Sunday, July 10, 2005

Running Away Can Sometimes Help

You are right, it isn't fair at all to your loved one that you can sometimes run away, and they are stuck with the results of their illness constantly 24/7. I believe though, that a caregiver must carry a double load. Just because someone you deeply love has been stricken with this cruel disease, or whatever disease that causes loss or impairment of function, doesn't mean our responsibility to ourselves ends. If we cease to function properly, or become exhausted to the point of giving up, or worse yet, going off the deep end, then we are truly worthless to our loved one. The human condition demands we take care of us first. Survival is a very powerful instinct.

What does running away mean exactly? For me it means going someplace to be around friends who have no demands on me other than my love and friendship. It means spending time alone with the person who understands me the most, my inner self. It means clearing my head of the cobwebs that sometimes form on my identity. It means forgetting as much as possible what I must return to. I don't try to forget the love I am returning to, just the illness and the tasks associated. How can I forget those things when concern for her wellbeing while I am away must weigh on my mind? Very good friends who watch over her.

To the nurturers of the world, I guess it sounds a bit cold to say I try to forget, but keeping my sanity demands that I take away the negative feelings that build up. If I didn't do that, I could easily start to resent the very person I love enough to want to take care of. Loneliness is often part of those negative feelings.

How could I say I am lonely if I spend most of my off work time with her? Wow, what a great question. I wish I had a good answer for that. Not being a psychologist, I can only guess that it has to do with feeling alone in my efforts. The thing to understand is the patient is going through much the same emotions from a different perspective. They are very much, and want very much to be, sharing the entire experience with us. It is often difficult to connect the two perspectives and to open up to each other.

The very love that is shared can get in the way of sharing the emotions and feelings that each is experiencing. It is about loving the other person so much and wanting to protect them from the negative feeling emotions that do occur no matter how great the love is. I had to learn that through counseling. I knew I needed it because I was starting to dislike coming home. I was chastised for keeping those feelings from her. I have fought long and hard to learn to share some of those feelings with my wife so I don't have to carry the burden alone.

I highly recommend seeing a professional counselor. No matter how much we believe we have all the answers, it is so worthwhile to get a second opinion. We may miss something obvious we are overlooking, much like looking for one's glasses when they are on top of our head.



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