Episode 47: Caregiver Confidant
It’s difficult, as a caregiver, to find someone you can talk to about the things you feel while caregiving. Someone who won’t judge you. If you don’t have that person you feel lonely and misunderstood.
So what do you do?
It’s never an easy answer. There are a lot of different issues that we come across that really can’t be fully understood if the other person hasn’t experienced them. For example - a person can’t fully understand what it is like for me to live with cancer in the house because they’ve never lived it.
I can explain to them what it feels like. I can try to help them feel the uncertainty and fear that it can bring to someone’s life. I can explain how much it hurts to not be able to heal my husband or how I sometime work tirelessly trying to make things better for him. But unless they’ve lived it or something similar to it they can’t really understand. If I have someone who cares for me or loves me enough to want to support me and understand that they might not always get what I’m talking about but will be there to listen and try not to judge, that is a really good start.
So if you have someone in your life that loves you unconditionally could you consider asking them if you can talk to them about things that come up in your life that you need to let out? Is there someone you know that can handle you crying? And can be around your heavy emotions without making it about them. Do you trust that you can trust them? Because what you don’t want is someone who will hang up the phone with you and call and text other people about what you just told them or use your conversation against you in the future.
You don’t have time for that.
If you have an idea of who that person is here’s what you can do next.
You can talk to them and tell them that caregiving has been hard for you and you really need someone to talk to about it. This is probably someone you talk to a lot anyway so they probably already know a little about this.
You can ask them if they would be willing to be your sounding board, support person or cheerleader when you need it.
Here’s the thing - you have to know what you need before you ask for it! If you don’t know what you want how are they going to know? You’ve been there before. Maybe you were upset about something and you started to talk to someone about it. In the middle of you venting that person starts to try to fix it for you instead of just listen. So you end up getting mad or feel misunderstood because they didn’t give you the response you were looking for. However, you didn’t let that person know what you needed so they stepped in to try to help in the way they knew how and were equally confused and possibly felt misunderstood because you got upset with them.
Maybe you won’t be able to say during this conversation what you need every time you talk to them. Most of us don’t. However, You can make an agreement that when you just want to be heard you will start off the conversation with “Hey I’m a little emotional right now and I just need for you to listen. I don’t need anything to be fixed I just need to let this out.” Or “I don’t know what to do. Maybe if I explain to you what is going on you can help me figure things out.”
Then there’s no pressure to fix when all you need is for them to listen.
You may find that different people in your life will be more receptive to different types of conversations. Maybe you can feel safe enough to talk to your sister about intimacy problems you are having with your spouse but not with your best friend or vise versa.
In this type of relationship there should always be give and take but don’t ever expect it to be equal at the same time. If your husband had a set back in his health that would most likely be a time where you look for support from the people you have already identified that would be good for this. However, later you need to be open to be there for them when they need to talk. It needs to be reciprocated because if it is one sided all the time that person is going to get tired of listening to you. It’s just human nature. We all need to see the benefit of being in a relationship and even if it is a friend or family member you both need to work on being there for each other. It won’t ever be equal at any one time because you’ll both naturally need more at one time and give more in another. Be prepared to be able to do that.
You might not be able to talk about everything. Or you might think they won’t understand how you feel about things but if you have someone who has your best interest in mind give them a chance to be there for you. Just have the conversation with them first.
It doesn’t have to be weird. You don’t need to write a script… just ask.
You can say…
Hey you know, I’ve been taking care of my husband for a while now and I’m really feeling overwhelmed by it all. I would like to be able to have someone to talk to and I know you have always been there to support me but I just want to let you know that I’ve not been talking to anyone about how hard it is for me to deal with being a caregiver. I’m worried that I will be judged. I’d very much like to have those conversations with you if you are willing to listen. I know you won’t always understand but I really just need to be able to say things out loud so they don’t feel so big anymore. Would that be ok?
If they say yes you can say…
I feel a little better already. Knowing that I can call you if I just need to talk about things really helps. How about when I call I can let you know that I just need to vent and just need you to listen. If I need help trying to figure something out I’ll ask for your help before jumping in to the conversation. Would that work?
Great - I really appreciate you helping me out.
Here’s a side note. Be prepared for the person to say no when you ask them if they would be interested in being there for you in that capacity. Usually people will say yes because they know you and probably listen to you and help you out already. The difference is now you’re telling them that there are some things you’ve been holding back and you’d like to be able to talk to them about it.
If they say no you can say.
Oh, ok. Thank you for being honest with me. I appreciate that and value you as a friend.
I know it’ll be awkward. Consider that there is something they might be going through that they aren’t telling you about and they don’t feel capable of helping you because of it. The silver lining in this would be you are giving them a chance to say no when you aren’t emotional and overwhelmed. If it were to happen when you were upset or stressed about something it would have hurt and you would have felt even worse.
Most times if you have someone you confide in already they will be more than willing to say yes to this. By having this conversation with them you are showing them that you value their friendship and you are giving them a way to help you. Everyone that loves you wants to help but doesn’t always know how. Here you are asking them to help in the way you know they can best be there for you.
It doesn’t matter if you have been a caregiver for a long time. We always self censor ourselves and hold on to all these things that are never said and continue to weigh us down.
So find a friend or two and see if they’d be willing to help off load some of those emotions.
If you tried having this conversation with a friend let me know how it went.
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