Stress. It can manifest itself in many different forms. Years of research has determined not only can it cause health issues, personality changes, and loss of sleep, but it can also change the make up of our very chromosomes.

Being a caregiver is arguably one of the most stressful life events. And it can last anywhere from a day to decades. Sometimes it involves caring for more than one person. Sometimes it determines your career path, your friendships, your income, your mental state, your health, your ability to think clearly and your ability to care for yourself.
I have often described my time since Jim has died as a period of self growth and extreme sadness. I also have been adamant that many of my symptoms have been the same as those describing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So I take time to think back through the years of caregiving and try to determine what I could have done differently. What could I have done to change my “post Jim” life? Could I have saved myself from all of the agony and these multitudes of emotions and the trauma I experience daily? How can someone who is barely hanging on, sometimes for years, have enough foresight to focus and work on creating a better life for the future?

It is difficult just maintaining sanity and keeping an emotional grip as you watch your loved one slowly morphing into a stranger let alone try to figure out what you will do for yourself after they are gone. And who knows when that will be? Some days it seems like never. Some days it seems like any minute. The ups and downs, the not knowing, the waking up each day having no clue what is just around the corner, the loss of friends and family, the loneliness and heartache. It all adds up day after day after day. And yet, we are supposed to have patience and understanding and know just what to do when our loved one doesn’t know us or yells at us about something we can’t determine exactly what for or they wander incessantly and obsess about finding an item that was long ago gone from your home. We are expected to fill out paperwork and keep track of meds and keep up with laundry and the house and bills that were due last week. We are supposed to child proof the home for our spouses and our parents. We are burdened with determining if they are still able to safely drive or live alone. We are forced to cancel plans last minute because they call franticly about not being able to figure out how to work the remote control. It is laughable that at some point during all of this chaos and worry and isolation we are supposed to figure out a way to take time for ourselves, to give ourselves the same care we give our loved ones.

I have not come up with something I could have done differently to avoid these symptoms of PTSD. I couldn’t have slept more. I couldn’t have stopped be present for the changes in Jim. I couldn’t have rid myself of the worry and the anguish that enveloped my every waking moment, and even some of my sleeping moments. I couldn’t have taken away the pain I watched our children suffer.

But I can talk about it. I can share our story. I can let others know they aren’t alone. I can help educate people to possibly change the stigma of dementia. I can bring awareness about PTSD in caregivers and acknowledge caregiver burnout as a real thing. But it takes many voices. We all need to be heard. We all need to get help. We all need to help each other and find ways to change how caregivers are treated.

The loss of a loved one doesn’t magically get easier or better overnight. The pain is felt for a long time. And the repercussions of being a caregiver do not disappear quickly. It takes time to heal from all you have witnessed, all you have felt, all you have thought and said and done. Time does heal wounds, both emotional and physical, but it doesn’t necessary forgive. Only you can forgive and let go. Start today with helping yourself find your path and no matter where you are on your journey, let the healing begin.

2 thoughts on “Let the Healing Journey Begin

  • Jane Bagnall

    Thankyou, thankyou for putting into words My journey..Jane

  • Jean Rinehart

    My husband and I were married in 1972. It was true love and wonderful. We had 2 wonderful children. In 1986 all of that change with a traumatic brain injury that left us devastated. He had to lean to walk and talk and function all over again. His personality changed drastically. When I came home from work I never knew if he was humped up in the corner crying or had a gun to shoot me. I was working in the coal mines and after 15 years had to quit due to heath reasons. I went to college and became an RN. After working at a local hospital for another 15 years I went into Hospice Nursing. By that time my husband continued to decline and was more abusive with verbal and isolation along with mental abuse. Now it seems I can do nothing right. We went from the young happy family to difunctional. I suffer from depression, borderline bipolar, chronic fatigue syndrome, severe arthritis, and fibromyalgia. My husband was such a good man and hard worker and provided well for our family. He didn’t deserve to the TBI, stokes and psychological changed we have all suffered. I believe now that PTSD can be added to that list. I know none of this is his fault. It happened and can’t be changed. I have retired and taken on the farming and feeding along with caring for him. I have been crying alone and feeling like a failure and worthless especially when he is not pleased with something or nothing I’ve done. It is an emotional rollercoaster that has taken it’s toll on me. I know this sounds like it’s all about me but I know he is not happy with his condition. Some days he is so bitter that he survived. I feel that I’m at the end of my rope and feel like a total failure, worthless, and have lost all my coping mechanisms. It helps just to put this in writing and know that others are in the same boat. All my hopes and dreams are gone. I feel alone and hopeless. Thank you ever so much for letting me vent. God bless you .

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