My father got into an accident last year that left him barely able to walk on his own. The reason was that his leg muscles became weak after being in the hospital for months. We signed him up for physical therapy, but his progress had been very slow.
That left me with no choice but to turn into my father’s primary caregiver.
You might ask, “Why can’t your mother or other siblings do it?” Well, Mom already passed away due to breast cancer three years ago. I’m sure she would have wanted to look after Dad if given a chance, but it was no longer possible. As for my older sister, she was living on the opposite coast. Even if she did not have a job, her husband’s company was there, so I could not ask them to move closer. Hence, it was only my dad and me most of the time.
Every time my father asked me if I was okay whenever I took care of him, my standard reply was, “Of course! I love doing all this for you, Dad.” While I was honest about that part, I could never tell him that being always at home started to give me mental stress.
Since I ran my own startup company, I could practically work from home all the time. My partners were kind enough to drop by if they needed to discuss something with me. Even our employees tried to help by making sure that the business was running correctly. The only times I was out of the house was when I needed to get groceries, take Dad to his checkups and therapy sessions, and walk the dog for 30 minutes every morning.
I wanted to hide my mental stress for as long as possible, but when my sister visited one time, she caught me crying in my room. I tried lying, saying it was because of a bad breakup, but she knew that I did not even have a boyfriend back then. So, I ran out of alibis and finally came clean about my mental health status.
Fixing The Problem
I managed to coax my sister to hide the problem with our father, considering it would make him feel guilty. That was the last thing I wanted to do, especially since I insisted that I could look after him on my own. Still, my sister said that I should consult a therapist to figure out how to deal with mental stress.
Here are a few things that the therapist suggested in hopes of fixing the problem.
Get A Journal
The first suggestion is to buy a notebook where I can write all my worries every day. It is practically like a diary, but the goal is to dump your disturbing thoughts in its pages. This way, they won’t bubble up in your head and increase your stress level.
When I tried it in the beginning, I was a little hesitant to write anything. I felt vulnerable writing about every situation that stressed me out throughout the day. I also worried that my father would be able to read them. But as the days went on, I became more accustomed to doing it. It was as if I was talking to my best friend, which happened to be myself.
Go Out More
One mistake that the therapist noticed was that I stayed cooped up in the house for too long. She said, “Your dad may not be able to walk well, but he’s not disabled. You can leave him at home for a few hours and go out more. That’s especially beneficial whenever you feel stuck.”
Because of that, I started going to the gym thrice a week first. I needed to see if being two hours away from home would be okay. When I realized that it was, I decided to go to the office a few times during the week. It was technically work, but I was still meeting different people, and that made me happy. My mental stress started going down slowly but surely.
Reconnect With Friends
When my friends dropped by at the house, I asked them if they were free to have dinner somewhere else that night. They seemed surprised, considering I used to decline when they invited me before. But I said my father was cool with it, so we went out to have fun.
After that, I realized that I missed having my friends around. We scheduled more get-togethers from then on and even traveled out of town when my sister was in town again.
The entire experience showed me that a problem would only be a problem if I embraced it as one. There were various ways to go around it; I didn’t need to mope secretly at home. Now, I am no longer mentally stressed, and I get to take care of my father—and myself—better.