During the two years that I was studying for my masters degree, I would meet two of my closest friends every Sunday morning at a local coffee shop. We’d spend an hour chatting, venting, gossiping, and catching up on our lives (or lack thereof) over bagels and coffee, before the conversations would inevitably tangent off onto random topics. I miss those chats – and the insights into my friends I’d gain through them. So I thought I’d try to restart something along those lines on my blog. A chance to hear more from my readers… at first, I was trying to decide if I wanted something consistent: quotes/sayings, song lyrics, random current or pop culture events…. But I think it will be more fun, more free to mix it up. Just whatever I’m dwelling on at the moment. Hope you all have as much fun with it as I do.I meant to write about this last weekend when this article was a little more recent, but the “Lady Gaga + lupus (?)” topic overtook it. There was a CNN article on May 20th called Can Caring Make You Sick?.
I think the effect our illnesses have on our loved ones are easy to forget about (I wrote a thank you post a few weeks ago). I’m not saying we’re selfish, by any means. It’s just that it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tedium of it all. I mean, look at all the things we have to think about every day: first we have to remember to rank priorities so we can allocate spoons, then we have to deal with everyday cares, cook (if we can manage) and eat meals, many of us have multiple med times, and all of this is on top of the debilitating fatigue, pain, stiffness, etc. When and how do we fit work/school into this madness? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Still, it’s no wonder that we rely so heavily on the loving friends and family we have in our lives.
Our strongest supporters are often the people most subjected to inadvertent abuse. Our anger and frustration at our disease (and at rude people who don’t understand) often gets misdirected at them just because they’re around when we’re on the warpath. The reward for their efforts to understand what we are going through is often an indignant, maybe even derisive, “you just don’t get it!” They take on extra stress and work to make up for the stuff that we can’t do. And, it would be unfair to forget that they worry to no end. I’ve seen my sister cry after spending the night at my place and seeing what my joints are like after I left them to their gelling ways all night long. My mom spends all her free time researching my diseases and learning about treatments. I worry about them when I see these things. I do, of course I do.
Yet, until I read this article, I was worried about my supporters’ emotional health, but never to the extent that this article suggests I should be. I think I always wrote off caregiver health problems as limited to the people who are always lifting or physically supporting their loved ones. I didn’t realize it could have this kind of impact. Or, maybe, it turns out that I am a little selfish after all, and I just didn’t want to think about it because I just don’t have the energy. The fact is, it’s not just their emotional and physical health that takes a direct hit. They often put their lives on hold in order to help us with the things we need help with all the freaking time.
I don’t want to be that person, so this week I’m trying to find ways to help relieve the stress on my caregivers. They don’t have to be big gestures, but maybe little things would really help. So far, I’ve come up with simple things like calling them to tell them I’m having a good day instead of only when I’m having a terrible day and need to cry about it to someone. Also, some tasks aren’t as important as others, but they may not know that. So I think when I call in favours, I can be clearer in terms of what I really need help with ASAP and what can just wait until they have time. Most importantly, I think I’m going to try and give them days off once in awhile. Something along the lines of, “I’m ok today, why don’t you go out shopping with your friends?” I don’t know if they’ll do it, but at least I can try to promote that they have a healthy social life even if often don’t. I don’t know if these things will help, but a girl can hope.
So how about you, readers? What do you currently do to help take some of the stress off of your loved ones? Do you have any new ideas that you’re going to try out soon?