Being a caregiver is not for sissies. It’s hard work both physically and mentally. You use all your energy trying to get everything done and then you try to scrape up some reserve to put on that happy face that is supposed to be helpful and healing.
- Who was the genius who decided that a happy face was supposed to be a good thing. Clowns have happy faces and there are millions of people desperately seeking therapy for a fear of clowns.
- 🙂 is a “happy face” that is annoying as hell when it’s used inappropriately…like on one of those chain e-mails that suggest that God, or Buddha or fate will bring you good fortune…if you forward this e-mail to 10 friends you hate enough to screw up their day, too! 🙂
- Just the term “happy face” is a farce. It’s not “happiness” which would be a real emotion, it’s a look that is forced, making it insincere. Like when you have to try something that you hate, but need to pretend you’re not gagging and puking in your head…as in “taste this gator jerky.” Cue fake happy face and the code phrase for “I’m going to puke,” which is, “It tastes like chicken.
Being depressed is a part of caregiving that doesn’t get enough good press, and I’m here today to be an advocate for enjoying your depression. I’m not a shrink, or a therapist or even a trained professional. But sometimes I am depressed and I feel it’s my duty to speak out for all the depressed caregivers who never get the delightful chance to wallow in it for a little while.
- You have to know going into this that you can’t wallow in depression for any length of time or someone will show up at your door with a net and a jacket…with REAL long sleeves…that buckle in the back. Since I’m not an expert, I really don’t know what that time frame is. But I do know that if the hair on your legs gets long enough to comb, you’ve been at it too long and the net guys are probably on the way!
- Wallowing in depression is safe when it involves wearing the same randy smelling pajamas for several days, propped up in bed eating Chunky Monkey with a spoon that’s encrusted with day old peanut butter and paging through copies of People magazine that are so old that you’re catching up on rumors that Jennifer Aniston’s husband is spending “off set” time with his co-star in Mr. & Mrs. Smith! If you’re looking down at the water from the high point of a bridge, YOU need to call the net guys…and it’s got to be chilly up there, so tell them to bring the jacket!
- Staring, bleary-eyed, at a lap top screen that’s been connected to eBay for the last few days is fine and so is a “Watch List” that is as long as a Thanksgiving grocery list. However, understand that if your depression is eased by the thrill of winning multiple bids on eBay for designer handbags, you MUST accept that the endorphins of the win have snapped you out of your depression, so any further bidding then becomes a gambling problem.
Steven was diagnosed with Lymphoma in January 2004. I note the “diagnosed” date because when the doctors found it, he already had a monster tumor, which means had HAD Lymphoma for a fair amount of time in 2003…or longer. We just didn’t know it.In September of 2003 I began a new job, the one with the great insurance. YAY!! But, the training was intense and I had tons to learn. Much of which wasn’t written down anywhere. You just had to “know” it. So I jumped in with both feet and learned all I had to learn. By the end of October I was booted out of the nest to soar on my own, working with clients and trying to look calm as I scoured my memory banks for all the information that I had crammed in there so I would “know.” By the end of November, I found myself in charge of the Design Center, as the senior designers enjoyed their extended Thanksgiving vacation time. Unbeknownst to me, the entire month of December would be the same. Apparently, neither coworker had used any vacation time during the year preceding my arrival, so I was on my own, until one day I realized that I knew what I was doing and I was OK. From that day forward, “on my own” just became “working.”
That OK feeling only lasted a few weeks, because mid-January began the hospital visit for Steven that was about to change our lives. After almost 2 weeks in the big house, being poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned, they found a mega-tumor of Large B cell Stage 4 lymphoma that has been front and center in our lives ever since. Then came chemo. Then they sent him home, and it was all me. New-new job – caregiver.
There was a lot to learn. The training was intense and I had tons to learn. Much of which wasn’t written down anywhere. You just had to “know” it. So I jumped in with both feet and learned all I had to learn. Sound familiar? It was a copy & paste 🙂For the next 6 months I went to work Thursdays through Sundays. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I shuttled Steven around to weekly blood tests, and doctor’s visits. Every third week was an 8 hour chemo treatment, where I dropped him off, ran errands for a few hours, came back to the chemo room, made a few jokes, slapped him around to wake him up enough to force feed him his “regular” lunchtime meds and then left to kill another four hours! Not that I didn’t make it good for me…that’s when I discovered acrylic nails and mani-pedi combos!
I’m not looking for any awards. I just did what I had to do. But the lymphoma has come and gone numerous times over the past eight years. And I’ve gone to work. At the same time I’ve studied the medical books, read the latest articles, tried to stay on top of all the new insurance changes and even made potions of nuts and berries mixed with herbs and supplements. I’m tired.
Now I’m out of work. I’m looking for a job in the worst economy ever. So I’ve sucked it up, signed up with unemployment for some of that Obama money that 80% of America is enjoying and now I feel like I’m entitled. My entitlement comes in the form of a little time to just be depressed. I’ve got the time, I’ve got the reason and I’ve got the pajamas. So, will someone PLEASE send some Chunky Monkey? STAT!
Here’s the thing. I don’t have much time left. I got laid off almost 2 months ago. Since my first job at 16 years old, I’ve never been out of work for more than 3 months. (BTW – the shortest time I’ve ever been out of work was -30 minutes. That’s correct – negative 3-Oh. Once when I was 18 years old, I got hired during the lunch break of a crappy job I knew I wanted to quit!)
So time is of the essence right now. I probably only have a few weeks left before one of the interviews I’ve had pans out! I can’t keep wasting my days cleaning the house and catching up on projects. If I want to allow myself a full fledged depression, I’ve got to get to it…and quick!For the record, I know I’m not the only one going through this. Research shows that cancer patients are surviving longer. YAY for them because it sure as hell beats the alternative. On the other hand, the caregiver gets caught in the squeeze. Obviously we don’t want the patient to hit the skids of the alternative. That would be horrible. Not only would you lose the job of the caregiver, but the depression part of that alternative scenario would become permanent. On the other hand, survival means the situation isn’t going to change. The ebb and flow of living with a long term illness is a roller coaster ride of health, both mental and physical for both the patient and caregiver. So I’m pretty sure the only smart option is to occasionally give in to the depression and enjoy it.
Far be it from me to sugar coat things, so now here’s one last piece of bad news. If you write about all your pent up feeling and get it out…Holy Crap!!! It goes away. And you find yourself sitting in bed in a crusty night shirt with a melted pint of Chunky Monkey! I guess the only thing left to do is to drink it, take a shower and try again tomorrow.
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