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When Anxiety Makes You Feel Selfish


About a month ago, my grandmother, Gram as we call her, had a stroke. It wasn’t a major stroke and we don’t know when exactly it happened, but it has rocked my family’s world as she struggles to remember our names or find the right words. She lives alone and for a while needed 24 hours of care even though her insurance company denied to pay for her rehabilitation treatment.

For the first few days after her stroke, it was difficult for me to be around her. I did not go visit her the day she was admitted to the hospital because I needed to give myself a moment to process what was happening. After, I tried to go as much as a could, but it was draining and sad. She was no longer the strong-headed woman I had known growing up, rather a softer version of herself who thought my name was Clyde. There were some days when she insisted that I had not been there when I had, which was more painful than it feels it should have been. And on days I didn’t see her, I felt guilty, like I wasn’t being a good grandchild. After all the years of care she had given me, I couldn’t muster the strength to go visit her when she needed it most.

Sometimes I would chalk up not going to see her as “self-care,” which I do try to practice, but in this case, it felt more like trying to make myself feel better about not visiting.

At one point during all of this, a friend texted me and said, “And how are you doing?” At the time, I was struggling and it was so comforting to have someone ask. I needed someone to ask, but I just wasn’t able to say it. I felt as though it would take the spotlight off of what was happening to my Gram and put it on me. It made me feel selfish. I felt like I was making it more about how I was struggling with the situation than what was actually happening to someone I care about. And that made me feel even worse.

Since she has come home, she has needed continued care. There have been a few times that I have stayed with her or visited to make sure she took her medication and fed herself, but there is this overwhelmingly sinking feeling when I am with her. What will she say? Will I understand? What should I say to her? I always try to have a plan in place before I go or else we sit in silence. Sometimes, that silence feels OK.

It breaks my heart that I can’t just deal with this situation, so I end up avoiding it. That’s not how I want to feel; I want to be there as much as I can, but when I feel like I’m drowning in my own anxiety, it makes it just that much harder to be there for the ones I love. It’s hard to be the strong one. Some situations are draining to even the strongest of people.

Image Credits: Charity Kennedy Bixler

Unsplash via Maia Habegger