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5 Ways Working as a Caregiver Helps Me Cope With My Mental Illness

I’ve been working as a caregiver for 10 years now. Right now, I work privately for a few families. When I tell people I work as a caregiver, often they comment about how it’s such a stressful job. I agree, it can be stressful. But working as a caregiver helps me manage my mental illness in many ways.

1. It gets me “out of my head.”  

As someone with chronic mental illnesses, I spend so much time lost inside my head. I get caught up with my anxious, obsessive thoughts and am always trying to figure things out. But then I go to work. I go to work and I think about my clients and their families. When I focus on them, I experience the relief of not thinking about my problems for a while. It brings me back down to earth. It helps me connect with others.

2. It helps me see good in myself.

I get really down on myself, especially when depressed. I start feeling like I have nothing good to offer. But then I see despite how I feel right now, I am still caring and patient. I can still be a blessing to people, despite my weaknesses. That helps me. My clients and families see value in me. I see myself through their eyes and I feel like I am someone worthwhile.

3. It helps me feel competent.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not managing life very well. But no matter what is going on inside my head, nearly every day I am able to get to work and take care of someone. At the end of the day I feel like I have put in a good hard day’s work. I did something important today.  I took care of someone else and that is important.

4. It gives me order.

Dealing with my mental illnesses can be chaotic and overwhelming. I appreciate the routine of work and the tasks I do to take care of a person. When I am feeling a little out of control, I go to work and go through a mental list of tasks for that shift. It’s peaceful and orderly. I know the routine for each day. I know what is expected of me.

5. It gives me a fresh perspective.

Sometimes I get too stuck in a certain way of thinking.  When caring for someone, I get to experience life from a new perspective. I love that I can enter someone’s home and become part of their world. I can see the world from their eyes. I always learn something. And when I start feeling sorry for myself due to my mental illnesses, I see all the obstacles my clients face. It shows me a bigger picture and I remember how blessed I am.

Don’t get me wrong, being a caregiver can be exhausting.  It’s easy to get burned out. But 10 years of caring for clients has helped me cope with my mental illnesses, while opening my eyes to a multitude of new perspectives.

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Thinkstock photo via kzenon.