After years of working with Caregivers, warriors, and families, a particular cycle of emotional health of the Caregiver has been noted. We call these Caregiver Cycles, and we’ll give you only one visual, though many others would work as well.
There is the Cycle 1, the strong cycle when we feel put together, relatively well-informed, there is a decent communication pattern with our warrior’s care team, and as the Caregiver, you feel quite positive. Your phone calls are returned, you see and feel progress, and you feel HOPE. One vital thing about Hope is that it makes you mentally and emotional ready and willing to keep on working to improve your quality of life and that of your family. This is a good place to be!
Because caregiving is seldom a linear process, there are also times that may feel less accomplished and less effective. This is Cycle 2. Though you are still optimistic, you’re noticing that you are not making as much progress as before, there is a backslide in your warrior’s or your forward motion, or you’ve hit a new hurdle to overcome. The longer you’ve been a caregiver, it seems that these periods wear you down more each time you experience them. They also feel longer to you if you’re battling something for the second, tenth, or fiftieth time. This is a time of concern for yourself and your family, isn’t it? You are exhausted, and somehow that makes each unreturned phone call or cancelled appointment feel worse. You may be feeling higher anxiety, or less capability in managing the many details of caregiving. In other words, you’ve lost some of yourself in the process, you're leaning, and pieces of you are missing.
Then there are those days when you’re not sure you can get out of bed to face another day, or you can’t sleep because your mind is struggling for solutions. This is the much dreaded Cycle 3. You feel depleted, and search mightily for that spark of light you know you have within, but where is it? You put one foot in front of the other, but this is a desperate/invisible/spent phase of time. Please seek help when you feel this way. Others have been here too, and your work is SO critical that you must stay present and care-seeking. Reach out to your doctors, friends, and family – you WILL get through this time, but don’t try to do it alone. We all need somewhere to lean, so reach out for assistance (therapists, pastors, helplines, doctors).
The goal is to keep the cycles to the TWO levels, and construct supports to avoid the third. Let’s work together to support, guide, and reach out to keep each other strong, okay? Remember, the shampoo directions give you two cycles only. Strive for Rinse and Repeat – and avoid that third cycle altogether.
Linda Kreter & the VeteranCaregiver Team