“I felt for my daughter every day. I wanted nothing more than to take it all off her shoulders and put it on mine...I wanted to protect her and shield her from all sadness and pain...Still, she was so busy dealing with her own shit that she’d forgotten I was right there, right here, dealing with it with her.”
When My Soul Met a Thug by Jessica Watkins was an emotional read that centered around True, her journey with terminal cancer, and those around her. Although True, Coop, and Remi were the main characters in this novel, I couldn’t help but to relate to Angel, True’s mother and caregiver.
I’m sure we can all think to a time where we’ve had to take care of a loved one. I, for one, helped care for my grandmother when she was ill, so reading about Angel and how she cared and dealt with the death of not one, but two, loved ones really touched me.
Angel was an OG whose first love was killed right in front of her, so to learn that her daughter would ultimately die from a brain tumor was unfathomable. Angel sat back and took care of and supported her daughter, and her daughter’s children, until her untimely death. For years, Angel didn’t date or truly live her life because she was so preoccupied with her daughter and making sure she was happy and comfortable, which is a true depiction of what happens to many people when they are caring for a loved one. In fact, caretakers, unfortunately, suffer from poor mental health while caring for others. Some symptoms include:
· Avoiding pleasurable or meaningful activities because you feel guilty about taking time off from caretaking
· Inability to talk to others about your experience as a caretaker
· Anticipatory anxiety about the future
· Inability to enjoy activities you once found pleasurable
· Chronic irritability (Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 2022)
In the story, Angel exhibited most, if not all, of these symptoms. Often times, when one is terminally ill, most of the attention and care goes to the person dying. However, the caretaker is just as important. Here are some ways caretakers can restore their mental health throughout their time caring for loved ones (or even after their death).
1. Find support groups for people who share the same condition or caretaking responsibilities.
2. Seek professional counseling
3. Make your mental health a priority that gets just as much attention and intervention as your physical health.
If you are a caregiver, or you know a caregiver who needs some assistance, visit https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-resources/all-resources/ for free resources.