Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Balancing - our energy, our relationships, our lives.

If you don't like your life, simply change your thoughts. If you are thinking negative thoughts, change them to positive.

Yeah right! It might be good advice, but not so easy to carry out.

I have tried. Tried to change my thoughts from negative, worrying - to positive; but it's not easy. Those negative, fearful thoughts keep wiggling their way back into my brain.

The problem is, those negative worrying thoughts which constantly nag at me, have produced anxiety in my body. This anxiety manifests as pain in the form of tendinitis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis (notice all those itises??)

Strangely enough (or not so strangely) those pains go away when I am on holiday. When I take some time away from the worry and anxiety of Caregiving.

Doesn't it make sense, then, to take some time away? Of course, and this is not new information. It is good advice listed on every Caregiver's site or "book of rules." But we don't always listen or take the time for ourselves. Sometimes the Caregivers body has to react, producing pain in order for the Caregiver to pay attention and take action.

Changing thoughts is hard. Oh, it might work for a minute or two, but then the fear and depression come charging back as if to say "nah, nah, couldn't make me go away!"

So, I decided to make things easy. I can't change our situation, but I can change the energy. My energy, the energy all around me. I can do this by singing, putting on some jazzy music, calling a friend, tai chi, yoga, and by going out. Taking a break. Taking some time away. I don't worry about my thoughts - I'm already focused on something positive.

I used to feel guilty taking some time away from Hubby - even just an afternoon. I would feel as though I were off galavanting, getting my nails done, eating lunch with friends, having fun; while poor Hubby is stuck at home alone with his illness.

I don't feel that way anymore. Here's why:
First of all, I am taking time away from the situation - not trying to escape Hubby.
Secondly, the more good energy I have, the better for both of us.

But there was one more thing standing in my way. I had to learn how to "detach". Why? Because I could not emotionally tear myself away. My energy is all tangled up with my husband's. Or maybe it's Ego - nobody can look after hubby as well as I can.

Compassionate detachment is a form of letting go. It's untangling your energies, for the benefit of both.
As a couple you have your own energy, your husband's (or wife's) and "your energy together", which leads you down a different path.

As a couple you learn to be flexible - to ride the waves, to do or have what the other half of you wants at times, giving up your own desires to compromise. It can be a very loving arrangement, but the "you" energy sometimes gets lost, gets transformed into "couple energy". Your husband or wife's energy weaves its way into your soul.

Then something happens and your other half becomes weaker. You react by jumping in to save him/her at all costs. You give him your energy.

Isn't that what couple relationships or marriage is all about? Give and take. Balancing the energy in our relationship?

Certainly, but once that balance shifts; one person giving out more energy, while the other receives more, consciously or not, the balance tips and the ship begins to sink.

At that point some people decide they've had enough and jump ship. They leave the relationship.
Others cling on for dear life - they continuously give out all their energy until they too, are defeated - and both go down with the ship.

The best course of action (imho) is the Caregivers Creed: you give of yourself, then go away and recharge your batteries, refill your gastank. When you come back, you will be energized and happy to share your new strength and experiences. Like a mother fox leaving her den to search for food. She knows that she may come back and find her babies gone, eaten by a predator, or carried away, but she must search for food and bring it back. Otherwise, everyone starves.

A word of caution: don't bring your worries with you. That's defeating the purpose. You'll come back half empty and more tired than before.

And what of him/her while you are gone?
He is plunked into a situation where his choices are limited. He can pine for you like a puppy dog, wasting precious energy, or he can go within; a time for quiet contemplation; a time to draw upon his inner resources to connect or strengthen his spirit.

Once you come back, both of you have new energy to share. The illness is still there, but it has taken a "back seat" for a while.


JOY said...

It's so true that we have to try very hard to be positive when we deal with a not so positive situation day in and day out.Fear is something that can be very paralizing if we let it.Anxiety and fear do indeed cause physical tension in our bodies, and as caregivers we have to try harder than ever to stay energized and relaxed.Yogo is great, especially the breathing. I recommend any form of mild yoga to people with COPD Their bodies get very tense just struggling to catch their breath. And I admit eventho I've been watching this for over four years now it still stresses me out sometimes!

psampson said...

Right you are, Wendy. So much of what we read about caregiving always seems to suggest that the caregiver is doing something wrong. You need to be better organized; you need to be more supportive; you need to be better informed; you need to control your temper and your feelings; you need to learn to give and give and give and give and give.

I sometimes wonder if the people who give this advice have ever spent even an hour as actual caregivers.

After all, what you need as a caregiver is some help and someone to talk to who understands what you're up against.

Thanks for your calm and realistic views.


Wendy said...

It's good to know there are other caregivers out there - people who really do understand what we're going through.
Life is full of challenges, but when we have others to share our feelings with, it makes it a whole lot easier.
Thanks for your comments, Joy and Pete.