We often talk at length about talking with others, but some of the most important communication takes place inside your own head. Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, dealing with serious illness is difficult. The messages we give ourselves do have an influence on the experience.
You are dealing with a lot of realities—treatments, doctors’ appointments, filling prescriptions, making meals, the list is practically endless. Any no way of thinking will make all that go away. However, we can make it both easier and more difficult by some of the conversations that we commonly have with ourselves.
Thoughts that may make it more difficult
“I’m not doing this right”: There is no right; there is just how we are doing it. Perfection is a myth and the chasing of it hurtful. Do the best you can and remind yourself that is what you are doing. We have provided suggestions for organizing and preparing which may help.
“I shouldn’t feel like this”: One of the most corrosive thoughts. We feel like we feel. Nothing inherently good or bad about our feelings—some are just easier to take than others. To paraphrase R.D. Laing “life is painful and that the only pain that can be avoided is the pain of avoiding the pain.” A long way of saying when we push difficult feelings aside for a long time, it only makes life more difficult. Sometimes we have to ‘shelve’ our feelings to get something done or to get through a difficult time, but sooner or later they will let us know they are still there. To the degree possible, it helps to make some space and time, alone or with a trusted person, to feel those feelings and let them become part of us. This may not be easy, but that it can help.
“Any thought that begins with “People will say” or “People will think”: It is possible that other people might think or say what we fear, out of ignorance or their own world view, or just being judgmental. It is easy to say don’t worry about it, but harder to do. Nonetheless to the degree possible stay away from the territory. It does no good and those “people” are not living your life.
Thoughts that may make it easier
“I’m doing the best I can”: That is all any of us can do and it is a lot. Often caregiving responsibilities are thrust on us by life circumstance, and we simply step up to do what needs to be done. To rate ourselves for how we are doing it is not useful.
“This will not last forever”: Most of us tend to feel that whatever we are experiencing now will last forever. Sometimes we want it to, but often we really don’t. No matter good times or difficult times, things will change.
“First things first”: An old adage but very helpful. Sometimes focusing on the few things that are really important allows us to let go of the rest and maybe even take a breather.
“I am going to take a few minutes to myself”: There are lots of meditation and self-help offerings out there that may be helpful, but even taking a few moments to sit quietly, breath, and be present to ourselves can help a lot.
If you are persistently having difficult thoughts
There are many resources available to you from online or in person support groups, talking with a trusted friend, or seeing a therapist. There is 24 hour a day, 7 day a week help available by phone or chat at The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255.)