Lie Number 5. Last but by no means least. It goes like this: “I can’t keep doing this.” It starts out quietly, whispering, when you’re exhausted, when just thinking about tomorrow is overwhelming. “I can’t keep DOING this”…it gets louder as the daily stress piles on, one task after another, one annoyance after another, one more thing going wrong. “I CAN’T keep doing this…” it insists, as you look at your loved one and watch him or her suffer, still, again, today, tomorrow, the next day and the next, seemingly into oblivion. “I CAN’T. KEEP. DOING. THIS!!!!” On the inside, you are screaming.
THIS. Worrying, stressing, doing all the work, all the caretaking tasks, carrying all the responsibility at home and at work, making sure the bills get paid and we don’t live in squalor, all while watching your loved one suffer…and pain or illness seems worse again today.
Lie number 5 is where you will always end up if you believe the first four lies. Believing Lie number 5 is what makes caregivers stop giving care and just plain give up. Believing Lie number 5 leads even good, loving people cut and run. Once you believe that you cannot go on, cannot continue taking care of your loved one, cannot live this way for one more day–you are sunk. Very probably you will cease caring for your loved one. Possibly you could stay but turn to drugs or alcohol to numb your misery. You might wake up, pack your belongs and leave, or even just start driving away and never go back. Or worse.
Lie number 5 is the breaking point. It is believing you are at the end of your rope and that you have nothing left inside you to give.
I strongly recommend that you avoid ever believing Lie number 5. Guard against it. Be wary of the thought, “I can’t keep doing this.”
(Sometimes you just need to put a bucket over your head and sit in a corner.)
Now, before we continue, there ARE some situations where it is actually true and you absolutely cannot continue as you are. Sometimes an ill person requires a level of medical care you cannot provide. Sometimes we have to surrender to admitting our loved ones to skilled nursing facilities, or a mental health institution or hospice for our own physical safety and/or their quality of life. Even very ill people can sometimes be surprisingly strong and do some major damage. There are situations when really, you MUST not continue as you are.
When you have the thought, “I can’t keep doing this,” and I think every long-term care giver will at some point, you need to pray for wisdom and discretion. It is a good time to seek wise counsel from health care providers, family members, and trusted friends.
What I am cautioning you against is when it only FEELS like you cannot go on. In that case, here are some strategies to resist Lie Number 5:
1. Take a moment to reconsider. Perhaps you don’t actually HAVE to keep doing this the way you are. Have you sought support for yourself? Have you asked for help? If not, now is a good time to humble yourself reach out to any and all available resources.
2. Focus on the truth. When you’re fighting against a lie the best thing you can do is meditate on what is true. The Bible is a good place to pick up some powerful lie-breaking truths:
“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)(World English Bible)
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” (Matthew 19:26)(NIV)
“For am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)(NIV)
3. Take a break. I know, it sounds impossible. Maybe for you it really is impossible right now–but there are ways of getting a break for many caretakers, especially if you think small. A couple of hours away can probably be arranged pretty easily. If you need a longer break (a few days) there is this thing called respite care. Some rehabilitation/skilled nursing facilities offer this service, and some of these places are NICE.
Whatever kind of break you can manage to get, the real trick here is when you do find yourself with some time away, that you don’t waste that time feeling guilty for being gone and you don’t beat yourself up for needing a break. Sometimes people need to rest and replenish. Even Jesus took breaks. He also took the occasional nap. Be like Jesus.
4. Get real. With yourself and with God. When I start to feel like I can’t go on, I can usually realise pretty quickly that it’s not true if I take a moment to be completely honest with myself and offer myself a little grace. Caregiving can be tough, physically, mentally and emotionally. Don’t judge yourself too harshly for not doing it perfectly. Mistakes get made, accidents happen, and appointments get forgotten. Don’t waste too much energy beating yourself up over these things. If you are setting the bar for yourself at the Perfection Level you are just setting yourself up for failure and frustration. You are human, and you need to extend some grace to yourself. If you perceive your goal as reachable it is much less likely that you will lose hope as you pursue it.