It’s the thing no family caregiver wants to admit that they are feeling. Why? Guilt. We think we are “bad” for feeling resentment towards our child, parent or another family member. We do not want to be the one to say “Hey guys! I am not okay with the fact that my child has Down Syndrome” or “Hey Mom. I resent the fact that you have made a choice to have a child with a disability and now want me to take responsibility for your choice.” Oops. Do you feel that? The discomfort that floods your body when you hear someone speak their truth and that truth does not look or sound “pretty” to you.
Did you know that if we actually were truthful, yet respectful, with each other, resentment would not have such a hold on us?
You can define resentment as a response to an injustice (real or imagined) visited upon you. You feel as if you have been wronged or something unfair has happened to you at the hands of another. It is said that resentment, anger and fear go together like a 3-for-1 special…you are afraid of the future, angry in the present and resentful of the past. As if we caregivers didn’t have enough emotions to deal with already!
Oftentimes, caregivers feel resentful of the fact that due to their loved one having Down Syndrome, certain aspects of their lives are now out of their control. For example, a sister feels that she now has to kiss her dream of going to college abroad goodbye, as she must stay near home in order to help with her sibling; or a parent may feel that their child’s diagnosis is a burden, as they are all alone with no help to navigate these unchartered waters.
If either caregiver were to recognize, feel and admit what they are experiencing, seek help in the form of counselors, other caregivers, etc., thus confronting these feelings of resentment head on…then great! In time, these feelings would be processed and we would have no need to ever discuss the topic of caregiver resentment. But, since we’re here, we can all guess that, in the real world, the story unfolds differently.
Risks of Resentment
Harboring feelings of resentment is dangerous. This can lead to serious anger or even depression, neither of which is an ideal situation for any caregiver. What shocked the heck out of me was the fact that resentment can actually affect you physically! I’m talking headaches, chronic pain, insomnia, a higher tendency for alcohol and drug abuse, high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke…WHAT?! No Sir…No Ma’am…That’s just too much!
And if that is not enough, resentment affects you psychologically, meaning it will get you to a point where it is as if you are seeing the world through spectacles made up of pure negativity…all you can see is the negative in things (real or imagined). This of course then affects you socially, as nobody has time to be around a constantly negative person…nobody likes this, not even negative people.
What Can You Do?
1. Speak your truth. Find a trusted friend and tell them you are feeling resentful and explain why. Facing it head on and allowing yourself to feel the associated emotions will put you in a position where you are able to counter this thing. If you have no friends, vent to us here at the HappyDowns caregiver community. Join other caregivers who are sharing their experiences in hopes of encouraging and helping others like them.
2. Keep a journal where you record all your feelings and the events that happen as a result of your feelings of resentment. Journaling helps you to release your emotions in a controlled way and thus, not store them up and have them exit on their own, in destructive ways.
3. Forgiveness is key. Forgiveness of yourself and others.
4. Know that resentment is an understandable emotion for any caregiver to experience. So you are not a bad person for feeling this way.
5. If you feel overwhelmed by resentment, please get help from a trained counselor/therapist.
Caregiving is Hard
Caregivers go through a lot and are therefore in need of a lot of support. So, don’t be hard on yourself! Just be honest with yourself and get the necessary help that you need.