It is SO easy as human beings to want to compare and contrast our lives with others. We look at other people and think how easy their life is, how smart and well-behaved their kids are, how successful they are. It seems we do this even more as caregivers. She seems so calm and under control. He sounds like he’s found all the answers. They never complain about their loved one’s behaviors or challenges.
Want the truth? THEY’RE LYING. It might be to you. It might be to the universe. It might be to themselves, but they are. OK, they might also be new to the caregiving journey and it IS all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and Skittles...for now. Remember when you lived there? Remember when you thought this would all be OK? Remember when you read all of the literature online, pamphlets from your doctor or some other organization, or the “how to” books on living with dementia? You know, when it sounded like all you needed was some good pre-planning, a little patience, and medication, and you’ve got this? Yeah. I don’t really either, but we were all there at some point. Now, for better or worse, we know the real truth.
So as difficult as it may be, stop comparing your fruitcake with someone else’s apples. Dementia is a journey through the same forest, but we are all on very separate and distinctive paths. We might be able to see through the trees and catch glimpses of other caregivers, but we don’t see them completely. We might see the boulders on ours, but not the tiny rock that will trip you up on theirs (seriously, as a runner it’s NEVER the big rocks that trip me, it’s some little one that I didn’t see that derails me. I’m sure you follow me on this one). They may feel theirs is completely uphill both ways in a raging snowstorm, but not see that yours is all quicksand.
In this world of social media, filters, “influencers”, and other exercises of trickery, illusion, and misdirection we see this more and more. We put our best face forward to hide the pain and struggle that we feel. We appear to want others to feel comfortable and safe when we feel anything but. We look at others doing this and compare our truth with their internet spin. STOP. Stop measuring your success and worth with other people. Stop collecting stats on everyone else and measuring them against yours. Stop looking at everyone else’s loved ones’ path of dementia and comparing it to yours. They are all equally horrible, heartbreaking, frustrating, and difficult. Each person just comes to the trip with a different pack of tools, type of relationship, and attitude. AND ALL OF THIS CAN CHANGE BY THE MINUTE.
What am I saying? Don’t judge yourself against other caregivers. It will honestly only increase your feelings of frustration, depression, and hopelessness. If you really feel that you need a measuring stick, find ones that support and boost you up.
Cut yourself a little slack.