Saturday, June 25, 2016

Caregivers Make Bad Patients

When I am sick, really sick, I go into a strange mental state.  It's as though physical suffering precludes clear thinking, and I stop making sound judgments either about things I might do to help myself (go to the doctor, rest) or what others might do to help me.  It is only when an ordeal of illness is in the past that I realize what I ought to have done. And I'm afraid that at that point, I also become aware of what others ought to have done, and in a a post-illness state of vexation I let them know about it!

This time it was a horrid cold that turned into a throat infection and chronic coughing that just devastated my whole system.  "Don't do your outside chores Mom; you shouldn't get overheated," said my daughter.

"Oh but it is my joy to water my outdoor plants, and it is the only exercise I get," I replied.

"You need to go to the doctor," said my husband.

"Oh, let's give it another day, I don't feel too badly."

They both gave way to me because I'm the caregiver. I'm the one who analyzes my loved ones' needs and writes prescriptions, so to speak. If my daughter is sick she goes to the doctor if I think she needs to do so. When my mother has a toothache or needs a flu shot, I'm the one who makes the appointments. And my husband now receives yearly physicals as a result of my nagging encouragement. My loved ones are used to giving way to me because they know I care, that I have a wider medical knowledge base than they, and...I'm kind of pushy.  But it's all from love!  And it is my role in life. I am a caregiver and a nurturer.

And I am a bad patient.

I don't feel comfortable if others "do" for me, I'm only happy if I am doing for others. Thus I do not possess a grace my mother has developed over her years of being an Alzheimer patient; she knows how to be a care recipient. By contrast, I do not know how to ask others to do things for me, I don't take directions well, and I push others away when I'm sick rather than making it clear what I need.  When it is all over, I realize how sick I've been and how it would've been nice to have had a caregiver, and I have an unfortunate tendency to use the clear vision of hindsight to tell my loved ones how they should have helped me (even if they were rebuffed)!

I hope to do better. Caregiver syndrome at it's worse creates people who will not take vacations because no one can do without them, can't receive ministry from others because it just doesn't feel right not to be "doing" for them rather than the other way around, and then, when burdens become too heavy, are prone to resentment.  I think...I know, I'm suffering from caregiver syndrome.

I'm too tired this evening to think through some strategies for change, but I do know change is needed.  I've read that those who will not take time to vacation eventually will have to take time to be ill.  I need to heed that wisdom.

Meantime, I'll work on being better about considering suggestions from my husband and daughter when I'm sick.  I would have gotten better quicker this time around if I had followed their directions. 


  1. I can sympathize with you. I hope you feel better soon. It is hard to let others help when you feel like you should be doing it all!

  2. I don't really have anything comparable in nature to the intense responsibility you have in your caregiving role. But I think back to a couple of years ago when I broke my leg. I was in such pain and was utterly dependent on others.It was such a challenge for me, in that my personality, and my role as mother and manager of my home and its inhabitants (a husband, three kids, a dog ....and a partridge in a pear tree) typically had me in assessment and correction mode. My lack of control in those months grew in me something that continues to bless me-a willingness to be vulnerable. At that time,I had no choice. Now, I choose vulnerability. It isn't the FIRST choice that comes to my mind. But it is what I typically land on now. That is because, during my time of illness, I experienced love that previously, I'd been too sheltered or blocked off to receive. I experienced a growth in relationships that made me feel a genuine human connection that I'd floated by with a flat but polite smile, before. I also experienced, through that forced Christian fellowship, the wisdom that God places in others. I'd never realized that my lack of willingness to embrace vulnerability, was actually a roadblock to what God had for me through others.

    I pray you feel better. And I pray that you come to a place where vulnerability, in whatever form it takes, is embraced and met with the love, relationship, and Godly wisdom that God has set aside, just for Linda.

    1. Beautiful and helpful thoughts here. I would request that the Lord doesn't have to allow me to break a leg in order to learn these truths!