Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response to assuming too much responsibility. Caretaking in particular is a huge source of overwhelm. It is draining to be a caregiver. We allocate our time and energy to the needs and wellbeing of others, and what is left for ourselves? Very little. We put others before ourselves, expecting that they will in turn care for us, only to discover that they don’t have the same idea in mind. We begin to feel resentful when the same care and attention is not returned. We believe in an equal and fair exchange that does not exist.
On the topic of feeling overwhelmed, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Careaholics never quite know when it all happened. We were trained to believe that, if we just took care of people and listened and understood, they in turn would take care of us. We firmly believed that relationships are built on people taking care of each other, and if we took care first, we would certainly get the same in return. What a shock to find out that this belief is not only not held by everyone, but the more we take care of people, the more they want.
We feel drained, resentful, taken advantage of, and overwhelmed. Those seem to be normal feelings in the situation. Thank goodness we don’t have to stay stuck there, however. Just recognizing the feelings helps us begin to check out our assumptions about caretaking.”
It’s easy to feel resentful when you take care of others assuming you will receive the same care in return, only to learn that they do not feel the same way. Not everything in life is tit for tat. Few things are, in fact. Anything you do for others should be done with no expectations in return, but instead freely given as a gift with no reservations. I have learned the hard way that while we should aim to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, this does not necessarily mean that they will respond in kind. We make a lot of assumptions when we behave in this way. Just realizing this and analyzing those assumptions is a big step in the right direction. It’s important we recognize our own needs and not let our caregiving get in the way of that. Caregivers need love and care too, after all. We can’t care for anyone if we don’t care for ourselves first.