Don’t Throw the Coffee Cup!
By Tammy I. Glenn, founder, HomeBoundResources.com
“Don’t Throw the Coffee Cup! ” was the title of my recent workshop and presentation at the Los Angeles Abilities Expo, with the goal of not only talking about, but teaching methods for managing emotions in difficult situations.
Group settings like this are some of the best opportunities for us to learn from each other, and I’m pretty sure I learned as much from the people who attended the workshop as I did preparing the presentation.
First of all, we have to start by admitting that we’ve thrown the proverbial coffee cup. Or, at least thought about it! I had one woman in the back of the room, who along with me, was willing to admit that we’d reached a level of frustration and anger that it got physical.
“He made me do it,” she said. Now, there’s the first and most important lesson of the day. We have more control over the situation than that. Nobody makes us throw anything in anger. We choose those actions.
What made this group so special is that whether or not everyone had actually thrown a coffee cup, we all seemed to understand how gratifying it was or could be to hurl that ceramic mug across the room, slamming it into a wall and having it shatter all over the place. “It’s a relief!” said one participant. “Yes, it is!” I agreed. In that moment, there is such a sense of control and release.
Yet, it’s only a relief for a brief moment because that’s when the next set of emotions sets in. For me, it’s guilt, helplessness, shame and a new level of frustration knowing that I now have to clean up the mess that I, yes, I created.
Use this kind of outburst as a sign that you need care. The caregiver needs care—and fast! You must arrange for some kind of a break. I’m also going to suggest that if you’ve reached the point of throwing the coffee cup—in your head or in reality—then, it’s time to call for professional help. Please pick up the phone and find a therapist to talk to. You are overextended and you need a better support system than the current one available to you. A professional therapist is going to help keep you centered and identify other resources that might alleviate the stress that’s escalating these emotions.
Low-cost options exist. Check with your local schools, or with Jewish Family Services. You may also want to look for a local support group. The ideas we exchanged in the Abilities Expo workshop were invaluable, and the dialogue reminded me of what it’s like to attend a support group where you find other people who can relate to what you’re going through.
Take care of you first, and then take care of the rest of your world!
Tammy I. Glenn is the founder of www.HomeBoundResources.com . She serves as an expert advisor on elder care/aging to KCET-TV Los Angeles, is a member of the Board of Advisors for the National Senior Citizens Bureau and the Executive Director for www.vcCaregivers.org. She has nearly 20 years of experience as a caregiver to her mother and is the author of “The Carefree Caregiver: A Short Course to Peace of Mind” in addition to numerous contributed articles.