When I first became a caregiver for my husband I had time to prepare myself for the road ahead. I had worked in a hospital and nursing home, and I knew what the road ahead could look like for both of us. I felt good, I was strong, and I was full of energy. I felt positive, and I was ready to honor my marriage vow of “in sickness and in health.” I had a confident “bring it on” attitude. Of course, as time went on, I had an attitude change……its true. After three years, I felt worn to a frazzle. You can read about it in my book, Experiencing God While Caregiving.
My Current Story
I have remarried, and my husband and I just came home from a three-week vacation to our favorite spot, Camden, Maine. It was a wonderful vacation, and we enjoyed our time together. He had to work for three, possibly four days and I was looking forward to getting back to writing and routine. Then, it happened. The drive home from Maine had been hard on his back, and he started with sciatic nerve problems. On his second day at work, the pain became unbearable. He still had an hour drive home, and even with making two stops to stretch and walk around, he became in such horrible pain it probably would have brought a lumberjack to his knees. At the same time, I came down with a horrific cold that zapped me of energy and all that goes with having a cold. And the battle began. I tried to suck it up because I know that constant pain and no way to get comfortable for even a minute is worse than a cold. I didn’t anticipate his needs nor did I offer any cheerfulness. I just wanted to sleep and be left alone.
Wounded In Battle
So goes the life of a caregiver. No time to honestly care for our needs, no escape from the trenches. At the end of the second day, I was feeling good enough to drive into town to pick up a pizza. When I walked in, the cashier had an odd look on her face, but I paid for the pizza and left. Later that evening I looked at myself in the mirror and realized my nose had dripped on the front of my top and left a flow of disgust and I was wearing one blue sandal and one black sandal.
His nerve was causing moans and groans and exclamations. There were no terms of endearment. He was on my last nerve, and the perfect storm was forming. The battle erupted in his throwing a tray of pills across the floor because I had told him I couldn’t take another day of his constant moaning and groaning.
Moving Past the Battle
If you are a caregiver, I know you have had a scenario very similar to this. There comes a time when you feel so unnoticed and uncared for you just don’t feel you can go on. You know your situation will come to a quick end, and your care receiver’s condition may end in surgery or death. You have to decide to suck it up and be kind or put your needs ahead of the one you’re caring for. You do have needs, and they are important, but the stress of disharmony is not helping.
As I picked up the pill bottles with one hand and held a tissue to my nose with the other, I prayed. I prayed my husband would not get my cold and make his situation worse and my life more complicated. I prayed for strength and the right words. We both knew we had regrets. In cases like this, there is only one way out. Repentance, apology, restoration. It’s not easy; it’s not what we may feel is fair, but it is the only way out of the battle and its worth it.
Sanity, peace, moving forward as partners in an already stressful situation is the only way to move forward with grace. Grace. Offer grace together.
When have you felt at an impasse with your care receiver? What did you do? Please share for those reading this blog. Some days feel like a battle and we’ve all been there.