The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Unveiling the Hidden Struggles and Strengths of Caregiving

December 05, 2023 Cathy VandenHeuvel
Unveiling the Hidden Struggles and Strengths of Caregiving
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Unveiling the Hidden Struggles and Strengths of Caregiving
Dec 05, 2023
Cathy VandenHeuvel

Send Cathy a text:)

As the paths of our lives intersect with those of our loved ones, we all too often find ourselves in the role of a caregiver. Through my personal experiences with my parents and husband, I witnessed the hidden burdens that come with caregiving - the sacrifices, the people-pleasing, the neglect of personal needs. This emotional rollercoaster of a journey, while filled with hardships, also brings forth gifts and positive memories that often go unnoticed.

Join our intimate conversation today as we peel back the layers of these caregiving experiences. We'll tackle the challenging conversations, the struggle for balance, and the importance of self-care. And amidst the chaos and the hardship, let's together find the strength to acknowledge and address our needs. From the pain, let's draw wisdom and the will to not just endure but to heal. Whether you're a caregiver yourself or know someone who is, there's something in this episode for everyone. Let's remind ourselves that we're not alone in this, and sometimes, it's okay not to be okay.

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

Follow me by clicking on the links below:

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send Cathy a text:)

As the paths of our lives intersect with those of our loved ones, we all too often find ourselves in the role of a caregiver. Through my personal experiences with my parents and husband, I witnessed the hidden burdens that come with caregiving - the sacrifices, the people-pleasing, the neglect of personal needs. This emotional rollercoaster of a journey, while filled with hardships, also brings forth gifts and positive memories that often go unnoticed.

Join our intimate conversation today as we peel back the layers of these caregiving experiences. We'll tackle the challenging conversations, the struggle for balance, and the importance of self-care. And amidst the chaos and the hardship, let's together find the strength to acknowledge and address our needs. From the pain, let's draw wisdom and the will to not just endure but to heal. Whether you're a caregiver yourself or know someone who is, there's something in this episode for everyone. Let's remind ourselves that we're not alone in this, and sometimes, it's okay not to be okay.

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

Follow me by clicking on the links below:

Speaker 1:

Well, hello, my friend, and welcome to another episode of the Caregiver Cup podcast. It's Kathy here. Well, I am in week three of my recovery. If you've been following me in the past episodes, I had surgery back in the middle of November and things are just going well for me. This is a time where I have to be patient and rest and recover and giving myself the time to heal, and it's tested my patience, but it's also been a really good thing. I'm pretty much watched every Hallmark Christmas movie.

Speaker 1:

I scrolled way too much on social media Facebook, instagram, tiktok, videos, reels, everything and anything so I've, like, mastered all of that. I did some reading and read a couple of really good books and, most importantly though, I've had time to reflect on many things. My mind has been really working on just kind of thinking about everything. To be honest, I struggled today with the podcast episode and which one to do. Should I do one on a caregiving tip? Should I talk about emotion and mindset hacks? Should I share some motivation or should I find a guest? And, to be honest with you, I took a couple hours yesterday and have this very cool self care idea that I wanted to do on the podcast, but it didn't feel right, and so I'm going to put that one aside and share it with you in 2024. Because the thing that I'm really struggling with, I think, is the thing I want to talk about today. You've been hearing me say things like things are meant for a reason or things happen for a reason, and I truly believe this, and I think that this rest and recovery is helping me heal from the memories of my parents and the caregiving that I gave. So imagine my brain right now and or brain while I was sitting and doing a lot of resting. It was like this big ball of yarn, but it's all tangled up and I have to figure out how to untangle it all, and that's what my brain was doing and I was spending a lot of time thinking about it.

Speaker 1:

You may ask, kathy, why in the world are we talking about this topic today? Because I know you can relate and when you hear my feelings, and because and you're going to feel good about caregiving that you've you're currently doing or you've done but you also feel sadness and trauma and maybe unsettling this about other pieces of your caregiving too. You might have good times when it comes to caregiving, but there were bad times for me as well, and I know you feel this way. So I want to just tell you my thoughts, and I'm doing a lot of this not scripted, I'm just doing it off the cuff and so you're going to hear me kind of fumbling a little bit. But just pretend you and I are talking across the table and having a cup of coffee and, as a matter of fact, I'm having a cup of coffee in a Merry Christmas cup that I got from my mom. How, how weird is that? But and so this? Yes, it's my podcast therapy with you, but it's also my talk with you as a friend. It's the things that you and I think about, but we don't tell anybody else. We are human and it's okay for us to feel this way. It's okay for us to think this way and it's okay for us to talk about it amongst ourselves, because we, as caregivers, need to go ahead and know that we're not feeling this way alone. Let me just take a quick drink of my coffee here and start this conversation here.

Speaker 1:

So when I started my caregiving in 2017, when my dad was diagnosed with patriotic cancer and then, two weeks later, my husband was diagnosed with his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I had this mentality and I really had to really be honest with myself. I had the mentality that I had to do the good wife thing, the good daughter thing, the good girl thing. I wanted to help in any way possible, but also knew that what that was what's expected of me, that I had to do it. I went in all in without any thought about myself at all, with any thought about my feelings, my life, my health, my world none of that mattered right now. I had to be there for my parents and if I wasn't there for my parents, I know they wouldn't approve of me or they would be disappointed in me. That was my mentality. I fed my people pleasing behavior and I have a very strong people pleasing behavior, which can be extremely difficult when you're a caregiver. I found ways to go ahead and reinforce and feed that behavior. If you followed me on anything, I would post pictures of me driving to my parents home, caregiving, spending time with my mom, spending time with my husband. I would go ahead and share my caregiving experiences with my friends, showing them that I was, in quotes, the good daughter.

Speaker 1:

Inside, though, I was a mess. I was a mess. So envision that ball of yarn in your head that I was trying to do. Well, envision like I had my stomach was doing somersaults. My nerves inside were physically shaking because I was so stressed and I it just became normal and part of who I am. I started developing digestive issues. I gave up so much as well. I put my friends on hold because that was what you should do. I put my ambitions on hold. I really just did the minimal I could at work because I had to go all in, which seems like the right thing to do. But I look back at it now and I'm like I probably could have did it a little bit different.

Speaker 1:

I put my kids on the back burner and so I didn't. At the first year I didn't do a lot of spending time with with the grand girls. I told my kids that you know I would connect with them when I can. My Christmas I don't even remember. I was a toe, I was. I was torn and I was worn out and torn. But I kept kept telling myself this is what I had to do and it was. I couldn't see past just what I was doing. I couldn't see what it was doing to me. I couldn't see what, what the future would hold for me. Don't get me wrong, though. I don't regret caregiving, but I do regret not seeing and setting and understanding the importance of healthy boundaries.

Speaker 1:

If I was getting sick, I would lie about it. I would. I would lie to my parents and saying, oh, I'm fine, I'll be okay. When I was getting sick both medical, mentally and physically I was getting sick I would call in sick and not tell anybody. My husband would go to work or he would go to his physical therapy. I would sneak in and nap because I was exhausted. I thought it was for me. I thought it was a sign of weakness to not be on and being there for them. They both had cancer. My mom was worried, sick and knew that my dad only had two to 11 months to live.

Speaker 1:

Well, after my dad passed away in September of 2018, little did I know that caregiving would get harder. I created this dependency for my mom, or for my mom to be dependent on me, that now I couldn't break. When they needed me, I came. They knew I would be there. It reminds me of an addiction, almost, or I don't know what the official word is. You probably have it at the top of your head, but my mom would complain about something, I would be there immediately to fix it. My mom would be crying and grieving from a widow perspective. I would be there to console her.

Speaker 1:

I never gave myself time to grieve my dad's passing. She would complain about something and I would say don't worry, I'll take care of it. I would take on the challenge myself. Imagine this backpack and you put another brick on my back and another brick on my back, another brick in that backpack and another brick, and I would just keep carrying the weight because I didn't want her to feel pain, I didn't want her to feel lonely, I didn't want her to have to do it all by herself. And I was just creating this storm. And it got me thinking this week about oh my gosh, why couldn't I see what I was doing?

Speaker 1:

So as the next three years went on, I grew better and better about recognizing it. I could see little bits and pieces and I started working on my people pleasing skills. I first learned how to educate myself and I learned the importance of, you know, taking care of myself and I took on one Crazy hurdle at a time to try to overcome it. And those three years, you know, I did just did little things. There were good points. I came up with some great solutions and I've shared this one before. Instead of going to my mom's every day to go ahead and do something, we've identified and I found this creative solution called Sunday Fun Days, where she would look forward to a Sunday dedicated to her and I would actually get a little bit more time during the week. I would work on asking for help and having my brother taking her to things and doing things, having the neighbors involved, and I then devoted time for myself, and so I started working on these little bits and pieces.

Speaker 1:

But there were hard, hard conversations with my mom and many times where she didn't understand that I was taking care of myself, that I needed a break. She accused me of not wanting to take care of her. Many times there were where she would play these middle school games with me, where if you don't have time for me, I don't have time for you kind of things, and she would pout and get angry. She would say hurtful things to me, like you don't care about me anymore. If I was spending time with a friend, she would get jealous and that sort of thing, and I think about it. She spent 57 years with my dad and always had a companion, and now she didn't have a companion and she moved from her the cabin my dad and my mom lived in back to her hometown and her friends weren't all there as much too.

Speaker 1:

Why I say this to you? I know you can relate, because our loved ones, through their illness, through their injury, through their mental state, whatever it would be, we have to have these hard conversations. They are going to say hurtful things. They are not going to understand all the time. Being a caregiver requires us to make hard decisions and important decisions. You can't ignore yourself and sometimes your loved one won't understand. There are times when you need the help and your loved one will think you don't want to help them personally anymore. There will be times when you have to say no or I can't, and they will get angry at you. I can't tell you how many times. Yeah, but if you don't, what happens? I mean, think about all of the risks of that.

Speaker 1:

I was getting angry and resentful with overwhelm because I started seeing that my friends didn't want to spend time with me anymore. It was over a year that I had said no to them over and over and over again and now they weren't even asking anymore. Or my family I could see them hurting because I wasn't going to the grandkids events or I wasn't going ahead and inviting them over for just a nonformal meal. I couldn't do it anymore. I know I created this people pleasing piece and with my people pleasing Behavior, my abnormal skill set and being in by feeling angry and resentful at my loved one, it wasn't really their fault that this happened. It was me and I had to figure out how to rewrite this role or rewrite my new normal. And I know you can think about this because right away when I meet with a client, they right away jump to. I'm so angry at my moody loved one. And, yeah, they're gonna be moody. But let's dig further into it. You have to have those hard conversations with yourself and reflections with yourself and know that there are communities and therapy that can that have helped me see why I was the way I was Well, and why I was going ahead and blaming it on other things when it truly was myself, and then they helped me find solutions to make the best of everything.

Speaker 1:

What the trauma piece for me and I'm calling it trauma for me or this, this, this big not in my stomach was for the last year with my mom. Things weren't ideal for me Personally. I was making time for myself, I was spending time with my family, I was doing things with Dennis, I was back with my friends, I was enjoying my business and my podcasting. I realized I was laughing again and I realized that I was setting goals and I felt good that way. But when I spent time with my mom, I didn't feel as connected anymore to her than ever before, because she kind of was giving me more of the cold shoulder or if I would share something I was doing outside of just us.

Speaker 1:

There was tension I, but I had my siblings helping. She was attending activity so I could see that she was doing things and she was getting the stimulation and the the socialization she needed. But she was distancing, distancing herself from me, and this caused really some. It's kind of I don't I hate to use this word, but the word that comes to mind is you kind of have to overcome that tension. Overcome that tension and just act like everything is normal and hope that it'll change because deep inside and made the right decisions, those. So this trauma today still today, is was causing me unrest as I was sitting here resting and recovering, and this was time for me to go ahead and finally put it to rest. This unrest I had to put to rest.

Speaker 1:

I had to realize that my parents were married for 57 years and when my dad my dad passed away, she lost her closest friend, her closest connection, her closest companion. My mom has never lived alone, and so that was a huge transition for her. I think she expected me to be that replacement and instead of being her daughter and her caregiver, she wanted more. She wanted this super connection. But when I realized I had to go ahead and find that that joy again, she struggled with it, and I can't tell you how many times I told her that I had to do this, and I don't want this to sound like I didn't love her because I loved her so much. I loved her so much, but I also had to love myself. We had a great relationship, but she didn't like that I was growing. She didn't like that I was becoming in powerful. She would create drama oh my gosh and I would laugh about it now out of love. But she would create drama to see if I would take a step back and she would challenge me and it would get so underneath my skin.

Speaker 1:

She would call for help and she would hang up the phone. And she would call for help and hang up the phone until I actually went over there and it wasn't an emergency. She said her phone just kept cutting out and we had to have some conversations about that because that wasn't nice, I mean I had to drop everything. She would call friends telling me that, telling them that Kathy wasn't taking care of him and there was nobody to care for her. She would tell people that she was lonely and nobody comes to visit her anymore. I know you can relate to this because when you make the hard decisions, especially with an elderly parent, that maybe their illness and their mental stability isn't all there, they can create that and then that pulls on to our guilt and pulls on to all of that anger and resentment. Trust me, every time I took that as okay. This is a challenge. She's calling out for emotional help.

Speaker 1:

We added more interaction from the grandchildren, the family. I talked to her doctor and but I had to continue to explain to her that, mom, I work during the day, I'm running my business. I need time to take care of myself. I have my family and you're part of this nucleus, but we have to go ahead and find that that circle. I then added a face time call every day after dinner and a face time call where she would get on and she thought was really neat for a while. But then if I, if I was doing something or she felt triggered in some way, she wouldn't answer. And there are some days that she would answer and some days that she wouldn't.

Speaker 1:

And this was a constant struggle for me and I know that potentially you struggle with taking on this action of trying to find this happy, joyful medium for yourself and determining what's really necessary for you. First of all, I was confident. I saw the shift that I made and I wasn't going to give in to this challenge. I wanted to assure you that you need to keep fighting for yourself and fighting may be a harsh word, but you need to go ahead and continue to go ahead and set those healthy boundaries. Don't give up. I continue to say to my mom over and over and over again Mom, I love you and I care deeply for you, but I have to take care of myself too and I'm doing the best that I can, and in order for me to show up as my best self, I need to go ahead and take care of myself. So I have enough energy to go ahead and do that, and the real trauma that came about is she would take care of it, she would understand and I would leave on a good note, but then it would constantly come back. It's kind of like teaching I have a new puppy, so teaching a new puppy to leave it, to leave it, and continuing to reinforce that behavior, and I had to go ahead and continue to do that. I just did that. I had the help of my community and a therapist and I would continue to work on it. But what I want to get at here is the real trauma that I am still struggling with right now is the last days of her life.

Speaker 1:

If you remember, my mom had hospice and she was in hospice in October of 2022. And she died within a couple weeks of it. So she and her last days that she was kind of alert and could say that my brother sat by her and we were talking to her and my sister was on the other side and I was there and my brother says, mom, I love you so much and he was leaning into her and she had said I love you too. And then Connie, my sister, said I love you, mom, make sure that you just close your eyes and wait for God and wait for dad. And she says I love you. And then I touched her and I said this is Kathy, I love you too and I'm going to miss you. And she didn't say anything to me, she just kind of wrinkled her nose and that was so hard to take in. And the immediate, strong Kathy kicked in and I told her Mom, I love you so much. I enjoyed our Sunday fun days and you, I cherished every moment that I have. You know, I did the best I can and I hope you remember this and give dad a big hug. And she didn't say anything, but I hope she heard it.

Speaker 1:

And so, after tons of talking with my community and my friends and my therapist, I journaled a lot about this. I even wrote a note to my mom that she'll never get, but I have it in my journal explaining to her why I did what I had to do, how I did it, how I made sure everything was taken care of, from A to Z, and I purposely wanted her to engage with other people, and I went on and on and on. But then, as I wrote my letter and had more discussions with my community and therapist, I had to recognize and come to terms that my mom was severely depressed. She had mental illness, and now she knows now how much I loved her, cared for her and I was there for her. And I need to go ahead and let that peace rest. And it's so hard. It's so hard to do because all I wanted to do is hear the words and instead of remembering that, I got to remember the days that she hugged me, she kissed me, we had those fun conversations till we peed her pants, and I have to remember that instead of the last day. But it's really hard. So I had to share that with you and so that's kind of what I've been toying with, and I know that you have those moments as well.

Speaker 1:

So, as I conclude, today I want you to recognize where you are now. Embrace it. You hear me saying that word all the time. Embrace it.

Speaker 1:

What emotions are you feeling? It's okay to feel Angry, resentful, left out, feel like you gave up so many years and you don't get the recognition that you get. But on the flip side, what things are you working on? What things are you most proud of? What things that have you grown from? Because this journey of caregiving has many gifts that it's giving to you that you don't even recognize. I Recognized that button of people pleasing and how, if I didn't get out of it there, I would be in a total mess. What push backs are you experiencing right now? That you have to stand ground on, or or that you took a step back and then you'd have to take a step forward again.

Speaker 1:

I want you to recognize that you are right where you need to be right now. Also, you can change and shift. It will be hard, it will be challenging, but if you don't do it, I Want you to think about that. If I didn't shift, I know I would not be where I am today. My health would have continued to be to worsen. I Would continue to be depressed and have more mental issues, which now I'm like Better. I wouldn't be behind this microphone talking to you, my friend. I Know that there was good out of this journey and that is the gift that it brought me. It was something that I had to experience. Remember, my friend, you are not alone as caregivers. We all understand it. I understand it. There are Things that we experience that we never, ever thought we would experience Relationship-wide, emotionally, physically, all of those things I Understand.

Speaker 1:

If you need someone to chat with me, please reach out. That's one of the services that I offer. The first chat is free 30-minute chat with me and you can go ahead and kind of share where you're struggling and I can give you some Guidance and then offer my services, or you leave and go on your way. I also have the, the Empowerful caregiver school coming back up in January. I will be announcing the dates within just a couple more weeks, but there's a waiting list out on Kathy L van dot com forward, slash and powerful. So know that I'm here for you and that's what we need to do. So until next week which you know what I'm doing I'm resting and recovering, but I'm getting stronger and stronger each day and I'm going to take this, this process, this healing time, as a gift and Saying, yeah, I was down in the dumps for a couple of days, but it has taught me so much and it has helped me uncover and unpeel this onion and it. And now when I go ahead and look at this coffee cup from my mom. I smile right now because you know what I choose to remember the good things that we did together. I choose to remember the growth that came out of taking care of my mom. I choose to remember the Caregiving I'm trying to think of what the word is the caregiving gifts that we receive as caregivers.

Speaker 1:

Well, I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Hey, I want to hear from you if you liked what you hear heard. Hey, can you give me a review? Or, better yet, send me a message, because I love getting those messages and I've got messages this past week From oh my gosh, I should have these ready Esther, lauren, and I'm trying to remember the other gals name, and I'll mention you again next week. Hold on a minute, maybe I can find it. If you hang with me, just two seconds, I can go ahead and tell you who the last person was Cheryl yes, cheryl was the last person and Lori. So thank you very, very much for those little little messages, because they boost and help me keep going In this journey of podcasting. You have a good rest of the week and we'll talk to you again next week. Bye for now.

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