GUILT & YOUR HEART
You’re feeling guilty, the person you’re caring for is feeling guilty – there’s plenty of guilt to go around, we’re never going to run out. We can’t escape it; we’re only human after all, but we can try to understand it so it doesn’t take over our lives.
The person who’s sick feels guilty because they feel like a burden. They do what they can for themselves, and try not to complain, but they can’t help it: this illness, and the treatments, are very strong and their body only has so much energy to fight with. And, it feels so much better to have you there, sharing this nightmare with them.
Caregivers, you feel guilty for many different reasons:
- You aren’t sick….and you’re glad you aren’t sick.
- You didn’t somehow prevent them from getting sick.
- You sometimes forget things, or don’t do them as well as you should.
- You get tired and sometimes cranky.
- Thoughts of resentment sometimes pop, unbidden, into your head.
- You survived, and they didn’t.
Your body has a finite amount of energy, and when it runs out of energy, things start to get a little weird, both in your body and in your head. Your eyes hurt; your body hurts; you’re depressed; you have less patience; you can’t think clearly; you’re overly emotional; you say and do things you wouldn’t ordinarily say or do. It has nothing to do with how much you love the person you’re caring for, it…..wait. I take that back. It has everything to do with how much you love the person you’re caring for. Because if you didn’t love them so much, you wouldn’t be doing all the Herculean things you’re doing to try to make them feel better.
So the next time you’re feeling guilty because you aren’t a super hero with super powers, cut yourself a little slack. Because I’ll tell you something: the fact that you feel guilty mean that YOU ARE A COMPASSIONATE PERSON.
Compassion |kəmˈpa sh ən|
Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. See note at mercy .
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with.’
Sympathy. Pity. Concern. Mercy. These are all feelings that only a compassionate person can feel. Have you ever met someone who thinks the world revolves around them? Someone who has no interest in, or concept of, the feelings of others? Can you imagine them feeling those feelings of compassion? If you were sick, would you want this person caring for you? Absolutely not! So while you’re beating yourself up, think about how lucky your loved one is (or was) to have a compassionate person like you for a caregiver, even with all your “flaws”.
YOUR BRAVE HEART
Here’s what I’d like you to do right now:
Turn both of your hands palms up in front of you. Grab your left wrist with your right hand, until you feel your pulse under your fingers. Feel it? That’s your poor, tired, brave heart, working hard to keep your body running. It will beat around 42,000,000 times this year, give or take a million beats. Most of us take our heart for granted, because it runs constantly without any thought or effort on our part. But as you feel your pulse I want you to take a moment to think about that heart of yours. What have you done for it lately? Have you taken a walk recently? Have you eaten a heart-healthy food like blueberries, salmon, spinach, or oatmeal? Do you take a supplement like Salmon Oil, CoQ10, or Ubiquinol? Have you set aside an hour for a bath, a book, or some music? If you said “no” to all of these things, then appreciate that pulse under your fingers, because you may not have it for long. Then what will your loved one do? Who will care for them the way you do? No, don’t let go of your wrist just yet. There’s one more thing I want you to do. Still feeling your pulse, think about what kind of partner you’ve been to your heart. You’re in this together. You can’t survive without it, and it can’t survive unless you start taking care of it. So right now, I want you think a message to your heart:
I’m sorry I’ve expected so much from you, and given so little in return.
I’m sorry I’ve taken you for granted.
I promise to take better care of you from now on.
I promise that every day I will do at least one thing to help you to keep our body going.
Thank you for being such a good and loyal heart.”
Well done. I hope in the future you’ll remember that there are three of you in this: your loved one, you, and your heart. Relaxation, heart-healthy foods, and exercise are not luxuries…they are necessities if you intend to keep living.
YOU WILL BE A BETTER CAREGIVER
So, now you’re probably feeling guilty about how bad you’ve been to your heart. See how easy you are? Seriously though, this is constructive guilt. If you make the effort to help your heart, this is guilt that will be beneficial. And if you take some time for yourself, you will feel rested, happier, stronger, and you’ll think more clearly. And that will make you a better caregiver; better company; better driver; better pill scheduler. And if you’re doing a better job at all those things, you’ll feel less guilt. Ha! See how that works? It’s brilliant!! Why didn’t you figure that out yourself? Because you’re too tired to think, that’s why. Are we in agreement here? That of the two of us, I’m thinking more clearly than you are? Good. Because you’re going to have to trust me here, and the next part might be hard for you.
You’re going to have to ask for help.
I know! It’s hard to even think about! But you need to do it. Call a relative; a friend; hospice; someone. You need to tell them that you’re at the point where, if you don’t get a break, you’re afraid you’re going to get sick. You need to ask for someone to come for one hour a week. You can handle the guilt of leaving for one hour a week, can’t you? Yes. You can do this. Then, after a while, you’ll feel good enough to arrange for help more often. It’s okay. It’s for your health, and the health and safety of your loved one.
Take that first step. One hour a week. It’s one small step for you, one giant leap for your heart.
If you’d like to read more about caregiver guilt:
Some websites about heart-healthy diets:
Mayo Clinic: 8 Steps To Prevent Heart Disease:
Eating Well: Heart Healthy Diet Recipes and Menus:
Web MD: 25 Top Heart-Healthy Foods: