This week, I realized how important a support group really is for me.
For a few months now, I’ve been meeting up with some lovely ladies via a local support group for individuals with chronic illnesses.
Its focus is for those who suffer from a chronic condition to interact, meet, share ideas and information. The group is not focused on veteran spouses or caregivers.
But since I’ve been dealing with my own share of health conditions, including anxiety and chronic pain, I figured I would check it out and see what happens.
The very first time I met this amazing group of ladies, they were extremely welcoming. I felt like I could let my guard down.
The best part about this?
They believed me!
I mean, I’ve been here for years struggling to deal with my own anxiety and pain; while still making sure my husband and son get the care they need.
Caregiving can be so isolating. With caregivers showing higher levels of depression, stress & frustration, interacting and socializing with others is essential for caregivers.
Here are 3 Reasons Support Groups are essential for caregivers
1. Leaving the house for something other than an obligation
I always joke about how my time in the car is my ‘me-time.’
I can’t text, research the newest studies on autism or combat-related PTSD, type up notes for medication logs/doctor visits/IEP meetings/etc. I am limited to what my Bluetooth, truck and road conditions allow me to do.
Which ends up being nothing more but hands on steering wheel, listening to music, and answering calls I get via my Bluetooth capabilities. So, I’m forced to sit back, keep my hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road. Driving doesn’t leave much time for cleaning, doing laundry, checking medications or preventing anxiety attacks.
Being able to meet with people who understand your situation, is quite freeing. It allows me to do something ‘normal.’
2. They ‘get it’
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered being a caregiver, is that there aren’t many people who get it. Not many understand what it’s like being a caregiver.
They don’t understand why I am always so tired. Why I have to cancel play-dates. Why my hair and nails aren’t done to perfection. Why I sometimes don’t even attempt to put on make-up. Why my body is in so much pain. Why I don’t work, because…all I do is stay at home, right?
I mean, being a caregiver basically consists of making a few phone calls a month, washing dishes, cooking food, cleaning the house and then sitting on my ass eating bon-bons all day while watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. Oh and don’t let anyone realize that I am a young caregiver. Because, anyone below the age of 40 cannot possibly be a caregiver. Especially not for a child and husband who look perfectly normal.
But being around people who get it, makes things a little easier; at least for that hour we meet.
3. Forming relationships
One of the most rewarding things I’ve gotten out of attending support groups is that I have been able to form relationships. I’ve been able to come out of my introvert shell and interact with others. Support groups have given me the chance to find people who not only understand what I’m going through, but who are also willing to listen without judging. Have any of these turned into friendships? I wouldn’t go that far, but I have met individuals who are kind-hearted, loving, understanding and freaking hilarious!
The last meet-up we had, I laughed so hard, my abs hurt the next day. It felt amazing! I will be honest, though, it took me a good 8 years to get to this step.
Social Media is cool and all, but…
For the longest time, I connected with other caregivers, spouses and mothers on Facebook groups. And I must say, these groups have done a lot to ward off the total isolation that can come with caregiving. But every once in a while, I would really love to be able to grab some coffee or lunch with someone who ‘gets it’ and just have a laugh or a good ol’ rantin’ session without judgment! And that is what local support groups have done for me.
Recently, I created a Facebook Group called Caregivers Local Support Group and Meet-ups, where I encourage members to share information about local support groups and meet-ups. This is a group in which members from ALL states in the U.S. can participate in. It is strictly a group for informational purposes. I have to admit, it is still in its early stages; so I’m working on tweaking things a little. But if you know of a caregiver/spouse/parent meet-up in your area, you’d like to create one, or find one in your area, please come join us and share away!
To take care of others we must first take care of ourselves!
Disclosure: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This post contains affiliate links. For more details please view my disclosure policy.