14 Chapter One
children and the quality of their life in general. They frequently
use words such as the ones that follow to describe the combina-
tion of barbed wire and butterflies swirling around their gut and
“I tried to calculate in my head . . .”
Some feel they relinquished control of their lives at some
point along the way and desperately want to take it back. The
tunnel vision that burnout brings leaves them feeling their op-
tions are limited. They are so overwhelmed by the situation that
they cannot see the world of choices available to them.
“. . . how hard would I have to hit them . . .”
Instead of seeing a world of options, their minds focus like
lasers on the stress and tension eating away at them. Their sin-
gular focus overshadows dreams and goals, clutters emotions,
drains joyfulness, and kills relationships.
“. . . to hurt myself enough to get some rest in the hospital but not
quite kill myself.”
Minds are often consumed with hurtful and dangerous
thoughts meant to stop suffering and resuscitate dying smiles.
“I thought it was the only way I would be able to find some calm
and clear my head.”
The first time a provider said she had contemplated driving
into a clump of trees so she could get some rest and maybe get
her smile back for a while during rehab, I was worried. When I
heard an almost identical story from another provider a thou-
sand miles away, I was shocked. Hearing a third version of the
story from yet another caregiver was numbing. These same
stories were not just a coincidence. They revealed the reality that
the job of a caregiver can eat away at one’s happiness—for even
the most dedicated caregiver—if that caregiver does not make a
conscious effort to maintain his or her happiness.