No 'Stress 101' Here - This is the Graduate Class
The last year of my life has passed in a blur. Most of the year has been a whirl of doctor's appointments, speculations, and fear about what might or might not be happening with Mo’s health. I know many of you have experienced the same things. Unfortunately, on top of this we all still have to deal with ‘regular’ life. I found out this past year that one of my oldest friends had passed away, in one of those typical situations where you’ve lost touch for a while, but you are certain that you will eventually pick it back up where you left it last. Always time for that, right? Then I learned of another friend that I lost. That makes three of my best friends from high school, all gone by the age of 40. My grief has been somewhat buried, but I am still in the stage of mourning all of them and wondering why I am still here when they are gone. On top of the ‘on top of’, my 89 year old grandmother has been in the hospital this week in Seattle. It’s difficult not knowing exactly what’s happening, and not being there with her is hard.
Being a caregiver is a tough place to be in. Your place in the grand scheme is to be the support, and use your own strength to be the foundation for your partner. But we have to try and do this and still manage all of our own internal stuff at the same time. It’s a conflicted place. On one side you feel guilty for having your own stress because your partner is dealing with something so tough! It seems petty somehow to be complaining about your own stuff or expressing your needs.
However, I am here to tell all of you, Parkies and caregivers alike, IT IS OK for your caregiver to not be OK sometimes. They are a human being, bearing up under an unimaginable burden of stress and fear. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I have experienced this myself in the past couple of weeks – I can go from feeling lighthearted in moments where I forget all the stuff I am dealing with, to breaking down in tears at other completely random moments. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to my emotions right now.
So now you are asking me HOW we are supposed to deal with this, AND provide the support for our PD person? The answer is, however you can. You have to find those lighthearted moments and use them to shore up the rest of the time. Find the thing that takes you out of your head for a little while for at least part of the day. For me it is exercise. Take care of yourself. This doesn’t always mean a day at the spa or a vacation – it is in the little, teeny moments in the day where you close your eyes and breathe and re-center. You have to take time each day for yourself, outside of caring for your partner. Even if you are at a stage where you are not into heavy-duty caregiving, just constant thinking and worrying and planning for PD is stressful and tiring. It’s ok to have something for yourself outside of all of this, and it’s required. This is going to be a long road for all of us, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint (apologies for clichés, but this is one time in my life where this totally fits). You need to gather your coping skills and stress management NOW and begin to use them, even if you are at the beginning of everything. If you are already deep in the weeds of caregiving, this is still relevant. You will be a better support overall if you understand your own needs and give some attention to YOU too.
And, as I was reminded by one of our readers today (Rocky, thank you for that gentle nudge), your Parkie is still capable of being a support for YOU. Lean in to each other and you will quadruple what you are capable of.
Oh, and I recommend buying a puppy. It’s a lot of work, but the entertainment value is unbelievable. 😊
Thanks to everyone who is reading this. My posts are another chance for me to release some stress through writing, and I am grateful to everyone who is listening.