I’ve realized this week that I may be overly sensitive to perceived criticism at times but then again, maybe I’m just seeing through to different motives. I am so afraid of not being good enough, of disappointing someone, that I feel like I have to do everything myself. For some reason, I feel like that if I say, “I just can’t do this on my own,” that I will be a failure. I know in my head that is not true but in my gut, I don’t accept that.
Before I became a full time caregiver/employee; I was a full time employee. I was excellent in my job. I received a great amount of praise; people came to me for advice; I was even Employee of the Yearonce upon a time. I worked very hard and many long hours to achieve those accolades and was proud of my reputation. I gained a lot of respect and became used to having people agree with almost anything I recommended because usually, I was right. I think that a lot of my self-worth was tied up in that recognition.
Then along came the day Lynn fell and could not get up. Everything changed after that.
After Lynn fell and was unable to get back up on his own and had to lie on the floor for three hours waiting for me to return from a conference, he lost all his self-confidence about staying home alone. He became frightened if I left for the day and he was no longer willing to try to move around on his own without me being close by. That loss of self-confidence lead to an emotional dependence on me. I found that before I realized what was happening, I was working from home more and more. Shortly after that, he was hospitalized three times for a series of problems resulting in excessive weakness and deterioration in muscle strength. Not being able to afford full time care, I got permission to work primarily from home with either his son or his Mom staying with him when I could not.
I hear all the time how envious others are that I can work from home. However, they don’t understand the emotional toll this takes on work relationship. When you stay home to be a caregiver, there is a lot of suspicion about how much you’re working. I overhear comments such as, “All Directors need to be on site so they are visible and easy to access.” “How do you support your staff or know if they are doing their job, if you can’t see them?” Decisions are made without your input. Others do your job “for” you because you have too much on your plate to handle it all. You hear, “we’re worried about you” from their lips but their body language instead says, “We can’t count on you.”
What happened this week was a prime example of such a mixed message. For the past month, I have been working long and frustrating hours doing some data analysis for one of our regulatory agencies. Usually, this work is done by one of my staff but she resigned two months before the notice came in of the audit and her replacement wasn’t due to start for another month. I was familiar with what she did but didn’t know how to gather all the data and how to handle specifics. An additional challenge was that the data I was analyzing was MASSIVE. I was working on three or four of these massive spreadsheets at a time with 3-4 separate software programs running to verify accuracy. The result was that my laptop kept freezing up and I would have to chuck it all and start over…sometimes losing everything I had done in the past hour. On top of this major project, Lynn has been feeling really bad with all the low pressures systems coming through and so has my Mom, who is staying with me as she takes chemotherapy for Ovarian cancer. There were days that I went from one to another then to a spreadsheet which crashed and then the cycle would start over. I was getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night and was exhausted.
At our regular leadership meeting last week, I was reporting on issues I was having with the data. As I was reporting, the computer problems I had been having for weeks started up. I was ready to lose it. If I could have thrown that computer out the window with no consequences, it would have been gone. In fact, for the past two weeks issues with the computer had had a major impact on my ability to finish this project in a timely manner. After the meeting, I got a call from my supervisor not to work on any of it pending a meeting with a consultant we had the next day so we could talk though some issues with the data.