1halffull's Blog

Dealing with Illness: Angry or Compassionate Caregiver?
October 27, 2012, 3:41 pm
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Let’s face it:  People don’t deal well with illness.  Not their own, not that of others.

Why is that?

Well, I’m thinking it’s pretty clear why we don’t deal well with our own sickness – I mean, who really wants to be sick?  Okay, okay, there are some people who want to be sick and that, in itself, is a sickness.  It’s called Munchausen Disease.

In case you don’t know, this is a mental health disease where people do things to themselves to make themselves sick so they can receive attention from medical professionals.  It used to be harder for them to ‘get’ these diseases and conditions because they had to go to the library and read up on how to make themselves sick.  Now, it’s much simpler to facilitate your own conditions because you can go on the internet where you have access to just about every condition and disease known to man.  Here’s an example that I found on the interneta woman who pumped egg whites into her kidneys via catheter to induce kidney failure. (Answers by Yahoo).  That’s pretty serious stuff!

So now, the hypochondriacs among you are thinking – OMG!!! Is this what I have? (meaning Munchausen).  No, your issues, while also a mental health problem, are much different.  Being a hypochondriac is when ‘the person feels that they are legitimately sick or they have something medically wrong with them. For example if a person gets a mosquito bite after being outside, they’ll put some anti-itch cream on it, but a person with hypochondria will be sure that they’ve just been infected with the West Nile Virus.’  (Answers by Yahoo)

Do you see the difference?  Just in case, here it is in black and white:  ‘So the difference between the two is that with Munchausen syndrome the person makes themselves sick or appear to be and with hypochondria the person only fears that they are sick or somehow unhealthy. They don’t take any action to induce sickness.’  (Answers by Yahoo)

Even sicker is the Munchausen’s by Proxy syndrome where people do things to their children so that they’ll need medical care.  Ewwww.

But I digress….

When we or someone we love is sick, why do we not immediately and constantly shower ourselves or them with loving and helpful care?  It’s simple:  We don’t want to be sick and we don’t want our loved ones to be sick either.

Why does that translate into borderline or totally mean behavior?

The answer is simple:  FEAR with maybe some ignorance thrown in!

Typically, we love those around us and want only the best for them.  Specifically, as a parent you do everything earthly possible to protect your children, so when something happens to them, you take it as a personal affront – you didn’t, couldn’t protect them from this illness, this surgery.

Fear kicks in – all the what ifs of an illness or disease race around in your head and come out in your actions as though somehow, being angry about what’s happening will encourage your kid to get better.  After all, how many times did that kid make you angry by doing something and your anger caused them to stop doing it?  So, if you’re angry about them being sick, maybe it will have the same effect?

Pardon my French, but HELL NO it doesn’t work that way.

Or maybe it’s because you know the sick/diseased person pretty well and know that, unlike you, they don’t/won’t just buck up and push through it.  It annoys you that they, by your assessment, just choose to languish and whine endlessly about the pain, the aches, and the gaping hole in their belly.

But you’re wrong, again.

The reality that was directly contrary to my faulty thinking was two-fold.

First I learned, and shamefacedly ended up apologizing for, that just because you’re tough as nails, not everyone else is.  They feel things differently; they need more TLC and even sympathy than you do and you, as the caregiver, need to suck it up, remember how much you really love them, and keep swabbing that gaping hole in their belly until they are all better.

Second, I have to stop letting the ‘what ifs’ cause the fear that influences how I’m treating someone who’s sick. I learned that those racing, ‘what if’ thoughts are really just there to mess with me and generally are not a real part of the situation.  More often than not, the person will get well; their blood clot will go away and not return and they’ll live to lift weights another day.

Finally, I’ve realized that it’s much more important to show the love and care to those you love rather than being a mean girl, especially if they’re your kids because one day, they will be the ones selecting your nursing home.


Parents: You Are Sufficient
October 5, 2012, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s amazing what we can learn about life, our kids, ourselves if we just pay attention to what’s going on around us.  Here’s what I’ve learned this week….

A friend of mine, (we’ll call her Wilma) has struggled, and struggled again, with trying to control what her adult children do or don’t do.  However, it just doesn’t seem to be working – her kids just keep doing whatever it is they want to do, regardless of all her ‘helpful’ input!

Hard to admit, but I, too, have behaved in similar fashion, even as recently as last night!  Not a good thing.

The following scenario has facilitated this writing…..

Wilma’s only daughter, (we’ll call her Harriet) who has a perfectly good husband and a pretty good life – 1,500 miles away from her family – has been pregnant with her first child, Wilma’s third grandchild.  Wilma has been trying to get Harriet to take her advice, do it her way throughout the pregnancy (and well before it).  Harriet, however, having been raised by Wilma to be a strong and independent woman, thwarts her mother’s every attempt at continuing to smother her!  Imagine that!

With Wilma’s every attempt to impose her desires on her daughter, Harriet rebuffs, shuts down, ignores or just gets flat-out angry with her mother, making things worse for both.

Enter:  the baby.  Wilma didn’t approve of the selected birthing process.  Wilma didn’t approve of how the birth went through the chosen process.  Wilma didn’t approve of the choice that the couple made about how the baby was treated after birth.  Wilma was extremely frustrated that her child neglected her every input.  After all, mom knows best, right?

Watching this scenario play out, I was intrinsically asked to be supportive of my good friend, Wilma, as one mom would look for the support of another mom who would understand.  And I did understand.

At the same time, I was struck by, what was for me, a thundering revelation!

It occurred to me to ask myself two questions:

1.  Why won’t this girl, née, adult woman, listen to her mother who has years more experience and is herself, a medical professional?

2.  Why does this mom (or any parent for that matter) feel such a strong need to jump in and try to ‘fix’ or change things that maybe don’t really need fixing?

Let me answer number two first.  This is the revelation part that came to me as I tried to talk Wilma through her situation.  If you’re the parent of grown kids you might want to pay attention here.

Our parents raised us like they were raised:  we were taught to be self-sufficient, how to get along in life, how to be responsible people. We got spanked when they needed to get our attention; we maybe got a hug when we fell down and got back up again.  The mistakes we made were ours to use to learn what not to do next time.

When we grew to an adult age, they pushed (yes, pushed) us out of the nest, trusting that they had done the right things and that we would know what to do out there in the big wide world!  They didn’t try to meddle or second guess because they didn’t believe there was a need.  We were raised to take care of ourselves and they expected that we would!  That included having our own babies and raising our own children to do the same thing!

However, we didn’t do that.  Somehow along the way, (and I’d like to blame Benjamin Spock right here and now) we got the idea that if we didn’t give our kids self-esteem, hang on their every word, spank them, let them experience loss sometimes and they screwed up along the way, it was our fault because we’d parented them insufficiently!  It wasn’t them, it was us.

Our response to that input was to second guess our every move and resent our own parents for not stepping in to help out.  We determined that we weren’t going to be like them!  Instead of trusting that we’d raised people who could take care of themselves as did our parents, we became these second guessing, OMG-I’m-sure-I-didn’t-get-it-right-so-I-have-to-make-sure-their-every-move-is-perfect-or-people-will-blame-me-for-everything-that-happens-to-my-child-or-is-done-by-my-child, parents of adult children.  Maybe there should be a self-help group for that?  Nah, the title’s too long.

Now, instead of parents who are confident that they raised their kids to survive on their own, we have a wave of people who are deeply insecure about how they’ve raised their kids.  These are parents who continue to run after perfectly good, capable adults trying to assuage their own Monday morning, self-induced, quarterbacking guilt.

Unlike our parents who were confident in how they raised us, we’ve bought into the idea that what we’ve done as parents is insufficient.  We’ve resulted to a meddling behavior trying to ‘fix’ our own feelings of insufficiency. Unfortunately – or actually fortunately – this behavior is typically not working for us.  We aren’t  getting what it is we think we want.  Our kids just aren’t allowing us to continue to direct their lives.  And rightfully so.

Which brings up the answer to #1 by asking this:  Why do we feel insufficient?

As parents (and people in general), we see lots of other people around us who can’t seem to handle life, get it ‘right’ as it were.  That seems to make us afraid that some of those people might be ‘our’ people, our kids, adult or otherwise.  So we try to override their decisions, their choices, by imposing our idea of what those choices should be.  But these adult  kids seem to have gone deaf – they just can’t seem to hear us and they especially don’t do what we tell them they ‘should’ do!  Imagine that.

Generally speaking, and for the most part, our kids already know that they are NOT ‘those’ people.  The reality is that they have been raised, to a good degree, to be able to take care of themselves.  Like we did, if only we could remember, they will learn the rest as needed. They will make it on their own through trial and error, just as we did and our parents did before us.  And that’s really okay.

So, how do we make ourselves recognize and accept that we are NOT insufficient?

We MUST give ourselves permission to accept the reality that our adult kids reflect back to us everyday that they ignore our input:  we really did do the best we could and it IS sufficient.  If it wasn’t, our adult kids would be doing exactly what we tell them to, and as I pointed out, they aren’t.

Parents, we need to accept that we weren’t perfect, but what we did was sufficient.  Most important of all:  Our kids, like us, are making it on their own!