I’m going to have a birthday in a few days. I’ll be 59 but lately I feel like I’ll be joining Mom at being 90!
I did not realize the physical toll that caregiving can take on your physical health. I have experienced the emotional toll and am very familiar with the gamut of feelings I have as I travel this journey in looking after Mom but did not imagine nor expect the wide breadth of effects looking after someone in palliative care can do to you.
The last couple of months I have become increasingly exhausted – so much so that even washing my hair in the kitchen sink required a good half hour of talking to myself to muster up the strength to do it. Just frying my Mom’s egg for her supper had me in tears as I struggled to get the task done. And my blogging has been left at the side of the road to gather dust much to my dismay. I have just been too exhausted to even think about writing. I just suspected it was the emotional strain on me that was causing the extreme tiredness. After going to the doctor about something else I had bloodwork done and lo and behold my thyroid was all out of whack. Now I am on thyroid medication and even after just a week I am noticing a change. I know this can be a normal age related problem of many women and not necessarily due to stress but this is just one thing. I also have a wicked case of tennis elbow ( and I don’t even play tennis!) My normal day to day activities like carrying heavy bags ( I don’t have a car) and other small repetitive activities would hardly bother me normally but my whole body is weakened and so the tennis elbow. Then there is my back. I am always lifting heavy things like 50 lb boxes of kitty litter with no problem whatsoever. But I have put my back out several times in the last couple of weeks. My asthma has started up again after being dormant for a number of years. My allergies are worse than normal. I am reacting to foods I never reacted to before. Headaches are a daily event. Joint pain is much worse than it has been in years and on and on it goes.
I definitely feel like this rusty old VW beetle must feel. When I was much younger I always told myself that if I ever got a car it would be a lime green beetle. That was my dream car. Brand new and spanky clean, shiny and peppy. But I never did get one nor any car for that matter as my autism makes it too hard for me to manage driving. ( I did get my license though) For years, I had a toy model of a lime green beetle that sat on my shelf to remind me of my dream. That dream seems long ago and unattainable now. I am just getting more and more rusty and old.
I hate the feeling that my body is in a state of disrepair. I can tell when it is not healthy. Of course it would help if I ate healthy and not a diet of about 4 different foods and that is all. And it would help if I could sleep better and not wake feeling like I have been run over by a bus. And it would help if I could afford to go back to the YMCA and swim in their heated pool where I had a 40 min. exercise routine all worked out and it felt SO GOOD. But the reality is that I am not good at taking good care of myself. I’d like to say I am very good at taking care of my Mom but not myself. I know this is not right and I need to take care of myself so I CAN take good care of my Mom but I have no energy left to take care of me. All my energy during my day and nights is directed at looking after my Mom. That’s the caregiver’s dilemma I believe. My autism doesn’t make it any easier as things like personal hygiene and brushing my hair etc are a nuisance at the best of times. I’ve noticed a real decline in my self-care as I continue longer in my journey of looking after Mom. Don’t have the energy. Don’t care.
So what do I do?? Don’t know. Don’t think much is going to change unless I have someone start caregiving me and helping me do all I need to keep healthy. And I don’t have a person like that in my life. It takes all I got to look after the house and Mom and keep things a well-oiled machine. Something’s gotta give and that something is ME. I think as long as I am in caregiving mode this is the way it will be. I feel selfish if I pay too much attention to myself and I think this is a common feeling with those who are caregivers. ( more on this in a coming blog). Those closest to me beg me to take a break but how do I do that when the job is 24/7 with little relief? And it takes just as much work to put a plan in place for someone to come in to look after Mom while I am away than to just stay home and do it myself. ( teachers taking a sick day will attest to this. They often come in sick just so as not to have to make up detailed supply plans) I have conceded to a short one day break though in June sometime around my birthday. I want to go to Ottawa and see the Lego exhibit and the Impressionists exhibit. It would be a whirlwind trip up on the bus and back again before 8pm at night with someone we know well who will come in and check on Mom a couple of times during the day and give her supper. I know I may chicken out though. Just the thoughts of planning it and buying bus tickets etc is totally overwhelming. Maybe I just need to go to the basement and veg for a day.
To be honest, I know cars can be restored to their original grandeur. So at some point I can be restored as well. Don’t know if it will happen while Mom is still with me. I suspect restoration will not happen till after my caregiving days are over and the severe anxiety, stress, fear, worry and all the other hazards of caregiving are past. I just need to keep put putting along despite the rust. I just hope the bottom doesn’t fall out of this old car before I am restored. Or maybe I can be a car like Fred Flintstone had. He just used his feet for gas. So yabba dabba do and off I ride even if it is a put put put instead of a zoom-zoom!