Caregiver burnout – and not even started

A friend talked to me a few years ago about his mid life crisis. He was pushing himself too hard at work and everything eventually fell apart, except work, as he is still tremendously successful. But his marriage fell apart and he had never had children and there he was facing 40, already a world traveler, and he didn’t have it all.

I had lost the women who raised me to cancer and watched them pass. I had been bullied at work. I had hit the proverbial glass ceiling. My husband hadn’t worked in nearly a decade. My dog was old. I was five years older than my friend and yet, I wasn’t completely freaked out yet.

Maybe for him it was something he could do in a big way and get it over with. One really big burst of freak out and then it was over and he was back to being the tremendous success he was always meant to be.

But for me, I think it’s been a slow burn, which started when I realized that my mother was hoarding and then I realized she was an alcoholic and finally here I am realizing that my husband has inflicted numerous head traumas on himself and here we are at dementia.

And where’s my world travel?

There’s no decent thing to do but be present and participate. And how do I do this and stay sane?

Is my hold on sanity so tenuous? Maybe I’m just whining.

As I moved all of our things to our new apartment, as my back was aching and my arms were giving out, I repeated to myself: I am strong. My mantra. We had discussed personal mantras at work. That is mine: I am strong.

Mantras have to be short because you’re usually out of breath when you say them.

That’s all I could muster at the time.

It helped.

My coworker, who I seem to be at odds with going on 8 years, informed me of the usefulness of routines. (My internal voice was saying: boring. My inner artist rebels against routines.)

But I suppose you could think of routines like jazz. You learn them, but within them you can improvise. So I can schedule my daily walks, but they don’t have to be in the same place and what I do whilst walking is up to me. So maybe he has something with his routine advice.

Yesterday was difficult. I was thinking of who I would grant power of attorney. I put myself in the situation: I’ve been in an accident and can’t make financial decisions. Who pays the bills? Who keeps my life going so I can come back to it? Who will I allow into my personal financial life? Who do I trust to stay away until I need them?

I felt sick thinking of it.

In the last few days, my husband has wanted to belt me once and has screamed at me “full bellows” twice. I’m not one to scare easily, but I got up and walked away.

Is this my new life? Looking for triggers. Avoiding them?

The Alzheimer’s page gives advice, although I can’t imagine it was written by anyone with firsthand experience. I’m exhausted and we haven’t even gotten started. He is still him, just missing a few things. Planning and problem solving are gone, but he still laughs. He still understands. And he can still remember things and learn simple new tasks.

Maybe these things should give me hope. But hope will slay me in the end.

Routines. I’ll take the advice of the coworker I’m caged up with day after day. That and unpacking all these boxes. The count started at 91 and now it’s down to 37. I have either given these things away or have put them away. I should feel good about what I’ve already accomplished, and a small part of me does. But part of me wonders how I ever got into this situation. My friend, mentioned above, doesn’t have a box problem.

And there are 37 left. How many more weekends is that?  All the treasures of my family. And they are gone. Keeping their things makes me think they could come back, will come back, I guess. When I let go of their things, I seem to be letting go of them and it hurts.

And the books, although I’ve given away hundreds, there are still too many. Dovlatov’s Life is Short is on my desk now. Unfortunately, it’s in Russian. I haven’t seen an English translation. I stumbled through the first page yesterday, hating my awkward pronunciation the whole way and yet marveling at this language; it still strikes a chord in me. What is this mystical connection?

Жизнь коротка. Yes, it is.


2 thoughts on “Caregiver burnout – and not even started

  1. This is one of the things no one tells us might happen and there are no how-to manuals. Not really. I think certain aspects of caring for ill and aging loved ones is a process we pretty much have to figure out on our own, find out what works for our situation. Lady, I’ve been there, too, and I’m telling you right now it’s very, very hard. It’s ok to whine, to cuss, to beat your pillow. You’re only human and finding a way to destress is important.
    You are strong.

    Liked by 1 person

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