Carer has become a job title, it’s a professional role played by someone who specifically comes into your life and house to care for you in a physical way. Carer forgets the original verb; it’s about caring, someone who cares about you and for you. This is what being a carer truly means.
We probably don’t think to count ourselves as carers for spouses or children or parents. It’s what we do naturally in response to a need because we care. They may be ill or they may not be. But we still cook meals, wash clothes and support them through trials, homework and sickness.
Sometimes though those precious ones in our lives do become ill and because we care, we take on even more. We may be doing all the housework, we may be the ones who become the sole breadwinner, we may be doing more than hand holding, temperature taking and sick bowl providing. It can be exhausting but we never stop to question why or what we’re doing. We’d probably be a little bit confused by some bureaucrat trying to label us as ‘carers’. Um, no I’m his wife. Yes I have to make sure medicines are taken, forms are filled, appointments are kept, nutrition and diet are carefully maintained, health is carefully assessed and monitored – the list goes on. But carers, not us!
However it can become an isolating quagmire caring for someone, even though we love them so, so much. It’s so physically, mentally and emotionally draining. And we probably don’t even realise how much we’re giving. We don’t work set hours, we don’t have breaks. We definitely don’t have the choice of going home at the end of a shift. It’s never-ending. Sometimes we can take on too much, we’re human too and we can only do so much.
It’s so important to get help, although ‘help’ can be a vague definition and is sadly too often lacking. Sometimes though it’s us who have to step forward, surrender and humbly ask for it. Beg for it.
The beginning of this week was a little intense and as you know, I haven’t been brilliantly well either. Yet again I found myself at breaking point. (I’ve seen a lot of breaking points over the years and I know them well, what I don’t quite fathom is how I make it past each time). Then something magical happened. Someone, a relative, took me out to dinner, a fast food dinner but all the same. I was out of the house, I stopped being the person who cared, who supported, who helped and had a few hours of being me. We chatted and ate. I didn’t stop loving or caring but I did really appreciate being to able to leave it all behind for a couple of hours. It was a break. A blessed break.
I realised something else just now. The bitter reality of being in a situation where that person who you love so much is ill. I miss them. Terribly. You see, just now, they reappeared. I hadn’t realised how little I see of them nowadays and how long it’s been. The joy of meeting up with an old, dear friend. The bitterness of realising just how much they’re affected by this illness and how much it has changed our lives and relationship.
But I will go on loving and caring. Even during those moments when I don’t know how I’m going to go on.
Take a moment to reflect on all those wonderful individuals who, often behind closed doors, care every hour of every day for the ones they love, no questions asked. You’re probably one of them too.