Archive | July, 2018

The Dark Side of Caretaking

4 Jul

This entry will not be about gratitude, which indeed I have in abundance, but the other side of the story: the dark side of caretaking. I am grateful for many things and fortunate in many ways, but I have other emotions I need to express right now.

I decided to share because something happened lately that made me think that, since I have been able to continue breathing, people think everything is okay and that I’m happy. Maybe I make it look too easy. I am in fact very unhappy. While it’s true that I am able to compartmentalize so I can enjoy myself when I’m with friends, mostly I’m alone; and during those times I must make a tremendous effort not to let my negative feelings rise to the surface. I have to fight every day to keep from feeling, alternately or in various combinations:

  • ConflictedIMG_8152
  • Conflicted
  • Constrained
  • Trapped
  • Overwhelmed
  • Terrified
  • Anxious
  • Guilty
  • Resentful
  • Remorse
  • Sorrowful
  • Depressed
  • Angry
  • Lonely for male companionship
  • Sexually frustrated
  • Bored
  • Abandoned

It takes so much energy to fight these feelings, daily and sometime simultaneously. For instance, when I look at Chuck sitting there in front of the TV day after day, I feel an enormous well of sorrow start to rise in me. Sometimes I almost hate him because he is the reason I feel trapped and constrained. Then I immediately feel guilty and remorseful. I feel conflicted almost constantly because many of these feelings are at odds with each other or with the fact that I love Chuck and hate having negative feelings about him.

I know that I’m suppressing, as opposed to repressing; I am aware of the feelings, just not expressing them every time I feel them, which could consume my life. I know suppressing is not healthy for me because those feelings are going to leak out some way or other, and they do: almost every night, I wake up in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. Sometimes I remember the dream that provoked it; sometimes not. Last night, I did: it was a prolonged and horribly graphic nightmare about my late, beloved Rudy. He had significance beyond being an exceptionally great cat; after Chuck’s stroke, Rudy was my sole source of consistent physical affection, which I miss and crave.

I feel like I’ve been widowed for the 11 years since Chuck’s stroke but that my mourning has continued. There’s been no closure; it just grinds on and on. The inability to move on and bearing the responsibility of a stroke survivor are wearing me down. I guess I feel abandoned in the sense that I feel people forget to acknowledge this unless I remind them. I imagine (although perhaps wrongly) that many people are ready for me to move on, when in a very literal way, I cannot.

I could continue, but I think this message delivers the information well enough. I guess all I would ask is try to understand and acknowledge the unchanging nature of my predicament. It still hurts, I just bear it better and am able to compartmentalize it in order to have fun occasionally.

I would like to add that I do deeply appreciate the various and overwhelming kinds of support given me: the recent funding drive; surprise gifts; cards, calls and visits–especially Susie, who comes three or four times a year. Especially I appreciate that fact that Lisa, now living one door over, helps with shopping, preparing meals and cooking and is available any time for emergencies big or small. Having the consistent, sustaining source of her help has made a tremendous difference in my life.

If you would like to read more about my experience of caretaking, please check out my book, Stroke Happens.

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