Today was a tough day. I didn’t want to be a caregiver anymore. Is this Caregiver Burnout?
I’ve been caring for my mum full time now for the last six years. Longer, really, if you include the part-time years!
Where has the time all gone? It’s definitely caught up on me.
Is it why I’ve been feeling low & stressed for weeks now? I don’t have any energy, motivation or purpose any more. All I want to do is to stay in bed.
But of course, I couldn’t.
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I’m simmering with anger!
What is the point of this! Why am I putting myself through this? Mum doesn’t know who I am. She would be better off with someone else. It was never supposed to be me caring for mum. We had never been close like she was with my other siblings.
I was the independent, no-nonsense daughter who didn’t accept cultural expectations, who ran away to University and a career and didn’t look back.
Why don’t I leave?
Why don’t I leave? Every relative who came to visit (pre-COVID) kept saying how wonderful I was for taking care of mum, that I’d be rewarded for my selflessness.
Whenever someone visited, they said I was a martyr for taking on the “burden” of caring for my mum, but no one offered or even thought of doing it themselves.
I can’t leave, I love my mum, and I know the alternative would not be what she wanted. I know my siblings wouldn’t care for her themselves, that they would probably employ others to live with mum rather have her live with them.
The thought of that saddens me and that’s why I don’t leave.
I feel guilty for having these thoughts. I love my mum, we fight every day, but we also laugh, have fun together, fall asleep in the daytime together and rely on each other.
I know I don’t want to leave her, I want to leave the Alzheimer’s version of her. That’s a terrible thing to say.
Caregiver Burnout Signs
I know I’m going through some form of caregiver burnout. I have all the symptoms.
- I’m crying a lot
- I’ve become overly emotional and sensitive over the slightest things
- I have insomnia
- I can’t be bothered with personal hygiene
- I give up too easily and feel completely unmotivated
- I avoid confrontation for a simpler life
- I’m always tired and exhausted
- I’ve stopped doing the things I love
- I’m not looking after my physical health
- I have depression
- I feel like I’m grieving over losing who I am and who my mum used to be.
- Lack of respite
I’m crying a lot
A new thing to me for which I blame on the bloody menopause. I’ve never been an overly emotional person until that hit me, and now I’m a bloody crier over the stupidest things.
I know that it’s anxiety that keeps me awake at night. It’s the constant worry over COVID, worry over mum and worry for my future self. The lack of sleep isn’t helping.
I have depression and even feel grief over losing who I am, and who my mum used to be.
I can’t even be bothered to shower every day, and the house isn’t looking, it’s best. I do what I need to keep up appearances, but the rest is honestly a mess. I go through periods of mass cleaning and then days of no cleaning.
I try every day to come up with activities to keep mum engaged, but even some of that has fallen off. I wouldn’t automatically give up if mum refuses something, like doing her exercises. I would try different things to encourage her, but now I say it’s ok, I give up, let’s try tomorrow!
That’s not the right attitude!
Avoiding Confrontation for a simpler life
I haven’t cooked any food that mum doesn’t like to avoid the possibility of her not eating it. Before, I would add healthier food options that she could see like broccoli, green beans, edamame etc., things with texture, or foods she’d never tried before.
She could pick them up with her fingers and examine them, small things that kept her engaged and gave her a varied diet.
Ignoring your Physical Health
I’m not looking after myself, eating crap and not stretching or exercising to the point that I’ve reignited an old back injury from a car crash years ago, so now I can barely move without being in some pain. And yes, I have painkillers from the doctor, but they advise rest, and do nothing to strain it even more, which is impossible as a caregiver of a loved one who is physically unable to stand.
Stopped doing the things I love
I’ve become so numb. I stopped journaling and, of course, writing this blog. I think that’s part of the issue as well. When I write it down, it helps because reading it over is like listening to a friend telling you their problems. You can see what they need to do to help them move forward.
I want to write about being a caregiver, but I don’t have the energy. I don’t know what’s wrong because I love the writing experience. I love sharing new stuff that I’ve learnt or advice I’ve been given that works with mum. I love putting it down into words but just haven’t been able to do it for ages, despite having ideas almost every day.
I don’t have the motivation. I’ve been waiting for weeks for it to pass. So now you know why I haven’t written anything in ages.
I’m reluctant to try anything at the moment.
Lack of respite
Of course, one of the options before COVID was to take a respite or a break from caregiving to recharge. I wish I could have time for myself, but I can’t do that. I don’t see respite coming any time soon. Even with vaccinations, the threat of new variants scares me more. So how can I take a break?
Coping with Caregiver Burnout & Stress
This is not meant to be a pity party, but I just wanted to get this out, hoping that this would force change. I know it will take time before I’m able to get out of this caregiver burnout space. I’m focusing on the small things that I can do. to reduce my stress
I’m accepting that I’m in this position
I’m a reluctant caregiver (l’m honest about that, I can’t be the only one who feels that surely?)
I’m accepting that I do have the right to be angry.
Exploring & Trying new things
I’m making myself explore the outdoors again before mum awakes even if that’s drive or walk to the local park to clear my mind and try to recharge.
I’m trying new things to keep me creative. I’m learning to do watercolour painting (I can’t draw at all). It’s amazing what you can find on Pinterest to make you pretend you’re an excellent artist.
I’m making creative short pieces on Instagram.
I’m playing music every day, despite my mum’s objections, and trying to get her to join me in a singalong when I can. Which she did one day and shimmied
Working on my Mental Health
I’m continuing with my mindfulness practice to keep myself away from troubling thoughts even if it’s for just a few minutes of respite a day.
I write a thankful list at the end of each day and then read it each morning to start my day with positivity.
I’m looking for support by researching charities to get counselling help.
Working on my Physical Health
I need to lose weight. A lot of my lethargy is to do with my immense weight gain. I don’t feel comfortable in my clothes, and I find it difficult to move around. I’ve always been overweight, but now I’ve gone to the extremes, eating my way of isolation! So back to healthy meal options cutting out the chocolate and crisps!
I need to start some form of exercise to exhaust me, help me relax and stretch my back and help my injuries
I don’t have all the answers; I know where I am and where I want to be. I’m going to work on my caregiver burnout and stress step by step.
Some days I can be on top of the world, and other days I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and want to kick it to the kerb.
P.s Most importantly, I was thankful that despite an awful day, mum said to me before she fell asleep “I like you much” and that, of course, made me happy cry.