“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) (New Living Translation).
On to Lie number TWO:
NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY REALITY
This is a hard one; this one is so easy to believe. It is especially easy to believe if you are caring for an adult who is a very private person or a person who desperately doesn’t want to make their friends and family upset or uncomfortable with the full truth. You may not have admitted the true severity of your disabled/ill loved one’s condition to anyone.
That situation can make life harder for you. It makes it harder to explain why you need help, clamps your mouth shut when people ask how your loved one is doing, and can make you feel more isolated and overwhelmed than a caregiver who is able to be freer with the facts.
It may be your choice not to divulge the details of your loved one’s suffering and the distress and work it brings you. You may even assume that no one wants to listen to such things anyway. But even if you have not made clear the details of what you and your disabled/ill loved one are going through to anyone, believe me, there is someone (or even multiple people) out there that understand exactly what your life is like.
Some of us have it easier than others. The difficulty of caregiving is relative. I care for my husband, work full-time, run our household, and care for our son. A dear friend of mine works full-time and cares for both of his elderly parents. There are so many ways to be a caregiver. Somewhere another caregiver probably has it worse than you do, possibly even much worse, but that does not discount the difficulties you do have to deal with. If you know of someone who has a harder row to hoe than you do right now, by all means, pray for them and be grateful to God that you don’t have to walk that road. BUT never think that just because you are not the worst off of all caregivers that you don’t deserve compassion and support.
So here you sit feeling like no one understands what you are going through and how things REALLY are for you. Maybe someone made an offhanded remark that hit you right in the gut or someone is complaining to you about their healthy, able-bodied spouse and your feel like you would kill to have THAT problem. (For example, this person said to you: “My husband didn’t vacuum the carpets today even though he had the day off from work. He never helps me.” And inwardly you are thinking, Dear God, if my husband could just walk/talk/bathe himself/not be in constant pain etc. I would be so happy. Why is she complaining?) That is a sad place to be. It is isolating, lonely and frustrating. Surely no one understands your reality.
It is not true. There ARE other people who understand and God understands exactly what you go through and what it takes to walk your path. Here are a few ways to fight the lie:
1. Find other caregivers:
You are not the only person in a caregiving situation facing these struggles. If you can find a few of these people in your church (ask your pastor to point you in the right direction), your community (your local hospital(s) may offer support groups), or even online (where you can find great understanding of your pain and struggles without volunteering many specifics). When you find other caregivers, reach out to them. While you are listening to their stories you can watch that lie that no one understands crack and crumble to pieces.
Here are a few online resources to check out:
www.wellspouse.org (If you are caring for your spouse/partner this organization is for you. They have newsletters, forums, support groups, phone support groups, events. And much more. There is a membership fee: $30 per year for full access and $5 per year for digital access. Special considerations may be made for those with a financial hardship and are made for those caring for military spouses.)
www.christiancaregiversupport.com (Tons of cool resources here, including support blogs–one for caregivers and one for one receiving care.
Caring.com (There is a good variety of online support groups available here, spanning many caregiving situations.)
2. Find a way to tell the truth:
If you are in a situation where being open publicly about the details of your situation is difficult, for instance, you feel you must protect the privacy of your loved one, it is important that you don’t live a secret or a double life. Feeling like you can’t or shouldn’t speak to anyone about what you are going through adds a huge burden of extra stress to your already draining and stressful situation. You can develop an unhealthy perspective of your situation or you even can live in a state of partial denial (also unhealthy). It is not right to carry all that weight alone.
Perhaps your situation is not secret but sometimes you have thoughts and feelings about what has happened and is happening in your life that you never share. Maybe there are days when you are so frustrated with a physician, a circumstance or even your loved one for which you are caring that you just want to scream, or throw things or even run away. Or maybe you struggle with Depression or Anxiety and you hide it from your disabled/ill loved one so it doesn’t bring them down. Maybe you hide it from everyone. You should not carry that weight alone either.
Finding someone to share the weight isn’t always easy. For some of us talking to a trusted friend or family member who knows how to listen and be discreet about what you share is enough. For me seeing a counselor who is bound not to discuss or disclose what I talk about has been a good option. You could write an anonymous blog or join an online forum with an assumed username that protects your identity.
You are not necessarily looking for a place to complain about the difficulties of your life, just a safe place to share or a person to witness your struggles and how you truly feel. Not having to edit your thoughts, feelings and the details of your caregiving work as you talk is fantastically freeing, and it can help you think or see your situation from a different perspective. Being completely honest really can help you deal with your situation in a healthier way.
3. Remember that God knows your reality
You are seen. Every single thing you do, He knows it all. He sees you striving to do your best. He sees you fail sometimes. He sees every sacrifice you make. He sees you crying soundlessly in the bathroom so that you don’t bring anyone else down. He is right there beside you placing each of your tears in His bottle. When you are at your wit’s end, exhausted, and convinced you are going to lose your mind any second, He is there with you. He is whispering to your spirit that you are not alone. He is pouring out His grace and strength and love and peace over you.
As you complete your caregiving tasks, imagine that as you work your hands and feet are His hands and feet. Then stop and realize that it is true. When we are serving another in love, we are the hands and feet of Christ. It doesn’t always look pretty to our human eyes but the spiritual scene of caregiving is beautiful and precious in the sight of God.
Coming next time, Lie #3: IF I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF THEN IT WON’T EVER GET DONE