Are You Willing to Let God be Sovereign in the Situation?

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91: Part II

sovereign

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91: Part II

In part one of this series we looked at the first four verses of Psalm 91—a well-loved Psalm that I have a problem with. Join me as I work through the next two verses and try to figure out what they mean for the caregiver.

We left off at verse four, with the understanding that if we stay close to God, he will shield us from the lies of the devil. During my caregiving journeys, I often found myself worn down, worn out, and unable to cope in private. I thought I needed to take on the care of my very ill husband and shoulder all the other daily burdens as well. I forgot that God is sovereign.

Coping in public seems like a given. Caregivers don’t want to draw attention to themselves and their needs because they seem petty (even if they aren’t) in light of the bigger needs of the one they care for.

#Caregivers don't want to draw attention to themselves and their needs because they seem petty… Click To Tweet

What Does Fear Really Mean?

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

In verse five, God doesn’t promise that terrors won’t lurk. He promises that we won’t FEAR them. The dictionary tells us that ‘fear’ as a noun is “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” As a verb, ‘fear’ is “to be afraid of: expect with alarm.”

In other words, when we trust in God and stay close to him, we don’t let the devil’s suggestions of the worst-case scenario take over our imaginations and cause us extra agony.

During my first caregiver journey, I often let worries about the future drag me down. In those quiet moments late at night, the lies of the evil one nibbled and scampered inside my head like rodents in the walls. I had to make a conscious effort to allow God’s light into my mind to chase away the mice of despair.

Gradually, I learned that I didn’t fear the terrors of night, nor the arrows of circumstance and progression of disease that assaulted me by day. This knowledge armed me for my second caregiver journey.

The devil loves to point out our shortcomings and failures through the behaviors and actions of… Click To Tweet

What’s With Pestilence and Plagues?

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

My second caregiver journey provided the perfect opportunity for falling for the devil’s lines: “If only you would have been a better parent.” and “She’s acting like this because you failed.”Life is short. Pray hard. A caregiver looks at Psalm 91 http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1FY

After all, when one’s offspring implodes on a public forum (Facebook and YouTube), pretty much the entire known world knows. Our children’s actions highlight all that we did (or didn’t) do as parents. All too often we measure ourselves by our children’s actions—even if our children have reached adulthood.

I like to think that the ‘pestilence’ and ‘plague’ that the psalmist uses here have more to do with those lies of the evil one. It would have been easy (and natural) for me to roll up into a ball of dejected depression as I watched Sarah make a series of horrible choices.

I could have rejected God’s sovereignty because he didn’t provide protection for Sarah on my terms. He COULD have saved her from her bad choices and helped us figure out her diagnosis much earlier. But he didn’t.

I had a choice—either accept God as the sovereign in the situation and daily affirm his right to allow things that I didn’t like to happen, or reject God.

We have a choice: accept God as sovereign & affirm his right to allow things that we don't… Click To Tweet

Choosing God’s sovereignty kept me sane. Sure, I spent a lot of time in tears and on my knees. My relationship with God got stronger as I relied on him to help me avoid the pestilence and plague of the devil’s recriminations.

The devil keeps plugging away, trying to undermine our relationship with God. We have a choice—call out to God in the darkest night or in the light of day, or let the devil sink us with his lies.

Caregiver Applications

1. With God as our sovereign, we don’t have to fear the terrors.
2. We don’t need to work out the worst-case scenarios and stew about them.
3. The devil likes to jab at our weak spots and make us blame ourselves for other people’s actions. Just say, “No!”

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 favorite posts from last week!

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

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A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

Part I

Psalm 91

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

I confess. I have a problem with Psalm 91. Have you read it lately? For the last seven months, I’ve studied the Psalms.

Last week I came to Psalm 91 and it got my dander up. Why? Because as a caregiver, I KNOW that God doesn’t offer supernatural protection from disease and death to Christians. I’ve known many good Christians who have had catastrophic illnesses, and many good Christians who have died.

How then, do I reconcile the verses about ‘no harm overtaking me’ and ‘no disaster coming near me’ with the reality of the bad things that happen to the ones I love?

Psalm 91 makes it sounds as if genuine Christians will have nothing bad happen to them. In fact, the Pilgrims believed that disaster meant that a person lived outside of God’s grace. The ‘elect’ had successful lives; everyone else had problems.

I don’t claim theologian status—but I do claim a personal relationship with God and a desire to understand his word with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, I set out to figure out how a caregiver can live with Psalm 91.

For the next several days, I’ll share what I’ve learned from giving Psalm 91 a closer look.

Verses 1-2

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

First of all, we must dwell in God. The word dwell means ‘to remain for a time’ as well as ‘to keep attention directed.’ It can also mean abide, stay, remain, and tarry. If I spend time with God and trust him with the most intimate parts of my life, than I can say I dwell in him.

In that act of dwelling, I can find rest—something every caregiver needs! I must give up my desires to fix everything and make the path smooth for those I care for. I must discipline myself to consciously turn over all of my problems to God.

Verse two talks about God in war-terms: refuge and fortress.
Our motto needs to be, “I trust in God.” Period.

Verses 3-4Some people think Psalm 91 promises us a life on easy street. I disagree. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1FW

3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

The next two verses use a birdy simile—something I can relate to! In the olden days, fowlers had the responsibility for setting snares for wild birds for the cooking pots. They acted as specialized bird hunters. Likewise, the devil acts as a specialized hunter of human souls.

The word ‘pestilence’ means ‘disaster’ or ‘destructive and pernicious.’ The devil sets snares for us, and uses pernicious lies to lure us into his hopeless way of thinking.

God doesn’t promise us a life without disease, he promises protection from the pernicious lies of the evil one.

God doesn't promise a disease-free life; he promises protection from the lies of the evil one. Click To Tweet

The simile continues in verse four where the psalmist says that God will offer us shelter under his wings. A mother bird will shelter her young under her wings—which act as protection against the elements as well as other birds and animals of prey.

I believe one facet of that protection for caregivers includes what I call a ‘happy-face-state-of-grace.’ During Pedro’s illness, I often thought it odd that I didn’t break down on a regular basis.

Bad news and discouraging setbacks seemed to roll right off me—I had taken emotional shelter under the wings of a loving Savior. Just like feathers repel the rain, so God’s grace provided protection for my emotions during very trying times.

God’s faithfulness arranged flights that seemed impossible, kept airfare low, provided inexpensive hotels, and in times of great need, a way for our daughters to see Pedro for what we thought was the last time.

Caregiver Applications

1. God wants us to take up residence in the safest place possible—close to him. As caregivers, we do this by staying in daily connection with him.
2. The devil’s snares consist of pernicious lies—thing such as, “It’s my fault.” “If only I had ____.”
3. God’s ‘wings’ of grace protect us and allow us to function when we choose to hide close to him.
4. God will provide. His faithfulness will manifest itself in unexpected ways.

How has God provided for you in your caregiver journey? Share in the comments section! I’d love to celebrate God’s goodness with you.

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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YOU Can Help Stop the Stigma

Mental Health Awareness Month Resource Page

stigmaMental Health Awareness Month-What’s the Big Deal?

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Many of you may wonder why a website dedicated to caregivers and caregiving would take the time to mention mental health isues. Meantal Health problems are the unseen cancer of our times.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24. Take a moment to let that statistic sink in.

The School of Social Work at Washington State University has this sobering statistic to share:

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Our daughter Sarah almost became one of those statistics. She had an undiagnosed mental illness that caused severe depression and suicidal ideation. We became her caregivers, even though she didn’t suffer from cancer.

The Stimga of Cancer (and Mental Illness)

Like cancer, mental illness knows no socioeconomic boundaries. It doesn’t skip age groups, ethnicities, or religions, either. Mental illness can occur in any person, at any time, for no apparent reason. Thus the need for a Mental Health Awareness Month.

A century ago, no one wanted to speak about cancer, either. In fact, doctors didn’t tell their patients that they HAD cancer for fear of demoralizing them. That stigma remained in place for centuries. Thank goodness the American Cancer Society got the conversation started in 1913 and published a list of warning signs.

Conversation leads to questions, which lead to research, which leads to ways to manage and cure. We can do the same thing with mental illness. We can not only stop the stigma, we can help change treatment and understanding.

Like #cancer, #mentalillness knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Inform yourself. #stopthestigma… Click To Tweet

The more we know, the more likely we will notice changes in behavior that could signal a deeper problem. If we know the signs, we will know when to get help. pray

Resources for Mental Health Awareness

NAMI has a great website that offers not only information about mental illnesses, but support group information for both those who suffer and their family members. They offer a free helpline 24/7. If you suspect that someone you love has a mental illness, CONTACT NAMI today! You could save a life (Text NAMI to 741741 to get help).

The School of Social Work at Washington State University hosts the Mental Health Reporting. The information helps reporters and writers (as well as patients and caregivers) talk about mental illness in a way that avoids perpetrating the stigma against those who suffer.

Do you know of another website that offers quality information? Email me at anita at blessedbutstressed dot com and I’ll add it to this page if the information fits.

Stories From the Trenches

Sometiems, just knowing that we are not alone is all it takes to help us get help for ourselves or seek help for a loved one. We hope that these stories will resonate with you and inspire you to stop the stigma:

31 Glimpses into an Unquiet Mind–Our family’s journey with mental illness.

What I Wish Christians Understood About Mental Illness

Why Should You Care About Mental Illness?

What I Wish Christians Knew About Harm OCD

What I Wish Christians Knew About Prayer and Mental Health Issues

The Challenges of the Topsy Turvy World of Mental Illness

If Insurance Companies Treated Cancer Like a Mental Illness

How I Wish the Church Would Treat Those With Mental Illnesses

Caring for a Parent with a Mental Illness

What I Wish Christians Knew about Anxiety

What I Wish Christians Knew about Caregiver PTSD

Dear Church: People With Mental Illness Love Jesus, Too!

Join the Conversation!

If you’re a blogger and have written a story about mental health issues and would like it included in this list, please email me at anita at blessedbutstressed dot com. I would love to grow this resource page into something beautiful for those who suffer from or have a family member that suffers from a mental illness. Together we can stop the stigma, bring hope, and love like Jesus loves!

If you do nothing else, please share this article on Facebook so that the one in five people who suffer from a mental health issue can find hope and healing!

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Pray and Persist: The Keys to Advocating for Adolescents

Advocating

Flashbacks by Proxy

The hiss of the bus stopping at the United terminal at the Newark, NJ airport stabbed me. We grabbed our suitcases, in preparation from finishing our transfer from one terminal to another on the airport bus. Two years had passed since that fateful night when we almost lost Sarah, and I hadn’t expected my eyes to tear up as we traveled through an airport we had never been to before.

Questions bounced around inside my head as I gripped the my suitcase handle. Had Sarah stumbled off this very bus the night she almost died? Had she listened to the swoosh of the automatic doors and smelled the jet fuel before collapsing on the tarmac? My momma heart wanted to know the details of that night, even if they hurt. Even though two years had passed, I wanted to make sense of all that had happened during that dark period of her life.

Every momma wants to soothe, protect, and bring light into our children’s nightmares—whether our child is five, 15, or 25. I will probably never know exactly what happened that night, but I believe that praying for my daughter made a difference in the outcome of her story.

The very night that sirens wailed and flashing lights converged on the scene while paramedics knelt at Sarah’s side, I knelt beside my bed, 2000 miles away, clueless to her plight. I knew she was in danger, but I didn’t know how much. The urge to pray was so great that I did something I had never done before—I sent out requests to some of Sarah’s mentors and friends and asked them to pray with me.

More Questions Than Answers

We didn’t find out until over a week later that paramedics rushed Sarah to a hospital near the airport and eventually released her after 12 hours. It took months for the full story to emerge.

Our well-brought-up-Christian daughter, the one we strove to instill with the proper balance of caution and freedom, had accepted some drug-laced ‘candies’ from strangers. Without even stopping to think of all the lessons we’d taught her, she had popped the candies into her mouth and ended up passed out at the airport on the tarmac between terminals. While it wasn’t exactly an overdose, it did require hospital observation.

At almost 21, she seemed too old to accept and ingest candy of questionable origin from people she had never met before. After all, we taught her all about stranger danger from an early age.

Had we failed as parents? For the past two years, Sarah’s behavior had bewildered us. She started binge eating and gained weight. When she went away to college she struggled to get good grades—despite her 4.0 high-school GPA. She lost confidence in her ability to reason and think and write.

When she couldn’t decide on a major, she went to Argentina for a year, where she seemed to suffer from the throes of first love as well as deep depression. When she returned, the first love was a thing of the past, but the depression remained.

We took Sarah to counseling. She continued to gain weight. We took her to psychologists. She spoke of going for a walk at night and stepping in front of a car. She came home to stay with us until we could figure things out. I spent hours on the phone trying to find a treatment center that our insurance would pay for.

You can find the rest of the story over at Kindred Mom.

pray

 

 

For the Caregiver Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Easter

EasterEaster Sunday or Easter Some Day?

Some celebrate with new outfits, decorating eggs, and a sunrise service at church. Others hide goodies for the little ones to hunt and then spend the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing a feast. Caregivers often just feel overwhelmed.

I didn’t grow up in a church that made a big deal about Easter Sunday (nor Lent, nor Palm Sunday). Other kids got new outfits, chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts. I didn’t get why Christmas fell on the same day every year, but Easter hopped all over.

My dad explained that since no one had modern calendars back when Jesus was born, no one really knew whether he was born on December 25th or not. I never did get an explanation about why Easter falls on a different day each year. But I didn’t want to push the issue, because it took a fair amount of finagling to have a Christmas tree and celebrate Jesus’ birth. I didn’t want to push my luck by advocating for a holiday I couldn’t keep track of.

So I understand what it feels like when the whole world seems buzzing with excitement over a holiday you just can’t get in to. Don’t get me wrong. I know the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I know he died on the cross on a Friday, got put in the tomb before sundown, and came back to life on Sunday morning.

The Caregiver’s Easter Moments

You don't need to stage a celebration to experience resurrection power! http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1De via @blestbutstrestAs a caregiver, I’ve experienced a small measure of the despair Jesus’ disciples felt as they saw him take his last breath on the cross. I have waited through the night, wondering if Pedro’s next breath would be his last. Because of a miracle, Pedro kept on breathing. But I understand the agony. I also understand the unbounded joy when a loved one pulls through—a resurrection of sorts.

I have despaired whether or not we would ever see our youngest daughter again. Friends wept and prayed with me through a torturous night of doubt. I understand the deep well of gratitude when a prodigal comes home—defying death and destruction and proving once again the miracle of rebirth.

So if you’re feeling wiped out and unable to celebrate anything today, dear caregiver, it’s ok. You don’t have to stage a celebration to experience the unbounded joy of knowing that Jesus lives. Hiding eggs and chocolate bunnies or slaving in a hot kitchen all day will not make the resurrection more real in the lives of the ones you love.

#Caregiver, you don't have to stage a celebration to know the joy of the #resurrection. Click To Tweet

Living each day with the knowledge that you follow the one who conquered the grave—now THAT has an impact. My Jesus conquered death; I know he can conquer my bad attitude. My Jesus has the keys to the grave; I know he can conquer my doubts and fears.

When we let Jesus conquer things for us, we have room in our lives for joy. And we don’t need to wait around for Easter Sunday (whenever it might fall) to celebrate.

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Unrecognized Toll of Caregiving on the Caregiver

Family Caregivers Put Their Own Health at Risk

tollWhat Don’t Know CAN Hurt You (or Someone You Love)

When Pedro received a cancer diagnosis, I automatically jumped in and took over the role of primary caregiver.  I had no idea that people called what I did ‘caregiving.’ Before his diagnosis, I blythly assumed that when someone gets seriously ill, the doctors and nurses take care of everything. Wrong.

I soon learned that Pedro not only needed the kind of care that doctors and nurses and hospitals provided, he needed companionship in the hospital, help organizing his meds, and eventually, help walking, sitting, and standing. But of course, I kept right on helping, wihout any thought of what might happen to ME (who thinks of that in the middle of a crisis, anyway?).

Weight gain (mine) during his illness and depression (mine) during his recovery helped me realize that caregiving takes a toll. Since we hadn’t yet reached 40 when he received his diagnosis, we hadn’t had any of those important conversations that involve the unthinkable questions that start with ‘What if?’

The Toll of Caregiving on the Caregiver

Guest contributor Samantha Stein cautions caregivers to think ahead of time about things like long-term care insurance:

Society has dubbed family caregivers as the unsung heroes of long-term care. And if we think about it, the given moniker is rightfully so. After all, they have done enough and beyond to earn it. These individuals dedicate themselves to provide the support and care that their loved ones and family members need. When the dust settles, they are often left to face their own health issues and financial challenges with limited resources.”

According to Stein, “Caregivers are among those who should get long-term care insurance. The costs of care in the United States can deliver a devastating blow, and these individuals need all the help and protection they can get.” She graciously provided this infographic for you to read, think about, and share. We need to educate others about the true costs of caregiving.

We need to educate others about the true toll of #caregiving. Click To Tweet

The toll of #caregiving is higher than you think.

Guest Contributor

Samantha Stein, an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long term care insurance, financial planning, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha’s work highlights the importance of having a good long term care plan, which includes requesting a long term care insurance quote to securing comprehensive coverage.

 

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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What You don’t Know About Breathing Can Really Hurt You

breathingLosing My Ability to Breathe

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I forgot how to breathe. I find myself, at odd moments, holding my breath, not in anticipation or fright, but simply because I have forgotten the rhythm of breathing.

I didn’t even know about my loss until I started experiencing horrible, unexplainable pain in the middle of my chest that isn’t a heart problem (checked that), isn’t a nerve problem (checked that too), or even a lung problem (checked the bellows out and they’re fine).

“You’re as healthy as a person half your age,” the cardiologist told me. If that’s true, why does it hurt to breathe or have my heart beat strong and deep?  Why does my left side swell up?  It hurts to lie down, or stand up?  Why does it happen over and over again?

“Your breathing function is normal,” the internist told me. “In fact, your lung capacity is superior.”  Than why does it hurt to breathe?  Why can’t I take a deep breath without agony?  Walking up stairs is a cruel form of torture.

“Have you ever considered acupuncture?” my family practitioner asked me. Really?  Alternative therapy?  I couldn’t believe a physician was suggestion alternative therapy.

“Well, I do go to a chiropractor and a massage therapist,” I admitted.

“Does it help?” she asked.

“I’m not sure.”  I shrugged. “Sometimes it helps the pain go away if I go in early, sometimes it doesn’t. My massage therapist claims that I have incredibly tight muscles on my left side. It takes her an hour to work through the knots.”

A Different Kind of Specialist

“Do you know how to breathe?” my neighbor and friend asked me. She’s a life coach, and helps people with chronic pain—she’s also a person in chronic pain. “I can teach you how to breathe.”  I reluctantly agreed to go over to her house after work one evening (after my second job–I much rather would have been in bed).

“It’s called diaphragmatic breathing,” she told me. “Put your hand right below your rib cage and try to push your hand out when you breathe.”  I felt silly, but I tried it. “When you breathe shallowly, you decrease your body’s ability handle pain.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”  She launched into the technical reasons why shallow breathing keeps a person from processing pain and releasing endorphins that help the body take care of pain. I thanked her and wandered out of her house, hand on stomach, practicing my breathing while thinking of breathing in general.

Over the next few weeks, while I waited for my pain to go away, I caught myself not breathing. The computer didn’t load fast enough—I clenched my teeth and my breathing ceased its regular, steady rhythm. Three family members with perfectly good hands and arms and backs failed to put their own dishes in the dishwasher—how hard can it be to bend slightly and put a dish in the dishwasher?  I got cut off on the highway—have they stopped giving driving tests?!  Ooops!  My teeth were clenched and I had been holding my breath for who-knows-how-long.

Caregiver, Beware Your Breathing

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I had started holding my breath—in fright, in anticipation of the next piece of bad news, in mental pain and agony, in emotional stress. No one ever warned me that a side effect of all that stress would be a loss of breathing. In fact, no one warned me about any of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Slowly, every so slowly, I’m putting a name on them and dealing with them. For now, I’ll start with breathing lessons.

 

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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What You Need to Do to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

A Good Night’s Rest Provides the Elixir for Caregiver Burnout

Pedro ‘circled the drain’—his life hung in the balance and no one knew for sure how to stop the infections that waged war on his chemo-weakened body. The doctors had started using drugs they thought might work. They also spent long minutes sitting on his bed, staring at him. It’s never a good sign when a doctor takes the time to sit on a patient’s bed.

caregiver burnout

I felt weary. For six months we had battled cancer, and now this. I numbed myself with food. Praying took too much effort. My friends did the heavy prayer lifting for me.  I had no energy to form words and thoughts and sentences.

My uncomfortable chair-posing-as-a-bed in Pedro’s hospital room kept me tossing and turning. Just when I would fall asleep, a nurse would come in to check Pedro’s vitals, or Pedro would start awake, needing something.

The night before, a family friend had arrived to visit. He posed an interesting question that I answered without thinking. “If you could do anyting you wanted to do right now, what would it be?”

I responded with the first thing that popped into my head, “Soak in a hot tub.”

“Why don’t you do it?” he asked. “I’ll stay here with Pedro and you find a hotel with a hot tub.”

I found a place to stay on a bus route, and safely made my way to a small hotel. For the first time in months I luxuriated in a decent night’s sleep. The impersonal hotel room and soothing soak in a bath had worked like balm to my broken thoughts and frantic worry. I had arrived back at the hospital feeling as if I could handle the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next decision.

Five Minutes on the Phone Undoes A Night of Good

My cell phone buzzed, and I hurried from the room to take the call. I wish I hadn’t. Unkind words poured out of the phone and into my ear from someone I trusted. Someone I thought was safe and on my side berated me with bitter words for what they perceived to be my horrible actions of the night before. They scolded me for spending the night in a hotel. They railed that I would let a ‘stranger’ spend the night in Pedro’s room.

Each hurtful word pierced my heart. Mesmerized, all I could do was listen and pray for wisdom and the ability to not utter hateful words back. After what seemed like hours, I muttered an apology and promised that I would call my tormenter the next time I felt the need for a break or feared I suffered from caregiver burnout.

Broken and wilted once again, I entered Pedro’s room. Our family friend looked up and smiled. “I’m so glad I could come and that you got a good night’s sleep,” he said. “You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of Pedro.”

I nodded numbly.

“May I pray with you before I leave?” he asked.

I nodded again and bowed my head. As our dear friend lifted Pedro and I up in prayer, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit draw close and pick the broken shards from my wounded heart. 

How to Handle Caregiver Burnout (if You’re the Caregiver)

In retrospect, I know I should have done many things differently to avoid caregiver burnout.8 Tips for Handling #Caregiver #Burnout http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1Cb

  1. Take time each day to relax. This might look different for each of you. A brisk walk in nature, writing in a journal, praying, listening to uplifting music, or recording beauty with a cell phone camera might provide an oasis of relaxation.
  2. Make healthy food choices. Overeating will only make you feel more discouraged and burnt out. Eating well is a form of self-care.
  3. Learn to hang up politely. I should have interrupted the phone call with a polite, “May we talk about this later?” If the caller had answered no, I should have said, “I’m sorry you feel this way. I’d be happy to talk to you about this later.” and then just hang up.
  4. Remember it’s not about you. That other person was experiencing thier own form of trauma because of Pedro’s illness. Althought the catalog of woes focued on me and all I had supposedly done wrong, in retrospect, I think the caller was really pouring out their worries and grief.

How to Handle Caregiver Burnout (if You Know a Caregiver)

  1.  Watch for signs of burnout: memory loss, inability to make decisions, irritibility, changed behavior, depression, and withdrawal from normal activities.
  2. Remember your sphere of influence. Take action based on your relationship to the caregiver. Sometimes, it’s easier to hear the hard questions from a friend and not a family member. My family members thought I was fine (mostly because I kept assuring them that I was). It took a family friend to understand the depth of my caregiver burnout.
  3. Ask. What can you do to ease the burden. Ask the caregiver what one thing they would really like to do and then help them make it so. When others ask, it relieves the fear that caregivers have that they exist in isolation.
  4. Remember it’s not about you. Don’t feel rejected if the caregiver doesn’t accept your offer of help. You might not be the person God has in mind to serve. Don’t burden caregivers with your opinions on the job they are doing. Think twice (or three or four times) before speaking critically.

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Help Me Raise Money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s TNT!

Seeking Sponsors for not just a Walk-a-thon, but a Marathon

TNTThe Back Story

If you’re new to Blessed (but Stressed), you might not know much about our cancer journey. You probably see the occasional photos of Pedro looking healthy and don’t know at at one time he looked like an extra for Shindler’s List. If you don’t know about those years, here are some photos from our journey. You can find more stories about our journey here and hereTNT

Ever since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant at the University of California San Francisco’s Parnassus Campus hospital on January 3, 2003, Pedro has continued to heal and experience a whole new set of firsts that he never thought he would be blessed with.

TNT Collage

I’ve Joined the Team!

And ever since Pedro’s transplant, I’ve wanted to do something to honor his journey and help others who suffer from blood cancers. Now that our nest is empty, I have the time to dedicate to training for a long-distance race. I chose to join the the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT) program.

So I’ve done it! I’ve registered for the San Diego Rock-N-Roll Marathon (yes, you read that correctly! This old lady thinks she can run for 26.2 miles) on June 4, 2017. By participating as a member of TNT, I am raising funds to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Think of it as an old-fashioned school walk-a-thon fundraiser—only I plan on running, not walking. I’d like to raise $1200 (or more!). I survived a half-marathon on Sunday, and I know I’ll be able to keep working towards a full marathon.

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these.

Please make a tax-deductible donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers.

 

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Self-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

breatheSelf-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

To breathe or not to breathe, this is the question. I know, we all breathe, all the time; otherwise, we would be dead. But did you know that HOW we breathe plays a huge role in our health?

During Pedro’s cancer year, I forgot how to breathe. It took me several years after his stem-cell transplant to actually learn how to breathe again. Unfortunately, my health (both mental and physical) suffered greatly during my years of forgetting how to breathe.

Fear and pain cause shallow breathing—our bodies naturally respond to threats by changes in breathing patterns. The problem occurs when we find ourselves in a constant state of stress—which disrupts our normal breathing.

According to Alan Fogel, Ph.d., in an online article for Psychology Today, “Chronic breath holding and effortful breathing are not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.”

Caregivers can live in a constant state of fright, flight, or freeze. When I thought Pedro might die any given day, I struggled to assure our children that everything would be ok (regardless of the outcome). I struggled to assure myself that things would get better. Seeing a doctor walk out of Pedro’s room (or into it) at an unscheduled time sent my heart racing.

If I would have known more about the importance of the way that I breathed, I could have avoided a lot of pain and agony later on—when all those months of bad breathing turned into a bad habit that chiseled away at my health.

So, if you care for someone, the number one thing you can do for yourself involves learning how to breathe.

Four Steps to Healthy Breathing

1. Remember the numbers. Four-seven-eight. 4-7-8. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Breathe out for eight seconds.Rescue breathing for #caregivers. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1C3
2. Breathe in through your nose. If you feel like you suffer from chemo-brain by proxy, it probably means you suffer from stress. To regain your ability to remember things, breathe in through your nose when you want to remember something. Scientists recently discovered that breathing in through the nose enhances memory.
3. Breathe to fall asleep. If you struggle with insomnia, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique as you lie in bed at night.
4. Exercise hard on a regular basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular aerobic exercise can ward off viral illnesses, reduce your health risks, and keep excess pounds at bay.

Keeping pounds off is vital for caregivers because caregiving takes a big enough toll on our mental health without having to deal with weight gain. Aerobic exercise doesn’t mean you have to join an aerobic dance class (thank goodness—I have two left feet).

Simply engage your large muscle groups, make sure your heart rate increases, and your feel your body start breathing more deeply. I finally purchased a fitness tracker to keep me honest about my effort. You can do this by walking briskly, climbing flights of stairs, running, bicycling, or dancing like a crazy person in your living room.

What other ways have you discovered to relieve caregiver stress?

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 favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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