After Jim passed away, I wanted to pull a Britney Spears and shave my head. I have never in my life wanted to shave all my hair off, but there was something that was pushing me to not necessarily go bald, but to be free of something and that something was my hair. I didn’t. But I did cut all of it off as much as I could without my hairdresser feeling like she was giving me a buzz cut. I asked for a pixie cut and got more of a very long pixie do. When I told her how short I wanted to go, she replied, “You have been through a lot. You are burying Jim today and I think you need to wait before you go too short. Why don’t you come back next week and we will cut it shorter and then if you want to take more off, you can do that when you have another appointment.”

So, I chopped most of it off, colored it dark and then when I returned six weeks later, took off a little more and eventually a little more and then over the past year I have gone lighter. And now, as usual, I am thinking of growing it out again.

After I got my new look I was talking to a dear friend and he told me his wife always cuts her hair off when she is wanting to gain control over her life. After having twins, she did the same thing.

I had never thought of myself as looking for a way to gain control, but I suppose that could be part of my desire to make a dramatic change for myself. I had been unable to control Jim’s demise. I have lived with the guilt of not being able to save him. I couldn’t stop our children from suffering an immeasurable loss. I needed to take some form of control over something in my life. And my hair was about all I could manage.
But having someone keep me slightly in check as my hairdresser did was also what I needed.

Through our journey in life, especially as a caregiver, it is such a game changer to have people around you who can point out different ways of seeing the same scenario, help you understand your thoughts, feelings and frustrations, and sometimes to give you a swift kick when you need a little nudge to get off the pity party horse and start living again.
While being overwhelmed and immersed in caregiving, there is nothing harder than trying to figure out your own life. The saying about seeing the forest through the trees has never rung more true.

Trying to carve out time to relax, or exercise or to see friends might feel like an impossible undertaking. There never seems enough time and when you do have a free moment (do you really?) you only want to sleep. The last thing you want to do is be around people who definitely don’t understand what your typical day is like and try to be cheery or smile or even think about laughing. So what fun will you be? What’s the use? I will tell you…do it anyway. Go do something. It doesn’t matter what it is or who it is with….go find a way to do something new, something different, something that will make you smile, or laugh or possibly, maybe, forget about all of the stress in your life for just a few moments. It won’t be easy and it may take some maneuvering on your part but it will be worth it. And then, do it again in a week or so. You deserve this time for yourself.

One day, you will not be a caregiver and you will need to find yourself again because you won’t know who you are when you aren’t surrounded by decisions and cleaning and watching and waiting and worrying and exhaustion.

You will, believe it or not, be able to do whatever you want to do. And you will need to know what you want to do because it will have been so long, you just don’t know what interests you anymore. Who you used to be has been eternally altered. You have seen too much, felt too much and hurt too much. There is no going back, but you can move forward and become who you are meant to be. So do it. You won’t regret it.

5 thoughts on “Save Yourself

  • Michelle

    I’m glad you are sounding positive again. Super hard to do but you can’t change anything in the past so moving forward and living your life to the fullest or at least living again is all you can do. I know for me, I still have the pain/flutter in my heart when my mind reminds me I will never physically see Lee again. After 25 years together it just doesn’t seem real but early onset Alzheimer’s took him from us way to soon. But now as a single mom with a 17 year old going off to college, I have to live again, and be happy about it. Remember the good times, and be positive.

  • Patti

    Thank you for sharing this perspective. I’m struggling with moving into life beyond. I lost my husband about 4 months ago. We had been together for 36 yrs. He was on my mind every day and shaped a large part of how I defined myself. I find I’m torn between being a part of the Alzheimer’s community and wanting to happily run as far away from the pain and memories of the disease as I can get. Being patient and giving myself time is still uncomfortabl, after spending many years caretaking for everyone BUT me. One thing remains… life will always be a balancing act.

  • Tamie

    Karen,
    Your positivity and perspective continue to inspire me. It’s been a difficult few weeks and hubby is currently hospitalized awaiting placement in a dementia care facility. Some days it’s surreal to think that my 45 year old husband and dementia are used in the same sentence.
    Praying for us all.

  • Janet

    Hello Karen, I’m still here…with mom! I think about a pixie cut every single day. My daughter has talked me out of it several times. I’ve told myself, I’m just trying to simplify my life. But, reality is…I need to get out. I tell myself – I need to go do yoga or hike. Then, it’s time to change the sheets or cook lunch or clean the bathroom…..

  • Lorrie

    yes,I like the idea of cutting my hair too. i was so busy from 2012-2017 taking care of my parents. now they are both gone.time to shed the old stuff,as well as hair. cleaning out their house is exhausting,but I’m donating most of it.start fresh! take care of yourself,and move forward.

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