When you’re a caregiver, they tell you to make sure and put your needs first. I have a one word response to that. How?
We’ve all heard the instructions on the airplane. In case of an emergency, air bags will fall from above and you should secure yours first before helping someone else with theirs. It makes sense and it is wise advice that should be followed in the rest of your life as well. It is not as easy as it sounds.
I started helping all four parents out a few years ago. As they started approaching their 80’s, I was helping out more and more. I was also losing more and more of me. I thought I was tired back then but I hadn’t seen nothing yet.
In October of 2015, my father-in-law had to go in for gallbladder surgery. He ended up suffering from delirium and his time in the hospital was not pleasant. It was plain rough. While he was there, my father had a stroke and ended up in the hospital. Thankfully, they were in hospitals about a mile from one another.
I ended up being the one who was having to check on them both. Neither one could feed themselves so I was constantly running back and forth all day helping them both eat. I was also having to be their advocate to make sure they got proper care.
My husband was working full-time during this and was out of town for most of the two hospital stays. I would tell him about what was going on and how I was having trouble keeping up with it all. He didn’t understand why I didn’t get more help from either family and actually yelled at me for not having help. No, I haven’t forgiven him for that yet.
Both of our fathers managed to be released on the same day. It took me a bit to figure out how to be in two places at once. I learned a few things that day about transport services. His dad went back to the care home and mine went on to rehab so that he could learn how to live life after a stroke.
I was there for most of his time in rehab. To say my husband wasn’t happy about all the time I spent is an understatement. Towards the end of the three weeks, he seemed to be coming around. He even said he would meet me at my parents when I took Dad home. I was so looking forward to finally having help.
The day came to bring Dad home. I was exhausted physically and mentally. When I called my husband to let him know that we were there, he informed me that a friend needed his help and he couldn’t come. He said he knew I’d be fine and had it all under control.
I lost it. Let’s just say that night did not go well. The person he blew me off for had called to get a ride since they drank too much. The thing is that her boyfriend was nearby and could have handled it instead but he insisted on helping her. So my mind saw that I too needed to get intoxicated to get his attention so I did. Let’s just say things didn’t go well and we came close to a divorce.
Spring forward to present day where my husband is helping me with all the parents. He now sees how you don’t get help and are basically in it alone. He’s even had a brother do to him what he did to me. Despite all this, he still can’t see how the two incidents are similar.
I bring all this up because I have apparently not forgiven him yet. Tonight he said he doesn’t break a promise but I told him that he has. I told him it happened that day I brought my father home from rehab. He instantly got mad that I brought that up. He still doesn’t get why it hurt me so bad and I still can’t forgive and forget.
It helped me to see something clearly for the first time. No one truly cares or gets what it is that you are going through. They may say that you are brave or strong for doing all you do but they don’t get it. Not even the person who sleeps next to you truly gets it. And you know what, they aren’t meant to get it. Only you can walk in your shoes.
So this takes me back to the air bag on the airplane. If you are going to survive as a caregiver, you’ve got to learn how to put yourself first. It’s a lot of work but no one is going to step in and save you. You have to put on your own oxygen mask.
Mine is dangling right there in front of me but I just can’t seem to reach it. I always seem to get ahold of everyone else’s first. Well, damn it, I want to breathe too. Time for me to put on my mask and stop talking.