Imagine having a huge chest overflowing with treasure. You feel like you’ve been given a special gift, and you want to share it.
Something happens and someone you care about is in need, so you give away a little bit of your treasure. It helps the person and it makes you feel good about yourself to be able to share. This individual does okay for a while, but then something else happens and the problem gets larger and more help is needed. So you give more. And you continue to give more and more and more until one day you realize your treasure is nearly depleted.
That’s when you start to resent this other person’s needs. You feel angry, resentful and bitter for having given so much. You blame them for needing so much, taking so much, and never fully appreciating your generosity. How can they be so thoughtless? They’ve never even made the slightest attempt to repay you for all the gifts you’ve given.
Sound familiar? As a caregiver, your time, energy and compassion is your treasure. When you give it all away and don’t save anything for yourself, you end up feeling drained and depleted. You blame your care receiver and others (family members, friends, co-workers) for not appreciating you or recognizing that you have needs too.
Here’s what I want you to think about today. Being angry or blaming someone for needing so much isn’t going to fix anything. There is only one person who really knows what you need to do to regain your strength and restore your emotional equilibrium. That person is you.
Today I’d like for you to spend a little time alone. Grab a notebook and a pen and go to a coffee shop or retreat to a quiet part of your home. Write down the things that are wearing you down, and then write down what you need.
Start with listing one thing you will do for yourself each day. This could be taking a walk, spending half an hour in prayer or meditation, reading something uplifting or taking a relaxing bath. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it gives you a little pleasure.
Next, list the bigger things that need to be done. Perhaps you need someone to come in and provide some respite care a couple afternoons a week. Maybe you need a day, a week or a month away. Possibly it’s time to move your care receiver into a long-term care facility. Maybe you need to see a physician or a counselor.
Make the list and then honor it. If you do, I think you’ll learn that when you treasure yourself, when you take time to do the things that renew your spirit and energize your body, that you will be in a much better position give freely to others.