How To Get Back To Life – Part 1 – For Carers And Non-Carers
Are you overwhelmed and feeling like you no longer have a life? Thinking to yourself, where does the time go and wondering about how to get back to life? Is it even possible? The answer is an emphatic YES! It IS possible to be a full time Carer, or simply anyone who feels overrun and pulled in all directions for that matter, and have a life! There are usually a number of reasons that cause you to feel like this.
Mostly it is the actual physical tending required by the person you care for, or in the case of the non-Carer, the time that you are expected to be giving to others. The large part your time spent running around in all directions, actually stems from the assumptions of others of your role, that take over your life. I developed my own strategy to overcome this chaos which has been working for me. I’d like to share it with you in the hopes that you too can regain your life. You may need to adjust according to your situation but it is well worth looking into. I have written a book that elaborates more on the topics presented here but would be too long for an article but is well worth the read to gain even more insights and suggestions.
Caring Can Be Draining And Soul Sucking
A Thankless Task
Let’s look at how I felt. Here I was, a Carer, lost in the constant demands on my time and energy, feeling my life wasting away while I give my heart and soul to a person who rarely appreciates me, a person who literally sucks the life out of me, and I found myself asking how to get my life back from this necessary but thankless role. I’m sure this sounds familiar.
Don’t Give Up
Thankfully, I didn’t give up and worked through the problem. Don’t wait until you stop being a Carer. That may be a lifetime away, or a long time coming. You need to act now so that you can stop asking;
When is it “my time”?
When is ‘my life’ going to start again?
You don’t have to wait. Gain back your freedom in days, hours even.
Exhaustion Was Clouding Things
I didn’t want to live life like this anymore. I’d tried a few different things to try to change the outcome I was getting, but at the end of the day, you can’t change another person, only yourself and what you do. I thought I had exhausted all possibilities. I felt very limited.
Maybe Kick My Daughter Out? As Others Might Suggest – Actually Have Suggested
Imagine for a moment if we could do that. Would you feel like Sally Field in the video below? Sadly, that is not really an option for us.
Sally Field Performs Carole Bayer Sager’s Hit Song – You’re Moving Out
My Options Were Few
I narrowed them down to the following;
- Stop being a carer completely, or
- Move out of my own home to escape the time demands, or
- Get a part time job to escape the house for my own sanity, or
- Get a normal full time job and not be available anymore.
Love Wins Every Time!
None of these were appealing to me because they did not accommodate for the fact that my daughter still needs care and it would mean abandoning her. I have spent too many years caring for her out of unconditional love to stop now.
It was not sitting well with me. Regardless of how I feel at times, I love my daughter. I did not wish to leave her out in the cold, but I felt that time was running out for me.
I’m not a quitter but I owe it to myself to look after me too. I needed to find a solution that I could be comfortable with. There had to be another way.
There Was – Booyah!
With the help of a support worker and my sister, I was able to sift through my thoughts and view my life with clarity from a different perspective. I changed the way I thought about what I do as a Carer and was able to find the most beneficial option for both myself and my daughter.
Two Burning Questions
- “What are you willing to do?”
- “What are you NOT prepared to do?”
Thinking about this, I began to comprehend what I wanted and what I didn’t want and from there everything unfolded.
Stop Feeling Guilty!
The first step is to allow yourself to stop feeling guilty for wanting a life. You deserve breaks, you deserve time for yourself. You are permitted to have a life. Otherwise you will burn out.
Permit Yourself To Let Go
Letting go of the guilt was probably the hardest for me to overcome. But as a mother and Carer to my child who is now an adult, The lines were being blurred between her expectations from me as a mother and as a Carer.
Sadly I realised the world won’t remember me for the sacrifices I have made. She doesn’t respect it, and I’ll likely be old and gray before I have lived my own life. This is not life and I could see that now.
If You Don’t Believe You Deserve It, Take Maslow’s Word For It!
In my article about Maslow’s Heirarchy Of Needs, you will remember that leaving your mark on this world is one of these needs (Self-Actualisation). So are the needs for Safety, Esteem, Love and Belonging. Being a carer impacts heavily on all of these, including the basic human needs. A huge imbalance exists where our efforts to meet the needs of others far outweighs the meeting of our own needs. It’s all give from us, and take from them.
It Made Sense!
To break free of the self-reproach, I found a way to change my own thought patterns so that guilt was removed. It now made total sense to me. My reasoning to take time out for me was sound. Would it also make sense to my daughter so that she would be less inclined to resist? Yes. I found a way to make the change the most beneficial and palatable for both of us.
What Did I Want For My Life?
I wanted to
- Build an online business.
- Develop a physical business.
- Spend time with friends.
- Do therapeutic activities
- Walk several times a week
- Get fitter
Why Wasn’t This Happening?
Because I have been working under the self-imposed proviso, and the presumption from my daughter, that I am to be available as a Carer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.
Reality check! NO-ONE is expected to work under such conditions. Why would anyone? It equals poor payment received in relation to the hours put in to this role, and a lack of respect afforded me as my thanks. It is not a fair exchange for time and money and doing it for love can get old after being abused continually. I get paid a fixed low amount, regardless of the high number of hours I put in and the emotional beating that takes its toll. This awareness led me to the next step.
Maintain Your Boundaries!
Let’s talk about setting some boundaries by looking at your role differently.
It’s time to start thinking of your Carer duties as a ‘job’.
Set Your Hours
Treat it like a job where you get paid for working set hours.
You aren’t required to work 24/7/365. An average working week is around 38 hours if you live in Australia for example and working for a minimum wage. Carers by default do far more than this because it is necessary to the needs of your dependant.
Jobs Carry Other Entitlements Too
In a ‘job’ you are entitled to time off. As a Carer in Australia for example, you are allowed to take leave of up to 63 days per year. If most people get the weekends off as well as their annual leave then rest assured that as a Carer, you can take one or more days off at a time and still be fulfilling the role expected of you.
In a job, you get sick leave, yet as Carers, do we take any? No, therefore working many more hours a year than people in mainstream employment.
Carers are also allowed to work another job or study or a combination of both for up to 25 hours per week in Australia. If you don’t feel so driven to go and do even more work let me encourage you to spend your time looking into other ways you can supplement your income and do it from home so it doesn’t even feel like work or study. It may not be as out of reach as you think.
Presuming we are meeting the expectations of providing constant active, supervisory, or monitoring type care, for a significant period of time on a daily basis for the most part, we are working within the requirements of our ‘job’ and can therefore adapt this role to take time off.
Please ensure that your dependents is still cared for properly at any time you are not available. Find out if there is help in your community.
Wonder What’s Been Stopping You? Oh Yes, Your Charges!
Here’s where we get to the good stuff and setting your hours.
Define Your Role
Start defining your own job descriptions and setting your own hours. Bear in mind, while you must be caring for their crucial needs, you don’t have to go above and beyond to satisfy their every whim.That is not in your job description.
Once you are clear in yourself what the boundaries are, in other words, “what you are willing to do or not do”, it is easier to maintain them when dealing with your charges requests or presumptions that fall outside the realm of reasonable care expectations.
But Wait, There’s More!
At this point we have laid the foundation of how to get back to life in terms of changing your mindset and thinking about your Carer role in a new way. For the remaining steps please continue reading the next article to see how to work the strategy into your life and implement it all.
Thank you for reading this far and I’ll see you in the next article.