Dear Fellow Caregivers,
I hope this letter finds you filled with hope. When I became the caregiver of my son 11 years ago, hope was all I had to hold on to. Back then, I hoped that my son would return to the person he was, that our lives would become normal again, and that one day he’d no longer need a caregiver.
Now, my hope is that all caregivers of Veterans know that they are not alone, that they have a community, and that joy can be found throughout this journey.
My experience as a caregiver has been mind-blowing. My son is an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. He’s living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.
I joined the Caregiver Support Program (CSP) because his behaviors were far beyond what I could comprehend. I was stressed, lonely and felt guilty. I saw myself as a bad mother and a failure. I often thought, “Where was the version of my son who I’d dropped off at college all those years ago?” I was ashamed and blamed myself for not having done a good job in his life.
CSP helped me work through these feelings
The most powerful resources for me were related to self-care, “taking care of me”, and connecting with my fellow caregivers. I now know that I have to be healthy to be able to take care of someone else. I have information of who, when and what to do if I need help. I know the importance of wellbeing, and of eating right and exercising more.
With resources, I am less lonely, isolated, judgmental of myself, guilty, depressed, anxious and distressed. I possess the sense of belonging and knowing that I am not alone. I am empowered because I know who to call for advice in a situation. CSP broadened my learning scope, knowledge and understanding of expectations.
I have learned better caregiving skills that help me protect my son and keep him safe and healthy. With CSP’s resources, I consider myself a professional caregiver and advocate. I can advise and mentor others. I know how to handle my stress, my emotions, and I know when and who to reach out to for help.
My biggest accomplishment as a caregiver is learning to love the role I play. For me, loving my role as a caregiver was the only way to succeed. I had to love the process of becoming more compassionate, communicative, empathetic, observant and patient. But with all things, it’s easier said than done.
Resources that can get you through hardest moments
My fellow caregivers, I know that what we’ve been called to do is challenging. All of us experience feelings of loneliness throughout the process. Please know that you are not alone. Through CSP, you have professionals and other caregivers willing to help you through your journey.
There are resources available to you that can get you through some of your hardest moments. Resources like self-care courses, the Peer Support Mentoring program, and respite care, can help you become the best version of yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
We all know that being a caregiver requires stamina, the kind of stamina that we can only have when we learn to take care of ourselves as we care for our Veterans.
Take care of yourselves, my fellow caregivers. And know that we are all in this together.
A loving mom and caregiver.