s fear. That last thing they can control. Their fingers clutching at the last vestige of life–you doing what they say. Most children of overbearing elder parents will tell you that their parent was pretty much always like this, which leads me to belive it’s in part, psychological. Maybe things have gotten worse, but I tend to believe that’s because they don’t have the inhibitions to control their “socialization skills.” I eventhink it’s akin to OCD–obsessive-compulsive disorder. Our shark brains circle around a vulnerable prey.

Again, I can relate. I’m almost 50 and I’m starting to have trouble holding it in. I’m thinking about giving myself a cut off date and then letting it rip. Being nice is a lot of  work! There’s a few foul-mouthed, lazy cashiers I’d like to tell, “Honey, stop cursing, popping your gum, doing a half-assed job and treat customers with a modicum of kindness and respect!” See? I told you I’m on the edge…

My dad took care of the household maintenance for a mother and daughter who lived down the street from us. They both looked ancient to me. One day, the mother said to my dad, “My daughter is so rebellious–she won’t do a thing I say!” Daddy then told me that the mother was 105 years old and her daugher was 85! See? It sounds like something a mother of a 15 year old would say. She’s probably been saying that line for 70 years.

What happens when that overbearing parent (or spouse) gets to you?Crosses the line?

What happens when their stubborness gets in the way of good caregiving?

How do you deal with such an engrained way of thinking, talking, and treating people?

First, by recognizing it for what it is–(at least a big part of it) a bad habit. And maybe with some careful thought and observation you can begin to understand what need they’re trying to fill.

All habits and addictions come from the same place–trying to fill a hole.

Some psychiatrists and other scientists would even go so far as to say that much of an addictive impulse is chemical. There’s been some research and speculation that  addicts have a deficiency or serotonin in their brains and that their addictive behavior stimulates serotoniin. When they do cocaine or gamble, their brain, or the drug they’re using creates serotonin or a comparable substance that then balances the brain. Add that to a familiar habit and you’ve got yourself a nice little vicious cycle.

Keys to Dealing With an Overberaing Parent:

  • Give up trying to make them happy. Do what’s right.  Let them be mad. If they’re falling all the time and need home help, then get them help.
  • Learn to tune out the griping. Put on headphones if you have to.
  • Give yourself some emotional distance. Love is a verb, and if you’re caregiving and making sure they’re safe, fed, and getting their proper medication, then that is love, and that may be all you can give them.
  • Realize you can’tmake them happy. Perhaps no one can, but it’s certainly not within your power. Every one of us are 100% responsible for ourselves.
  • You don’t have to take downright emotional abuse. Warn them this will not continue. In the words of Maya Angelou, “We teach people  how to treat us.” Walk out of the room. Say “STOP” in a firm voice.
  • If you haven’t ever stood up to your parent, and it’s for a good reason–to stop abuse, to get them the help they need, then maybe it’s time to stand your ground. Maybe that’s why caregiving came into your life–so you can find your “voice.”
  • Start with one area that really matters, or is really bugging you. Set new boundaries. Stick to your boudary. Just like a teenager, if they see a chink in the armor, they’ll use it against you. Keeping your word is important–for you and them.
  • Be cautious not to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. If you feel as if you can’t control your temper, then leave the room or call and ask for help. No one will judge you. Asking for help is a sign of maturity and caregiving can be very, very hard at times.
  • Don’t expect too much change in them–but do expect a big change in you. You can feel empowered, that you have love to give,that your decisions are good ones, that you deserve to be talked to with kindness–all of this has to first come from you.–others will treat you in the same way you treat yourself.
  • Get a sense of humor! Nothing throws off a bully as much as when they realize the rest of the world doesn’t take them too serious.
  • Understand that this probably emanates from how they were treated as a child or even in their marriage (and many people just have the kindof personaity that’s prone to be this way). Once you recognize this, it’s a lot like looking behind the curtain as the Wizard of Oz. It’s just a little old man with a megaphone. He too, wants to get home to Kansas. 
  • Don’t talk so much. Decide what’s best to do and do it. Don’t give them more ammunition to argue with–some things aren’t up for debate. Seek guidance and friendship elsewhere.
  • Break the family tradition. If you grew up in a house with a truly overbearing parent, I hope you have (or will) seek counseling–(books, a pastor, counselor, or therapist). By seeking help and creating new patterns, we can heal some  of those old wounds, accept what can’t be changes, find peace–and create our own families with better communication and problem solving skills. You don’t have to repeat the past–or try to be its polar opposite.

A Chinese Proverb says,
“Those who bend over backward trying to please another may eventually lose their balance.”

Caregiving gives us the opportunity to show how much we love.

Sometimes when caring for an overbearing person we have to muster up our inner strength and draw new boundaries. 

Caregiving revealed things in myself and my relationships I had denied. 

I learned  that love (and caregiving) sometimes meant I had to deal with a few things–head on.  

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

Family Advisor at Caring.com

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My Daddy died at the average age men die in the US (78 years old), from the most common disease men die from–heart disease. Yet, Daddy was anything but typical. He was a big teddy bear of a guy who made my world right again.

I was adopted at the age of four. My early years weren’t easy.

My birth mother suffered from schizophrenia (severely and eventually permanently hospitalized), and addiction to alcohol and gambling choked all the life out of my birth father. My sister and I lived with my father’s co-dependent/enabler grandmother and was abused by a boarder who lived in her house.

Not a great beginning.

I don’t share this with you to make you uncomfortable or to get sympathy points because my life didn’t stay that way. I was adopted and received layer after layer of personal healing and insights that allow me to incorporate this experience into my being.

Healing took a long, long time.

My adoptive Daddy was a big part of that. He was 54 and Mama was 50 when they adopted me. That’s taking a big chance–but it also shows what a void they had to fill.

He died when I was 23 years old. Too young for him to die–and too young for me. But he isn’t really gone.

He has become a part of me now–his songs, his stories, his gestures, his wisdom–I carry him every day.

I see him just like I did when I was six and playing baseball in the backyard–he was my “seated” lawn chair pitcher. I broke his garage window. Don’t know that he got too upset.

I remember the summer we had  a contest and ate 38 watermelons. He told me vines were going to shoot out my ears. I hoped they would. Every time my nose tickled, or I hiccuped, I got excited.

I remember when I was 12 and just starting to like boys–Daddy drove me to the skating rink each Saturday night and picked me up at 11:00. I know he really didn’t want to get dressed and traipse out that late, but he did. I remember when he asked me if that boy kissed me. I lied and said, “No, Daddy.” He knew. I knew. But I couldn’t say the words–not to my dad.

I remember when I brought home countless boyfriends and the disgusting look he’d hide behind his newspaper. No one was ever good enough for his little sweety-pie.

Eventually, one was, and I married him. He loves my dad as much as I do. That’s why we’re still married. He reminds me of that honorable man who changed my life and he’s the daddy to our three girls. His face lights up when his daughters just walk into the room. His face lights up when I walk into the room.

That’s why I keep him.

The power of a great dad changes a child’s life. And it keeps changing it. Even after our dads are no longer walking on this earth. Whispered wisdom, needed advice, family traditions and that sense of security never goes away.

I never got to be my dad’s caregiver the way I did with my mom. But I promised him we would take care of her. That promise got me through some rough times.

I hope you enjoy a short excerpt from my forthcoming book, SAID CHILD.

It’s about our night time ritual and coming home after church. (Being raised in church means I have many, many memories of life on the pew). Perhaps this excerpt will spark one of your own favorite memories.

The greatest thing we can do for our dads on Father’s Day is simply to remember.

Excerpt from SAID CHILD:

Daddy slid next to us after his usher and elder duties of collecting and counting the money were complete. We’d all squeeze into the pew making room and he’d have to pull on his coat a few times to get comfortable. He’d reach in his shirt pocket and in one continuous smooth move, a gold package of Butter Rum Life Savers appeared and the fleshy underbelly of my tongue salivated. I got one, he got one and he’d wink. Mama preferred peppermint. Peppermint reminded me of the nausea of backseat card rides.

I’d roll the butter rum disk around in my mouth and hold it vertical between my teeth, my tongue reading the raised letters as if in Braille. I’d lay my head against Daddy’s arm, recognizing the texture of his different suits, and then he’d put his arm around me and poke his finger in my ear. I brush it away and he’d smile without looking at me. I snuggled up waiting for my butter rum Life Saver to dissolve so I could get another one. As the preacher’s words droned on and on, I knew we’d never make it home in time to see the Sunday night Disney movie. We never did. Missing all my favorite TV shows was the worst part to me. I’d have to run a fever or throw-up to get to stay home.

Daddy covered my legs with his jacket and patted me until the sounds and lights muffled, dimming into soft shades of gold as I watched my eyelashes fold again and again, the world faded fuzzy, then black.

I barely remembered most of the car ride home on Sunday nights and Daddy would place me between the cool sheets long after I was too big to be carried, my lanky legs scraping the bed and the quilt slid in place. 

Daddy half-whispered, half-growled, “My baby done gone to sleep, Lord bless my little sweety-pie.”

He’d sing me to sleep and I’d always ask for Mr. Moon:  

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon,

Oh won’t you please shine down on me.

For my life’s in danger and I’m scared to run,

There’s a man behind me with me with a big shot gun,

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon, oh won’t you please shine down on me. Boom, boom, boom.

***

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com, publishers

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 So what’s your dirty little caregiving vice? 

Everyone has them and caregivers are no exception.

 

Caregivers are under enormous amounts of stress, so it’s only natural to turn to something that’s comforting. The other danger is that caregivers spend an enormous amount of time at home and alone–a breeding ground for vices.

 

I’m all for comfort, but what if you’re so exhausted, heartbroken, and numb that you don’t realize you’re hurting yourself?

 

I’m going to list a few dirty little vices and let you pick your own.

 

I’m not judging, I promise. There were times I was a mess during the years I cared for my mom, and I have to admit, I went overboard on a few of vices. You try  being a sandwich generation-er going on three hours sleep, staying involved with three teenage daughters, somehow being a fit wife, and caring for a cantankerous mom with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s with no outside family help.

 

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. Feel free to fire back.

 

Dirty Little Vices No One Wants to Talk About:

 

·     Overeating/binging

·     Sleeping pills, or sneaking a few of mom or dad’s meds

·     Pot–available for cancer patients, a toke for you, a toke for…

·     Excessive television or Internet surfing

·     Online gambling

·     Inappropriate online relationships (chat rooms, e-affairs)

·     Porn

·     Hoarding (includes pets, papers, books, food)

·     Pulling your hair out and other obsessive/compulsive behaviors

·     Excessive cleaning

·     Screaming, belittling verbal abuse

·     Closet smoking (no one knows you do this or you’ve increased your amount)

·     Closet drinking (sneaking booze in OJ, Coke, sipping on it all day)

·     Excessive shopping (online counts)

·     Incessant, derogatory, negative thoughts

 

I sense some of you are flinching about now.

She didn’t say pot and porn, did she?  

That’s exactly what I said.  Why?

 

Because this is just life, it’s just people, and life gets tough and we’re hurting and we fall back on some old pattern, something we thought we had already defeated. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just that many of these choices/vices start out small, but they can escalate into an addiction and really screw up an otherwise great life.

 

 

Let’s paint a picture, because without a visual, it’s easy to just discount this stuff and tell people “just quit doing that!” Not so easy.

 

I know of someone who eats an entire box of Ritz crackers drizzled in butter and brown sugar every night after everyone goes to bed (I wish she hadn’t told me that ’cause that’s one I hadn’t thought of)

 

I know of someone whose house is covered from ceiling to floor (every room but the kitchen and den) with boxes and bins stuffed with items they’ve bought and never used–including the garage and a huge storage building.

 

I know someone who has 42 cats because they make her smile every day since she can’t leave the house.

 

I know of someone whose house is lined with groceries left in bags that cover her floor and all surfaces–all the time.

 

Stewing in dangerous negative thoughts of suicide and depression can be as detrimental, if not more so than popping pills. Our own thoughts are powerful drugs.

 

My heart aches. We’re trying to fill a void, that’s all.

 

 

What’s the definition of an addiction?

 

A behavioral pattern characterized by compulsion, loss of control, and continued repetition of a behavior or activity spite of adverse consequences. (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

 

Addiction was a term used to describe a devotion, attachment, dedication, inclination, etc. The term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual’s health, mental state or social life. (Wikipedia )

 

Interesting tidbit about the word is that Addiction, as a word, is a noun which in modern sense was first attested in 1906, in reference to opium (there is an isolated instance from 1779, with ref. to tobacco). The first use of the adjective addict (with the meaning of “delivered, devoted”) was in 1529 and comes from Latin addictus, pp. of addicere (“deliver, yield, devote,” from ad-, “to” + dicere, “say, declare”).[1

 

 

I also heard a minister say that the portion of the Lord’s Prayer would be better understood if we said,

 

 I promise you, I’m not harping on your case just to embarrass you. I’ve hit many of the vices listed (except for obsessive cleaning, that’s not my particular downfall). The last thing I want is for the stresses of caregiving to ruin your life. Caregiving, while challenging beyond belief, also has many benefits (It does, I promise, just hang in there).

 

 

So Now that You’ve Identified a Couple of Your Vices, What Do

You Do?

Awareness is key. That’s done. I picked at your wound and you may be bleeding a bit. That’s okay.

Sit with it a few days.

 

Now that you’re busted, you can begin to make better choices. Take a deep breath. Be relieved that someone named it. Said it.

It’s uncovered and you don’t have to hide any more.

 

Ask yourself what you believe: “I believe that if I eat this tub of icecream, I’ll… Feel satisfied? Not feel empty? I believe that if I get in shape, then I have to…date again? Will draw attention to myself?

 

Trust that if you ask, help will appear. The universe (which happens to mean, “One song,” I love that!) wants you whole and well!

 

Although I’m not always a big Dr. Phil fan (his show’s gone too Jerry Springer for me), I like one thing he said:

 

(Paraphrased) “To get rid of an old habit, you have to crowd it out with a new one.”

 

His example was a man who dropped off his dry cleaning for the week at the gym every Friday after he picked it up.

That meant he didn’t have his work clothes at home and had to go to the gym to get dressed. It was the only way to make himself get there–and once he was there, he’d exercise.

 

You might have to go cold turkey. Ditch the pot (or get someone else to administer it to your loved one). Unplug the computer and put it in the closet. Ask someone to help you purge your house. Take the excess to a shelter so you’ll feel good about helping someone else. Crowd out the old vice. Take a class. Take up painting, walking, and bridge. Return to your faith or choose a new one–become a part of a local community to gain strength and support.

 

Vices breed and brood in isolation. The less you’re isolated the healthier you’ll become.

 

Ask yourself what is it that this vice fills? Boredom? Restlessness? Frustration? How can you fill it in another way?

 

Join a support group–even online. Talk to others and don’t keep it a secret. You’re only as sick as your secrets.

 

Be patient. This might not be easy, but each time we to try to kick a vice, we gain new coping skills. You don’t go back to square one.

 

Most of all, forgive yourself. It’s been tough, but it’s time for the excuses to end.

 

 

Our dirty little vices don’t need to destroy our great, big,

wonderful lives.

 

 

~Carol D. O’Dell, family advisor at www.Caring.com

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

Available on Amazon

 

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

 

 

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