Even though I consider myself to be in good health physical ailments can still be a bother.
For me of late, it’s been my shoulder. Several years ago, I was in my house playing catch with the dog and tripped and fell, dislocating and breaking my right shoulder. My husband would be the first to say he told me not to run in the house, but it happened.
Five years after the injury, I’m still in pain. Come to find out, injuries like a broken shoulder can result in joint damage and cause post-traumatic arthritis. And a body can compensate for a once-broken bone in not-so healthy ways—like when other body parts take over for the injured area, thereby creating new problems.
My shoulder hurts when I reach up for a dish in the cupboard, when I stretch my arms to fold sheets and towels, and when I put my arm around my husband or my dog. These little daily painful reminders let me know that my life is no longer normal.
And that’s why I was whining.
It’s my expectation that I should be able to do these things without pain, especially five years after an injury. And since I can’t control this situation, even after repeated doctor visits and therapies, I whine.
Yes, I have nagging pain. Not Oxycodone pain, just Chardonnay pain. A little relaxation and I feel better. And while Chardonnay has been helpful, it is the whining that has done me the most good.
First, whining helped me acknowledge my aggravation with the fact that I am in pain. When my friends lend a sympathetic ear to my whining, I feel validated. When others tell me of injuries affecting their daily lives, our shared problem creates a common bond.
My whining has helped to relieve some of my stress over not being “normal” anymore.
But, there are downsides to whining too. Sometimes whining sets you up for those who may say, “Get over it already!”
In my case, however, it’s led me to a new approach to address the pain. So whining can even uncover new solutions.
I bring up whining because I think family caregivers don’t do enough of it.
Many have feelings of frustration, resentment, fear, anger, hostility, sadness and loneliness, all wrapped up in a big ball of guilt. And they sit on it, often suffering silently.
I hear, “It’s my job (as a son, daughter or a spouse). The person I am caring for is the one with real problems, so how can I complain?”
But caregiver whining can help acknowledge and validate feelings, create common bonds, relieve stress and even uncover new solutions.
There’s a wonderful website I’ve run across called www.Agingcare.com . Its tagline is “Connecting Caregivers.”
I was intrigued by the titles of some of the articles in its online newsletter: “My Mother-in-Law Yells at Me, How Do I Get a Toxic Parent Out of My House?” “My Sister Refuses to Help. Advice?” and What If I Didn’t Pick Dad Up from Rehab?”
I’m attracted by the honesty and, yes, the whining nature of these titles. I think they call attention to the raw emotion and challenges many caregivers face that they may be too embarrassed to talk about. Caregiving can be hard, traumatic and life-altering.
If every family caregiver took a moment to do a bit of whining to a friend or a relative or in a support group, they would quickly learn they’re not alone. The fact is, caregivers are frequently isolated and therefore don’t benefit from the advice or shared experience of others.
My advice to caregivers: Take some whine time for yourself today. You deserve it.