For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Love entails profound care for another person. Love is boundless. “One can never love too much….”
No! That is not true. Loving too much is as scary as lovelessness.
It is hard to see how positive care can be criticized. Even normal cases of romantic love tend to create a narrow temporal perspective that focuses on the beloved and is often oblivious to other considerations. In a romantic love situation loving too much means that one person in the relationship’s love is not returned in equal measures creating an unhealthy in balance.. Profound romantic love is not in its nature excessively wrong; but some cases of such love have a greater chance of being so.
With regard to parental love, some might claim that loving a child too much could be harmful as it can spoil the child. Others might argue that the problem here is not in loving the child too much, but in not understanding what is good for her in the short and long term. To this one might respond that it is precisely the nature of intense emotions not to realize the genuine nature of the given circumstances.
When a child is ill the balance of love becomes severely disturbed.
So I am actually going to rephrase the question – Can a caregiver “care too much?” My answer to that: Perhaps not emotionally — hearts are pretty boundless — but in practical terms, definitely, yes. It is possible to do too much for the person you look after.
Obviously, aging and ill members of family require different levels of assistance. Providing help is often the only humane thing we can do for our loved ones. I have researched this and discovered that sometimes well-intentioned caregivers overdo the role without realizing it.
The effects on the caregivers…as follows;
- You hurt yourself by becoming at risk for chronic stress, burnout, or ill health from not taking good care of yourself
- The rest of your life suffers: A spouse grows resentful and distant, you’re less attentive or fall behind at work, your child feels neglected and your friends think you’ve dropped off the planet.
- Your sick loved one, on whose behalf you’re working so tirelessly, is also negatively affected. He or she may feel resentment over what’s perceived as invasiveness, may become depressed over a lack of control in his or her life, or may develop “learned helplessness” and mental and physical skills suffer from lack of practice.
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from good intentions to brink-of-backfiring?
- You handle all the details of the person’s life so effectively that they complain of having “nothing to do.” Vic for a long time said “Mom I can do my own tablets…. I said “No baby, it is fine. Let me do it!”
- You’re regularly in doctors’ offices – but they’re the doctors of your loved one. You can’t remember the last time you had a check-up of your own. True!
- You can’t remember the last time you took a “day off” — that is a day in which you left the house, left your everyday life, and did not do the majority of caregiving yourself. Guilty!
- Caregiving is pretty much your main hobby. Not by choice!
- You prepare all the meals, even though the person could do some of the prep work or cooking – even if it took longer or wasn’t done quite the way you’d prefer. Vic prefers my cooking.
- You’ll drop everything to take a call from your ill loved one multiple times a day and then resist bringing the conversation to a close once you realize it’s not an emergency. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!!
- You have more fixed appointments in your weekly calendar for the person you take care of than just for you –i.e. no lunch dates, standing walks with a friend, visits to a gym. True!
- You offer to do things for others reflexively — but you’d really never think of asking someone to do something very specific for you. Absolutely!
- You cater to the person’s special diet needs (low salt, for example) but don’t pay any special attention to your own nutrition. Maybe…Ok guilty!
- The last time you took a vacation was a long, long time ago!. Innocent!!! I went to England for a week in May 2012
- A friend or relative slips and calls you a “control freak.” So? I don’t have a problem with it. Vic is my child and I know best. I love her more than any other person in the world loves her and only have her best interest at heart!
So what? I am guilty as is many, many other caregivers in my situation. We love so much that we want to protect, nurture and control. By caring we think we may extend our loved one’s life.
Tonight Vic showed me a birthday card that I gave her on the 31st of August 2002. In the February of 2002 Vic had her blotched back surgery that triggered 80 abdominal surgeries and years of pain, indignity and unbearable suffering…
I wrote “You are so special. You are brave, strong, resilient and caring. I love you so much! Baby, from now on we are moving forward. The end of all of this is in sight. Remain focused and continue to fight. I know things are getting better!”
3 October 2012 I would write: “You are so special. You have been brave, strong, resilient and caring all your life. I love you so much! Baby, from now on we are living one day at a time. The end is in sight. I am sorry I held you back for so many years. I am so sorry for the pain I have allowed you to suffer and endure seeking a cure. Know whatever I did was done in the name of love. Please forgive me. It is okay to let go now. Go in peace my beloved child. I love you more than life!”
So, in conclusion I must admit to myself, I have loved Vic with an obsessive, possessive all-consuming love all her life. From the first time she moved in my belly I loved her. When she wrapped her tiny fingers around mine I was lost…. I love you too much, child of mine, now and forever!