about writing and life and God

Dementia Diary 10: There’s only me…

on September 29, 2012

Burn-out. Oh yes, we all know about that. I reckon carers live teetering on the edge of burn-out most of the time, and tipped over the edge into full-on burn-out rather a lot of the time.

It goes with the territory. Right?

I wonder. Reading today’s text and the story that goes with it brought me up to a rather sudden crunch. It seems to me that I and other carers have a tendency to battle on in our own strength and on our own a lot of the time.

Have you ever heard yourself say (possibly crossly!) “Well, there is only me! Who else is there to do it?”

Elijah told God ‘And I only I am left’ (to carry on the work).

Yes, that’s how it feels. And it’s often how we operate, shouldering the whole weight of our situation. I only I.

Worse, we can feel we’re the only ones who know how to do things the right way, the way our loved one likes or needs. Only our way is the right way. I only I.

And that sets us up for burn-out. Because if it’s true that we’re the only ones who know, the only ones who can do things right… then we are indeed indispensable. We genuinely can’t take time off. We have to be there, seeing to everything night and day.

God told Elijah he’d got it wrong. In fact God had another bunch of people waiting in the wings to take over. Elijah needed a less self-centred perspective.

Oh yes. I wrote “self-centred” because that’s where Elijah was, doing things the way he though they should be done, telling it how it looked to him. And God had to tell him that wasn’t the only way.

We can get sucked into this trap. We can hang onto our too-heavy load too long because we have invested everything into our identity as ‘carers’. If we share the load – with paid carers who come in to help, or with a residential care home – then it’s no more “I only I” but a new shared role where we have to give up a lot of our power and control. Not easy.

I find it really hard to sort out in my head who I am now that my husband lives in residential care and I’m not doing the day-to-day caring. My role has changed. I’m no longer his carer. Living apart, the wife role has changed too. There’s a surprising amount of readjustment to deal with.

But for sure it’s no longer “I only I” doing the caring – and I need to accept the rightness of that. Not easy, but necessary. It only hurts us more to cling onto “I only I” when it’s past time to let go and share the care.

THE TEXT: 1 Kings 19: 10b “and I only I am left”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, guard us from burn-out. Gently point out to us when we need to accept help, and when it is time to let others take over. Give us compassion for ourselves as well as our loved one!

SELF-CARE SUGGESTION: Do something just for you. Something that will not benefit anyone else in any way. Allocate 10 minutes of total selfishness today!


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