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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are You Putting on a Pretty Face?

When we are faced with traumatic events in our life ... we desperately grasp to keep things from changing anymore than they already have. This often results in us accepting how others treat us, less than we would have in otherwise "normal circumstances". And it's not until you start gaining strength that you realize in your weakened state through your journey of healing, you may have made excuses for the less than admirable actions and behavior of those around you ~ who were suppose to be your support system.

 They may have made it seem to the outside world like they were your rock; but only you know how often you were left alone; how many nights you cried yourself to sleep, and the frustration of not being able to do things yourself - only to have to wait for another to do it or to get so frustrated that you used every minuscule amount of energy you could harness to do it yourself. But having them there at all -made you feel like you weren't totally alone.

You become good at putting on the "everything is great" face. There may be times when caring souls around you question things. Perhaps out of embarrassment, feeling of hopeless ~ or fear of criticizing a loved one,  you put on a smile and say "everything is fine".

This often involves a loved one, whose intentions are good, but they are not professionals nor super heroes. I can recall when Mr. G. decided that HE would be better at taking care of me than anyone else. For fear of disappointing him or making him feel unwanted, I agreed. I will share with you it was not the smartest decision I have ever made - looking back I will chalk it up to my brain injury (yes, I can smile about it -sort of -now). But, seriously if you find yourself in need of help with your day to day activities as much as loved ones really are coming from a good place (and one of love) you are only asking for trouble and headaches by not bringing in the proper care-providers. Trust me when I say any money saved is not worth it!

One of the biggest factors that happens is the line between spouse (or any other relationship you have with a person) become blurred. And over time you see them as "trying to be the boss of you or controlling your every move" while they see you as fragile and unable to make ANY decision about anything; even as you gain strength and are better able to care for yourself.

I would love to hear from HHL readers who have either been the loved one wanting to be helpful or from the person who agreed to let a loved one fill the many roles of care-provider. How did it work out for you? What tips can you share with other readers about similar situations?

Have you become a loved one's primary care-provider? 
Or have you had a loved step into the role of primary care-provider for you? 
(this could be spouse with spouse; child to parent; sibling to sibling etc.)



  1. Dearest Celia,
    Guess our loved ones don't even mean to treat us that way. I can remember fragments like that when I had been paralyzed. Over protection and taking away far too many chores so the balance becomes more like 75-25% or 60-40%. It is a struggle to prove that we are up to doing things ourselves again. But who did ever warn us before getting into or out of such a situation?!
    So glad you are bringing this up as it is as important to balance mind and spirit as it is to heal and balance out with the body as a total.
    Just I have to admire your way of writing it down the way it is; with such a wisdom and very tactful.
    Hugs to you dear friend,

  2. Hi Celia,

    This is such a thought provoking post. Your journey in life has been so challenging and I admire your courage and perseverance. Putting on the happy face.. I have done that. You find out your true friends/when someone loves you.. when they are there when you need them. Most people leave when the tough gets going.

    My father is living out his final days in a nursing home with Alzheimer's and my Mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week. It's my turn to be there..


  3. I could have written this post! Sadly, my husband could not deal with the stress of my brain tumor. We separated after a decade of marriage. The stress illness places on a partnership can be devastating.

  4. Wow! what a powerful post C. Yes, I have recently become my fathers primary carer; moving back thousands of miles to be so when I have a sister 10 minutes away has caused me much angst and resentment. And yes, I put on my happy face when friends and family tell me what a "wonderful daughter" I am; all the while wanting to sock them one in the face. My Dad is not too much trouble, but the resentment I feel towards my Dad for asking me to return from Spain, and him still making excuses for my Sisters lack of "showing up" will be the death of me ;-) Great post Celia xx

  5. Amazing and thought-provoking post, and boy does it bring back memories. My son and I both became primary care providers for my mom (she had mild dementia starting out). He cleaned her house (helped her until she couldn’t/didn’t do it), took her shopping and to her hair appointments, made her play basketball (she’d taught him) and go walking, fixed her lunch and dinner (I did breakfast). I dressed and bathed her (and, unfortunately dealt with other person bodily functions), kept her taking her meds, fixed coffee, etc. We tried professionals and had two problems - they either didn't do what they were supposed to do, didn't show up or she hated having strangers in her house so much she fussed. My son quit his job to help her because they had an amazing relationship and love, and there were funds to pay him.

    The hardest thing for me was to help her keep her dignity and make sure she kept doing what she could do (which she sometimes didn't want to do). As much as I wanted to just do everything for her just to get it over with, I had to force myself to let her keep making decisions and doing for herself. Toward the end I had to do a lot of very personal things so I had to help her not be embarrassed – it was a fine line.

    A lot of what I did was learned on the fly - research like crazy, learn from my mistakes, constantly remind myself that she is my mother not a child, and to help her keep that dignity, help her find her strengths, work through the weaknesses, be respectful of her wishes and, if need be, invoke the power of the doctor (whom she respected), i.e., "the doctor said you need to take this pill". She’d listen to the doctor before she would me.

    Develop patience, patience, patience. If you are taking care of a parent, never forget they are your elder, respect them and help them keep their dignity. Caring for someone does not mean doing it all for them. You have to learn to READ them, read what embarrasses them, what frustrates them, what encourages them, what hinders, what helps, what hurts. Keep them as active as possible. Never allow frustration and anger to show. Think about how you would like to be treated in that same position then make sure you RESPECT them and they know you do.

    Realize that your life has changed and find somewhere or someone you can vent to about frustrations and anger and that you aren’t a bad person because you do get frustrated and angry. Ignore people who call you a saint; you aren’t. REALLY ignore the stupid sibling who “can’t handle seeing mom that way” so doesn’t come around. Oh and man will that make you angry but you absolutely have to let it go. It is their loss and they will feel it and guilt, especially at the graveside. And afterward, you have to keep the peace and forgive them for not being there.

    It was a long 4 years, and yet it is something I am so grateful I was able to do for her. I am also grateful she and my son had such an amazing relationship that he'd do anything for his gram, and he did. We were able to enjoy her right up until the end.

  6. Hi Celia darling ... I can so see where the lines between a loved one acting as a caregiver and the person needing the care could get blurred and complicate the relationship ... wise words of advice to those in need of care from one who knows firsthand! Can't wait to start sketching for your illustration ... I had a huge deadline I needed to get out of the way this week before I could begin, but you're next up! Have a wonderful weekend, Celia! xo ~S

    SANDY M Illustration


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