Caring too much

15 Jul

Hi Ruth

I love your books and have the audio of RFBR and your latest one in paperback.

Being a single parent, running my own business and having survived some horrendous relationships I have grit, I am proactive and resourceful as long as I can ‘get cracking and do something’ but I am now in a situation that can’t be solved with action and its driving me nuts. All I can do is be patient and wait.

My mum is with me and, just shy of 88, she is dying of advanced head and neck cancer. Its taken her sight almost but worse, its taken her personality, or 98% of it. She is bed bound, doubly incontinent, needs food and drink feeding to her, needs turning and her position adjusting on an hourly basis. Every so often, just for a few minutes, she comes back but then she’s gone again. Its like losing her over and over and yet she’s still here needing all this care.

I am no nurse and would do anything other than caring but I am now her carer. 4 weeks ago I was close to breaking point and worried about her going into a nursing home because that is her worst fear, that or hospital. I have now managed to get a live-in carer (pricey but I agree with your chapter on delegation and not doing everything yourself and decided that was better than me having a breakdown) Difficult though – our home is upside down, literally. No sofa to put a dent in of any size as its in storage, replaced by the hospital profiling bed and air mattress in the lounge!

But, seriously, I have found this the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I just wish for it to be over, for my sake as well as for hers to be honest. I am sick of smelling stale urine, changing dirty incontinence pads, waking up in the morning and wondering if she is still breathing, worrying about what she is worrying about, not knowing any time scale to when this will end. Beating myself up about doing the right thing for her and what I’m not doing for my own children, now 16 and 19. Angry at them for not doing more for me (What do you mean, you can’t give me a lift to my boyfriend/girlfriend, party??).

Everyday I want to scream and run away from the lot of them – including the carer who is here ALL THE BLOODY TIME……..and she’s in my bedroom while I sleep in my office with the cat. There is no peace and I have no focus and no me time. I get up at 6am to help with the morning caring routine, start work at 8.30am, work til 5pm then more caring, making the family dinner (and carer’s dinner), get my mum ready for the night/wecome the Marie Curie nurse and then its 10pm and I’m so tired by then, I don’t have the energy to spend that precious hour of me time.

How can I get some exercise? How can I stop comfort eating (we have a house full of crisps, cakes, chocolate and fondant fancies to tempt mum’s waning appetite and I’ve gained half a stone in three months)? How can I resist having a glass of wine or two in that hour of me-time because that’s all I have the energy for?

I am just waiting for the days to pass until the day its over. But what then? I am going to need a major action plan to put myself into recovery from all this, mentally and physically as well as emotionally. But thinking about this is like planning to celebrate when my mum is gone. Where can I find more grit reserves?? How can I take better care of me?? Anon

A: I was very sorry to read about your woes. My goodness you must have incredible reserves of grit to have survived this far and I really do applaud your efforts. Sounds to me as though you need a massive holiday – on your own – away from the crushing weight of all this duty and responsibility. I realise of course, that this is almost certainly not an option and the circumstances of your life (with your mother and kids) are inescapable and unchangeable, so the only thing within your power to change is your attitude to them.

Whilst your attitude is wholly understandable and I doubt I would have the courage or patience to have endured it all as well as you – and for as long – I do know that we can force ourselves out of an attitude that is not serving our circumstances – by which I mean an attitude that is draining us of the little energy we do have – and create one that works for us (even though it may feel super fake to being with). It involves choosing the life you have with all the terribleness of it at the moment and to stop resisting and resenting it. Trust that it won’t be forever, that it will change, that there is respite waiting for you just around the corner. But for now, surrender to its awfulness, give up fighting the tiredness and the crossness, and keep reminding yourself that this battle will end. And soon.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother tackling the wine and the cakes. If they are the only treats you have that make you happy at the moment….then stick with it. There will be so much time and energy to tackle that side of things when the circumstances of your life have shifted.

However, if you really want to change these bad habits now because they are making you unhappy, then start with walking/running before or after work (refer back to RFBR for the 6 steps and 8 week plan). That hour in the morning when you are helping with the care routine – TAKE BACK FOR YOURSELF. Or force yourself to stop work at 4.15pm and use that hour instead. It is amazing how much more productive you will find yourself being if you know you have to stop at 4.15pm. Guaranteed you will get the same amount of work done as if you had worked until 5pm once you adjust to the new routine. Aerobic exercise acts an investment in time, so never think of it as time out, but as time multiplied. It will help you become more efficient administratively and improve the quality of your work. Tell yourself you HAVE TO DO THIS FOR YOUR SANITY. Before long, that time is going to become your favourite hour of the day. You will find yourself invigorated, with renewed energy and enthusiasm and love and patience which are all the things you desperately need to help you get through this very difficult time.

The run will help create your new attitude. And just watch how it will have you reaching for water and brown rice!!!rather than wine and cake (most of the time), because it is the perfect way to unwind and feel contented and takes away that need for something to numb the pain. The run provides all the pain relief you need. And it ALWAYS delivers, not matter how bad the circumstances of our lives may be or how shitty a day you have had. Let me know how you get on, I think you are an amazing woman. Your mother and kids are very lucky to have you and I’ve no doubt they know it too..

The Grit Doctor says:
My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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2 Responses to “Caring too much”

  1. None July 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    I don’t know if it’s the right thing to suggest, but running home from work means you can run without actually spending much time

  2. teachnorthern July 19, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    I had to comment! Because I have just come out the other side of a situation which had very many similarities. At some point, without realising, I must have taken the Grit Doctor’s advice and I gave myself up to it after fighting it for months. Weeks later, it was over and, despite a few ‘what’s my purpose?’ days after my dad’s funeral, I have been able to throw myself wholeheartedly into my own life. And it’s a joy. Good luck. Know you are a good person. Know that you are doing all you can. I honour you.

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