Life Tossed Me A Curve Ball
Slice of Life
by – Sheri de Grom
I haven’t been a good blogging friend the past two months. Life tossed me a curve ball when I wasn’t looking. And then another, and another—and would you believe—yet another came around the bend. I had no idea that darn ball was even on its way!
My husband developed a nasty sinus infection six weeks ago. Tom’s cough continues to grip him as if the devil had taken possession of his body. Worse, the racking cough results in Tom falling more frequently and it’s even more difficult for him to eat or sleep.
After two weeks of antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine, at my request so he could at least rest, Tom didn’t improve.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so exhausted, yet I continued to push myself.
I’m my own worst enemy. Friends offered help and I assured them, “No, I have this covered.”
Tom’s sinus infection turned into bronchitis and I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia the same day. A week later my doc added strep throat to my diagnoses. Normally I can ‘soldier-on through’ anything but I had a nagging suspicion I wasn’t winning at whatever war had invaded my body.
Fellow caregivers, if you are reading this, please don’t ignore your own symptoms. What made me think I was so special that my compromised immune system would hang strong until the end of time?
The saying below I’ve borrowed, with permission, from our dear friend Ajaytao. If you aren’t following Ajaytao, you’re missing out on one of the most sensitive and beautiful blogs on the internet. Ajaytao is a loyal follower to thousands of us and I have no idea how he’s able to add cheer to so many on a daily basis. I encourage you to visit his blog at http://ajaytao2010.wordpress.com.
My health saga continued with my being diagnosed at the end of last week with a sinus infection. I’d really had enough of this nonsense. I’d never had a sinus infection in my entire life. Never. Not one time. I told my doc he had to be wrong and he asked, “Where did you get your white coat?” It’s a running joke with us but I’m still unhappy with the diagnoses.
I continue in the tired and run down mode and it seems as though I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I cannot deny this is a wake-up call not only to me but to all caregivers. We must remember to take care of ourselves. We are always on first.
Most of you know Tom was diagnosed as bipolar not long after we married and that my
advocacy has to spread the awareness that a couple can maintain a marriage and have it be solid even when the disease itself is raging out of control. The spouse of the partner with bipolar disorder must dig deep within their core to find ways of understanding their spouse. I’ve said before: bipolar disorder is a third partner in any marriage and the disease demands respect. Vigilance is required or the marriage will not survive.
Others have asked me, “How can you stay?” My answer is always the same. “How can I not?”
Living with a mentally ill loved one is a colossal burden. The greater the symptoms, the greater the impact their illness has on the caregiver. Every aspect of my life has been affected: my emotions, my career, my leisure, my financial status, my health, my relationships with extended family, friends and neighbors and any sense of control over my desires and goals.
Every moment, every day delivers one guessing game after another. Is Tom simply so enraged that he can’t handle life? I am aware of being abandoned. Each episode captures progressively more from me until I am too worn out to pursue any of my pleasures.
A gentle prayer ends with me feeling enraged and crazed that the man I love with every fiber of my being is now a hollow shell of his former self. My partner no longer exists. Just as a robin’s egg is defenseless to predators, Tom is forever in imminent danger.
I’ll never forget the exact moment I got it; I knew I would be on first for taking care of my Prince Charming for the remainder of our lives. I was gardening at our California home, planting honeysuckle and enjoying romantic thoughts of how wonderful the scent would be floating through an open window on a summer’s eve. Suddenly, I thought of the fairytale, Cinderella. My Prince Charming had materialized in my life and swept me off my feet, but I’m now obligated to feed and care for the white horse that brought my Prince Charming to me. No matter how often I drop the reigns, I must still lead the horse and guide the rider.
One of the biggest obstacles in caregiving for anyone is recognizing they are a caregiver, and that includes me. I recognize the reason my body finally shut down and said enough is enough.
I’d set myself aside for well over two years. I’d reached the point where most days I’d do well if I finished half of my breakfast by the time most people were having dinner. I’d joke around and say, “Just think of all the time I’ve saved. Now I don’t have to make lunch.”
Sleep and exercise were something from my past and I knew I’d once had interests but they seemed far away.
If I don’t care for Tom, who will? I owe it to both of us to take care of myself.
Thankfully, Tom insisted all those years ago that I find a therapist. I was certain I didn’t need one then and I’m positive I couldn’t survive without Elizabeth now. Thank you, Elizabeth.
The days are becoming brighter within my mind and I’ve seen glimpses of my inner-child. She’ll appear again with my next blog. I’ve titled it ‘When A Man Loves A Woman.’ Until then, have a wonderful week.