Coping Skills – 3

I have been going over the list of important coping skills found in Dr. Natalie N. Edmonds free, Careblazer Survival Guide. (Have you gone to the Careblazer web site, or You Tube and downloaded your FREE copy of the, Careblazer Survival Guide? It provides some great foundational teaching to help you both thrive and survive.) We’ve already looked at: Think Humorous, Think matter of fact, and Think honestly. Today we’re going to discuss, think future, and think Like You.   

If you’ve been following this blog then you know that I’ve already written quite a bit about thinking, and planning about your future. Two articles, Joyful Ambiguity and Hopeful ambiguity, were about this subject.  Dr. Natalie also knows that when you’re going through a terrible time hope will give you strength. Sometimes a situation is so bad that the only place you can find hope is after it’s over. Dr. Natalie give the example, “Think Future: “I don’t really like this but know that one day he won’t be around to say anything at all.”

The trouble with thinking hopefully about your future is that it includes your Loved One’s death, and that makes us feel guilty. Most of the time, this guilt is totally undeserved. If you’re not plotting ways in which to hasten their death, you have nothing to feel guilty about. I remember, as a child, I really believed that if I thought or wished for something hard enough that it would happen. A lot of children have this god complex, which causes incredible guilt when divorce, death, or sickness happens in the family.  Saint Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” 1 Cor. 13:11 NASB.

 One thing that I had to give up, when I became an adult, was the god complex. I came to realize that there is only one God and that it is not me. Therefore, when I think about the future, I follow the teaching of the Apostle James who says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live, and we shall do this and that.” James 4:13-15 RSVCE. If  the Lord wills, I will be around to take care of Harriet for the rest of her life.

As an adult I must face, head on, things that I don’t like. For example, Harriet has FrontoTemporal Dementia, which is a terminal disease. At the current time, there is no cure, no way to slow it down, or make it better. There is also no way to know how long the process is; some people will only live three years after diagnosis, others will go twenty or more years. Long time or short, the end result will be death.  Do I like this prognosis? Not at all! What can I do about it?  Not one thing, except take care of Harriet to the best of my ability. Also, a very Important thing to do, is to do my best to take care of myself so that I can live to care for her.

Before I continue, I would like to say three things: First, much of the advice, council, and teaching from both Dr. Natalie and Teepa Snow, are for the majority of Caregivers whose Loved Ones are not consistently insulting, threatening or violent. If you have tried every tip, coping skill, and teaching and are still being insulted, or threatened with violence you need to try other tactics. Please understand, I’m thinking about a small minority of people who really will hurt, or even kill, you.

I don’t pretend to have any answers, because I am not in such a precarious position. However, it seems to me, that you need to do everything you can to protect yourself, your assets, and your health. This may include the police, lawyers, legal system, doctors, hospitals, or the National Guard!!! (Okay, I went too far.) Or it may include separate bedrooms with a secure lock on your door. All I’m saying is that the person you fell in love with, who wouldn’t hurt a flea, is gone, and they are not coming back. They have irreparable damage to their brain which explains their insulting, demeaning, rude, and violent behavior.

The second thing is, no matter how bad your Loved One’s behavior is, the teaching from Dr. Natalie and Teepa Snow, can help you maintain your sanity. This is because, if you can get to the point where the insults, threats, and insane behavior, rolls off your back like water off a duck, you’ll be healthier. I don’t think this is easy, or possible to do 100% of the time. You know you’re doing well when you can say, “If the old you would see you treat me like this, he would throw you out the door.”

The third thing is, for the teaching and advice to work you need to embody it. That is, you are not Teepa Snow or Dr, Natalie, so you need to understand their teaching so well that it seems like something you would normally say or do.

When I was a Lutheran Pastor, I taught a number of classes on how to share the gospel story. One problem would be that many people would run home and lay the teaching on the person, usually a spouse or their children, that they wanted to see come to faith. However, because they didn’t usually act or talk like that, it would be completely rejected. Their Loved one would think, “Who are you and what have   you done with my mother?” It came across as a sales pitch, instead of a sharing of something that was dear to their heart. The people who knew the teaching so well, that they made it their own, were more successful at sharing. This is because they were less nervous and seemed more natural.

This is why Dr. Natalie advises us to, “Think like you: What can you picture yourself saying, in your mind, that would be helpful in getting you through the difficult moments? Use words that you can hear yourself saying. Remember, this is just in your mind so you can be as true to yourself as you want. Without fear pf anyone else knowing. Write your statement on a piece of paper.” In other words, take the teaching and think, “How would I say or do this?”  

I pray everyday and give our future to the lord. He knew about Harriet’s Dementia long before we were even aware that there was a problem. In 2015, when I was 65, I was planning my retirement, which was to take place in October. I asked the Lord, almost everyday, “what would you have me do after retirement?”  I’ve never heard an audible voice, but I was sure the Lord was saying that he wanted me to write, and take care of Harriet. If you know my wife she was never a woman who liked to be taken care of. She would  quickly tell  you that she could take care of herself. Then in September of 2018 the diagnosis of FTD was given and I  clearly understood what the Lord was saying.

By God’s grace I will live and take care of Harriet until the day she dies. However, I have to cooperate with God’s grace by taking care of myself. If I continue to gain weight, never exercise, eat piles of junk food, and am a stressed out wreak, I will probably die before her.  Reminds me of a story of a woman who died and went to heaven. She stood before the Lord and spoke of all the reasons why she should be given a few more years. The Lord said, “Since everything you mentioned is out of love and concern for other people, I will give you thirty more years.” Her spirit went back, she revived, and was overjoyed at the thought of thirty more years. Now that she knew how much longer she had, she became quite self centered. She had a face lift, tummy tuck, colored her hair and looked twenty years younger. One morning she was crossing the road and was hit by a truck and killed. Once again she stood before the throne of God.  “Lord,” she said, ”You gave me thirty more years! But here I am again after only two! What happened?” The Lord answered, “I didn’t recognize   you.”

Next time I will finish this series and speak about, keeping your cool during stressful times.