Every week a family caregiver quotes to me the cliched mantra, "They took care of me. Now it's my turn to take care of them". This is an honorable sentiment; and I am not advocating that people, who are obligated (yes, it is an obligation) to take care of a loved one, not cling to that foundation principle. I am saying, hold your chin up too long and you're going to get a crick in your neck.

No matter how slowly a disease progresses, the moment that a person takes over a caregiver role is always disruptive. I don't care how carefully you have prepared in advance for your new role, the gap between the imagined and the reality is huge.

Most people believe that you should just take the surprises in stride. It's that "they took care of me" thing. The new caregiver also often takes the unhealthy approach of letting any negative emotions which slip in make them feel guilty and selfish.

Here is the reality of the situation. Your life has just been derailed, upended and scrambled. You have to completely create a new schedule, a new set of priorities and a new "normal". By ignoring emotions like resentment, anger and disappointment, caregivers are increasing the stress and anxiety which are already inherent in their new caregiver role.

If this describes you, here is what you need to do today. Accept and embrace these negative feelings without guilt or concern. Write down every aspect of your life which has been effected by your new role as caregiver. Leave space after each item so you can now list all of the emotions that these changes makes you feel. Finish your list. Have a good scream. Have a good cry. Have a good cocktail. And tell yourself that what you are feeling is perfectly normal - that anyone going through what you are going through is feeling the exact same way.

This lets you see all the ways this new OBLIGATION has effected your life and helps you accept that these negative emotions are not bad, or selfish, or hateful. These emotions are human and normal in your new situation. From this point forward, you can allow yourself to feel these emotions when they creep in without judging yourself. Self-awareness is self-mastery.

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