The life of a caregiver can be pretty stressful. (That sentence is a candidate for the Nobel Prize of understatement.) Everyone’s story is different, but the resulting stress is pretty much the same. I hope that my story will resonate with you enough that the important lesson I learned will resonate as well.
Since her diagnosis and initial treatment, things were going pretty well for my wife for quite a while but now it’s her turn in the crosshairs. And when she’s in the crosshairs so am I.
Between the economy and my wife’s advanced illness, life has been challenging to say the least. I am used to being in “work” mode just about all the time, thinking about my business and how to offer more value. That’s not to say that I’m always working and never playing, it’s just that my business is always right “there” no matter what I’m doing. It’s not an obsession, but rather more of a habit.
Now my wife’s illness is advancing due to brain damage that she sustained during whole
brain radiation for metastasized breast cancer. The result is that she needs almost constant
care, plus I am responsible for cooking, marketing, laundry, etc. She can no longer drive
and cannot walk without assistance so, for example, just taking her to a manicure is a 3-
hour process. When you add that to the rest of my responsibilities, it’s a pretty big chunk
of the day.
With all of these new things to do I have only a fraction of the time to spend on my
business that I used to have. Combine that with my “habit” of always thinking about it
and you have a pretty frustrating situation; lots of ideas but little time to implement them.
Plus, I have an annoying mortgage to pay…
What I learned is that a lot of my stress was due to fighting the situation, trying to operate
“normally” when the environment was anything but normal. I simply can’t work and earn
the way I have in the past because there isn’t enough time. Trying to “make it so” only
makes it worse.
Surrender to the things you cannot change and accept the “new normal.” This is easier said than done, but when I was finally able to do that my stress level dropped from about “10” to about “4.”
I realized that I have a new job: doing what needs to be done to care for my wife.
Speaking and writing are still an important part of my life but have become, by necessity,
secondary. I spend time on it when I can, and let me emphasize that I STILL ACCEPT
ALL SPEAKING AND CONSULTING OPPORTUNITIES, it’s just that I work less to
FIND those opportunities. It’s the way it has to be. I now accept that rather than fight it,
and I have a new self-image: homemaker and caregiver that works on his business when
he can rather than vice-versa.
What about the effect on our finances? Well, it just is what it is. There may be fallout but
when all is said and done, the most important thing is taking care of her.
This new attitude has changed my life. I have heard about “accepting the new normal,” but when the term “surrender” was applied it suddenly made perfect sense. And it made a world of difference for me.
Think about it… it can make a world of difference for you as well.
By Dave Balch, author “Cancer for Two” and founder CopingUniversity.com
© 2013, Dave Balch. All Rights Reserved.