When Caregivers Need Care

I remember one of my first meltdowns when I took my pastor, Dr. George Cladis, to lunch and asked, not too politely, “What does someone have to do to get pastoral counseling?  I know I might look like everything is fine, but on the inside, I’m falling apart!  I can’t afford therapy right now.  I need someone from the church who will listen to me, someone who will not let me pastor them!”

I had been a caregiver/pastor for a long time.  Fourteen years in ministry, twelve of them spent in Mexico with multiple Latin American students living in our home.  I cooked everyday for thirteen people.  Then we moved back to the US to my hometown, and I started my life over.  A year later my husband decided to move us to Austin (twenty one moves in twenty four years).

No wonder I was a nervous wreck when I landed in George’s church, Covenant Presbyterian.  He introduced me to Jan Skaggs, and we met every week for lunch at La Madeleine for about six months.

It helped.  But Jan suggested I get professional help.

I found someone who would take me on at a reduced rate (being a missionary for twelve years can take its toll financially).

Anyway, I was part of group therapy with Judy Haralson, a gifted psychologist.  I called them “my policy group.”  And they talked me through ending my marriage of twenty four years, resigning my political organizing (I had helped the religious right take over the Republican party), resigning my daily radio talk show, and starting a new career in interior design (after all I had decorated twenty one of my own houses).

I also moved to an apartment with my daughter to the northern part of the city, and the closest church was St. Andrews Presbyterian, pastored by a man I had debated on public television. 

“Can I just come to your church and cry?” I asked on the phone.

“Of course!” he replied.  I promised to sit in the back so I wouldn’t make a scene.  Then Jim Rigby, the pastor, met with me every Friday for breakfast for about a year and a half and listened to me reprogram my life.  So grateful.

I am going to fast forward about fifteen years now, during which time I met and married a man with seven children, was SVP for a bank services company, and President of Leadership Houston. I had the joy of seeing my daughter happily married and became a grandmother to two adorable girls.

I now find myself caring for my husband who has been on medical disability since December.  My mother is in her final stage of dementia, and my stepdad has dinner with us almost every night.  We have often mixed our tears with our dinner.

I am not complaining.  I am just saying that caregivers sometimes need a break.

That is why yesterday, Easter Sunday, I asked for the day off.  I said to my husband, “Remember when your mom told you to go outside and play?  Well, I’m saying that to you today.  Don’t come home till dark.”  He knows I adore him, so he did not take offence.

I spent the day giving this caregiver the care she needs…lots of silence, reading, and meditation.

I am so thankful for the people in my life, who have helped me on my journey, but I know it is I who has to make sure I take care of myself.

How do you take care of yourself?



One comment on “When Caregivers Need Care”

  1. Interesting view. I, personally, would have never considered missionary work “care giving” but we’re all have different definitions.
    Care giving in our world, is having elderly live in our home, or special needs children & adults I care for. Both of which are 24/7 care giving. We all need to take stock in ourselves. Is what we’re doing taking too much out on us? Take time to keep ourselves healthy and happy. Otberwise, it effects those we care for.

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