Downward_spiral picture for blog post on 11-Jun-2014

Another gap between blog posts due to setbacks in recovery, which my friend was dealing with. I could hold on to only so much. And I had to hold on to some really important stuff. Despite knowing that a life and body were changed forever, the recovery was moving along in the right direction and gathering good momentum. A new normality was developing and satisfaction with life returning. Then… BOOM!

An unexplained symptom. Out of nowhere. Physical activity restricted. Majorly restricted. Housebound. Back into the bubble of hibernation. More doctor appointments. Trying to get moved up the NHS waiting list for tests. Confusion over why this happened so suddenly with no warning, the recovery had been going so well, and the individual in question had been the model patient, doing everything the doctors said. So unfair.

I could see my friend spiraling downwards. And feel it. I slid down that spiral too. I remember a Tuesday in February. It felt like a cloud of dark grey heavy mass enveloping us. I felt anger. I was getting short and snappy.

keep-calm-and-boom-boom-boom- Picture for blog post 11-Jun-2014

When I get like that, feeling that anger and getting short and snappy, that’s a sign. A sign I need to stop and hibernate by myself for a little while. Just to check in with myself and get some perspective. I realised I was dumping my ‘stuff’ – my emotional crap - in the wrong place. It was the last thing my friend needed. It wasn’t helping. My friend had more important stuff to deal with than my emotional rubbish. I told myself to take my ‘stuff’ elsewhere. I’m lucky in that I have external support systems where I can talk about this kind of stuff and not be judged and be supported. I took my ‘stuff’ there.

This experience made me reflect on what is often said about carers needing to be strong to care for people. Being strong in the caring role is a double edged sword.

Double edged sword pictures for blog post on 11-Jun-2014

On one edge of that sword, I don’t think a carer can always be strong. The caring situation can get you down. Real down. And there is something about being able to express what you are feeling, maybe even to have it witnessed by someone. It helps to know you are not alone, what you feel is normal, and that you are not bad person for feeling what you are feeling.

On the other edge of that sword, a carer does need to be mindful of how they are feeling so they know when they are about to dump unhelpful stuff and keep it in check until they can dump it in an appropriate place. And that requires a certain mental and emotional strength.

I remember back in February, I found ways to develop that strength and make my way back up the spiral. I even had one of those ‘top 10’ like lists. I forget what was on it. Looking back, what helped me to deal with the setbacks in recovery was:

  1. Realising how I was feeling. I learned the signs were anger, wanting to blame others, and feeling an enveloping dark grey heavy mass around me.
  2. Hibernating by myself for a little while, maybe an hour, just to figure out what was going on with me.
  3. Taking my ‘stuff’ to my trusted external support systems.
  4. Telling myself I needed to ‘keep calm’ for my friend while the ‘boom boom boom’ kept happening around us.
  5. Going back to my external support systems to help me ‘keep calm’.

And I felt stronger as a result. I felt I could better support my friend. I could just be there for them. I could deal much more effectively with their setbacks in recovery. I could smile despite the situation. I could feel peace. Eventually, my friend came back up the spiral too.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2014

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