Do not expect that others will ask if you need help.
It is up to you to do the asking.
Communicate with your Family and Friends
Turning to family members or friends for emotional support and help can be a mixed blessing.
Their visits may make you feel less alone and better able to deal with caregiving responsibilities.
They can give you a break by spending time with your care receiver.
HOWEVER... other relatives or friends can be critical of the way you provide care. They may feel the house is not kept clean enough; or they may not like the way your carereceiver is dressed.
Recognize that they are responding to what they see at that time and are lacking the benefit of experiencing the whole picture and any gradual changes in your carereceiver's condition.
Harsh criticism may be a response to their own guilt about not participating more in the care process!
Try to listen politely to what is being said (even though this might not be easy). However, if you and your carereceiver feel comfortable with the way you are managing the situation, continue to do what meets your needs.
Schedule a family meeting from time to time to help other family members understand the situation and to involve them in sharing the responsibilities for caregiving.
Use Community Resources
Investigate community resources that might be helpful. Consider using in-home services or adult day care. Employ a homemaker to cook and clean, or an aide to help your carereceiver bathe, eat, dress, use the bathroom or get around the house.
Use Respite Care Services
When you need a break from providing care to your carereceiver, look at respite care. For example, a companion can stay with your carereceiver for a few hours at a time on a regular basis to give you time off.
Or have your carereceiver participate in an adult daycare program where he or she can socialize with peers in a supervised setting; this gives your carereceiver a necessary break from staying home all the time.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and particularly residential care homes offer families the opportunity to place older relatives in their facilities for short stays. The Residential Bed Availability Hot Line, your doctor, and the Area Agency on Aging can assist with arrangements.
Maintain Your Health
Your general well-being affects your outlook on life and your ability to cope.
Taking care of yourself is important and involves:
- eating three balanced meals daily
- exercising daily
- enough sleep/rest
- allowing yourself leisure time
Food is fuel for your body.
Skipping meals, eating poorly,
or drinking lots of caffeine is not good for you.
Learn to prepare and eat simple, nutritious, well-balanced meals.
Avoid alcohol above 2-3 ounces daily.
Being physically active can provide you with an outlet that is relaxing and makes you feel good.
Stretching, walking, jogging, swimming, or bicycling are examples of invigorating exercises.
Consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Your doctor can help design a program that fits your individual needs.
Leisure time allows you to feel better and more able to cope with your situation. Having time to yourself to read a book, visit a friend, or watch TV can also bring enjoyment and relaxation, and break the constant pattern and pressure of caregiving.
Sleep refreshes and enables you to function throughout the day. If your carereceiver is restless at night and disturbs your sleep, consult your doctor and fellow caregivers on possible ways to handle the situation. You may need to have outside help in the evenings to allow you time to sleep.
If you are unable to sleep because of tension, practice relaxation exercises.
Deep breathing or visualizing pleasant scenes can be helpful.
Continued sleep disturbance may be a sign of major depression, which needs medical attention.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Allow your mind to drift a few seconds, go with it wherever it goes.
- Wiggle your fingers and toes, then hands and feet, ankles and wrists. Loosen tight clothes, belts, ties.
- Sway your head from side to side, gently, gently.
- Now you have prepared yourself to relax physically and psychologically.
- Now concentrate, still with your eyes closed, on some one pleasant thing you really want to think about; maybe it is a place you have visited in the past, or your dream place of your own imagination.
- It might be the seashore, or high on a hill, or in a field of grass and flowers.
- Become totally immersed in the place.
- Smell the smells you best remember.
- See the sights it offers. Hear the sounds.
- Feel it, whether it be water or sand or soil or snow.
- Fully realize this place or situation you are in: if it is on the sandy beach, sift your fingers through the warm sand and smell it, hold the sand to your cheek, smell the salt of the sea, search the skyline for gulls and terns and low clouds in the distance.
- Your body is totally weightless.
- You are totally in control of this scene.
- It is so relaxing and pleasant and beautiful, you are breathing slowly, peacefully. This is YOUR place and no one can take it from you.
- After you have sufficiently experienced your peaceful imaging, whenever you have a chance, return to your special place, close your eyes again, tune in, relive those these special few moments in the world of your choosing where everything is perfect and everything is yours.
- This relaxation exercise can benefit you all day.
Check your local library or book store for books, audio tapes, videotapes or films on relaxing and managing stress.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
This is an old expression popularized by Norman Cousin's book "Anatomy of an Illness", in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he "laughed" his way to recovery.
His hypothesis and the subject of many studies suggests that there are positive effects to be gained from laughter as a great tension-releaser, pain reducer, breathing improver, and general elevator of moods.
It sounds miraculous, is not proven, but studies continue. Groups such as the International Conference on Humor and many hospitals use "positive emotion rooms" and "humor carts".
In short, humor therapy is valuable and it helps us through difficult or stressful times.
So for yourself and your carereceiver...
try to see the humor in being a caregiver;
write on a card "Have you laughed with your carereceiver today?"
and place it in a conspicuous place in the bathroom or kitchen;
read funny books or jokes, listen to funny tapes or watch humorous movies or videos that make you laugh;
share something humorous with your carereceiver, a friend, or relative; -- attend social groups where there is a lot of comeraderie, joy and fun; -- be aware of how often you smile; it takes much less energy to smile than to frown. If you can not get out of the house, turn on a Comedy channel, watch a stand up comedian you enjoy.
If you find that you are feeling hopeless, and humor or laughter is not affording you the up-lift you want, contact a counselor. And remember, laughter is the best medicine. Try it, you'll like it!
Avoid Destructive Behavior
Sometimes people handle stressful situations in ways that are destructive. Instead of openly expressing feelings, they overeat, use alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes to mask their difficulties.
Such escapes do not solve the problem and are harmful to health. If the strain results in neglecting or abusing the carereceiver, it is a vary serious problem. It is also against the law!
Seek Help You do not have to go it alone.
Turn to family members, friends, clergy members, professional counselors, or a caregiver support group for help and support.
Build Your Self-Esteem
Continue to pursue activities and social contacts outside your home.
Do what you enjoy.
Go to a movie, play a musical instrument, or get together with friends for a card game.
It may not be easy to schedule these activities, but the rewards for having balance in your life are great.
Taking care of yourself benefits you and your carereceiver.
Meeting your own needs will satisfy you and give you additional strength and vigor to bring to your caregiving tasks.
20 Steps to HELP Caregivers
(1.) Get help early -- counseling, assistance with caregiving duties, etc.
From the Summer '96 issue of Hopes & Dreams, newsletter of the Illinois Chapter, Huntington's Disease Society of America.
(2.) Involve your family from the beginning by sharing your concerns with them.
(3.) Access all the information you can about the disease and educate yourself as much as possible about its progression.
(4.) Have an awareness about the losses to come, such as incontinence, inability to dress, etc., so they are not totally unexpected.
(5.) Recognize the hidden grief component of your anger, anxiety, guilt and depression.
Expect adaptation, but not resolution, of your grief.
(6.) Appreciate your grief and seek out someone who understands it.
(7.) Recognize the signs of denial: for example, you insist, "I don't need any help." "Nothing's wrong. Everything's okay."
(8.) Acknowledge your right to feel emotionally off-balance.
(9.) Learn to "Let Go" from the start and share your caregiving burden. Your loved one can survive a few hours without you.
(10.) Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
(11.) Stop trying to be perfect: caring for someone with a chronic illness means your world has been turned upside down and you will probably have to compromise some of your personal standards of housekeeping, etc.
(12.) Join a support group early.
(13.) Take care of yourself -- physically and emotionally. Have regular checkups. Get as much rest and respite as possible. Eat well-balanced meals. Give yourself time to cry. Don't be afraid to acknowledge your feelings of anger, anxiety, helplessness, guilt and despair.
(14.) Hang on to your sense of Self. Keep up your regular activities as much as possible.
(15.) Take one day at a time, but don't neglect to plan for the future. Good planning can include getting a power of attorney, accessing community care early and filling out placement papers.
(16.) Be kind to yourself. Remember you are experiencing normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.
(17.) Learn how to communicate differently with your loved one if cognitive and language abilities decline. Good communication strategies help to avoid frustration.
(18.) Make sure your family doctor is one who is willing to listen and understand.
(19.) Accept yourself for being human; even if you "lose it" sometimes, give yourself a pat on the back for doing the best you can.
(20.) Follow the action plan to avoid caregiver burnout.
(Reprinted from the Horizon, Huntington Society of Canada Newsletter)
|Stress and Burnout
Copyrighted by Gail R. Mitchell 12/31/99|
This is an incredibly important topic that all caregivers must be aware of.
Burnout can be dangerous to you and your loved one who you care for.
Burnout can be very damaging and it is quite common amongst caregivers.
Burnout can result from the combination of effects from one's emotional feelings of guilt, lack of recognition, helplessness, family discord and isolation and much more.
Mixed with the demands upon your own strength, your resources, time and energy its is easy to understand why so many caregivers experience this sense of utter depletion.
Burnout affects your health, motivation, attitude and mood.
It can flow over into your personal life as well, especially if you are not conscious as it happens to you.
Causes Of Burnout:
Symptoms Of Burnout:
- The need to work hard = Perfectionism and high expectation of yourself and others
- Commitment, dedication = Not being able to delegate responsibility to others.
- The need to prove yourself = Pushing yourself past your limitations
- The need for approval from others = Not reaching out for support and help.
- Inability to say NO = Not being able to receive
- Self-sacrifice = Not having a social life, not living your own life fully
Prevention Against Burnout:
- Lack of motivation = Complaining about the caregiving role
- Lack of efficiency = Depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion
- Insomnia = Sense of being overwhelmed or burdened
- Headaches = Loss of self-confidence, self-esteem
- Backaches = Inability to concentrate and slowed thought
- Lethargy = Feelings of emptiness and sadness
- Fatigue = Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Anger = Frustration and easily aroused irritation
- Pessimism = Cardiovascular Problems
- Resentment = Skin conditions
Make a conscious decision to take care of your own personal needs and your health first while you are caring for another person.
The most important phrase to remember at this time is:
"After me, you come first."
If you are not strong from within, healthy and balanced physically emotionally, mentally and spiritually then how can you be there fully present to care for another?
Make a conscious decision at the onset of the caregiving process to involve the one you caregive in making choices, decisions, etc.,. encouraging them to take active participation in the healing, treatment or process until their transition from this plane.
I cannot express the importance of supporting the one you care for to take an active part in maintaining the quality of their life even if they are terminal.
Provided they are of sound mind and have their faculties, a caregiver should support their loved one to fully participate in all the decisions regarding the process they are experiencing with empowerment, strength, responsibility and much more...
Encouraging the cared one to remain independent and in charge of the life is so very important in times like this.
Where ever possible, the caregiver should try to work with the requests of their loved one in all situations, acting as a support to follow through on their decisions.
Caregivers must seek out techniques which relax themselves during their undertaking as caregiver.
This means eating well, getting fresh air, learning deep breathing techniques, perhaps yoga or tai chi, exercising, walking, napping and a variety of other ways. The most important issue is to reach some deep inner peace from within.
When caring for someone who is terminal and undergoing a slow deterioration process that we watch daily as caregivers, the process can be devastating.
It is important to look at areas in our own personal lives where we are perhaps dying a little every day because we are not living our own lives to the fullest.
We put off things until tomorrow.
Now is the only moment we have.
As caregivers we begin to see how short and truly precious life is.
Make sure you maintain your own personal life while caring for another.
You must make time for yourselves.
Bring in other family members, friends or volunteers from organizations to assist you when needed.
Find support groups on and off-line for your loved one and yourself.
Sharing with others in similar processes helps you to keep a proper perspective on the process.
Reach out and get the support you need.
No one can undergo this alone.
We all need support!
Never diminish your accomplishments - large or small.
When you give with clear intent and focus from your heart, wonderful healings manifest.
Be in gratitude for the mini miracles takiing place.
They are all a part of a bigger picture that we may not be able to comprehend at the time.
See if you can write down all the mixed feelings you go through. The highs, the lows, the old patterns, the feelings of inadequacy, the frustrations, etc. Writing, allows you to clear yourself to move on without carrying all the clutter or baggage with you. It frees you up to be fully present in the moment.
Learn to be able to laugh at yourself, the situations you are in with your loved one and life.
Humor is such an important healing ingredient especially when you are feeling helpless and hopeless.
Be aware of the lessons that you are learning from the process itself, from your loved one that you are caring for and from others who come into your life.
"Saying you love
someone is not enough.
It's how you treat them
that show's your true feelings."
- Ryan Mace
Why do family and friends ignore us now?
When our son was severely injured a few months back, we found out just WHO really our family and friends were!
Complete strangers are closer to us now.
My very best friend called me the day after my son's accident and that was almost six months ago...have not heard from her since!
I understand that sometimes these things are not handled well by others, but I try to be there for others.
I don't get it.
We've read several articles saying that Nancy and Former President Ronald Reagan
had experienced the same friendship withdrawal
(since his Alzheimer's diagnosis)
that you are encountering with family and friends.
Many people just can't handle adversity and either can't or won't be a part of it.
Unfortunate, but a real fact of life.
Caregivers usually have to tell others about their needs to get help.
People really don't understand the grueling nature of caregiving until they are in that person's shoes.
- Ann Landers
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
More than 12 million men, women, and children in the United States need some kind of help with daily activities. About five million are working age adults. About half a million are children under age 18.
Where do they get the help they need?
Primarily, they are cared for at home by an estimated 18 million family caregivers. A vast majority of caregivers are women. According to one survey, 54% care for their spouses, 21% care for their parents, and 17% care for their children. Over half of them are employed full time.
While most report feelings ranging from anger to guilt to frustration to depression, most all believe that through the caregiving experience they have found inner strength they never knew they had.
You are important!
As a family caregiver, there is no one who can do the job you do. Your emotional bond with your loved one makes your relationship special. It cannot be duplicated even though others can provide important services. Your willingness to take on the enormous responsibility of caring for another human being shows an uncommon level of character and compassion.
Even though your job is difficult and often seems thankless, you are a role model for everyone who comes in contact with you.
If everyone could make a difference in just one person's life, as you are, the world would be a much better place. As you work to provide care for another, make sure you take time to take care of yourself -- because you are important!
How are you doing?
The biggest mistake a family caregiver makes is usually not involved with patient care -- it involves self care.
Family caregivers often don't allow themselves the breaks they need. Sometimes they take the caregiving burden solely on their own shoulders even when there are sources of help.
They may wait (resentfully) for others to volunteer to help.
When no one does, stress increases and important relationships become strained.
If you've taken on the role of caregiver, pay careful attention to your own well-being: mental, physical, and emotional.
When you ask yourself the question,
"How am I doing?" and the answer is
"Not very well," it's time to GET HELP!
Caregivers and Stress
By: Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
The stress of caring for an older family member, of finding the proper resources, of learning how to effectively deal with the issues that arise can take a toll on BOTH body and mind.
It is essential to understand that caregiving commonly causes stress. Therefore it's important to recognize signs that you are being overwhelmed, and then to begin to find ways of reducing the stress.
This article will focus on food and nutrition as one important aspect of caring for yourself. There are many other avenues, such as support groups and associations to help you; but my intention is to focus on what is happening within your body as the situation demands more and more of your time and energy.
What is stress?
The stress response is a chemical reaction. Heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure, and breathing rate all rise, to get your body ready for action. Cholesterol and triglycerides increase. Fluid is retained; platelet clumping and free radicals are increased. These are all undesirable conditions. Too much stress can is linked to various heart, digestive, and other diseases.
Let me backtrack.
These are not undesireable effects if you meet a bear in the forest and have to act quickly in order to save yourself from danger. The heart rate speeds up in order to quickly provide the extra oxygen and nutrients your body will need. Glucose is released into the blood to fuel the "fight or flight" response. Blood pressure rises as vessels to unneeded parts of the body constrict. Respiration speeds up to provide extra oxygen. Cholesterol and triglycerides provide the building blocks for many metabolic functions. The immune system shuts down because it's not needed at the moment. The brain goes on high alert.
Top priority is given to systems that allow "fight or flight." When the demand has passed, the body shuts down the "fight or flight" system and begins to repair the damages caused by the stress. The stress response has saved your life.
The problem is that sometimes a stress demand doesn't go away.
This is the case when dealing with a sick or elderly person who requires constant care, reduces your ability to get a decent night's sleep, causes conflicts between wanting to help someone else and to help your self.
Many people (commonly known as the sandwich generation) are caught between the needs of parents and the demands of their family.
If the stress doesn't stop, your body never gets a chance to heal itself.
The immune system stays shut down, so infections, sickness and disease occur more easily. There's increased risk for heart disease, because the cholesterol and triglycerides stay elevated, the blood pressure stays high, arteries stay constricted, and there's decreased blood flow to the heart. Risk of cancer is higher because the immune system is depressed. And there's likelihood of depression due to the drain placed on the brain and nervous system.
It's not healthy to maintain this "high alert" level on a constant basis. Your health depends on caring for yourself and getting stress under control.
What can you do?
First, recognize the signs of stress. Here are some common ones:
Once you've identified stressors, take action!
- Dry mouth
- Skin problems
- Clammy hands
- Feeling faint
- Inability to talk
- Talking too much / Too fast
- Chain smoking
- Overeating / Undereating
- Diarrhea/Constipation / Nausea
- Muscle spasms / tightness
- Hair twirling / pulling / tossing
- Heart palpitations
- Fingernail biting
- Fatigue / Weariness
Your best bets are:
Nutrition And Stress
Plan regular meals daily.
Eat three balanced meals, with a small snack in between. This will maintain a steady flow of blood sugar, rather than sharp peaks and valleys. This has a calming effect. Good foods to pick from: Turkey, milk, bananas, pineapple, avocado, papaya, dates, plums, figs, pecans, walnuts, tomatoes, kiwi.
These all contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can be used by the brain to form serotonin, a chemical that signals the body to relax.
Get at least six servings of complex carbohydrates daily. This means whole-grain cereals, bread, pasta, rice, bagels, crackers or English muffins. Use butter and margarine sparingly, as well as fatty sauces and spreads.
Eat moderate portions of protein--two to three servings a day.
Too much protein increases alertness rather promoting relaxation and calmness. Try to make at least one protein serving cooked dried beans, soy products, nuts, eggs--these contain lecithin, can improve mental state, memory.
Use fatty foods moderately. They make you feel full, and take longer to digest, so that you're less likely to eat complex carbohydrate snacks between meals.
Drink plenty of water--at least 4-6 glasses each day.
Water decreases fluid retention. When we don't drink enough water, the body clings to whatever fluid it can get. But when we drink plenty of water, excess fluid drains out of the tissues, along with metabolic wastes that can build up. Lack of water can also lead to constipation, because the body prioritizes the water it gets. If there's not enough water to go around, the kidneys will get high priority, as will the brain and blood. There may not be enough left to soften stools.
Exercise And Stress
Exercise is a natural stress buster. And it doesn't have to mean running marathons. In fact, heavy exercise can be stressful itself. But aerobic exercise can help you work out anxiety as well as muscle tension. A daily workout can mean a world of difference in your outlook. Besides that it helps raise "good" cholesterol and lower "bad" cholesterol, and strengthen the immune system. That will help lower your risk of disease.
Good exercise can be walking, gardening, cycling, swimming, dancing or any other movement that gets your heart rate up faster than normal. Several ten-minute sessions throughout the day are just as good as a 30-minute workout.
Stretching is also good for reducing stress. Yoga, tai chi, and other stretching exercises are very good at helping you feel relaxed and at peace.
Other Stress Reducers:
Find a way to make time for yourself.
If necessary find a therapist who can help, a support group for caregivers, an exercise or relaxation class.
Realize that you can't do it alone!
No one can.
You need to sleep, to exercise, to eat properly, to talk to someone who can help plan care for your family member that allows you to care for yourself as well. Many nursing homes have respite care than can provide you with several days of relief.
"When a friend is in trouble,
don't annoy them by asking
if there is anythng you can do.
Think up something apporiate and do it!"
- E. W. Howe
Ten Ways to HELP a Caregiver +
Want to help a friend or relative who is a caregiver?
Here's a few ideas to help you get started:
(1.) Call the caregiver on a regular basis to find out how he or she is doing. Listen with an open heart--and a non-judgmental ear. You don't have to solve the problems--just listening is the best help you can offer.
(2.) Volunteer to stay with the care recipient one evening or afternoon a week, every other week, or every month--whatever you can offer. Encourage the caregiver to enjoy the break--and not worry about you or the care recipient.
(3.) Send a note expressing your love and admiration for the family caregiver.
(4.) Encourage the family caregiver to keep up their own interests and hobbies--and help them find the time needed to do so. Often, family caregivers feel that they've lost themselves, that their own personalities somehow got "fuzzy" or out-of-focus. Ensuring a family caregiver has the time and support to pursue their own interests fights off the "fuzzies".
(5.) Lessen the caregiver's load by running errands when you can. Offer to pick up groceries, medications, whatever the caregiver needs.
(6.) Call the caregiver and say, "Don't worry about dinner. I'll bring it over at 5:00." It doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to be from you.
(7.) Be a library runner. Ask the caregiver what books/videos/dvds he or she would like from the library. A good book or great movie can be a refreshing break for a caregiver.
(8.) Offer to make phone calls on behalf of the family caregiver to learn about community services that can help.
(9.) Stop for a visit--with the family caregiver and the care recipient.
(10.) Share a HUG! Caregivers give so much of themselves--they need regular "hug replacements".
The top 10 needs of family caregivers
1.] Information about community resources
2.] Help with feelings of resentment and guilt
3.] Help with dealing with the patient's feelings of loneliness and depression
4.] Information about the patient's diagnosis and prognosis
5.] Respite care. A break from caregiving
6.] Diet and nutrition information
7.] Information about where to get legal advice
8.] Help with housekeeping, cooking, and house and lawn maintenance
9.] Spiritual comfort
10.] The promise that someone else cares about and supports their caregiving work
The 7 signs of caregiver burnout
1.] Not eating properly
2.] Becoming more emotional
3.] Feeling overwhelmed
4.] Starting to withdraw
5.] Interacting less with peers
6.] Having less mental focus at work
7.] Having a disheveled unkept appearance
"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
- Leo Buscaglia
Get information about the basic caregiving functions:
Despite the best of intentions, family caregivers can cause harm to their loved ones and to themselves.
It is best to get information and, if possible, training in providing basic care. Basic categories include activities of daily living such as:
If caregiving involves giving medications, operating or maintaining medical devices, or monitoring physical signs and symptoms, proper training is essential.
- Transfers (e.g., bed to wheelchair)
- Moving around
Caregivers may want to know CPR.
Most Red Cross Chapters have classes in CPR.
It is also a good idea to learn about any basic adaptations that would make the home living environment safer or easier to live in.
Other important activities of daily life:
In addition to caregiving functions involving the activities of daily living, people needing care (as well as their caregivers) can benefit greatly from various activities such as ...
Some patience and planning in these areas can pay off in a better life for everyone.
- Conversation and socialization
- Life recall and life planning
- Physical activity/movement
- Contributions to family, home, and community Activities
Finding the help you need:
Take a "tour" of your phone book and Yellow Pages and see what you can find out by talking to:
Some other sources of information*
- Home health agencies
- Local social service agencies
- Local Area Agencies on Aging
- Area churches
- Local support groups
- Nursing homes
- Nursing homes that offer short-term stays
- Adult day care centers
Families USA Foundation
1334 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
The Center for Applied Gerontology
3003 West Touhy
Chicago, IL 60645
The National Family Caregivers Association
9621 East Bexhill Drive
Kensington, MD 20895-3104
Check in your bookstore for books such as:
Helping Yourself Help Others:
A Book for Caregivers
*Inclusion on this brief list does not represent an endorsement of any kind.
Copyright © 2001 by The Indiana Association for Home & Hospice Care, Inc.
A time comes in your life when you finally get it -- when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH!
Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.
This is your awakening.
You realize it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that you are not Prince Charming / Cinderella and that in the real world there aren't always fairy tale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you and in the process, a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.
You awaken to the fact that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are and that's OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions. And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself and in the process a sense of newfound confidence is born of self-approval.
You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn't do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.
You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that it's not always about you. So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself and in the
process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance. You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and in the process a sense of peace and contentment are born of forgiveness. You realize that much of the way you view yourself, and the world around you, is as a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into your psyche.
And you begin to sift through all the junk you've been fed about how your should behave, how you should look, how much you should weigh, what you should wear, what you should do for a living, how much money you should make, what you should drive, how and where you should live, who you should marry, the importance of having and raising children, and what you owe your parents, family, and friends.
You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. And you begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.
You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you've outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with and in the process you learn to go with your instincts. You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive.
And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix.
You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.
You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.
You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.
Then you learn about love -- how to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be.
You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. And you learn that alone does not mean lonely. You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.
You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want things and to ask for the things you want and that sometimes it is necessary to make demands.
You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less. And you learn that your body really is your temple. And you begin to care for it and treat it with respect.
You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise.
You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest.
And just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.
You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.
More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it's OK to risk asking for help.
You learn the only thing you must truly fear is the greatest robber baron of all: FEAR itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens, you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.
And you learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.
You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes, bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people.
On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn't punishing you or failing to answer your prayers.
It's just life happening.
And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state - the ego. You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.
You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls. You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted; things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.
Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself, by yourself.
You make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart's desire.
And you hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.
You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.
Finally, with courage in your heart
and with God by your side
you take a stand,
you take a deep breath
and you begin to design the life you want to live
as best as you can.
And, then the journey begins.
Enjoy The Ride!
- Virgina Swift
Unlocking the Puzzle
A Quick-Start Guide to the
World of Asperger's Syndrome ©
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