If you know me at all, you know my heart still breaks when pictures of our dog, Bailey, come up on the memory feed in Facebook. This blog isn't specifically about him, but he taught me many lessons, and this is about one of those lessons. Indulge me in allowing me to share a few pictures, too.
Bailey had a dual personality.
When my husband was home, he was the most compliant, peaceful little fellow. If he was in trouble, Hunter only had to call his name and he'd stop the bad behaviour. I have seen his already short legs at half mast as he crawled to him, craving approval. His little halo and wings were clearly visible.
When he was alone with me, a different dog appeared. Demon dog.
Even though I took him for walks, got up in the night for the first year to facilitate bathroom trips, and fed him, he didn't crave my approval. Me, he played like an instrument.
One Monday, I had the day off and was enjoying a more leisurely pace. While drinking my second cup of coffee, I was preparing breakfast and cut a few slices from a sizable chunk of cheese. Bailey jumped to the counter and seized the larger chunk, dashing over his self-proclaimed race course around the living room, dining room and through the kitchen, with me in hot pursuit. I ran, I yelled, I fumed. Bailey ate and ran. Finally, he stopped under the table and looked at me. A tiny crumb of cheese fell to the floor. His snack was finished.
A care partner without boundaries is like me running around the house after the dog.
There's a feeling of helplessness. Things are out of control, and it seems hopeless to reign it back in.
The "out of control" feeling can lead to depression. "Oh, what's the use. I'll never get this dog to obey me. In fact, I'm useless as a dog owner. I just can't ever get it right."
Frustration can quickly turn to rage, which could lead to abuse.
For all these reasons, care partners need to establish boundaries. It's never emotionally healthy to constantly feel jerked in various directions, without any control over the situation.
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Boundaries and risk management are very important parts of living a healthy and positive life. Bryant McGill
Here are some diagnostic questions:
1) Are you finding balance difficult to maintain? Sometimes the out of control feeling has built up over months, and you didn't notice it until recently. Are there demands and manipulation that you don't know how to handle?
2) Is it difficult for you to hand over the reigns to others? Do you feel that no one else can do it right, or that explaining is too much work, and you may as well do it yourself? What are your strategies for getting help?
3) Do you know when it's time to say "no"? What feeling in yourself signals that you need to step back?
4) What area of "taking care of yourself" is most difficult for you? What strategies do you use to overcome this?
Find a quiet time and write some notes. Discover where you need some boundaries and write down what they should be, how you are going to accomplish them, and what help you will need to do so.
Don't wait until you are in a "chasing the dog" kind of situation!
CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Do you sometimes feel out of control when you are caring for your loved one? What have you done about this?