Let’s be honest. We are not always the best people for the job. We may find ourselves stinking at the “parenting role” one day or really being a shitty friend. There may even be times when we suck at our own professions, having a horrible day of screw-ups, mistakes and utter failures.
This is true for the people that we surround and for those that surround us as well. They may not always be the best people for the job, whether the job is to be a listening ear, a confidant in trust, the voice of integrity or a caregiver.
I admit I am not always the best caregiver to my children. I usually know when to pull myself out of a bad situation before it gets worse. Most times my husband is there to see the shit-storm start down its path and removes the family before I cause collateral damage. I would like to say that I am there when this happens to him too.
Professionally I find many caregivers having a hard time coming to grips with is the reality that they may not be the best person for the job. There is this misconception, misunderstanding that if we share in blood and D.N.A., then they must automatically know what is best and therefore be the best.
This is the farthest from the truth. I have seen families riddled with grief, pain and anxiety over an impending illness and death of a loved one… completely unable to see what is best and give their best because of their blood-related history.
I have seen families try so hard to make caregiving work in an environment that was toxic and unhealthy even prior to a disease process. What would make anyone believe that a life altering illness would heal old wounds and allow for baggage-free caregiving.
Personally I have had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that my own flesh and blood may not be the most healthy people to be around. Like a plant trying to take root in toxic soil, if it is not nourished with the “good stuff”, it will not grow, and instead wither and wilt.
My daughter has questioned my logic on this point and we have had several conversations on the topic, however real world scenarios did not illustrate my point. So I use an analogy.
Consider some people in your life as allergens that set off your immune system. When you are around them they trigger watery eyes, runny nose, headache, congestion. You do not feel your best around them, in fact, you feel pretty crappy. When you are away from the triggers the symptoms subside.
The best way to handle a relationship that you feel may be harmful to your health is to consider it in this way. You may need to experiment with different antidotes that buffer the symptoms, keep them at bay or eliminate them altogether before you expose yourself to the trigger again. Until you find the right combination of mechanisms that keep you healthy, you must avoid the allergen at all costs.
At work I encourage caregivers to find no shame in asking for help, removing themselves from triggers and work to find the right combination that works for them. I insist that they understand that they may not always be the best person for the job, and that is what care-partners are for. It is best for everyone involved when you know your emotional and caregiving limitations regardless of the relationship.
For myself, during this warmer than usual Midwestern winter, I am working through various concoctions of toxic antidotes. I am trying to find the combination that best suits my personal needs, helps me to recognize environmental triggers and buffers my reaction to them.
This way when spring arrives I will be in a healthier place for myself; better suited to do a good job to those I am caring for, be aware of the individuals that trigger my emotional well-being and know the difference between the two.