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IT’S the New Year! Let’s start it differently. Let’s be a better friend. I know it’s not easy because when you’re a caregiver, your life revolves around your ailing loved one. It could be your parents, spouse, child, relatives or a good friend. Whoever it may be, your life is busy.

When you meet people, you tend to talk about what goes on in your life and how very little time you have to do things other than what needs to be done. Conversely, you may be too tired to talk about anything. You don’t say anything other than you’re fine, just exhausted.

During this time, you may tend to focus on just your realm because that’s all the time and energy you have for. Then suddenly, you wonder where your friends have gone. They seem to have vanished. Where are they when you need them, when you’re feeling blue?

The truth is, sometimes, when you’re a tired caregiver, you stop being a friend. Without thinking, you may cancel on your friends quite often. You don’t return calls or messages as quickly as you should because you have more urgent matters to deal with. Before you know it, months and years would’ve passed and you’re quite out of it.

When you’re a tired caregiver, negative feelings can creep in when you go through your social media during those few minutes of your free time. You see your friends posting fun and happening photos, and you think: “I’m normally in that scene, but now I’m not.”

Life seems to have gone on without you. That ugly green-eyed monster called “jealousy” rears its head. If you’re not careful, it can make you bitter and even more reclusive. Suddenly, you feel lost and even more alone when this is actually the time you need your friends around you.

BRING IN THE SUNSHINE

Stop all that negative feeling. Don’t let it envelop you into greater depths of despair. You can do it now even better than any other time because it’s the start of a New Year. You may not believe in making resolutions, but you can and bring back the sunshine into your life. Chase those clouds and blues away.

You can start with a pep talk to yourself. Remind yourself who you were before you became a caregiver. What did you enjoy doing? What makes you happy? Remember, your friends love you for you, not your role as a caregiver. Don’t be afraid or shy to talk about what you do. It’s all right if you need to vent and offload your frustrations. But remember, you should talk about other things too.

Don’t lose your sense of humour. Learn to look at the lighter side of everything. If you enjoy social media and see your friends’ postings, reach out to them. I read that when people post things about their lives on social media, they’re inviting you into their lives. It’s a good time for you to respond. Sometimes friendly banters can be fun.

However, if you think they’re braggarts, are larger than life and this bothers you, you have the option of hiding their postings or changing the settings of your news feed.

FEELING APPRECIATED

Try to keep in touch with one or two of your close friends. Let them in on your goings-on. You may not have time to meet, but find the time to drop a note every now and then.

Sometimes, if you’re homebound caring for your loved one and your friends ask to meet you, invite them over. Warn them that the house is a mess if it is. If they’re really your good friends, they wouldn’t mind it. They’re there to see you and be with you. We all have our limits, and understanding friends will respect them.

You’d be quite surprised at how some friends are happy to be useful. They may even offer to bring something for you and the loved one in your care. That’s one less chore. Learn to be gracious in accepting such assistance.

Generally, people do feel awkward in unusual circumstances. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Sometimes they’re just like you – they isolate themselves when they need their friends the most.

If your friend suddenly drops out of your life, it doesn’t always mean that he is upset with you or purposely ignoring you. It’s so easy to assume things and be really wrong. Sometimes they just don’t know how to reach out, or they have issues of their own to deal with.

While you should try not to expect too much from others, when they step up, tell them how much this means to you. Feeling appreciated is truly a wonderful thing.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. She can be reached at juneitajohari@yahoo.com.

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