I really avoided writing this blog post. After a month of solid blog coverage of Cyber Security Chicago and other profiles, writing anything became a challenge. Finishing a short story became a chore, and I found myself upset and depressed. Attempting to find comfort, I came across this article about caregiver burnout...
...and realized that I answered most of the questions "yes". And it hit me. Hard.
The irony is that I'm doing everything that I'm "supposed" to when it comes to self-care...and all I'm experiencing is frustration, denial, and deepening cynicism and pessimism. Short form: I was - and am - physically and emotionally exhausted to the point where I'm struggling with issues around depression. Yes, friends, I'm knee-deep in caregiver burnout.
In short, my efforts towards trying to "crush it" and endure in the gig economy are crushing me down. In fact, to answer a question I posted in this very blog...yes, Gordon, compassion fatigue is still a thing.
The irony is that I'm practicing every self-care behavior recommended for caregivers...and I'm increasingly frustrated at their ineffectiveness. I have attempted to attend one of the city's caregiver support groups...and not only did no one else show up, but the employees also had no idea that there was a group. (This was, however, during Labor Day weekend). AARP had one of their "Caregiver" sessions near me...but when I attempted to RSVP the day I received the mailer, it had been filled. An e-mail complaint results in a patronizing "we understand how frustrating that can be", and encouraged me to attend another one in November...that was two months away. (So in other words, caregivers on the south side are screwed over, but hey, at least I have a tote bag).
Although I did manage to get professional help and am practicing appropriate caregiver "self-care" behaviors to reduce stress, right now...I'm feeling incredibly alone and isolated. Caregiving means giving up on a lot of socializing either due to lack of funds or energy. And asking for help has been...well, a challenge. Especially since there's no family support except for moral support from two cousins and my mother's aunt.
Most of my life, I've played the steely-badass-never-need-anyone card, and it's cost me. Now that I need friends and have tried to open my life...nothing. Nada. (Yes, I get invited to events via Facebook, but I feel more like a member of an entourage than a friend). Yes, I could passive-aggressively link to this article on supporting caregivers via Facebook...but at a time when I'm trying to be open and articulate about this, it feels rather ironic that the best, healthiest thing for me to do is play the steely-badass-never-need-anyone card when I really need support...and it's actually fostering my sense of caregiver burnout.
Others - mostly casual acquaintances - have said things that rarely help caregivers. Or consider it an entryway into comparing their lives to mine. Or even engaging in political hashing and somehow blame Trump. None of that helps. I'm either fighting off arguments that I'm-not-doing-enough or I'm-wonderful-why-don't-I-accept-how-awesome-I-am. Although my existence is somewhere in between, performing the emotional labor to work through the middle...
Cards on the table: personal and professional frustrations have impacted my ability to feel gratitude or relaxation. I'm just too damn tired to put on a happy face. I'm feeling isolated, alone, hurt...and the constant rejection has me wondering if this is all worth it.
Let's be straight - yes, I admit it, I have all the signs of caregiver burnout. My efforts towards self-care are offset by the overall tenor of contemporary life. For those who think I'm whining, all I have to say is...let's switch places for a week.
Not interested? Didn't think so. The only thing I'll say in my favor is...it takes a lot of strength to endure this.
Even though it's easy to give credit (or blame) to social media for promising greater community - or exacerbating tensions - the truth is that dealing with the constant experiences and feelings of frustration, rejection, and isolation take a personal and mental toll. (According to research, caregiver burnout can affect cognitive functioning). Finding and securing resources for adequate self-care are challenging, and although I value myself enough to seek them out...I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Especially since our culture values absolute mastery over one's situation, and I am finding that experiences of feeling empathy, compassion, and belonging are becoming increasingly rare.
Depending on your perspective, I'm writing this post either for attention, to provide some degree of comfort for those dealing with caregiver burnout, or as a cautionary tale for others.
And the sad thing is...I honestly don't know why I'm writing this post.
That bothers me.
(And for those who want to share their experiences...please do so in the comments below. They are moderated, and consider that, as stated previously, there are some things you should avoid telling a caregiver).