O is for overwhelmed.
What does overwhelmed look like for the care partner?
It's the daughter dealing with her mother's anxiety disorder who can receive twenty calls a day. Fifteen of them are overnight. Nothing she does or says calms her mother down. She hears the same questions and the same worries over and over again. Sometimes, she decides she needs boundaries, and tells her mother she will be shutting off the phone after a certain hour, but then she lies in bed worrying about her.
Overwhelmed is the wife who must make difficult decisions about her husband's care, and just when they are made, his health changes again and she must make more difficult decisions.
Overwhelmed is the sibling who visits but has no clue how to relate to her sister. She doesn't know this person and can't recognise the sister she knew. When she tries to do something nice for her, something she used to love, she is met with anger, At a loss, she sits in her car and cries after every visit.
What do you do about overwhelmed?
Somethings there's nothing you can do but push through.
If you are in the middle of a crisis, or a series of seemingly unending crisis, it's possible to become overwhelmed quickly. Like facing into a hailstorm, it keeps coming at you, it must be dealt with. And it huts.
Sometimes it's not the crisis but the ongoing demands of every day. Lack of sleep, physically demanding care, days filled with demands and no breaks can create a kind of dull despair, and then one small "extra" like taxes needing to be done or Christmas shopping can create waves of despair. It's too much. It's all too much.
How do you cope with overwhelmed?
Probably not well, but here are some tips.
1) Call a friend. Call all your friends. Put the word out that you need help. Someone to listen, someone to help, someone to support. Overwhelmed can be overcome, but not alone. Never alone. The only way to begin to see the light is to have the love and support of friends.
2) Get rid of the unnecessary. Examine your life and see if there are commitments or duties that don't need to be on your plate. Can another family member look after them? Is there something that can be dropped completely? Any time that you free up, use it to rest.
3) Try to get away, even for half a day. It's amazing how perspective changes when we are rested.
4) Remember, it won't be like this forever. The crisis will pass and the situation will become stable. You will get used to the new normal. Things will get better. It looks like a long tunnel now, but there is an end.
If you are a friend of a care partner, watch them closely. Listen. Be there. Your friendship and support is an invaluable gift as they walk this journey.