I don’t know if any of you reading this have cared for someone with a disability, serious or long-term illness. If you have, you will know that sometimes it becomes impossible to put yourself first.
One of the main things I found hard was enduring the constant cycle of abuse. Sick people can be awful! They can be miserable and tired, they moan and can even become very abusive towards the people that are trying to help them. You know they don’t mean it, but at the time, when you have had next to no sleep and everything you do revolves around them, you can become a bit resentful (especially if they’re snapping at you or telling you to piss off!). Although it can be really hard, it’s important to try and remember that they’re frustrated and are trying to come to terms with a change in their own reality, which is equally as hard for them.
I have watched suffering many times over. It is awful. Some of my close friends and family know what I had to witness.
Sometimes there’s suffering even when something appears to have been a success. Take my aunt for example. She made the brave decision to have a major operation on her throat which had a 50/50 chance of survival. She did survive the surgery and one of her tumours was removed, but her life was never the same again. She was now living with a disability. She was no longer able to communicate in the way she was used to. Part of her tongue was cut away which affected her ability to speak. She was no longer able to swallow, eat, drink - all those everyday things we take for granted! She was fed through a tube for the last two years of her life and her only real way of communicating was through writing.
I no longer moan when I have a sore throat, or I can’t eat because I am sick. In all honesty, I try not to complain about anything because I am grateful that I get to live a life where I am capable! Having to watch someone you love go through something like that shakes you to you core.
Equally being around those that are facing the end of their life is one of the most humbling experiences. I am in awe of the courage, bravery, love and compassion they show for others when they are living their own hell. It was tough and I often felt helpless. It doesn’t always feel like what you are doing is helping but sometimes just being with them is enough.
I know there will be lots of you out there who will understand what I’m saying here and some of you will have had similar experiences. You’re the reason I’m writing this, in hope that we can all learn and grow together. You are not alone and there are other people out there that are experiencing what you are.
I want you to remember that you are equally, if not, more important than the people you are caring for. Without you, they wouldn’t have what they need. My Nan always used to say to me ‘an empty barrel can’t stand up’. So, make sure you fill your barrel often! Look after yourself and if you need time out, take it!
Something that keeps me going is remembering, that however bad I think things are, it could be worse. Not to be pessimistic or to devalue my experiences but letting in some perspective. However, regardless of how I feel and what I have been through - “there is always someone worse off”
There are many support networks out there these days depending on what you are dealing with. The internet is a wonderful tool and lots available resources at your finger tips. How else would you be reading this?! :)
To be continued, in Part 3