The life of being a caregiver for someone you love who has an irreversible progressive degenerative disorder/disease comes with tears. There’s no getting around it. I remember the day the doctor told me that Mom has Alzheimer’s. It was not a surprise but it was devastating. The memory of that moment still brings me to tears. Every one of my mother’s doctor visits since that day has reduced me to tears as I describe was been happening between visits and mom is asked questions she can no longer answer. I cannot count the number of times that I have curled up on the sofa in a fetal position and cried myself to sleep, typically after getting mom safely in bed. I usually tell no one about those moments. It’s not that I feel ashamed. It’s more that I feel like my emotions are way too heavy for anyone else to bear. I made the choice to move in with mom when she had knee replacement surgery. I make the choice everyday to not walk out the door and never return. I make the choice everyday to assume the responsibilities and receive the rewards of being Mom’s caregiver. I choose to not burden my family and friends with the weight of my emotions everyday. There are times when I can’t hide it though. Moments when someone holds my hand too long, hugs me too closely, looks me in the eye too deeply, it all just comes pouring out. Gratefully the person on the other side has always been strong enough to handle it. We, caregivers, need that safe, healthy emotional release. I know that I do. If I do not cry alone or with someone I trust, all of those emotions turn inward and build up. That’s where the trouble starts. I then try to find other ways to stuff the emotions down, mask them, or simply numb myself. At this point you maybe thinking, “didn’t she just do a whole 3-part series post on Trusting God?” Why yes I did! I’m a work in progress. I certainly still have my struggles. There are also times that even after turning to God first, I still have tears and a sense of isolation that drives me to cry harder. Do I think that crying fixes anything? YES. Crying fixes ME. Crying can fix YOU. Crying stops us from being emotionally detached or so overwhelmed that we cannot function and therefore are unable to execute our care giving duties. The trick is to not get stuck there.
Here’s another confession, I find that when I get myself together enough to make it to workout with my BNFIT family at 5 AM, I am better off physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I even get my morning devotions done earlier too. Find a way to take care of your body. Sweat! Sweat so hard that no one can even tell that you’re crying. One of the phrases my trainer likes is “No one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.” He’s intense but I need that level of intensity. Find what works for you. Go for a walk. Go for a run. Take a workout class. Go to the gym. Workout with a group. Workout with a personal trainer. Just do something! (I’m preaching to myself on this one!)
Now back to what I was saying, if you find yourself unable to stop the tears, that’s a clear sign that you are emotionally overloaded and need to seek help. I am an advocate for therapy. Find a professional. Talk to your pastor or spiritual leader and get their advise on professionals they may recommend for you. Tears should not be feared. Embrace your tears. When you are done, wipe your tears and continue being your fabulous self. I can tell you from experience (last week in particular) that crying does not kill you. Go ahead and cry, my friend and then…smile.
Next up…We’re going to talk about a caregiver’s role as patient advocate