Oxygen Mask


Oxygen Mask

This month marks ten years since my husband's brain injury...ten years since I became a full-time caregiver. I'd dabbled in caregiving here and there during the earlier years of our marriage, as my husband faced other serious health issues. I'd already learned how to make a hospital bed fit in with our home decor, and the best way to dress a surgical wound.

The last ten years of caregiving have been a unique blend of struggle and contentment. There were days when I felt thoroughly overwhelmed, and others when life seemed light and easy. During the most difficult times, caregiving was nearly all-consuming.

Much has been lost as a result of my husband's brain injury. He lost his independence, and many of his memories of the past. Our son lost a bit of the carefree joy of childhood, which was often replaced with worry and insecurity. Our marriage and family dynamic experienced loss as well.

Looking back, I realize that I lost parts of myself along the way. I often didn't have the time or energy to even notice. Friends and family often admonished me to take care of myself, or encouraged me to take a respite from caregiving. Even now, when my husband is mostly in maintenance mode, I find myself constantly on watch. It seems that I still need to learn balance. This became evident after our recent car accident. Immediately after the impact, I asked my husband if he was hurt. My heart sank when he pointed to the spot of his new kidney. I was extremely concerned about his injuries, so sat beside him in the emergency room as they ran tests. I had become accustomed to my role as his protector and advocate. I've always felt as though his short-term memory loss makes him especially vulnerable. As I sat there, I tried very hard to ignore the persistent pains in my wrist, back and leg. Even when our friend and my sister urged me to have my injuries checked, I decided that I needed to stay at my husband's side. I felt rather silly when tests later showed a fracture in my spine. I suppose there's a reason that others tend to share the adage, "Put your own oxygen mask on first..." Although I haven't booked a weekend at a spa, I plan to find more ways to take time for myself.

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Donna, What a great analogy re: put your oxygen mask on first. So true, we get so focused on protecting, caring, and anticipating for our caree that we forget to put our oxygen mask on first. I recently took a respite weekend and just relaxed. I couldn't believe the difference the 36 hours made in my life. I wish you lots of oxygen and a spa break...even if it is just soaking your feet in your quiet place. Thanks for sharing.


This month marks not only 3 years since my boyfriend/love of my life's brain injury, but also, 17 years ago today my mother passed away. I would have done the same thing you did. I would have taken care of Bill first. I am learning, slowly, that I am not any good to him if I am not good.


Thanks for sharing your story with us, Donna.

Casandra Porter

I definitely understand what you're feeling. I am so sorry you're dealing with so much after the accident and I hope you heal quickly. The last year I have felt much of the same, even in maintenance mode with Marc, it has been an uphill battle taking care of myself. I let my own issues get so overwhelming that it took an emergency to make me wake up and pay attention. Now, this year, it is just about piecing together the remainders of who I used to be to see if they still fit and if not, finding the pieces that do. I know you'll get there, too. You're an amazing woman and I am so grateful to know you and I draw from your strength all the time. Wishing you the best!