Monday, November 29, 2010

What have I lost?

I am reading a book on dealing with grief at the moment. Each chapter covers a myth about grieving, and the reality. The first chapter's myth is You only grieve when someone dies. And the reality, of course is, We grieve whenever we lose anything, whether it be someone or something. I completely agree with this.

One of the exercises at the end of the chapter is to make a personal loss profile about a specific experience or an event. So here goes.

The event I choose to reflect on is: My realisation that this may be as good as it gets; hubby may never get any better, and in fact may continue on his slow downward spiral.

These are the losses I experienced, albeit gradually, not all at once:
  • I've lost the ability to be honest about my life with friends and family. Apart from our parents, I am not 'allowed' to tell anyone that knows my husband what is really going on in our lives. He believes that he has lost friends by me sharing my problems with people we know. In truth, he may be right, but I am just stating my losses.
  • I've lost my house as a welcoming home into which I can invite other people. Much of it is now full of junk. Drifts of snow dog hair and piles of clean and dirty laundry make it extremely uninviting.
  • I've lost my freedom. If I go out in the evening, I pay for it later as his anxiety ratchets up, and he becomes extremely clingy and needy.
  • I've lost the ability to work a 40 hour week, so I've had to take a pay cut and work a 35 hour week instead. I tried, but even when I was still working at home, I kept running out of time and always having to work on the weekends... because I have to take him to almost all of his appointments and sit there with him so he doesn't get anxious or scatterbrained and forget all the details. Despite him officially being the at home parent, I have to do most of the kid things too. I may as well be a single parent, in that regard.
  • I've lost the opportunities to spend time with my extended family (other than my parents). He feels betrayed by my sister and her husband; and my brother and his wife have been distant to him as he becomes intense and hostile when things don't go his way. I have three nephews and a niece that I hardly know. 
I feel better putting that down in writing. I have tried to stick to just the losses and be objective. It will be interesting to see where this book leads me next. I am tempted to write what I am grateful for now, as a follow-up, but I think I will stick with the book exercises for now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm back, with carer grief

It has been a while (7 months, oops!). Silly me, I thought I had everything 'under control', but over the last month or so...
  • I've cried at the end of the Dr Who episode about Vincent Van Gogh, because the credits said if we'd been upset by the episode we could go to this special BBC mental health website, BBC Headroom, for support.
  • I've cried at the meditation workshop I was at the next day at the beautiful Abbotsford Convent. We were supposed to be imagining a beautiful garden, and I just got sadder and sadder.
  • Started taking 2000mg St John's Wort twice a day, again, as once a day was just not doing it for me.
  • Wondered if there's something wrong with me for putting up with a husband who won't do the basic things he needs to do to take care of himself.
On Tuesday I finally got to go to my carer support group again (it has been six weeks, we only meet twice a month but my meditation workshop meant I missed one meeting, and then the Melbourne Cup meant the other was cancelled).

I talked about how I was doing and that I was taking care of myself but feeling so sad. Individual members helped me understand I was in a grief phase. Earlier this year I attended a workshop on grief (run by the CEO of Griefline) in mental health caring - the grief for the life, hopes and dreams we had, that we can no longer attain. It is sometimes referred to as burnout, disenfranchised grief or compassion fatigue. The problem is, there is no closure, no definite steps, little family or community support (unlike bereavement or something physical like a heart attack or cancer diagnosis) and it goes up and down and around like a roller coaster.

On Wednesday, I was supposed to go on another respite day, but apparently the government decided my region had enough funding and I didn't get to go. So I went back to Peninsula Springs, and this time I took hubby. Oh, we had a glorious day... and hubby has never felt so relaxed, so why am I feeling so sad again?

I need some more self care
  • Call Griefline and/or Carers Victoria and see if I can get some counselling around my grief.
  • Research programs that might help hubby with his combined issues (chronic pain, painkiller addiction, anxiety, and depression).
  • See if I can find somewhere the whole family can go and meditate or do yoga together.
  • Find somewhere closer hubby can go for regular bathing in warm water.
I'm glad to be back... I hope some of my followers are still out there!