Our New Reality
Have you ever tried going a full day without bending over, twisting left or right, lifting, pushing, or pulling more than 8-10 lbs. (reference point: a gallon of milk), and nothing over your head? Have you ever tried to get out of bed without using your arms, at all? How about washing your hair without extending your elbows beyond your shoulders or moving them beyond a 90-degree angle facing forward only? Or what about getting dressed or doing laundry without bending more than 20 degrees? It’s hard and there is no way you can’t do it alone.
With this as our new daily reality, I needed a new list.
My New, Big List
- Set up a way for mom to reach me during the night so I can help her go to the bathroom.
- Make sure mom follows the recovery rules when showering
- Blow dry mom’s hair and help her get dressed
- Walk with mom throughout the day
- Research heart healthy foods to add to mom’s already healthy diet
- Coordinate Home Health aides
- Keep mom calm and positive
- Make sure mom rests
- Do laundry
- Go to the grocery store
- Run every day errands
- Grade online student assignments
- Grade final exams as they are mailed
- Communicate with students online
- Keep every one up to date
Every Day, 24/7
Day in and day out, this was the list we followed. Here’s the good news. My mom is AWESOME! I mean it, she’s amazing. We have a wonderful relationship and she is a good patient. Which is why what happened next was so hard and confusing for me. I couldn’t shake the feelings of caregiver isolation and loneliness – and anger.
At night I would pace my bedroom with tears streaming down my face. I was so embarrassed and ashamed to have this response. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my mom and she wasn’t making this difficult for me, so why am I having this reaction? It finally dawned on me, I was alone in attending to the every day, 24/7, needs of my mom.
By the time I realized I was in an unhealthy mind space, I was running from situation to situation just trying to keep my head above water. When I tried asking for help it was often met with work obligations, already established plans, or it just wasn’t the right time. And that’s when the anger and depression set in. Time for a new list.
Survive The Day
- Take care of mom
- Survive the day.
Take care of mom and survive the day, that’s where my mind was – take care of mom and survive the day. I had shut down and gone into full blown trauma mode. And now I knew what people meant when they talked about the struggles of caregiver isolation and loneliness.
I began saying things like…
- “Don’t bother asking anyone for help, they won’t be able to or have time.”
- “Nobody wants to listen to your struggles.”
- “If you were a stronger, better person you would be able to handle this challenge.”
- “You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking about your needs at a time like this.”
And so I did what we are socialized to do. I put a smile on my face and said everything was fine.
I survived the day. At least I will be able to cross that off my list, right?