I was recently asked to list three things I was good at. Easy to answer, right? Not so much. Sometimes, we are unable to look at ourselves objectively and therefore, it becomes impossible to have the same view others do.
Sadly, I struggled to even come up with one good answer. What? What am I good at? For that matter, what are my hobbies now? Now that I am a caregiver and a mother and have so little time to myself I cannot think of anything I would classify as my hobby. I know what hobbies used to fill my spare time, but now I was at a loss for anything to list about myself. For some reason, I could come up with plenty of things that needed some self-improvement.
When we care for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, even in the earlier stages, we all lose pieces of ourselves, just as our loved one we are caring for loses pieces of themselves as the disease progresses. As my husband, Jim, has declined in cognitive abilities, I have had to burden more and more of the household responsibilities. As I have struggled to keep up, I have lost track of me. When I say this, I mean, I am so focused on him and the kids and the house and bills and just day to day mundane stuff, I very seldom have time or energy to look inward at the things that make me happy or reflect on the things I enjoy.
What would I do if I had a free afternoon?
What if I didn’t have to rush to the grocery store or fix a meal or throw in another load of laundry? Would I sit and read a book? Would I work in the yard? Would I actually dare to dream of visiting a museum and slowly perusing through the items on display? Without distraction and without having to constantly keep track of another human being?
Each day I find myself focusing on something I need to do better or something I did wrong. I now feel like I have accomplished something major when all I have done is gone through the mail or looked over homework. It is easier to try to fix myself than it is to focus on the fact I can’t fix Jim. All I can do is sit on the sidelines and watch his decline. My spirit breaks a little each day as we sift through what Jim is still capable of doing and realize what he can no longer manage. And when I say it breaks my spirit, I mean it breaks my will to do much outside of what I absolutely have to do at that very moment. Part of having a hobby or working on something to become the best you can be, is using your energy and time to be in the now of an activity you enjoy, one that challenges you and that you strive to improve your skills in.
Caregiving is so burdensome; it can become impossible to find the wherewithal to even imagine tackling something just for fun. In spite of that feeling of impossibility, I encourage you to try to find a way to find yourself and what you enjoy doing again. Even if you can’t get to it today, plan for tomorrow.
It is so important for caregivers who live the life of constant worry and dread to find themselves again and hold on tight. It is so easy to lose sight of who you are inside as a “normal” person. Find that originality that made you “you” and don’t let it go.