It’s been weeks since I’ve written. The last post I shared was about my father, and it took a lot out of me emotionally…
Any time I reach in to myself to write it takes me time to heal. Each post is written from my own truths and sometimes they are truths I would rather not face. But, at least for me, facing your pain is what brings peace to your life. The last few weeks have been filled with reflection and there was something I wanted to share.
Being a Caregiver felt like someone had handed me a cape and told me, “now go be a superhero!” I accepted the title and the responsibility that went with it. I also began to accept the belief that I had to do it all on my own. Somewhere along the way my mantra became, “I can do it all.” and “I don’t need anyone.” I think in a strange way, though exhausted and consumed with sadness, I took pleasure in it. I liked knowing I could handle it. Subconsciously it felt good to turn down the help of friends and family. It made me feel important and needed.
What I realize now, is that it was about control more than anything. I had no power over the diagnosis my mom had been given. I couldn’t save my father from dying. What I could control was her day-to-day. I could make sure she was eating the right foods and drinking the right tea. I could be positive about every vitamin she took and I would be there to monitor every medicine administered to her. This desperate need to remain in control of something, of anything, continued until the moment she took her last breath. What happened after that last breath is what I want to share with you.
I started drinking every single day. What had been a social pot smoking habit became my routine from the moment I opened my eyes until the moment I closed them at night. I slept with men I shouldn’t have. I was mean to friends who didn’t deserve it. I booked trips to remote places and traveled alone without doing a bit of research. ( I don’t actually regret the trips but research and planning could have prevented some unfortunate rickshaw rides through desolate Indian streets). In short, I hit rock bottom and I stayed there for years. I was functioning. I held on to jobs, I maintained relationships. By all accounts I probably seemed like I was faring better than expected but inside I was a mess. When she died, it was like my body, heart and mind shut down. I had been running on empty for years and now it had finally caught up with me. I lost my compass when she died. More noteworthy was that I felt like I had lost my sense of purpose.
Being a Caregiver becomes your entire identity. It is your job and your hobby and your past time and everything in between. When that job ends, you are left wondering what you have left to offer the world.
I write this to you because I hope to save you from that sense of loss. Or at the very least, I want to make you aware of its impending arrival.
You are NOT a superhero so put down your cape. You are a mother, a father, a son, a brother, a sister, a cousin and a friend. You have a network of people who love you and WANT to help you. Everyone wants to feel needed and there is someone in your life that wants to feel needed by YOU. Tell people what you need. No one but you knows how difficult this is, so stop expecting people to read your mind. Especially when you are portraying it as if you have everything under control.
Your purpose in this life is not just to be an amazing Caregiver, but to lead an amazing life afterwards as well. You don’t just have control over how your loved one lives her last days. You have control over how you live yours. There is so much life left in you. Savor it. Know that the pain of your current situation WILL subside and there is a beautiful life waiting for you. Your purpose is YOU.