Listening to caregivers, respecting them, supporting them

Years ago, when I was still a newbie caregiver and very overwhelmed, a friend/ colleague made the mistake of calling me up and asking me how things were. He vaguely knew of my mother’s issues and my problems of coping, and I therefore (I’ve always been naïve) took his question to be a genuine one, and proceeded with the answer. If a squirm can be seen over a phone line, well, that explains what I perceived, but I was desperate, and here was a listener…

Or was he?

A few minutes into it, he said, (I paraphrase and abbreviate, but you’ll get the drift) “Yes, well, sorry, hmm, ya, okay, so, must be bad, huh, hmmm, yaa, so, what else is going on? Let’s talk of something hmmm, ya, well, like, well positive…so how’re things…what else…”

Utter fool that I was, I answered, “There is nothing else.” Then it registered on my slow brain that he hadn’t wanted any of this rant. He’d probably expected me to be “positive.” He’d probably just wanted a couple of good, positive sentences from me before he went on to whatever else he had called for.

A full-speed train takes a few minutes to stop after the brakes are applied; I would probably have tapered off in about five sentences but by that time he had managed to sign off the conversation anyway.

I felt bewildered and also let down. I may not have minded had he not asked at all, but asking me and then not listening…

He never called again. I don’t know whether he took a conscious decision about it; it was probably just a discomfort he felt when he thought of me, something that made him choose to make other calls instead. He probably forgot the incident.

This incident happened almost nine years ago. As far as I was concerned, I was not asking him for solutions, or even sympathy. All I did was narrate my situation in response to a question. I may have come around to the point of uttering “positive” statements that society expects, but he shut me out before that.

Overall, this was just one of the early incidents that made me start understanding how isolating caregiving could be. It is through stuff like this that I began to realize that if I talked about the realities of my life, people switched off or decided to avoid me. If I wanted company, I had to pretend my life was very different.

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