You Want Me to Do What?
When author B. Lynn Goodwin became the primary caregiver of her elderly mother, she turned to writing as a form of therapy. In her book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, she seeks to bring others the same form of release.
Goodwin cites the research of James W. Pennebaker, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied the effects of journaling and found that putting thoughts and feelings on paper is powerful.
“Journaling empowers the writer, who feels heard and acknowledged. It opens up perspective and insight. It reduces feelings of powerlessness. Journaling heals wounds and enhances mental stability.”
Goodwin cared for her mother from 1994 through 2001. She knows firsthand what it is like when the parent-child relationship is reversed. Basic tasks can no longer be accomplished. Privacy is diminished. Confusion and embarrassment ensue. While acts of caregiving are rooted in love, frustration can lead to guilt. Goodwin understands the danger of succumbing to raw emotions. Instead of bottling them up, she suggests giving their expression free rein through writing.
The book provides several sentence starters broken down into four sections entitled “Thoughts about Me,” “Thoughts about Caregiving,” “Thoughts about the One I Care For,” and “Thoughts about Reclaiming Myself.” Prompts include “I wish I didn’t resent . . . ,” “When I want to escape . . . ,” “I feel burned out when . . . ,” “I love you, but . . .” and “I forget what it feels like to . . .” These beginnings are followed by blank lines so that the reader can write a response in the book itself, although Goodwin encourages writing in a separate journal in order to fully explore each topic.
There are no rules for using the book. Goodwin suggests skipping items that do not particularly move the reader and focusing on those that open a cathartic doorway. She encourages caregivers who have hang-ups about writing to put away their insecurities. No judgments are made on writing ability. The key is to start writing regardless of one’s level of expertise. Goodwin even suggests drawing for those who feel intimidated or creatively blocked by the act of writing.
The reader is not left hanging upon reaching the book’s final page. At Goodwin’s website, listed in the book, there is information about writing with other caregivers, sample prompts, writings of those who have tried the process, booklists and more. She encourages caregivers to develop their journal entries into letters, essays, short stories, poems, memoirs and plays. Through her book, she provides an access point for caregivers to share their stories with each other and examine the healing power of the written word.
Overall, this book helps a caregiver sort out frustration and love from medications and bedpans.