For weeks I have thought, “I need to write on my blog again,” and “I ought to write on my blog again.” The express purpose for my blog is “to assist me in being an encourager to others. I have dedicated my life to bringing hope and comfort to others, particularly those who are grieving and traumatized.”
Now I am faced with the dilemma, where does the helper go for help? Where does the encourager go when in need of encouragement? This is certainly not the first time I have encountered this dilemma, but in the midst of it I find what little I have to offer seems meager indeed.
My particular journey in this season involves being on the front lines of care for an elderly parent while still providing much emotional and physical support to daughter and grandson and working as a professional caregiver. I joke that I am the poster child of the “sandwich generation.” At the same time my father-in-law wages his own battle with bone cancer, so Terry walks a similar journey. I suspect many of you have walked this path before us…and many are still to follow.
Many of the particulars of this journey are too personal to share here. And without sharing the private particulars of the situation it is quite impossible to express in the confines of this space and time the level of stress, frustration and sorrow experienced by myself and other members of my family. What I can share with you is a bit of the toll of stress I have experienced. I suspect it will be similar to things you may have experienced.
Trouble sleeping : Not a new problem. In fact, I found it very interesting in a Sunday School class several months ago to hear one woman comment “I never knew women slept through the night. My grandmother never slept through the night. My mom never slept all night, and I’ve never slept through the night.” For myself, I rarely have trouble falling asleep. It is sleeping past 3 or 4 in the morning that is the challenge. Even so I had developed strategies for coping with this, which were working well until recently. Recently, I have had nights that I struggled to fall asleep; Mornings that I wake up by 4 a.m. unable to get back to sleep; but lately the most pervasive sleep disturbance is sleep walking. I did a lot of sleep walking as a young person. It does seem to get worse during times of stress. Terry, bless him, is usually still up when I walk or charge out of the bedroom. He has learned not to wake me or interfere. He just takes it in stride “as long as I’m not trying to get in the car and leave”, he says.
Appetite changes: For the first time in my life I can honestly say my appetite is decreased by stress. I come from a long line of stress over-eaters. But recently my appetite has been “off” at times and I have lost some weight, without even really trying. The good news is losing a little weight is not going to hurt me. I’m trying to get some exercise, walking primarily, so that I stay healthy and fit physically even though I may be emotionally and spiritually stressed.
I’m not sure what to call the last manifestation of stress. The root of it is being less tolerant of small stressors in my day. The kind of things that just come up in the course of daily living, like a grandchild having a meltdown or a co-worker annoying you, are things that I have a hard time tolerating right now. Worse, I too quickly react to these things without thinking them through or just letting them roll off my back as I would have in the past.
As a professional caregiver I know the kinds of things I should be doing to care for myself in this season. I have a physiological relaxation CD “prescribed” by my physical therapist which I should listen to every night. I know to eat healthy when I feel like it and talk to my doctor about any physical issues I am truly concerned about. I know to walk away from little stressors that I can walk away from, and nurture a network of supportive people who care for me.
It would be less than honest to say that I am doing all of this well. This week, I have been especially mindful of and sad that, with the exception of my immediate family (Terry and kids) all the people I share a history with…the people who have loved me unconditionally through other challenging seasons of my life…all live hours or even ½ a continent away.
But here and now I pledge that I will keep on keeping on. My faith may falter at times, but my Heavenly Father is ever-faithful, so I know I will get through this just as I have come through difficulties in the past. I am a survivor. I ask for your prayers. I thank you for your love and support. I am especially grateful to Terry, Amber and Richie, to my awesome sisters, my caring cousins (You guys rock! No wonder our family motto is “Ever Forward!”) and my patient co-workers. Thank you all.