Written by Duyen Nguyen, aMFT at GUTS Inc.
Life is difficult enough trying to navigate our own path let; now throw in a family member that needs special treatment. Life is constantly a roller coaster ride. When we feel that we have a handle on the situation something new happens to us that makes us feel like it is never ending and that we are never doing enough. You are not alone. You are not worthless. You are strong. You are a fighter. You are doing the best with what you got.
Personally, I was the caregiver for a parent diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and a support system for friends with children struggling with seizures; professionally, I worked with families with family members with Autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and other mental health issues. I see how lives are affected by these issues; yes, we learn to cherish the happy moments and learn from the bad. What we don’t want to hear from others is “just get over it”. We may be the caregivers and we may know how difficult this journey is going to be, but nonetheless we still need our constant validation that it’s okay for us to feel exhausted, offended, alone, and hopeless. I have been with families who have started to adjust to their family members’ diagnosis and special needs; but there are times when things change and the balance gets thrown off. How do you get through it? Who do you turn to? Do you ever hate yourself for feeling negatively? The best start is finding a support group that understands what you’re going through or even an individual therapist. Know that you’re not alone and that there are others that feel the same way as you do, but they also have the same fear of being judged for what they are thinking. Give yourself a break and some time to collect yourself because reality is, in order for you to provide for others you must first take care of yourself. People expect us to have all the answers and be strong through it all; sometimes we live up to those expectations, but then sometimes we don’t. We are human, we will fall, and we will stand back up and do it all over again.
It is highly frustrating thinking that you have to be the brave and strong one in the family, but know that it is always acceptable to just want to be weak and be taken care of by others. We drive off of support from others. You can never anticipate everything that is going to happen. For a while I felt it was my fault for setting my abilities so high. The fact that I always got everything done and seldom asked for help that people automatically expect me to be able to do all of it without lifting a finger to help me. I have now set my own standard that I had to fulfill and felt that all eyes were on me to fulfill them with grace and power. Inside I was dying and drained of all my energy, but I felt embarrassed to reveal that. I eventually learned, I eventually asked for help and just learned to delicate my responsibilities to others in order for myself to take care of myself and focus on my own life rather than dedicate 100 perfect of my focus on someone else’s life. If you have ever felt this way, know that you’re not alone. You are not in the battle alone. You just need to find that strength to open up to others for help and eventually allow yourself to have some peace and quiet and support.