As caregivers, we feel guilty for a million reasons.
We feel guilty when we’re taking a break, because we feel like we don’t deserve it.
We feel guilty because people tell us we should take a break (uh, hello, we know), but we just don’t have the time or energy to figure out how.
We feel guilty for resting (even when we have permission), because we feel like we should be doing something.
We feel guilty when we hear about other caregiving situations, because we think our situation isn’t as difficult or complex.
We feel guilty when we only have enough bandwidth to make sure the bare minimum is handled.
We feel guilty when we decline invitations from our friends because we’re maxed out.
We feel guilty because we should be doing more.
We feel guilty for things that haven’t even happened.
The “what if’s”.
What if something happens to my loved one when I’m away from him or her?
What if I make a mistake and everything blows up in my face?
What if I give bad advice and things turn out to be a disaster?
What if something happens to me?
These are the worst guilt feelings because they are completely disabling. They leave us stuck, immobilized.
I’m not immune to guilt.
Earlier this week, I came home from my meal delivery route not feeling well. The only thing I could think of was crawling into my bed. As I exchanged my daywear for something a little more comfortable, guilt came over me like a housecoat.
I felt guilty for not getting work done or using my time productively.
I realized that feeling guilty wasn’t going to help me feel better any more quickly. I obviously needed the rest. Before too long, I found myself saying out loud, “I’m grateful I have the flexibility to rest when I need to,”
Today, I woke up late. After the initial, “Holy crap it’s 9:00” smoke cleared.. I decided it was too late for coffee. I sat down at my computer and piddled around. After a little while, I felt myself getting restless, so I decided to go on an adventure. I needed to pick up Grandma’s colostomy bags and CBD oil in Midtown. I took the long way there, stopping for coffee. I took the long way back, too.
As I got closer to my house, I thought, “Gee, I wish everyday was like this… being able to get up when I feel like it (not having to make sure Gma gets up in the morning) and get out in the world for a little while and see people in the morning.” I started feeling guilty, and then I quickly remembered to be grateful. After all, this is only temporary. There will be a day when my life and routine won’t be dictated by caregiving. Until then, I should be forgiving and compassionate with myself when my day doesn’t go as I planned or I don’t do everything I set out to do. I will be grateful for opportunities to take a break, the flexibility I have created for myself, and what I have accomplished.
I figured out that when I convert my guilt into gratitude, I have found it is easier to get unstuck and get on with my life. I am able to move forward with peace and joy. A little self-compassion and forgiveness goes a long way.
My challenge to you, dear readers:
Silence that guilt feeling– you know, the one that’s telling you that you don’t deserve to rest, that you’re not working hard enough, that your situation isn’t so tough. When remorse and regret start creeping in, proclaim your what you are grateful for.