Downcast

Caregiver, are you feeling downcast? There's hope for you. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-vS via @blestbutstrestIn the interest of full disclosure, I wouldn’t want anyone to thinks that caregiving contains miracle after miracle and daily evidence of God’s intervention (although those things did happen time and time again).

Nor would I want anyone to think that caregivers live in a sheltered super-power-type world where quotidian concerns fall away while a halo slips into place.

Not at all.

I’m disgustingly human.

When I read back over my journals from my caregiving journey, some days sounds like I’d checked into a whinery. You know, whine to God about this and whine to God about that.

The second thing I know for sure about caregiving (the first is the God will be with you all. the. time) is this: whatever relationship quirks and quarrels you had with people or relatives BEFORE cancer will rear their ugly heads DURING cancer.

If Uncle Bob drove you crazy with his interfering, managing ways at family reunions, Uncle Bob’s reaction to cancer in your family with play out true to form: he’ll try to manage things and pluck your last, thin little nerve with all his observations, suggestions and passive-aggressive harrumphs when his ‘wise counsel’ is ignored.

If Suzie Citizen likes to boss family gathering details from dawn to dusk, chances are, she’ll take the credit for every miracle that happens and every moment YOU spend with a loved one.

And if you have a distant relationship with a close family member—cancer won’t likely bridge the gap when your family enters crisis mode (some people feel helpless in a crisis and don’t know what to do—and that’s ok).

If you’ve never learned to set healthy boundaries, a caregiving journey might increase your stress level exponentially. That’s where I found myself when Pedro’s catastrophic phase of illness struck. I’d read about boundaries. I may have tried to set a few. But if you don’t have any practice, well, a time of crisis causes untold frustrations.

For example, how to shield Pedro from certain people who would disrupt the healing process while at the same time keeping the people in the loop? With Pedro’s consent, I came up with a Draconian plan of protection that I knew in my head was necessary, but felt in my heart that it was maybe just a little over-the-top.

We asked all friends and family members to NEVER mention in public where Pedro received treatment (much easier to do in the pre-Caringbridge and pre-Facebook era). I wrote update letters to the people in question and mailed them from different airports that I traveled through. I wrote letters to friends and enclosed letters to the aforementioned people to be mailed from my friends’ city of residence.

And that’s ok. Sometimes (despite some people’s belief that they are entitled to every dirty detail of your distress), you have to do what’s best for the patient and for you. But it was hard—especially when those people involved my friends and tried to convince my friends to pressure me to reveal the place of Pedro’s treatment.

And so I whined a lot. A litany of pleas for patience. Repeated prayers FOR the ones who caused me emotional and mental anguish by their actions. Repeated prayers for deliverance from the distractions their machinations caused.

In reading through my journals, I’ve discovered that I sounded an awful lot like David—one part praise and one part whine with a few solid shout-outs to God’s power thrown in.

Maybe that’s why, even years later, Amy Grant’s song “Better than a Hallelujah” makes me cry every time I hear it. Just typing the title brings tears to my eyes.

But I’ll post a link to the video, because as much as it makes me cry, it shares the truth. God can handle our neurosis. God can handle our whines. God can handle our anger and our pain and our complaints and moaning and groaning that words can’t even express. (tweet this)

He loves us. He wants to share in everything with us. He longs to comfort us. He longs to be our hope and our salvation and our Father.

You can find the rest of the Comfort for Caregiver series here.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • As a fellow teacher (7th grade English & History (Middle Ages)) and a part-time care-giver when my daughter suffered complications from her Juvenile Diabetes, I know how true every word you write is. Amy Grant’s song is perfect. Thank you.
    Debbie Putman recently posted…Let God DriveMy Profile

    • Yay for teachers! And Yay for caregivers! Both jobs require a lot of love, time and pour out of oneself. It’s only by God’s strength that we make it through without totally messing things up.

  • Anita, this has to be about the 3rd time this week this very song has crossed my path 🙂 I am so grateful we can come honestly before our God & somehow it all sounds beautiful to His ear. All He wants is that we come to Him. Glad to have been your neighbor this morning at Tell His Story. Have a wonderful Wed.!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Day 22: Take Them CaptiveMy Profile

    • Don’t you love it when God keeps placing things in your pathway? I think he has a sense of humor (as well as a great teaching style).

  • Thank you for sharing! It is very true that we need boundaries and their lack is most obvious in crisis moments!
    Katha recently posted…[31 Days] Day 22 JoinMy Profile

    • Amen to needing boundaries! Have you read any of the books by Henry Cloud? I had read one of them before all of this happened, and I vaguely remembered the good parts in my time of stress and need :).

  • This was just beautiful and informative. Oh, how I do love that Amy Grant song. So glad it brought (and brings) you comfort as well. Found you from Facebook link up or 31 days of writing.
    Karmen recently posted…The Trouble with StitchesMy Profile

    • I’m glad you found me :). She’s one of my favorite singers of all time. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I think we were at the same whinery last week…
    Thanks for your encouragement. You might enjoy my niece’s updates on her husband’s recovery process over at: sansoxygen.com (brain trauma from a motorbike accident last May)
    (PS I taught 9th grade English ten years. Fun trenches!)

    • ;). I’ll have to check our your niece’s story–thank you for sharing with me. Ninth grade English=never a dull moment!

  • Anita, I love this post, especially the references to sounding like David…as I read through my journals of my time as a caregiver to my mother, who suffered from dementia, there were many Psalm 43:5 moments…in one journal I even copied The Message paraphrase (below)…which put a “smile on my face”…
    Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
    Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
    He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God
    beth willis miller recently posted…applying the 5 statement pledge of faith…My Profile

    • I love that verse! Yes! God puts a smile on my face, despite my mistakes and whining and complaining. That’s a beautiful promise to cling to!

  • Throughout this 31 days God keeps bringing me back to your website. I think He is trying to tell me something. 🙂 There is so much truth in this post and many wonderful insights. The truths about boundaries are what speak to me the most — if it’s not strong before, it’s going to be super-tough when a crisis hits. This is a great reminder for me to always keep a check on how I’m doing with this ever-important area of my life.
    Sara Borgstede recently posted…Grace for the NowMy Profile

  • “God can handle our neurosis. God can handle our whines. God can handle our anger and our pain and our complaints and moaning and groaning that words can’t even express.”

    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes after reading this last statement. I have been told this so many times throughout my journey and yet, I still struggle so much with believing it, especially the bit about God being able to handle our anger. I have been so, so, SO angry with Him. It has been so intense at times that it has scared me with the force of it. So much of your post resonated with me today. The part about boundaries is something I have learned a lot about through my journey with depression too and my husband Gray (who has taken on a role of caregiver in many ways when my depression has gotten the best of me) has had to do similar sorts of things on my behalf that you did with Pedro with regard to informing people and keeping certain people at bay so that I could try to heal. Thank you for writing this journey. I haven’t kept up with all of it, but I am adding it to my list of 31 Days journeys I want to read in their entirety once the month is over (and blogs to follow too!). God bless you!
    The Momma recently posted…Day Twenty-two: Old Face, New Place, Same Old StruggleMy Profile

    • I’m so sorry that you struggle with depression–it’s such an under-understood (is that even a word) disease and so many people question if it’s even a disease. May God continue to be with you and hold you and your family close during your journey.

  • Anita, thank you for clearing that up because often when I read caregivers’ journals they do sound like superheros! 😉 But I know that it is God who gives us strength in all circumstances. I can only imagine how my patience with family and friends would wane in that type of situation. The psalms of David always resonate with me too, and yes, I sound a lot like him some days too. Thanks so much for sharing so authentically here. You are a blessing.
    Abby McDonald recently posted…The Day Someone I’d Never Met Changed My LifeMy Profile

    • ;). Nope. I’m definitely human–the steady stream of miracles certainly helped me through the roughest parts, but I’m human!

  • It’s hard to deal with so many people who care and/or think they are trying to help sometimes.
    The verse you posted at the top reminded me of a song we sing in my church. It’s by the Sing Team, . We’ve talked about how we sometimes sing it because it’s true and we sometimes sing it because we desperately want it to be true.
    Janice S. recently posted…Day 20: Though you ruin meMy Profile

    • Whoops, my attempt at code misfired, but the hyperlink will take you to the you tube video of the song, Satisfied in You. 🙂
      Janice S. recently posted…Day 20: Though you ruin meMy Profile

      • I’ll check it out when I get home–thank you for sharing!

  • I love this song! And the whinery…I’m a pro at inhabiting that place. 😛 Thank you for this beautiful post!
    Laura Melchor recently posted…Why I Don’t Like Stuck in LoveMy Profile

    • You probably take after your mother ;). I love you!

  • I never felt like a superhero when I was being a caregiver. I was exhausted, bitchy, whiny, and sometimes downright mean. Now I suffer the guilt of it all. But I do know that I did the best that I knew how to do at the time. And too many family and friends, who could have been helpful, just didn’t understand. Look I am still whiny 🙂
    paula recently posted…HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTINMy Profile

    • I’m convinced that our whines are covered with grace and there’s no need to beat ourselves up with guilt. God understands. Caregiver is a tough role to take on–one that many people will never understand unless they become a caregiver themselves. That’s why caregivers are ‘unsung’ heroes ;).

  • Anita I’m glad I read this today. I’m so glad God can handle our whines and yes, David did quite a lot of it too didn’t he? I need to read more of your posts. Thank you.
    Caiobhe Hope recently posted…Day 22: What happens when hope and despair co-existMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by, Caiobhe. I’ve been blessed by reading your series :).

  • Love that Amy Grant song!
    When it comes down to it, God knows how we are feeling. He knows we are going to whine some and praise some. He just wants us to come to Him.
    The part about how family dynamics won’t change is so true. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you are so right. I am really enjoying your posts this month!
    Sarah Donegan recently posted…ContrastMy Profile

    • Thanks, Sarah. Family is just plain quirky–but if we can’t get along with them now, how will we ever get along with them in heaven ;)?

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