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Conflicted About a Caregiving Role She Didn’t Choose

Plus: Alone and anxious due to COVID-19 fears. Got a dilemma? Share it with Dr. Sherry.

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You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of Care for the Caregiver: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster, help the casts on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the hit show Braxton Family Values manage the stressors of life. Now it’s your turn to engage with her about real life issues. Girl, we’re grown. Let’s talk about it. Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.

Conflicted About Caregiving 

Q: How do I deal with grieving the loss of my father while I take care of my ailing mother-in-law? I often find myself being resentful for having to take care of her.

A: The loss of any parent or loved one can be emotionally devasting. I am sure that in your case this is even more overwhelming given that you are now taking care of your mother-in-law while grieving the death of your own father. This is extremely difficult, and your feelings of resentment are quite understandable. Caregiving is not an easy role, and it often results in many common feelings (e.g., anger, resentment, guilt, depression and anxiety). In caring for others, people often lose their sense of self and ignore their need for self-care. I personally understand this and wrote about my own journey in my book Care for the Caregiver: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster, which you may be able to use as a resource.

What I would encourage you to do first … stop, take a deep breath and acknowledge the need to take care of yourself. Self-care is essential and allowing yourself to grieve your father’s death must be at the top of your list. There is a saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup!” Right now, it seems as if your cup is empty. Refill you cup by taking time to care for yourself. You may feel like some caregivers who think that they cannot slow down because they are the only person doing anything or knows what and how to care for their loved one. If this is the case, you may feel trapped in your role as a caregiver. You must look for a support system. If there are absolutely no family members or friends willing to help, seek help through an agency. Check resources in the community or state agencies that can assist you. Many insurance companies will cover respite services, which is a temporary service for care. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness! Take a break to grieve and do some needed self-care. Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity! 

Confined and Constrained Because of COVID-19 Fears

Q: I'm usually a confident and outgoing woman. But this COVID [HS(1]  situation has rocked my world! I do not want to socialize at all, no one should expect a hug from me, if you're not wearing a mask, stay over there (period!). How do I get my life back to where I am comfortable being outside my home? Am I turning into one of those people that can't leave their home?

A: You are not alone. COVID-19 has rocked the world of most people! There has been a sharp increase in anxiety, depression and many other issues because of the pandemic. No one could have ever imagined the impact on multiple levels of our lives. Unfortunately, it is seriously impacting your socioemotional functioning. It appears that you are experiencing intense anxiety that is overshadowing all areas of your life. It is understandable wanting to be safe and follow all precautions in doing so. However, if you are doing what is necessary to protect yourself, stop and ask yourself, “What is my greatest fear?” You cannot control other people, but you can control yourself.

Sometimes, it is the fear of the unknown that attributes to anxiety and other emotional issues. Reduce some of that fear by getting information about COVID-19 from a trusted health care provider and only reliable news sources. Given your level of apparent anxiety, I would recommend that you seek individual therapy from a licensed psychologist or therapist. This will provide an opportunity to process your feelings and develop appropriate coping skills. During this time, most would agree to virtual sessions, as well. Hopefully, processing some of your feelings in a therapeutic session will prevent you from becoming the person who can’t leave their home. Things are highly unlikely to return to what used to be considered “normal.” It is time to readjust and create a new normal for yourself.

Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.