Oxygen Mask

donna

Oxygen Mask

donna
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.