Working with the public I get to see a lot of colorful characters on a daily basis. I met two women yesterday that are facing serious illness, but doing so with a conviction that will aid their health and healing. I watched one of the women, young, who due to prednisone has gained over a 100 pounds in six months and is no experiencing bone fractures. Her spirits were high even being in pain, and her family was ultra-supportive of her needs. Both of these women had a great sense of humor at a time in their lives when many would be sitting in the dark at home. That’s when the famous proverb flashed into my head, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
I find that thought extremely powerful. It implies we all have a choice about how we handle each and every situation in our lives. If you curse the darkness following your diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness your world view is of being defeated. What I’ve come to understand about those who choose to curse the darkness is the fear of seeing themselves (and I don’t mean physically necessarily) in the light. The “light” accentuates our traits, gifts, and thoughts. It brings our true selves to the forefront of our consciousness.
When facing a health challenge cursing the darkness leads to expressions like, “Whoa is me” and “Why did this happen to me?” Those thoughts may be prevalent at the beginning while your still in shock about your diagnosis, but I can tell you as someone who has had an auto-immune disease for over thirty years, those thought patterns are the surest way to bring you down. They are the road to unhappiness and defeat. They challenge you on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels depleting your energy and robbing you of an opportunity to get better (remember there’s a difference between getting better and getting well).
I hope you’ll choose to light a candle and illuminate your path to health and healing. I hope you’ll shed some light on your challenge so you can acknowledge like the two women I met yesterday how to still live life in the face of adversity. I hope you’ll light a candle so you can give your body, mind, and spirit every advantage in overcoming your health challenge. If you’re still cursing the darkness and reading this post, allow me to hold the candle for you until you’re ready to light it for yourself!!
Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
It’s hard to believe that this series is coming to a close. Writing the 8 previous entries has allowed me to reflect on all the caregiving stories I’ve heard over the past twenty years. It has also allowed me to take note of the aspects of caregiving that seldom get talked about, the magnanimous gestures by caregivers for those needing your love, support, and assistance. It is often a thankless job. One of the greatest things I ever witnessed was a doctor thanking the caregiver for being so present to the situation and showing commitment, perseverance, and love throughout the patient’s journey to health and healing.
I felt it was only right to close this 9 part series with an aspect of caregiving that is often overlooked and yet I believe makes you, the caregiver, an invaluable component of the patient’s care. It is also the reason your relationship with the patient and the care team is so crucial. What’s the final aspect of the series?
R is for Realistic
I can’t think of any greater gift you can give the person you’re caring for than the gift of reality. It’s so easy for many people after being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness to be all “pie-in-the-sky”. You, the caregiver, are often more firmly planted in the reality of the day. You’re in tune with the patient’s needs, the concerns of the patient and the care team, and you try to find a happy balance between all concerned parties. I want to make one thing very clear; I don’t believe that being realistic means you’re pessimistic in any way. Sometimes being realistic prevents the patient from undue stress and strain, not to mention endless let downs from misguided expectations.
If anything, as the person who holds the “reality” card you’re in a great position to be optimistic because you’ve developed the capacity to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It’s interesting about the optimist/pessimist debate because often I’ve found that the patient wants to stop treatment, but the caregiver believes so strongly in what’s possible that the deep dialogue takes place about love, commitment, and end-of-life care.
I hope you’ve been able and willing to take in all aspects I’ve discussed in this 9 part series. It has been an amazing journey to be able to honor your presence as a caregiver. I know I’ve done it before, but once again I’d like to say, THANK YOU for your tireless efforts to ease the transitions of the patient from someone who has been well to someone who is health challenged. I want you to know that there are resources for support that I hope you’ll take advantage of in your community. You can further your own journey by going to www.survivingstrong.com and signing up for the “Courageous Caregiver” e-course. It’s a series delivered over the course of three weeks and allows you to explore caregiving even deeper with follow-up questions along the way.
It’s been an honor and privilege to accompany you on this journey. I look forward to spending more time with you in the future!
You may be thinking that the title of this post actually refers to the act of driving. I don’t have any opinions or data on illness or driving, but I am referring to driving in the metaphorical sense. When we drive one of the tools that keeps us safe is the rear view mirror. We’re taught to check it regularly and we use so we’re aware of our surroundings. Is there a problem with the rear view mirror?
The only problem is that many following their diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness keep looking in the rear view mirror and the only thing they see is what’s behind them…the past. When you look in the rear view mirror what you’ve passed becomes smaller and smaller until it vanishes and is only a memory. I often wonder if we look in the rear view mirror hoping that as long as we can get a glimpse of our lives before our diagnosis that we can retain some of that illusion of perfect health.
The other problem with focusing on your rear view mirror is that you’re not paying attention to what’s in front of you. What opportunities are you missing to heal the body, mind, and spirit connection? What opportunities for optimistic thinking are you passing and once you pass them and you see them in the rear view mirror they become pessimistic thoughts. Optimists have greater odds at health and healing according to numerous reports and studies so it’s something to grab hold of tightly.
The other difficult situation when you focus on the rear view mirror is that it’s dangerous. When you’re not engaged as an active driver of your life accidents happen. I’m not talking about hitting a tree, at least not literally. I am talking about crashing, and for many with a health challenge that’s an emotional crash. We can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought so keeping your eyes front and center is critical on your journey to wellness.