You can’t take a vacation.
You can’t go out for dinner and a movie
You can’t meet your friends for lunch.
As a caregiver, there’s a long list of things you can’t do; but one thing you are entitled to do is to feel.
To my way of thinking, it takes a saint to not feel angry and frustrated about having to put someone else first all the time, but a sense of guilt can all too often accompany us when we resent the position we find ourselves in. So what can we do to help ourselves live with and validate these feelings?
1. Share them
When I found myself (more or less) unable to leave home to so much as run across the street to buy a loaf of bread, I turned to the Internet to find online escapes. People blow off steam in different ways, and it was important to me to find a community of like-minded caregivers with mutual concerns who could understand my feelings. Support groups can do wonders when you need to share with someone.
Despite the fact that the group of women I found were total strangers, the camaraderie we experienced was life altering.
We were all different ages, from different parts of the country, with different lifestyles, yet the caregiving connection was made for instantaneous bonding. I was embraced because the need to vent was something experienced by everyone in the group.
Anger, sorrow, frustration, grief and fear were not strangers—they were part of the caregiver package, and feelings we were all too familiar with. Once a week, ten or twelve of us would sign in at a pre-assigned time to find a comforting presence coming to us through our computer screens. Visit our forums, join our chats, connect with people here at The Caregiver Space to share what you’re going through with other people who understand.
2. Write them
I’d pour my heart out on the page (or the screen) without fear of judgment or shame. As a rule, I spent time writing at the end of the day to “unload” all of the toxic feelings that collected, but if there was a reason to scribble a frustrated sentence in the middle of the day— it made a big difference. Looking at those pages now takes me back to that time with remarkable clarity. It’s like, “Oh yeah! I remember that,” and I marvel at how I survived it all. Writing was so great a key to my being able to cope, that I’m now doing video content for the site called “The Page Listens.” And it does—when no one else can or will.
3. Breathe them (or scream them)
There are many other coping mechanisms from breathing and meditating to psychotherapy or screaming into a pillow. I found relief with a deep, cleansing breath.
- Breathe in through your nose and fill up your stomach to a count of 4
- Continue breathing in and fill up your chest to a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 8.
- Begin to exhale very slowly through your mouth making a hissing sound, to a count of 4.
- STOP and hold your breath for another count of 4.
- Fully exhale through your nose or mouth.
You can literally feel the stress washing off your shoulders. It becomes second nature after you’ve done it a few times.
Nothing you do can stop you from feeling—nor should it.
The human condition includes suffering, just as it does joy. Your feelings won’t go away because you find a support group, or begin to write or practice meditation. They are a part of you and, with practice, they just become lighter, easier to bear and even have the potential to give your life meaning and value.