When it’s OK to Have a Caregiver Meltdown

Caregiver Meltdown


“We need to eat what’s in the freezer,” Pedro said yesterday morning when I asked him what he had planned for breakfast. “I know we have some waffles in there.”

I flung open the freezer door and started not-too-gently removing things. I stacked Ziploc bags of frozen bread, leftovers and ice on the counter and quickly made piles of things-that-were-too-far-gone-to-attempt-eating and those worth saving.

“Hey!” Pedro said.

I turned to see what caught his attention and discovered he wanted to use the microwave—which I had blocked with one of my piles. I let out a tiny huff, immediately regretted it and tried to cover it with a semi-cheerful, “Just a second, I’ll help you!”

“I’d love your help, just don’t be short with me,” Pedro answered.

I swallowed hard and mumbled some excuse/apology and continued helping him get breakfast ready and cleaning out the freezer. As soon as I finished my waffle, I rushed to the sanctuary of my office and pulled out my Bible and journal—something I should have done two hours earlier, but I’d chosen to sleep in instead.

My Bible fell open to 2 Corinthians 1—the next section in my studies—and I started to read about the comfort God offers. This triggered a full-fledged caregiver meltdown with tears and snot and no Kleenex in sight. I found a dust rag on my desk and used that instead.

It’s been a stressful year, and Pedro’s accident two weeks ago has put a spike in the wheels of my summer plans. Instead of helping our daughter and son-in-law pack and prepare to move last week, I spent four days at a hotel helping Pedro so he could attend a work conference.

Having not acted as a daily caregiver for twelve years, I have forgotten how many adjustments one must make to one’s schedule when caring for someone who needs help dressing and eating (at the conference, two out of three meals each day were served at a buffet line).

And then my website went down on Wednesday afternoon and I wasted endless hours with customer service trying to fix it—all to no avail. It took two phone calls, four live chats, eight emails, three tweets and over 36 hours to discover the problem and get it working again. Did I mention that I hate calling customer service and I’m not very tech-savvy?

It all crashed down on me Saturday morning. Caregiving is hard. Even though I write about my experiences as a caregiver—I’ve forgotten how the quotidian routines of caring for someone else can wear a person down. I also realized just how complacent and selfish I’ve become.

My frustrations stem from the changes in MY plans, MY goals and MY desires. One of the most difficult things about caregiving—whether it’s long-term or short-term—is balancing the needs of others with your own needs.

#Caregiving requires a delicate balancing act. Click To Tweet

After a good cry, time writing in my prayer journal and a few deep breaths, I rejoined Pedro and Troy (we’re hosting a student for the week who is working on campus this summer) and started packing stuff for our picnic lunch.

After a two-hour drive with a stop for a picnic in a little park, we ended up in a quaint little community in the White Mountains. We found a trail that followed a creek up the canyon. Troy carried lawn chairs about a half-mile up the creek away from the noisy picnickers at the trailhead, and I continued up the trail alone after he and Pedro found a spot in the shade to enjoy the gurgles of the stream.

My earlier grumpy, selfish mood struggled to strangle my hike, and I realized I hadn’t spent any time in the last week writing in my gratitude journal. And so I thanked God for the robin and the gurgling stream and the beautiful wildflowers. I stopped and smelled the wild roses and watched the bees and the tiny white flowers growing out of a submerged bed of moss in the stream.

By the time I hiked back to Pedro and Troy, I had discovered another reason for my grumpiness—I am secretly worried about the minor surgery I have to undergo on Monday. I don’t want to go without food and water from midnight Sunday to after the procedure on Monday. I’ve never had general anesthesia, so that whole thing niggles at my comfort, too.

Instead of talking honestly about my fears with Pedro (or anyone else)—I brush them off. I felt relief at realizing another source for my sour mood, but I confess to feeling a little out-of-sorts because I hadn’t found any new birds (which had been the whole point of the expedition in the first place). The things I’d learned about myself were more important than adding another bird to my life list.

blogphotos-8On our way home, we stopped at a lake and discovered five Great Blue Heron nests—complete with squawking youngsters. A beautiful yellow butterfly obligingly flitted from wild iris to wild iris, giving me plenty of time to take photos. A little bunny consented to an impromptu photo shoot, and I discovered a rookery of Double-crested Cormorants. I also discovered that both the cormorant and heron chicks submerge their heads in their parents’ throats to get their food.Double-crested Cormorant Chick

And maybe that’s my problem right there. Once again, I tried to do things on my own strength—to be the one who can handle everything, take care of everyone, and arrange things to my own specifications all the while putting on a façade of ‘super caregiver’ and stalwart surgery candidate. But that attitude leaves me with little comfort.

If I want the comfort that God offers, I need to willingly submerge myself in the one who offers me strength to endure.

If I want God's comfort, I have to submerge myself in his word. Click To Tweet

When the cormorant chick receives its food, it buries its head inside the parent’s neck—blind to the world around it and depending on the parent’s vision for protection. I need to blind myself to worries of the world and bury myself in the nourishing words and promises of the Bible.

And so I’ll be honest with you, friends. I’m worried about my surgery and I’d love to have you lift me up in prayer. I’m not a super caregiver, and I never want any of you to think I have it all together—I don’t. All I know is the One who can keep me together and nourish my deepest needs.

How can I help you? I need a way to pass the hours between waking up tomorrow and going under—I figure that’s a great time to concentrate on praying for other people and not dwelling on my own discomforts!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #InspireMeMonday. Check out the great posts! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

Take a moment to visit my co-hostess, Angie.

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