Episode 92: How to Take the Power out of Caregiver Resentment

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Show Notes:

How much do you resent being a caregiver right now?

Yeah I know it exists. 

I don’t know of a caregiver who hasn’t felt at least a little resentment towards some aspect of caregiving. 

So you’re not alone.

I know it feels like it’s your little secret. Or maybe it’s a big secret right now. 

Let’s talk about how to deal with caregiver resentment. 

I think resentment was the first emotion I could really name when I became a caregiver. In some moments it was strong and overpowering. I began to notice it about a month in to his cancer diagnosis. I was already feeling overwhelmed and very scared and by then everyone had found out. Spreading the word when someone you know has cancer happens surprisingly fast. I was overwhelmed with people checking in with how he’s doing, when he was going to have surgery and… here’s one… the immediate need to come by to see him even if they didn’t normally see him much or at all. 

I felt stuck. I was happy that so many people were concerned about him and had his best interest in mind. But I also was angry that they didn’t realize that I also needed them to check in on me. So I very quickly came to resent not the concern for my husband but the lack of concern for me that was highlighted by the attention my husband received. 

You know the feeling. It’s hard to describe in words isn’t it.

And since you can’t really vocalize the feeling you keep it all to yourself. Too worried you’d be judged and too tired to try to explain. So you simply eat your feelings and continue to figure out how to be the best caregiver you can. 

Resentment is difficult because it’s a reaction fueled by something/ or someone other than yourself and almost always it pops up to show you there are things you’ve been trying to ignore about your own life. 

After so many years of caregiving I’ve come to terms with resentment. When it shows I know it’s a signal that there is something I need to attend to personally. Usually it’s an issue with feeling invisible or I’m exhausted. Almost always part of it is because I haven’t been taking care of myself. 

However, feeling that resentment isn’t all on you. Your society and the people you know and live with are partly to blame because they don’t value what they do. If all the people that checked in on my husband in the beginning understood what me being a caregiver meant they would also have checked in on me. Their miseducation isn’t an excuse but an answer to a bigger problem. Caregivers are not valued. 

But today we’re going to talk about what you can control. Yes, the narrative about caregiving in the united states needs to be changed. But I’m not here to try to change the world right now. Today my focus is on you.

So let’s take pick resentment apart until it becomes a fraction of the monster it is right now. 

My daughter used to be afraid of monsters under her bead at night. As a parent it was a big deal, mostly because it interfered with my ability to get a good nights sleep. One day I was talking about our problem with another mom and she suggested a book. So I naturally when out that day and bought it because I thought I has tried everything because this was about 15 years ago… way before you could find anything on a google search. 

So I bought the book and that night we sat down in her bed and I read it to her. It was the simplest but most effective concept I’ve seen. Each page put together the monster and then once he was fully formed we told the monster to go away piece by piece. It gave my daughter control over a scary situation and in seeing the monster as pieces instead of a whole it took away its power. 

That’s what we need to do as caregivers, especially when we have emotions and reactions that trouble us. We need to see the emotion for what it is and then we need to take it apart so it can lose its power.

Resentment feels bigger than it is because we hide it. For many different reasons we feel it’s wrong to resent being a caregiver or the attention the person we care for receives. Because we feel it’s wrong we don’t mention it to anyone. We start to explain to ourselves why we shouldn’t feel this resentment and almost always the main reason is because we aren’t the ones that are sick or disabled. When we invalidate our resentment by saying we don’t deserve to feel it we feel guilt. Guilty that we feel this emotion we don’t deserve to feel and shame because we feel it. Guilt and shame cause us to hide this emotion from everyone else and when you hide something you give it power, don’t you?

Not only are you hiding the resentment. You’re also hiding the guilt and shame you carry for feeling resentful. And it grows. 

You try to stuff it down deep but the more tired and overwhelmed you get the harder it is to suppress it. Which then continues the spiral of shame and guilt. 

You keep trying to hide it behind that smile you put on when you open the door to a guest or speak to someone you cross paths with. All the while wanting to yell that you’d really like for them to ask how you’re doing at least once.

You see your resentment isn’t always tied into you just not wanting to be a caregiver, although certainly that would be a good reason for it. Most times we resent caregiving because we don’t have people checking in on us as well. We don’t have people who care about how we are doing or continue to tell us how much they value what we do and how important they think it is. We resent caregiving because people keep telling us that we need to care for ourselves but then never step in to help us make that self care happen. 

So what do you do with that?

You stop hiding it. Maybe you don’t feel anyone you talk to would understand because they aren’t caregivers. I get that. But they also won’t understand if you don’t let them in on some of the things you deal with because they aren’t caregivers. There are people who you can talk to that would understand. You could find a caregiver support group that would listen to your story of resentment and nod their heads the whole time, received that you had the courage to share because they thought they were alone in feeling the way they do. But saying the words to someone else might not be the logical first step.

How can you take resentment apart just like the monster book? 

Could you allow yourself to write about it. Maybe a journal just for resentment, and every time it shows up you write it down. Maybe you go take a drive and you talk it out with yourself. Sometimes just hearing my words out loud helps me understand things better. Say the things you’re feeling out loud. You might be surprised to find how freeing it can be. 

Ask yourself how you can express how you’re feeling so you can take the power away from it.

Maybe you need to write down what you’re resentful of and how it makes you feel and then burn it as a way of releasing it. 

Or maybe it can be as simple as noticing when you feel resentment and simply speak to it as a child. Say “I see you and I get why you’re here but I don’t think this is the right time for you to come out because really I’m tired and you being here means I need to stop and take a break”

Take the power out of your resentment. 

It’s a natural caregiver emotion but it doesn’t have to control you, it doesn’t have to be hidden and you don’t have to feel any guilt or shame for it showing up. 

Take it’s power away one piece at a time and soon you’ll find that when it shows up it’s just a shadow of what it once was.