Well-Being//

Caregiving and Self-Care

A story about failure to maintain balance.


A Story About Failure to Maintain Balance

We walk in the same circles. We’ve seen the same things. We’ve smelled the same smells. We’ve had mutual struggles and cried similar tears. Her story is different, yet the same in many ways. She’s a care giver. Her grandmother is, or was, I should say, a nice enough person, but at the end it was difficult.

“Some days, I wanted her to die. I hate myself for even saying that, but I thought it. I wanted her to die because she needed to be at peace, and well, I was so tired. It seems like all she did was suffer, yet she kept going. I could never understand why. Why did she keep fighting? Why did she hold on for so long and for what? There was no dignity left, no purpose, at least that’s what it seemed to me. She never would say what caused her to hang on for so long, but I wondered. Every day I wondered. She had nothing, no one, except me. It was all just so lonely, and unbearably sad. The weight of it all was more than I could handle. It was destroying me.”

She now suffers herself, only in different ways. Every time she walks into a pet store, the panic sets in. The smell takes her right back to it all, to cleaning pet waste in the same sensory overloaded space of human waste. She has to breathe in deeply, regardless of the disgust that settles in her gut, to gain control. One-two-three-HOLD-two-three-RELEASE-two-three-four. She’ll never have a pet. She wants kids one day, and she hopes they never want pets. She can’t. She won’t.

“Don’t let what happened to me, happen to you. The panic attacks are a part of me now, and it’s hell. Trust me, you don’t want this. I should have taken better care of myself, but I didn’t know how. It was just me, there was no one else, so I just did what I thought I had to do. I realize now, that was a mistake. I should have done things differently. I was fooled by some innate obligatory ideology that you should just do whatever you had to do for family — but I was wrong. You know, some people will do the right thing in that situation, but let’s face it, many of us won’t. We are dying. We are at the end of our lives and we are not thinking about others. We — she—couldn’t seem to see through the thickly dense wall of pain and suffering, and of being on the brink of expiration. She only saw herself.”

Pain. I could see and feel her pain. She was grieving, and now suffering with things that she would carry for the rest of her life—the smells, the visions of pain, the distortion of elderly bodies that were failing, of eyes that once held so much life. At the end of her grandmother’s life, those same eyes only begged to be free from the afflictions that were torturing her body, bitter by bitter step, toward the grave.

“Choose life. Choose to live. We will all be there one day, but your life is now. Don’t waste it. You are not meant to carry this burden alone. Breathe deeply, without inhibitions or memories that rush in to fill the space and steal your peace. Breathe deeply, without the crushing weight and the pain that pierces your chest as you gasp for what feels like your own fight for life. Breathe deeply, and live your life now. Don’t waste it, because one day we will all be there, but it’s not today. It’s not right now. Release your burden, or at least get some help to bear it. I wish I had. Don’t be me. Live your life, because this life is beautiful.”

Originally published at medium.com

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