I noticed something recently at the in-person support group I facilitate.
Caregivers in my group didn't speak up about issues or feelings unless the facilitator or group leader mentioned them first.
"Like Jan said, I have feelings of ____ too."
After the third time, it occured to me that caregivers are either waiting to have their feelings validated by someone else or didn't realize they had been feeling those feelings.
I remember being a caregiver for my father and how all-encompassing that was. Nothing else mattered to me at the time. Everything was about my dad's cancer, his feelings, his happiness, his peace and comfort. I don't think I got more than 2-3 hours of sleep a night during those 11 months- there was just so much to do! I completely lost myself and any sense of "me" during my caregiving. I would never consider taking time for myself, taking a break or openly expressing my frustrations and concerns- that would be selfish- afterall, I wasn't the one in treatment with cancer. I wasn't the one fighting for my life, right?
If given the opportunity then, would I have taken advantage of caregiver resources or support groups? Would I even know what I was feeling or how to describe it?
Until we are able to have caregiver-only support groups in every community, how can we give caregivers the encouragement or "permission" to put a voice to what they are feeling?
How do we as caregivers divorce ourselves from the guilt that accompanies self-care?