I want to share a bit of humorous coping that helped me keep my sense of balance during extremely stressful times. Two things come to mind: my second childhood craziness, and my escape plan.
I experienced a sort of "second childhood", just prior to taking on full time caregiving responsibilities. There were indications of the way events were heading and it was pretty scary. So I retreated by revisiting the simple, safe, happy childhood memories which allowed me to prepare for the shift in roles that often happens between adult child and elderly parent as the aging and/or dementia process unfolds. I took comfort in remembering the joys of childhood past, as a way of girding myself for irrevocable adult caregiver future.
For me, this second childhood expressed in the desire to reread my favorite books, (the Walter Farley Black Stallion series, Nancy Drew mysteries, Albert Payson Terhune's wonderful books about collies, among others). OK, that part was pretty normal, very comforting and not too embarrassing, since I could buy those books as if they were gifts for children as indeed some of them became.
The other expressions of this were a little harder to keep under wraps. I started collecting Beanie Babies and Barbie dolls! Yup! Whacky blend of second childhood hitting at midlife crisis? Maybe, but I figure the retro toys of my childhood were both cheaper and less self-destructive than some typical coping or midlife crisis behavior. Better to turn to books & beanies for comfort rather than booze & bingeing. Thankfully, this slightly weird obsession with childhood didn't last long.
My other sort of unique coping skill was my escape bag. I kept a packed duffel bag of emergency clothes and supplies in my car at all times, just in case I decided to run away. Of course, I never actually did execute my emergency escape plan, but it imparted a powerful sense of control and possible options just to see that bag there "in case". A harmless, helpful fantasy to get me through the rough places.
I have not yet managed to pry similar confessions from other caregivers as to their own slightly odd coping tricks, but I'm sure you all have stories & secrets to tell. So, spill! You are among friends (not to mention, anonymous) here, so go ahead and share your own coping strategies and foibles. I'm all ears!
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Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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