Monday, March 10, 2008

And On the Seventh Day God Rested

When I was a Family Caregiving Consultant it sometimes seemed like the bulk of my job was about helping people figure out how to get a break. Forget 9 to 5 living, most of my caregivers worked at least a half-time job, took care of their kids, then went over to grandpa's place to clean his house, give him his meds, make him dinner, make sure he was safe. Every day without a break. And that was just in the early stage of Alzheimer's Disease or some other progressive dementia.

Little bit by little bit the diseases progressed. At first it would all seem manageable. "I can handle this. No big deal." Then grandpa would need a little bit more. "No problem, I can adjust." Then it would progress again. And again. And again. And again without end.

One day the caregiver hears the alarm clock ring and can't make herself adjust anymore. She's sick, burnt out, unable to face the day ahead. And the caregiver thinks something must be wrong with them because what they thought was a manageable situation is now the source of complete overwhelm. What they don’t realize is that, over time, their situations have dramatically changed... but it happened so gradually it was hard to justify making a change in how things got done.

This is understandable. Supposedly, if you put a frog in boiling water it will hop out to save its life as fast as it can but if you put one in cold water and slowly turn up the heat the frog doesn’t recognize the incremental changes until it’s too late and dies.

I recently went through a period of enforced respite, not from caregiving, but from my job. I was sick with the flu. You know the kind that lays you out flat on your back and keeps you that way long past the point when you think you should have recovered? I'd feel better, try to go back to life as usual and in less than 1/2 a day be back on my back again. And I'm still not 100%.

But luckily I remembered something. Sometimes when God, the Universe, your Higher Self, or your inner being needs you to pay attention to something you refuse to look at, something outside of yourself will happen to make sure you address what you need. Before I got sick I went through a period of workaholism. Look at how many entries this blog had in January to see what I mean. And this isn't the only blog or website I take care of. I have several. It didn't seem like too much to think I could write almost every day in every single one of them. Especially this one. After all, half or more of the entries have been excerpted from a book that's already written.

But that's what it's like with creeping workaholism. Each individual thing that gets taken on really IS no big deal. But add them all together. . .

Even professionals in the field can lose perspective. Turns out I had to be put down so I could take the time to look at my life objectively. To think, to dream, to notice what hasn't been working -- time to take those things off my plate! -- to notice where I take on too much because I've come to think no one else will. I even found out that if I let go of the reins my partner will do a better job than I do! He does it a different way, but so what? It turns out I deserved to let go a bit and be shown a better possibility for getting things done. Work less, accomplish more! That's his way. No harm in that.

Burn-out comes from doing way more than the average person would ever do if they were to come at the job fresh. The responsibilities keep getting piled on the plate, you don't notice, you just keep taking on more. And then you wake up and you're in over your head in boiling water wondering how you got there and how on earth you're going to get out.

Take a break. Please. On the seventh day even God rested.

No comments: