In the midst of trying to make decisions not only for yourself, your family, but a loved one who can no longer think coherently, life seems to glide by in ways you never anticipated. The stresses, the worries, the grief and heartache of being helpless to stop their demise can be overwhelming and daunting. The trivial decisions that once seemed so insignificant become daunting. Losing sight of your own self and losing interest in friendships and affairs of the world takes over.
All of these feelings are valid and well earned. For many of us, we have a perception in our minds of who we should be, how we should think and behave. So many nights I have berated myself for not being perfect. There was always something I said wrong to Jim, to the kids, to friends and co-workers. Not only would I suffer myself for my actions and inability to be the perfect parent and caregiver and employee, but then I would continue on to critique my thoughts. Even those thoughts I wouldn’t act upon. Just having the wrong thought would add to my guilt and shame.
Finally, a wise friend who had cared for his Mom while she battled dementia explained to me that I was allowed to have any thought I wanted. I could have the worst thoughts as long as I kept them to myself and didn’t verbalize them or act upon them. We all have thoughts, sometimes fleeting and sometimes they are repeated over and over to the point we are no longer sure if they are just in our mind or actual events and conversations that took place.
The more exhausted and submerged in life we are, the more the lines of reality and dreams can blend together. We can’t recall if we paid those bills, we may not even remember we got a bill. Laundry and chores are done as a “need to be done at this very moment” order and basis. Visits with friends fall to the wayside. Life seems to stand still all the while it is pushing you forward at a warped speed. The responsibilities don’t subside, just your desire to be a participant.
It is hard to acknowledge these changes as normal or valid. You want to remain the same person, the same spouse or son or daughter you have learned to accept and grow into through the years. Suddenly you are tasked with circumstances you could never imagine. Frustrations you can’t describe to friends so they understand. Loss while your loved one is still living. Loneliness while someone is constantly next to you. Life. It flows in mysterious ways and each of us must handle the change in course as we can, however we can. There is no particular “right” way to become a caregiver. There is no perfect way to let go of yourself while trying to remain steadfast for someone else.
We are all in this together. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t forget you have your own talents, your own strengths and resiliency. It is a struggle each day and you are up for the challenge.
Yes, your doubts, your fears, your worries and your sadness are all valid. But so are the talents you share and the commitment you have undertaken. Love yourself and know you are enough.