As a caregiver, I can understand fully just how easy it can be to hit the breaking point. Sometimes it comes with irritation, or worse, screaming at the person you are trying to help, but just as often, it comes in the form of an argument with someone else…one that has nothing to do with the things that are bothering the caregiver at all. Usually the breaking point happens over something that is so trivial that you wonder what your problem is. And sadly, so does everyone else. Basically it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just that last thing to happen in a series of events that have been adding stress upon stress, to the point that you just have no more patience.
Caregivers tend to hold it all in for as long as they can in an effort to keep on keeping on. There is no way out of the situation…you are needed, and you would not leave your loved one without the help they need. You love them. So you simply pull yourself up by the bootstraps, take a deep breath, muster up every bit of adrenalin that you can, and you go on. It’s all you can do. Then, without warning, something hits that last straw point…that breaking point…and you find yourself losing that control you have worked so hard to maintain. It’s like watching yourself explode. You would stop it if you could, but it is beyond that point now. Your mouth is engaged, and your mind has already quit thinking rationally. It is probably the darkest, most horrible, single act that a caregiver can perform, and one that none of us want to do. We already know that we will have to apologize for acting in such a way…after all, it wasn’t the fault of the patient or whomever it was that we have just unloaded all those pent up feelings on. They were simply the last straw.
Not only do they not know what they did wrong, but they find themselves wondering why they never knew that you were insane before. You aren’t, of course, but you are overworked, and you are tired, and you are emotionally drained. The person you have always known to be strong and capable, has suddenly changed into a weak and needy person, and that has turned your life upside down. It is enough to make anyone go seemingly insane. You had always thought that your parents would always be your parents, and they are of course, but they are also your patient, and your responsibility. The tables have turned, and in the process, your life has hit a turning point too, and you don’t know what to do to fix it.
There really is no way to fix it. You find yourself in a position of having to accept that your parents will never be the strong people they were. That part of their life has passed, and the future…the winding down of their lives has been set in motion. Even if it was just a day ago that they felt fine, there is no going back that one day. Time marches on and we have to go with it. We have to learn to make the best of what we have now, and take care of ourselves well enough that perhaps we can avoid that next breaking point…because if we can’t, we will once again find ourselves looking at someone who has no idea what they have done to us. All they know is that the person they love is somehow furious at them, and it breaks their heart…at which point, we lose all that anger, wish we had not let things get out of control, and begin the process of repairing the relationship again with that all too familiar apology.