Guest article by Caroline McGraw
I love the first line of The Caregiver’s Voice mission statement: to illuminate the caregiving journey. There’s an oft-neglected truth implicit in this beautiful language, and it’s this: The caregiving journey requires illumination because it leads you through darkness.
Let’s be honest, loving someone with a disability is not all sunshine and roses. At times the person you love can make you so mad that you are driven to smash an antique guitar to smithereens against your sibling’s bedpost. Or maybe that’s just me.
Conversely, loving someone with an intellectual disability can transform you. Love allows you to appreciate the details of their days, their most tentative steps toward connection. When they reach out to you, you feel as though you’ve witnessed a miracle.
Losing your sense of self in caring for another person is a treacherous road that will dead-end when you least expect it.
And yes, your most challenging relationship may be your relationship with yourself, given your own disabilities. When a particular trait in someone I’m working with at L’Arche starts to annoy the living daylights out of me, it’s usually because I’m struggling with the same trait within my own personality. For example, there’s a man I work with who seeks a lot of verbal affirmation, who constantly asks, “Am I doing okay?” It took me a while to realize: that’s me, in all my brokenness. Always checking in to see if I passed the test, if I’m ‘doing okay’. Always wanting someone to sign my permission slip for the field trip of life.
But this isn’t about getting down on yourself for your neuroses and foibles. It’s about digging for treasure in people and getting your needs met as well. To find meaning in your most challenging relationships, we need to make sure that you can stay in them.
We need to ensure that you can love someone with an intellectual disability without losing your mind.
Losing your sense of self in caring for another person is a treacherous road that will dead-end when you least expect it. You need to be able to give care without feeling as though your responsibilities are crushing you. Without stifling your heart. Without getting buried alive.
If you’ve been feeling any degree of suffocation in your current life and relationships, I invite you to visit me at A Wish Come Clear, which features both soul-full meditations and practical how-tos, all to help you accomplish one thing–to find meaning in your most challenging relationships.
Caroline McGraw, L’Arche Program Director by day and writer by night, helps you find meaning in your most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear. Subscribers receive a free copy of the 60+ page ebook, Your Creed Of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive).