Mistakes I Made
My late husband battled cancer for five years. It was a journey filled with lots of ups and downs. I look back on that time and I can see some of the mistakes I made. I call them mistakes, but really they were just things it took me a while to figure out and see how important they really were. I now have the wisdom of hindsight and my training and experience as a Life Coach. When I began to get coaching during that time, I gained new insight into my life and started to change how I did things. I want to share with you what I learned so you can benefit from my experience and wisdom.
If you have a partner who is ill, this time in your life will undoubtedly be hard, but you don’t have to suffer through it. I invite you to take a look at your own situation and see if you are also making these same mistakes so you can take action now.
Common Caregiver Mistakes
Here are the top 3 most common mistakes I made and I see many caregivers making also.
- Arguing With Reality
- Not Feeling Your Emotions
- Not Taking Care of Yourself
1. Arguing With Reality
This shouldn’t be happening.
They shouldn’t have to suffer.
It’s too hard.
When will it get easier?
Any of these thoughts sound familiar? They are all thoughts that argue with reality. Wanting reality to be different than it is is one of the most common mistakes caregivers make. I see it all the time. I did it too! You get this idea in your head about how life is going to go and when someone you love gets cancer, it feels wrong or unfair. It’s not how your story was supposed to go!
Many caregivers struggle to accept their new reality. They want their old life back. Totally understandable! It’s just your brain wanting comfort. When you are dealing with a partner’s cancer it is very unsettling and your brain just wants to seek the comfort of what it knew before – a life without cancer.
The mistake here is that arguing with reality keeps you stuck. You keep looking back to “before” and wishing your now was different. This doesn’t change anything and instead it prevents you from seeing and accepting what is. You are resisting or arguing with your current reality. If you keep resisting, you will not be able to discover the strength you have and make peace with your current life just as it is.
Notice if you are doing this. If you find you are, be kind to yourself. It’s normal to want it all to go away or get easier. Then realize that you need to first meet yourself where you are. Once you can find acceptance with the reality of your partner’s cancer, the doctor’s appointments, the uncertainty… all of it, then you will be able to move forward. If you want to learn more, I’ve written a lot more about this in my blog post Resisting Your Life.
2. Not Feeling Your Emotions
As a caregiver you are experiencing a lot of emotions. Worry, anxiety, sadness, disappointment… Most people don’t really know how to feel these emotions. They can feel overwhelming. It’s natural to want to distract yourself through food, alcohol, TV or social media. You just want relief! These activities will serve to distract you from those painful thoughts. But they are only short term fixes and usually there is an undesirable consequence. You start gaining weight, you feel fuzzy from the alcohol, or are just constantly distracted and can’t get your work done. The more you try to avoid them, the more the emotions keep coming up. It’s a painful cycle.
Sometimes, our emotions overwhelm us and we let them control our behavior. This can look like yelling at your partner or kids, being grumpy, making snide or snarky comments, wallowing in sadness. This may seem like you are feeling your emotion, but really you are just reacting to it. Reacting to emotions also doesn’t really help you work through the emotion. You end up feeling bad about your behavior and still don’t get any relief from how you are truly feeling.
Both of these responses won’t allow you to actually process the emotion through your body. This is one of the reasons why caregivers often suffer from insomnia and irritability. They often start having aches and pains they didn’t have before. Emotions can actually get stuck in our body when we don’t process through them.
As a caregiver, you need to feel your emotions when they come up. No matter how inconvenient. When I say feel, I mean name what you are feeling and notice how it feels in your body. Let yourself feel the emotion as long as you need to without resisting it or distracting yourself from it. It will be uncomfortable for a while, but then it will pass.
This is an unfamiliar skill for most people as none of us were taught this as kids. The prospect of feeling all your emotions may feel daunting. Many people are afraid they will drown if they let themselves “give in” to their feelings. I promise you the opposite is true! I work with my clients a lot on this skill alone. Read Space To Feel Your Emotions to learn more about emotions.
3. Not Taking Care of Yourself
When your partner has cancer you usually end up with more tasks on your plate. It may be following up with insurance or taking over some of the jobs around the home that your partner did. You may have to assist them getting dressed, eating, or medications. With more on your plate, the first thing that often goes by the wayside is self care. I’m talking about regular exercise, eating healthy means, meditation, time alone or with friends. What ever you were doing for just you is usually the first thing that gets eliminated.
I know you’ve heard it before, but this is a big mistake. It’s normal to have a period of adjustment to your partner’s cancer diagnosis, or to forgo certain things while they are getting chemo or radiation treatments. Putting off self care may be necessary for periods of time. But it is critical that you find a way to fit it in as soon as able. It’s not a luxury!
Why is this so difficult for most caregivers? All of the things you do or don’t do are fueled first by your thoughts. If you have made the mistake of not taking care of yourself, then you are thinking thoughts that cause you not to value your own health and worth.
I don’t have time.
My needs aren’t important right now.
They need me.
This type of thinking will certainly lead to forgoing your own needs. However, you are the only one responsible for taking care of yourself. No one can do that task for you. The only way you will be able to take care of others over the long term is if you also value and take care of yourself. You have to first feel you are worth it. It starts in your mind with your thoughts. Do you have a pattern of forgoing your own needs? If so, pay attention to your thinking. I’ve written a lot about this and you can dive more into this in my post Why Self-Care Is So Difficult As A Caregiver.
Take A Look At Your Own Situation
Arguing with reality, not feeling your emotions, and not taking care of yourself are all common mistakes caregivers make. They can all be avoided. My coaching program helps you work through each of these areas so you can get energy back in your life and don’t become a victim to your partner’s cancer.
Want to learn more? Are you making all these mistakes and don’t even know where to start? I’ve got you covered! Just click here and schedule a free consultation with me. We will look at all areas of your life and figure out what your biggest challenges are and what you can do about them. Don’t wait another day!