8 Fears of A
"Helping Yourself Help Others"
Even as you (the caregiver) are struggling with your own
problems and feelings, you may find that the one you are caring
for seems moody, withdrawn, depressed, or perhaps - even more
unsettling - unnaturally cheerful. It can help you to cope with
your position if you have a better understanding of what your
loved one is experiencing.
People facing a chronic illness suffer great emotional turmoil.
The prospect of being sick and a burden to someone else,
possible of facing death, can be devastating.
In their book "Taking Charge: Overcoming the Challenges of
Long-Term Illness", Irene Pollin, a clinical social worker who
specializes in helping chronically ill individuals and their
families and Susan K. Golant, co-author of Helping Yourself Help
Others, delineate eight fears that people coping with chronic
illness usually face. These are borne out by the respondents to
the RCI survey:
1. The fear of loss of control: Your family members may fear
that they have lost control over their life because of their
illness. They may have made plans for their future, which are
put into question. They do not know from one day to the next how
they will feel or whether they will ever be able to regain
control of their life.
2. The fear of changed self image: Sometimes the one who is ill
no longer views their self as the same person. They feel less
confident, no longer attractive, physically weaker, and somehow
damaged. Maybe they lost their fertility/virility, their
gracefulness, their ability to earn a living or their
willingness to believe in God, and see themselves as defective
3. The fear of dependency: Once the reality of the illness has
settled in and the one you are caring for recognizes that their
condition is not going away, they, too, fear their loss of
independence. Hating to show any vulnerability, they may have
difficulty accepting outside help, or, giving in to their fears,
they may become overly needy and dependent on you. One of the
respondents to the CARE NET study said it was becoming more and
more difficult for her to care for her chronically ill daughter
because the daughter expected everything to be done for her.
4. The fear of stigma: Another of the respondents commented "I
share some with friends, but friends 'pull back' due to the
illness." The one you are caring for may become frightened that
others will distance themselves from them once they know they
are sick, as if illness brought with it some sort of shame. If
they are disfigured in some way or if the illness causes some
apparent physical disability - an uneven gait, a drooping lip,
they could be afraid that others will point and stare, causing
them to withdraw into the confines of home.
5. The fear of abandonment: As a natural part of infancy, babies
fear that their parents won't be available or loving when they
need them. They cry when parents leave the room. These feelings
stay within us and actually become intensified with an illness.
Even if yours is the most affectionate and giving of families,
your ill family member may grow frightened that you will tire of
the drudgery that the constant care involves. This is normal and
universal anxiety stems from the disease threatening their
personal sense of security.
6. The fear of expressing anger: When those suffering realize
that they have done everything possible, yet can "never" be
cured of their disease, they may become intensely angry. It's
easy to see how a chronic condition could give rise to lots of
anger. Anger is a consequence of frustration. Yet many people
are afraid to express anger because they have been taught that
this is an unacceptable emotion or because they're afraid of
driving others away with their rage. Or they're afraid of flying
out of control. Anger kept inside can cause depression and a
lack of energy.
7. The fear of isolation: Physical, social, and emotional
isolation can result from a chronic illness. Ill ones,
physically confined, lose the opportunity to socialize with old
friends and often find themselves withdrawing from them. The
fear of isolation usually doesn't occur immediately after their
diagnosis. It takes time for ill ones to pull away from society
or to recognize that friends, family, acquaintances, and co
workers are avoiding them.
8. The fear of death: Although everyone who is diagnosed with a
serious chronic illness fears death, Irene Pollin say that,
ironically, death is usually not what they fear the most.
Rather, their greatest fears revolve around how they will live
with the illness until they die.