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How to rediscover yourself and keep going?

I have been through a lot the past 6 years with my parents (longer with my dad), my father's death, father's estate issues, mother's behaviors, step-dads illness, son entering and graduating college, another child about to enter college, ups and downs of husband's business, in-law's changing health and mental status, taking 2 leaves of absence from my own job due to caregiving, school closure (teacher) due to Covid, etc...

I am on medication for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The majority of the time, I do well, I eat healthily and exercise almost daily, I connect with friends and family daily, and have 2 sweet dogs. However, I have been questioning so many things. I recently turned 55 and question, "Is watching the decline and eventual death of self, family, and friends all there is left for me?" I understand the cycle of life, but how do you just keep going and living life in the meantime? I feel like the past few years have brought problems, anxiety, and fear at every turn.

I am into a cycle of worry that I will cause the same pain and struggles for my own children, that I have experienced with my parents. I just want to feel more positive about something and stop worrying about the future.

Thank you for any advice, insight, and feedback. This is a great forum.

AlvaDeer

Mar 17, 2021

I am 79 this year. I have made it clear to my children that they are NOT to consider caring for my health in any expected decline. My life work has been lucky enough, given my natural frugality, to provide enough to pay for my care in facilities when it is needed. That has addressed for me, my children. I even have the agreement/cooperation of one of my children to see me through my own voluntary withdrawal from food and drink when I want to do it/if I want to do it.

It has always been clear to me that I am not someone without limitations. One of those limitations I knew well and surely. I was a nurse. I knew what it took and did it three days a week, 12-hour shifts, for a very good salary, and was dedicated and loved my career. But it was always clear to me what it took, and that I could not do it 24/7 for family. Ever. So I did not take on the care for others.

Ages 45 to 75 were the freest of my life. It was a time when my children were grown. When I was well enough to travel. We built a small second "cabin" on land that was in the middle of nature. We went to Europe. I took classes and formed hobbies I loved. After retirement at 62, I still had 15 years when I could hike and chop wood.

I would say that you are correct. When you are a caregiver it is consuming and consumes your life entirely. It was accepted in other cultures and in our own earlier generations that this is the way it is. But not it is more or less a choice.

I now don't wish to travel. Am content with the garden and with the books and with hobbies, activities I enjoy.

It might be of interest to you that my grandson is this year graduating college. He will have a career. And now questions EVERYTHING as in "Is this it? You are born, go to school, go to work, have a family, die? Is this all there is".

So your thoughts aren't unusual to even in the young.

I would say that you are now coming to an age where you have decisions to make about what you WANT to do with your remaining years, what you CAN do.

I have twice in my life been to a counselor. Once a very heartbreaking divorce. Once cancer (35 years ago) diagnosis that made life itself an uncertainty. It truly helped. It helped comb out issues, choices. I recommend it.

It is difficult to stay in the present day. We are planning creatures. Some of us are more anxious than others (count me IN on that).

I do agree this is a great Forum. And you are a trusted participant here often.

I sure do wish you good luck. Don't try to do the "I should" or "you should" thing. Allow yourself to think whatever you want on any given day. I learned THAT from cancer, to ignore those who said "You have to think positive". Guess what! You can think as negatively as you want and still be alive 35 years later. Hee hee.

Sunnydayze

Mar 17, 2021

Oh wow! Your words are so enlightening. Receiving this insight from a thriving an "almost" 79 years old really helps me. I made a counseling appointment a few minutes ago. I hope to gain some clarity from this experience. Thank you so much for reminding me that we are planning creatures. Your last sentence made me laugh, too! I appreciate you.

GardenArtist

Mar 17, 2021

How do you keep going?  You make plans, to be implemented in stages over time, and you create goals integrated into those plans.   

Formulate them in such a way that you have lists of activities and goals, and each day engage in an activity for the goals, however small.   That gives you daily progress, and something to look forward to.

One way to approach this is to ask yourself what your goals would be outside of caregiving, for you and your children.    Then identify the steps and activities and figure out ways to contribute to them along the caregiving journey.

Sunnydayze

Mar 17, 2021

Thank you, Garden Artist. I appreciate your wise words so much.

GardenArtist

Mar 17, 2021

Sunnydayze, you're quite welcome.    If it's any consolation, you're not alone in this process.    It's helped me through some tough times.   What I'm also starting now is using decorated stationery to print out my goals, steps, accomplishments, etc.    Just looking at lovely stationery (apparently becoming obsolete as I think fewer and fewer people are writing letters) makes me feel better.

I also listen a lot to the classical music channels through cable, jot down the ones I want to learn, and search through my piles of music to find the scores, then start practicing.   I won't even address how badly my playing is, not having practiced for years!)

(Chocolate helps too, but it's not without unpleasant recourse!)

Helpful Answer (5)

Sunnydayze

Mar 17, 2021

I love the idea of beautiful stationery for notes. I miss letter writing, too. I recently noticed a beautiful, copy-paper. I agree music is good for the mind and spirit. I need need to search my cable channels. I agree on chocolate! I eat a small piece of dark chocolate daily.

OldBob1936

I can relate to your situation. It is one of the most misunderstood activities in life to be a caregiver. Kudos to you. The one thing I did early in my 12-year long caregiving for my massively handicapped wife, was to pray to be given a servant’s heart. God provided that in spades. Each day I awoke and felt as though there was a wind puffing up my sails, so to speak, and I was eager to get to the nursing home. I went to assist my wife with breakfast, have a prayer time with her and come back to assist her

with lunch, watch Judge Judy and the soap operas. Then she would nap. For supper time, I paid ladies to come from four to six pm and assist her with dinner and have a one-way girl talk. (She could not speak despite being very alert). She was also paralyzed on one side.

(the staff could not provide the level of care that I and the paid helpers at supper time did.)

I often felt stressed but made a decision early in her years of confinement to always exhibit a positive view of everything. It worked well for us.

I realize I have not addressed the details of your post. I hope what I have said gives you a glimpse of how handled our situation.

my wife died in 2017, after 61 years of marriage.

Now my health is very precarious. I doctor it as I can and put on a happy face.

grace + peace,

Hi Bob! Your words are wise and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I really appreciate praying for a servant’s heart! I wish you the best of health and everything else!

Hi Sunnydayze,

Your post brings back many memories of 3 am bouts of crying myself back to sleep as my hubby deteriorated with Frontotemporal Dementia. After 6 long years he passed away Dec 8, 2020 and I am now trying to figure how what is next for me. As I read your post I remembered an exercise I did in my darkest days that really helped me. I call it an exercise because at times it was difficult to make myself do it. I began to write down the things I was thankful for (also wrote the dates). The dates come in handy when you go back later and read them. You could use a journal. I wrote mine on the blank pages in the back of my Bible. At first most days I had to really focus to come up with what I was most grateful for that day. My counselor explained it like this, “when you are focusing on being thankful, the things that are overwhelming you have to take a backseat”. Apparently, our brains cannot do thankful and worry at the same time!! It’s one or the other. And eventually, you get better and better at staying thankful in the moment. I am a believer in Christ and this really helped me in my walk with Him as well. Perhaps it is an exercise that could help you as well. I had to quit 4 jobs to care for my husband, so I know the way you feel. The rest of the world just goes on like before and we have to completely rebuild our lives. But we are survivors and we will rise up. Stay strong and Blessings to you on your journey!!💪

PS perhaps this exercise could be a way to use the beautiful stationery mentioned in GardenArtist’s post.

Sunnydayze

Wow!! Thank you! I’m going to do start this exercise. I really appreciate your wise words. Again, thank you!

bowgirl

It is the first day of Spring. Embrace the new beginning, get out and do something for yourself!. Mind over matter. We all worry about the burdens we have heaped upon as nurturers ... Allow a "worry" time and then get on with the rest of your day and life. It will be hard at first. I'm trying to avoid being like my grandparents and now my folks... I'm always purging stuff. I'm consolidating accounts and purging old files.... I own a small first-floor living cottage to downsize into. It is currently rented.

Sunnydayze

Love this! Yes... I want to purge things! Thank you for mentioning the first day of spring!

bestafk

Spring has me planning for my flowers. My husband can sit on the deck nearby and watch me. As long as he sees me he will not try to get up by himself, which he can’t. Planning in my head for planting in May

I am 58 and in the same spot in life: all I have done is caregiving and I am fully depleted. I am an RN and they started promoting Self Care which is awesome but I am a slow learner of new habits at this point. I recently read a great book that may help focus on the here and now: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Sunnydayze

I’m going to read this book! I appreciate your post. Thank you so much!

Taarna

Start with this fact - you are a survivor, an overcomer. You have learned valuable lessons with each difficult situation. Take time to evaluate each situation you have faced over the past couple of years. What positives have you gained from each situation? What lessons have you learned that you will implement to make life easier for your children when they care for you? Consider putting together a "Care of Sunnydayze" notebook with sections on health, finances, likes/dislikes, memories, and insights that are helpful for them, maybe a short photo album of important people and events in your life (with wonderful captions). After you have put together this wonderful compendium of help, consider that others may benefit from your experiences and insights. Consider writing a book or creating a fill-in-the-blank journal that others can use based on your experiences and needs.

By the way, I am 58 and looking forward to re-entering the world of work. I don't feel like I am looking at "the end" of my life but a new chapter full of wonderful adventures.

Sunnydayze

1 hour ago

Love this idea!!! Thank you! I’m excited about your return to work! I will return to my classroom in August and welcome it! Work can be therapeutic!

Midkid58

I have been a busy person for so many years--wife, mom, sister, daughter, caregiver, grandma (my favorite job EVER) friend, and neighbor.

And a cancer survivor. Why did I think that the big "C" somehow wouldn't be a factor in my life? But I really never did.

I went from having some fatigue and a cluster of swollen lymph nodes one day into full-fledged emergency chemo after a LOT of very painful tests....it was all a blur. Dh couldn't handle the stress, so he traveled as much as he possibly could and asked me to please cover my bald head, it was 'bothering' him. I felt so very, very alone. And so angry at him, as I have nursed him through 5 life-threatening things, not the least of which was a liver transplant!! He was not 'there for me and I wondered if I even wanted to stay with him.

Turning my heart to my faith and trusting God, He sent people into my life who checked on me, brought dinners, and sent cards and flowers. Just as I was down in the dumps so bad I thought I would give up, someone would step in and raise me.

I cleared the cancer and now am in remission. I opted to only do 4 of 12 FU chemos (with the Drs approval) and have been very slowly recovering.

I'm working on forgiving my DH for what he could not be---and planning the last portion of my life. I will not live to 90, so I hope to get what I can out of the next 20 years.

My primary focus is on service. There are always so many people who need help. I find when I am giving, I am not so enmeshed in my own 'anxiety'. Every day I try to include lifting up somebody else.

So many things I thought I'd have forever to do are not going to happen, and I'm at peace with that.

I turn 65 in a few weeks and it's so weird. I never thought I'd get that old :)

I have 5 amazing kids, 5 amazing in-laws, and 14 beautiful grands I hope to see grow up.

Some days are bad, face it, and accept it. I don't cry anymore, but I can sure get bluesy blue. It's not forever and it always passes.

As soon as COVID is manageable, we will do a little traveling and begin to look for our retirement home.

I think my faith has shored me up so much. And not listening to the news very much--seriously--it doesn't help and makes me angry and sad.

Each one of us is an important part of the puzzle of the world. Knowing that each day of life is a gift helps.

Accepting the good days and being grateful for them and trying to let the bad ones slip away without leaving a footprint on our hearts--takes some doing, but remembering that we are blessed so much, even when we're struggling.

I SO respect and admire Old Bob and the sweet comments he makes about his dear wife. This forum has also been a godsend.

Finding your niche, once again in life, is a challenge.

CantDance

Midkid, you are amazing! Your statement about your DH, especially: "forgiving my husband for what he cannot be" rang a bell for me (((hugs)))

Bruce Webb is a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and has an extensive network of senior-related referrals.

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