I Finally Get It!


I Finally Get It!

light-bulb-1060884_640I have heard it a thousand times, I am sure you have, too. "You have to take care of yourself."

I don't know about you but I usually just nod my head in empty agreement and continue to neglect my needs because I am too busy taking care of others. Last summer this landed me in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm. Did I learn? Did I start taking care of myself? Heck no!

In October it started with a constant cough. At the same time, my husband Gregg, my caree, just had a hip replacement. I felt awful but I still had to wait on him, take care of my day care kids and take care of the household. It's just a cough so I pushed forward. I am Super Caregiver, right?

Yeah, right! I was impatient, quick tempered and growing more and more resentful.

While I am racing through the house getting a bottle for the baby, cleaning a potty accident, getting my husband coffee, he lays on the couch. Cough...cough! Boy I wish I could lay around! Resentment grows and grows. I betcha he's not even in that much pain, just trying to get attention! Stomp stomp, slam a door, cough cough cough.

We fight more and more. You need to move more! You need to take less pain pills! Get off the couch once in awhile! Nag nag nag. Cough cough cough hack! In December I finally go to the doctor. Yes, from October to December I coughed. Oh everyone has this cough, the doctor says. He prescribes antibiotics, prednisone, cough suppressants. I feel better. Christmas is good. But pills are gone and the cough comes right back.

And so does the fighting and foul mood. During that time I did not connect my ill health with my caregiving abilities. All the drama and difficulties laid on Gregg's shoulders. He was being too lazy, too over-dramatic and over sedating himself. I did not see that my ill health was growing and cultivating my resentment toward the whole caregiving stint. No one's here to take care of me! No one cares about me! Cough Gag Hack!

Finally, my eye were opened about two weeks ago. I was in the daycare room taking care of my kids, getting ready to go to the museum. As usual I did not feel good, I was coughing, tired but I had to keep going, no one else would. Gregg yells down for help. I come up and he is in the bathroom, the toilet is overflowing. He hands me a towel and hobbles away. Really!?

Mopping up the mess I cough, mumble resentful curses, cough hard and then harder. Suddenly a pain shoots across my chest. I shrug my shoulders to it. Plunging the toilet I continue to cough, gag but the pain doesn't return. I'm fine, I tell myself and finish cleaning the bathroom. I go down to prepare my children to leave and start herding them toward the door. I really don't feel good but I promised the kid we would go. I'm fine.

I cough, cough so hard that I begin to wretch and the pain returns to my chest.

"Are you okay?"

I give my husband a "What do you think?" look. I'm  fine. Whaaat?! I most certainly am not fine and I know it. But I am the Caregiver!

I reach down to pick up the baby's car seat, a pain shoots up my arm. Okay, no I am not fine! My husband calls 911. I text parents and tell them to come get their kids. While the kids are distracted by the fire truck, I am hooked up to EKG and pulse ox. My heart is fine but my oxygen level is very low. For this reason they take me to the hospital. After x-rays and blood tests, more EKGs, the doctors come up with the diagnosis of Asthma Poorly Managed.  They explained the pains as muscle constrictions from the hard coughing.

Okay, several years ago I was diagnosed with asthma along with seasonal allergies, but they came in the spring and summer, sometimes into the fall, but never winter. Do I take my long term inhaler every day? Nooo.  Do I take the Singlair every day? I do in the spring and summer, most of the times. Allergy pills? *Sigh* No. What the heck!?

So I spend the night in the hospital, they start me on a high dose of Prednisone, steroid inhalers and nebulizers. The coughing ceases by midnight. At noon the next day the coughing is under control, my oxygen level is better and I get to go home with strict instructions to see my primary care who will refer me to a pulmonologist.

I go home and I feel great. And I do my inhalers, and nebulizer treatment but I am afraid that when the Prednisone course is over, the cough will come back.  As luck would have it Gregg had an appointment with our primary care and he squeezed me in. We developed a plan to control my asthma and for the past two weeks I have followed it. The cough has not returned. For the first time in four, maybe five months, I feel great.

I have energy to take the kids to the museum, library, zoo, etc. The household jobs get completed, not messed and disorganized which cause frustration and ill temper. And Gregg... Well my eyes barely rolled at him all week. Resentment is nearly gone. Instead of muttering my displeasure to myself I have found my reasoning voice that I lost in my illness. Instead of nagging him to move I found the patience and persuasion to get him to move. We sat down with his physician a developed a pain management plan. Hopefully he sticks with it. If he doesn't, it is him that pays not me.

I feel stronger as well. Not just physically but in temperament. Today I took Gregg to see the eye doctor because he had been complaining for awhile that he couldn't see. During my ill health I rolled my eyes to this complaint. Another excuse to complain! We just bought new glasses! Grumble grumble grumble! Well, it turns out he has cataracts. Next week he goes in for surgery. I waited for the weight of the news to crush my spirits but it didn't. Okay, we will get through this. Yeah! I felt good. I felt like a good Caregiver.

So when someone tell you to "Take care of yourself!" Listen! This is great advice! Don't ignore it. Someone told me that my health is more important than anyone else's because you can't take of another if you're in poor health. And I get it now! I finally get it!

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I remember those days, wishing I was sick so someone would take care of me for a change. I ended up with severe depression. I have made peace with having to take medication. Now the laughter is back.


What a victory on so many levels, Colleen. My heart is happy thinking of you feeling strong and healthy and focused on what you do so brilliantly. Our entire lives are one opportunity after another to put into action what we know in our minds. You have been A Good Caregiver all along, a Great Caregiver, but especially glad you are owning that knowledge again, too.