Who Helps the Helper?

If you are a person who cares for someone as a caregiver or “carer” as they are called in the UK and some other places, you may feel like you could use some help yourself. Rest and time to regroup are critical to doing this work no matter how much you care for others. If you work in a job or volunteer in an agency that provides support or any kind of help to others you may agree that you are in need of help from time-to-time as well, so you don’t get burned out or exhausted by the weight of all the difficulties and suffering you see or hear.

Hep C can take a toll on caregivers, too

Nobody is immune to the toll that caring for others can bring. This is not to say that it is not noble and good to help others. But we do sacrifice some of ourselves in the desire to be helpful, no matter what form that takes. We are prepared for that reality, or should be, to a lesser or greater extent depending on the level of care we provide. Certainly some of us are more able to deal with the stress that caring can carry over time.

Time away and time to regroup our own self in the midst of helping others can be a challenge. If you have a family member or close friend, spouse or partner that relies on you for their day-to-day health and wellness, then you know it is not always an easy walk. Denying it will not make it more or less challenging, like so many other things we deal with. Putting your own needs in a box, or compartmentalizing it away will not be sustainable for most of us over time.

Finding a support system

Having a good support network, whether family or friends, or greater community can be as important for the person providing care as it is for the recipient of your support or care. We all deal with things differently just like always, and by no means am I suggesting that I have the answers for you. There are people who do care for a living and take very specialized training, but remember that they are trained and not necessarily as invested emotionally as you may be with someone close. The dynamics are different and that is not taking anything away from the trained caregivers because they fill a great need and may be the very people who can provide you with support in the form of respite.

Over time any of us providing support to others will face some challenges with fatigue and weariness. I have faced it myself over the years from time to time. Aging parents, peer support, and navigation, or just trying to be there for people who need help has, at times, challenged me.

Self care is not selfish

Even professionals experience burnout in fields like social work. It is quite normal to feel tired or exhausted in these situations because none of us are superheroes in reality. Trying to be there for others 24/7 is unreasonable for anyone to sustain without respite. We need to be aware of the signs and they are going to be familiar to most people as stress, trouble sleeping, feeling over-tired (exhausted) and lack of focus can all be signs we may need some time out. If I have any real advice at all, is to listen to your body and reflect on how you feel from time-to-time. I think we may all benefit from being honest with our selves and make us better at providing care and support for others.

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