We may feel judged by others, but we judge ourselves the most.
Bear with me as I tell you the story of Tucker and his shin fracture. I was away for a weekend, meeting up with college friends that I had not seen in two years. We were able to plan for a weekend when I was not caring for mom. My neighbor, who is a dog sitter, was available to come stay with Tucker. In the past, mom would have watched my dog, but Tucker is still a puppy. He is full of playfulness and energy; we call him the “wild child.” I don’t trust him not to get in mom’s way if I am not watching him closely.
The weekend was great. After two years we were all together, catching up on our lives, eating and drinking way too much. I was about two hours from coming home when the dog sitter called. “He is OK, but he jumped off my lap and hurt himself. He won’t put his weight on his left back leg. Do you want me to take him to the animal emergency hospital?”
I decided to wait until I got home to evaluate the injury. The next day his vet took x-rays and did not see a break anywhere. We went home with an anti-inflammatory for a soft tissue injury and the direction to call in 2-3 days if he was not better.
To make a long story short, it took many calls back and forth and a 3.5 week wait to see an orthopedic vet who discovered a shin fracture that was not completely healed. God, I felt such guilt and so badly that it took this long for Tucker to get the proper diagnosis and cast to help him heal.
Does this sound familiar? How often do we go rounds with different doctors with our loved one until we get the right diagnosis and then we feel awful that we didn’t recognize a problem earlier or we waited instead of taking immediate action?
Because he is still a growing puppy, we have weekly vet appointments to get his leg rebandaged to ensure there are no wounds starting and the cast has not shifted. I must admit, these weekly visits stress me out. It’s not the time it takes out of my day that is most stressful, it is the thoughts in my head. I am judging myself about not being more aggressive and getting him to the orthopedic vet earlier, so in my head, I’m anticipating the tech and vet will judge me. Is it true? Honestly, after thinking about it, I don’t think they are. They see stuff like this all the time, but just the thought of the trip makes me defensive. Before I even get in the car, I have this conversation in my head where I try to explain what happened in a way that doesn’t make me feel like a crappy dog mom.
You know what, those exact same feelings of being judged and having crazy conversations in my head occurred when I brought mom to the doctors for her wound and her eye infection. I felt like I had missed something somewhere along the line that I should have recognized. I blamed myself for not being more assertive when something felt off about her and the response I would get is “I’m fine.”
Before we head out to the vet (or mom’s doctor), I find myself thinking about what might be said to me, judging me about how I could have done things differently. I find myself getting frustrated and angry because I don’t feel like people understand everything that is going on in my life. “Here I am trying so hard to do everything right, working to socialize and teach Tucker manners while keeping him healthy, with the right treats and EXPENSIVE dog food. Then he gets hurt anyway.”
It was this last vet visit when I realized I need to let go of worrying about what other people think of me as a dog mom and as a caregiver. If they are truly judging me harshly, that is their problem, not mine. They have no idea how hard I work and how complicated life is right now. Easier said than done, I know.
Recognition of the problem, my own negative and judgmental thoughts, is the first step to changing my internal dialogue. I know when I have a conversation in my head, I assign what people will say to me and the conversation gets built up to huge proportions. I’ve learned that what I anticipate someone else will say, is far and away more combative and judgmental than what they actually say. I’ve also learned that if I don’t end this crazy conversation (OK fight) in my head, I come into the situation with attitude and things really don’t go well.
What I am trying to figure out is how to put aside worrying about what people think of me and feeling judged about my caregiving for mom and Tucker. Even if someone is judging me, intellectually I know I’m doing the best I can, believing it to be true is harder.
I’m going to tell you the same thing my best friend told me: “Give yourself Grace. You are doing the best you can. You are doing God’s work. You are doing a great job, now believe it.”
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.