You’re a Caregiver, You’re a Hero, and You’re Exhausted/Dr. Mark Banschick

Posted on March 9, 2013

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This excerpt from Psychology Today deals with caregivers but can apply to all with post-divorce stress. Dr. Banschick is a frequent contributor to these discussions on this blog.

1. Acceptance is critical. Not a mournful acceptance; whatever will be, will be. No, you must accept that life is capricious and that our measure is not in what happens to us; but rather, what we do with what happens to us. Sam and the kids need Jody now. They are front and center. It is the way of things. Her time will come.

2. Be kind to yourself. Jody has so much on her plate; Sam’s treatment and any side effects, doctor’s appointments, setbacks, worries about the kids. And life goes on; shopping, preparing food that Sam can handle, and the kids can eat. And things like parents, job, bills and taxes don’t go away. Jody will make some mistakes. No one can keep it all together all the time. The trick is to let go and just try to do better next time.

3. Consider professional help. An hour a week in a support group or with a therapist, who understands the pressures of a caregiver, could be worth the investment. Jody may get some good advice about her children. And, if anxiety or depression starts to creep in, good treatment can make a difference. Often this can be done without medications.

4. A good night’s sleep is healing. Jody has so much on her mind, and bedtime is often the place where things get too much. People like Jody ruminate for hours. “Is Sam okay?” “What will chemotherapy be like next week?” “I feel so overwhelmed.” Sometimes melatonin can be helpful, or a warm bath, or a talk with a loving friend. As much as I refrain from medicating symptoms, fatigue due to insomnia justifies a trip to your internist or psychiatrist.

5. No person is an island. Jody needs love and support; and it’s hard to get what she needs at home. This is no easy task, but it counts. No one can be heroic forever without support. Sam is a great guy, but how much can he give? The chemotherapy is hard, keeping whatever business he has alive is taxing – so what does he have left? The best Sam can offer is to give Jody whatever space she needs to rejuvenate – even if it turns out to be little space indeed.

6. Build in support. Jody needs to find support that nurtures her – and stick with it. Going to church or synagogue may nurture but it may do the opposite. You don’t want to be a stranger in a crowd when you are raw and needy. Jody needs to find those people in her life that are affirming. Anyone, for any reason, who takes energy away or makes her feel vulnerable, should be tabled for now. Yes, Jody is needy. It is okay. She carries a lot.

7. Bring back your life. Slowly, put the pieces of your life back into placeWork out once a week, make a lunch date with a good friend, and keep the stress eating under better control. Building back healthy habits will give you strength. And, having something to look forward to will help. Jody will not be under duress forever.

8. Find a healing spirituality. Jody may believe in God or not. If so, it may be helpful to allow God’s love into her heart. If she’s told that bad things happen because she or Sam are somehowguilty, my advice would be to reject that religious advice. It’s presumptuous and mean spirited. God’s ways are beyond our knowing. If Jody has no personal God in her life, spirit is to be found everywhere. It is in the beauty of nature, in the soft cuddliness of an infant and in the good energy between people. Nurture it and it will nurture you.

9. Forgive: Whether the person you’re caring for is the child in divorce, a brother with schizophrenia, a niece with bipolar disorder, an ill spouse, or a traumatized friend –  its inevitable that you’ll lose some attention and focus. It’s a good idea, every so often, to take breath – and forgive. Forgive the world for thrusting this upon you, forgive him/her for sometimes asking too much or too often, and forgive yourself for not always having the strength to endure

Life has its blessings and its curses.

We can be up one minute and down the next. Not every situation is like Jody’s; there’s no sick husband in a divorce, but there may be unhappy children to think about. There’s no marital issue in a natural disaster, but you may all be overwhelmed. The key is to take stock, deal with the hardship and get the sustenance that you need.

Everybody gets their turn: Tough things happen and you go from living a normal life to living a heroic one. Make sure you are surrounded by people who are good for you. Allow good love in – and unnecessary relationships out.

What is dignity? It is not what we are born into. And, it’s not what happens to us.

Our dignity is found in how we deal with our lot in life.

And, it’s a measure that we can all meet.

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