Over the past few weeks, I have come to realize what I think is the hardest part of a caregiver's journey. I have surrounded myself with several caregivers who are just like me. We have been through so much and helped so many. I have learned that when we take the time for ourselves it turns out that's not allowed. Somehow we are supposed to do everything on our own and it is almost blasphemous when we ask for help. It even appears to us that since we have done so much for so many others, we are laughed at when we ask for help.
I have come to realize I am not allowed a day off and away from my work. I am not allowed to not answer my phone. I am not allowed to not help every person to the extent I am comfortable, no I have to ensure their happiness before my own. Forget my happiness altogether, I am supposed to be strong 24/7 and put the problems of everyone else in front of our own. I am supposed to be the fixer for every person who decides they want my help.
I am up before the sun and asleep after it rests. I am very seldom detached from my phone. My work laptop goes with me everywhere I travel. I can officially say, I am giving until it hurts and I am tired.
I am up before my family so I can make sure Chaz's day is as convenient as possible in our dreadfully unsafe home. I put in at least 2 hours of work before he comes down. Then I spend my day taking care of everything he needs while juggling work, homeschool, feeding everyone, our side of building our home, Girl Scouts and the needs of a gazillion others.
Am I complaining? Actually no, I truly love my crazy life. I am called to serve others. I happily accept that calling. I love helping people. Like the other over 5 million caregivers in our country, I am proud to give care to the person I love. And I am happy to help others when they need it.
This week has just been a tough one. I have learned that sometimes my help is just not good enough and it hurts when the people you try to help tell you that. I have seen some things go down that question my ethics, but those things seem to be ok with a lot of others. I have been told that the needs of our family are less important than the needs of so many others. I have definitely taken a few hits this week.
It really hurts that I am not allowed to ask for help. It also hurts when I ask for help and am told "This other family needs it more," or "If you'll just take a minute and think about it, you'll figure it out, you always do," or "Well you chose the life you have. I don't feel sorry for you. You married into the Army. You knew this could happen." Yes those things have all been said to me several times. Each one has carried its own personal stinger.
It hurts that I am not allowed to be weak and be upset every once it a while. It hurts that I am just supposed to suck it up and give, give, give and don't dare ask for help, because if I do then I am being selfish. It appears I am not allowed to have a selfish moment where I can ask, "What about our family?"
I have chatted with a few caregivers who all feel the same way. We chose to stay with our husbands and help them heal. We'd all do it again in a heartbeat and we carry no regrets for that choice. Somewhere along the way society has also decided we are supposed to also choose to always be strong and carry the load 24/7 without a break. And we are supposed to put all other families in front of our own simply because we are so strong we can do it all.
Well friends, I am going to stand up and say I have to stop for a bit and get back to my cuties first rule. The needs of so many others has pulled me away from them and I must get back into our family's mission.
Today sounds like a great place to start. We have hotel vouchers that are going to expire and are non-transferable so we are going away for the weekend. I am not bringing my laptop and I am not touching it until Tuesday morning. I am putting an auto-reply on my email. We are going to get in the van and go away and just be a family for the weekend. Anything that is not resolved by the time we pull out of the driveway today can wait until Tuesday. That funny thing is I will have to keep reminding myself of that.
To my caregiver friends, I encourage you to do the same. Take a break this weekend. The government is off so you can't do anything until Tuesday anyway. Only answer your phone when you know who is on the other line and you know they won't ask you for something that takes you away from your family. Just be a family this weekend. Just focus on your family's needs for this short time. I know, I know I am suggesting something so radical, but let's do it!
And for everyone else, you do it too!! Go be a family this weekend. Take the time to make great memories together!! As Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. People will never forget how you made them feel." Go make your family feel your love.