Sunday, August 16, 2015

A letter to a friend

Dear Jen,

     I hope this letter finds you and yours well, It's been quite a while since we had any contact with each other. I had a chance to catch up with you via your writing this evening. As much as I wish you were not struggling with the situation you are in, I was so relieved to read your words. It feels so good not to be alone. I can empathize with almost every line.

     When this started, I naively thought I knew how tough this would be. I thought because we cared for each other, we could get through anything. Time has proven just how wrong I was.

     I've always thought of myself as being fairly strong in mind, body and spirit. I was not ready for how thoroughly that would be tested.

    The person who was my confidante and best friend has been replaced by someone I hardly recognize some days. Depression, anxiety, medication and illness have taken my "devil may care" partner in crime and replaced him with this yawning abyss of need. There is no room for me there and I grieve for the loss.

     It's hard to put into words. How do you describe what's going on inside when everything around you feels like chaos?  Where do you start? Do you want to take the lid off that particular box? How do you make other people understand? Do you even understand yourself?

    Watching someone leave you by inches, your heart breaks over and over and over. Going from being angry he's late because of an extra hour at the gym, to praising him for being able to support his own weight for a few seconds is soul crushing. But you smile and nod and make all the appropriate noises, " That's great. Do you want to try one more time?", because that's what they need. Tears are for later. Sadness is for later. Taking care of you is for later.

     It's lonely here.

     Well meaning friends and family offer support and advice. Tell you how important it is to look after yourself as well.The demands of care make it hard to maintain any kind of outside contact. Plans  get changed, rescheduled, cancelled. Your world slowly shrinks into the next doctor, the next appointment, the next agency to contact, the next visit. Conversations start and end about care and illness, how they're doing, how your holding up. Things start to feel a bit one dimensional. But you smile and nod and make the appropriate noises, " We're holding up, things are fine", because that's what they need to hear.

     But things aren't fine, I know.

     Wanting to take just a  few minutes. To lay this down, catch your breath and regroup. But there's never time. Everything should have been done yesterday. The clock feels a bit like an enemy, counting down the hours.

     It's hard not to envy other couples.There are times I can't be around it. The comfort they take in each other, the inside jokes, their closeness. The physical expression of caring for someone.  The desire to have that for myself can be overwhelming. I miss him, I miss us. I was completely unprepared for the hit my self esteem took when the look of desire in my other half's eyes was replaced with need. It's difficult feeling alone while still being part of a couple. It's hard not to feel bitter, cheated.

     Guilt and worry become constant companions.. Questioning decisions. Trying so hard to get things "right", Never feeling like you've succeeded. Beating yourself up for not being the ideal caregiver, housekeeper, breadwinner and spouse all rolled into one. Feeling bad for getting frustrated, thinking you should be better at coping. It's exhausting, demoralizing.

     There are never enough hours in the day. I passed exhausted two years ago. I have no idea what fuels me these days. People feel obliged to comment on how exhausted, haggard, old or worn out I look. It warms my heart to know they care,

    So there it is. This is not the life I had planned. I'm picking up my marbles and going home.

     That's not really an option though, is it?

     We care. As thankless as it can be by times, we care. So, we do what we can and agonize over what we can't. People looking in must think we're insane.

     I had someone ask me if I wished I had never met my partner given how things had turned out.  I replied, "The last three years haven't been the most fun but the fourteen before that I was loved, adored even. That's more than some people ever experience in their lifetime. How can I regret that?". I'm pretty sure your answer would have been similar.

     And that's my answer. I pray for the strength to make it though another day. I try and focus on how happy I am we were in each other's lives rather than feel cheated we won't have all the time I hoped for. Try and remember the fun we had rather than be overwhelmed with his need now. Be happy with this rather one dimensional life because home is where he is, not the building I live in.  I want our life together to continue in what ever form that takes. This isn't just about him needing me, I still need him too. And every once and a while, he's there again. He'll smile or laugh. We'll share a  moment or an hour, sometimes a whole day. That gives me strength.

     Even though he would bite off his own tongue before saying "thank you", I'm here because I choose to be. Not because it's my duty, or my responsibility but because I can't imagine being anywhere else.

     Our story will end. It's important to me to know for myself that I did everything I could for him. A lot of people don't understand that. It's not about thank yous or acknowledgement, I need to know I tried my best. That has to be enough. I think the only think I would regret when everything is said and done is not having tried.

     We haven't been given an easy road to travel. Often it feels like the choices we have are bad or equally bad. That just sucks.  I think it's valid to have days where life just sucks. I don't feel the need to put too much of a face on things. Denying things are not great, faking it 'til you make it, doesn't work well for me. I find it too much effort. I need days to be mopey, or quiet or weepy to try and process everything that is happening. I'm not great at sparing other people a bit of awkwardness or feeling guilty because they don't know how to comfort me. I'm not asking them to. I'm not going to pretend everything is roses and sunshine when it isn't. Try me again tomorrow.

     We are in different circumstances. We will make different choices. The route we travel will not be the same. We share a commitment to the people we love. Ultimately, we have to trust ourselves that we will do the best we can for them. That's easier said than done.

     I can't offer advice. I can't offer much of anything other than understanding. Hopefully you will find some comfort and strength in my words as I did in yours.




  1. Oh Paul. I'm floored and awed by this because you NAILED it. And, oh God, you nailed it, and I'm sorry.

    Mostly, THANK YOU. You took the words right out of my mouth, head, heart. I wonder, would you let me republish this on my blog?

    And dude, we should really stay in touch and talk more. Are you on Facebook?

  2. Oh Paul. I'm floored and awed by this because you NAILED it. And, oh God, you nailed it, and I'm sorry.

    Mostly, THANK YOU. You took the words right out of my mouth, head, heart. I wonder, would you let me republish this on my blog?

    And dude, we should really stay in touch and talk more. Are you on Facebook?

  3. I'm so glad you liked it. Honestly I was a little worried. You always seem to be able to put into words exactly how I'm feeling so I took the same chance.
    Feel free to republish it if you want
    Now we just need to find some quality facebook time

  4. Like Jenn I am in awe. every word an emotional punch. you've been given an incredible voice on this. I think so many people would be touched by your words.
    Can we share this more? what can we do? it's so raw and personal, I don't want to tweet a link without you saying ok. But I really think this was put on your heart for a purpose.
    lots of love to you both! xx

  5. I am truly touched by your words to Jen.
    I came across Jens blog searching for support and encouraging words as a Spousal Caregiver to my husband. You have put into words the way so very many of us feel. I thank you for that. I would like to share your words on a support page I belong to.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cathy, I'd be honoured. If you'd like to share this by all means do so. If going through this has taught me anything, it's we're all stronger together.


Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".