The Importance Of Integrity For Care Receivers
© 2011 Michele Toomey, PhD

Integrity as it is used here means "honesty, truthfulness and wholeness." It is your protection and your way to wholeness, if it is your guiding principle in your life. The sadness and loss that you as a care receiver experience is compounded by the demands your disability places on your care givers. Physically you are limited by your particular disability. Psychologically you are impacted not only by your physical limitations, but by your emotional distress that follows not only from the devastating loss, but by your forced dependence on others. Honesty and wholeness are essential for you to handle these complex feelings. Care receivers are not "less than" because they need care. Care givers are not "better than" care receivers because they give care. They are just luckier.

A feeling of entrapment often flows through your being and the price you pay for the loss of choice that you encounter becomes an undercurrent of heaviness of heart. Just as care givers must confront the possibility of "martydom" you must confront the possibility of "victimhood". It is so understandable that the relentlessness of your disability wears you down and can easily lead to hopelessness and even despair. Such bleakness is a breeding ground for victimhood, so it is important to reflect on the destructive effects that victimhood exacts, and how integrity will provide you with the necessary protection from becoming a victim.

If you act out of the orientation of victim, your integrity is compromised. We are both physical and spiritual beings, however, and the orientation of victimhood focusses only on your physical dimension and disregards your spiritual dimension. Physically, there is more often than not, no hope for a "cure" or a significant change in your condition. Obviously, acceptance of that fact is very devastating and requires that you live with hopelessness for physical recovery for the rest of your life. Those of us who are more fortunate, can only imagine the pain of such a realization.

However, if you become a victim, victimhood increases the cost you and your care giver pay. Often, a victim response is to give in to the hopelessness, and therefore, the victim becomes depressed. Depression is a very black and bleak state that covers everything and everyone in its sphere. A care giver is usually a loved one who is deeply saddened by your disability and wants to provide you with opportunities that bring some moments of happiness into your life. When you are depressed, nothing can bring you happiness, so both you and your care giver are deprived of any uplifting experience and life is much darker and more difficult. What is already a sad and hard condition is exacerbated and often a cycle of depression and victimhood have become a pattern. In the worst case scenario, the pattern becomes a rut. Victimhood and despair are not the desired responses to disability.

Victim care recivers can also become very self indulgent. Demanding attention, never seeming to take into account their caregiver. They have a certain resentment that their care givers have freedom and no disability that confines them to dependence and /or immobility, so resentment can creep into a victim care receiver’s perspective. One power a care receiver has, is to demand attention and victims often become very selfcentered, never letting themselves think about the price they are exacting of the care giver. It’s as if they need the care giver to feel some sense of the deprivation and entrapment the care receiver feels. Unfortunately, intimacy and closeness do not occur as a result of such an orientation. Rather resentment tends to feed off itself, as each resents the other. Not a condition we want to cultivate, and certainly, not to perpetuate. We have seen that victimhood that is formed around only one dimension of disability, the physical limitation, takes a terrible toll on the victim/care receiver, and the care giver.

If we move to the integrity of including your spiritual as well as your physical
dimension, there is immediately a possibility for hope. Emotionally, you are able to
move freely about, and the potential for intimacy with yourself and others is available
to you. You can be aware of how those around you are being attentive to and loving
toward you. The feelings that this loving care triggers in you can warm your heart and
bring a feeling of being loved that lifts your spirits and gives meaning to your life. It is a
precious experience.

Such a shift illustrates the importance of integrity in your life. You have choices, and they involve being aware of your ability to love and be loved, to care and to be cared for, giving you a sense of well being and of hope. Yours is the choice of using your capacity to feel and to reflect on what you are feeling, and to express what you feel and think with integrity and care. You must learn to dare to confront yourself and those around you when you feel strongly about something. Your capacity to express yourself might be limited by your disability, but if you maximize what you have, you will prevent victimhood from rearing its ugly head.

If you feel hurt or disregarded by others, you need to express those feelings and describe those needs. If you feel you have been too demanding or cranky, apologize and express what was going on for you that triggered those feelings. Self revealing is a primary tool for preserving your integrity and for yielding intimacy. Intimacy with yourself and those you love, is still the greatest gift in life, and this gift is still within your reach, if you will only choose to do the necessary work it takes to make it happen.

Your life can never be the same as it was before your disability, but your capacity to care, to love, to be cared for and to be loved, is still yours to choose and to treasure. Bitterness and resentment, depression and despair, may very well visit you once in a while, and that is understandable, but they do not need to be where you take up permanent residence. The choice is yours. Integrity is yours. Choosing to live with integrity will allow you to live with intimacy and with love. Your hope is in yourself and the choices you make. Let your integrity guide and protect you from becoming a victim of your disability. Hold your head high and live freely from your spiritual mobility.


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