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Musings on Being a Caregiver

We finally made it to the night of my husband’s sleep study at a nearby hospital. I’ve been looking forward to this night for several reasons; I would actually get a good night’s sleep for once, maybe something would turn up due to the study that will lead to improvement in his (and my) daily life, after the test is over he can go back onto his much-needed antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication.

As is so often the case, though, anticipation is not matching up with reality. I’ve had a fitful night of sleep, as evidenced by the fact that I’m wide awake and writing a post at 4:45 am. I’m feeling cynical about whether anything productive will actually turn up in my husband’s testing – after all, we’ve done these studies several times over the years with no concrete results. And I’m feeling (probably irrationally) fearful that this time when he returns to his medication it will be even less effective than before.

So I take a step back and try to get a more objective look at what’s going on in my head on all this stuff. Life has been a ridiculously up-and-down roller coaster ride the last couple of weeks. Some of my husband’s most troubling symptoms have returned as he’s gone off his meds AND begun a second job to try and keep us in our home and the bills paid. Our oldest, in school 10 hours away, is dealing with both exciting times as she interviews for grad school and times of despair as she struggles with a mentally unhealthy roommate. Our youngest has had four weekends in a row of major events that required my support and participation (no complaints, though – I love this stuff) as he works to audition for and choose an undergrad school. Thankfully our middle child remains on an even keel, loving her college experience, and is a bright spot in life every day.

As I take that step back and look at what’s going on with me, I recognize a common denominator. All of these concerns, most of what takes up my time and my mental energy, involve the needs of those I care for. On the one hand, that’s just the regular territory of a mom. It’s what I do (though I also have a full-time paying job) and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. On the other hand I have, over the years, taken on a caregiving role for my depressed husband. It’s a role that has lessened somewhat in the time his health has improved, and I’m keenly aware that compared to others I know who care for a mentally or physically ill person I have it pretty easy. But still, that caregiver role comes with a lot of heavy baggage.

I probably take on more than I need to carry. I sometimes hover where stepping back might be the better course. I ignore my own emotional and physical health in focusing on others. I am, in short, a typical caregiver. And I need to take to heart the words Bernadette and I share with others in our situation: Take time to care for yourself. Self-care is the tool that will allow you to survive and even thrive in difficult times.

Easier said than done. But I know it can be done. And I’ll give it a try…


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