If you are a caregiver, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself in order to be able to care for anyone else. I learned this the hard way. I neglected myself for years, always pushing off doctor appointments because I just didn’t have the time or the money to go through all the tests they always make me go through just to shrug and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” I would cancel plans to do anything for me, like my writing group that met once a month, or saying no to friends who invited me out for whatever outing they were doing. It was always out of guilt for leaving my husband alone, for guilt of having fun without him while he suffered.
It was about the time I couldn’t stop crying, the same time when I got really sick I *HAD* to see a doctor, that I needed to seek help in more ways than one. I knew I wasn’t alone in caring for a loved one. But previously, I only found organizations that dealt with caring for your elderly parents and I would feel so out-of-place, and they just wouldn’t understand the situation. Their issues were visible. Mine were not. I really thought I was alone. Until I found the VA Caregivers Program. Once I found other spouses dealing with similar issues and knowing I wasn’t alone, I had the strength to go to the doctor and get my brain chemistry fixed. In January, I found Hearts of Valor and had my first local meeting – dinner with other caregivers.
It was hard for me to get out, leave my husband, have fun, and meet new people. But I did it. And am grateful for it. I missed February’s get together and then there wasn’t another one scheduled until I found Painting with a Twist and posted in the group that I thought it would be fun to do with everyone. So, we scheduled to meet on the night of September 11th and paint a tribute to 9/11. No one had any painting experience, but that was ok. There was wine and an instructor that would walk us through every step of the way. I really enjoyed myself. And I think everyone else did, too.
I would like to share with your my painting progress and final project. And remind you to recharge every now and again because the weight of caring grows exponentially. And if you aren’t healthy, how can you take care of your loved one?
1. Start with a blank canvas. Just like a blank piece of paper, you can only fix emptiness with something! 2. Basic outline. Yeah, ok, so it doesn’t look like much.3. Fill in a bit of the detail.4. Start painting. Not too much yet. Just a thin layer. Then you can go back and fill it all in.
So, what do you think?
**As a caregiver, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a support group and “me time.” Last night was my first really “me time” with my local support group. I haven’t been able to do this since January. I have issues with leaving my family and having “fun” without them. But this really was so much fun and I will definitely take TheBoy for a go at it! Our little Hearts of Valor group went to Painting with a Twist last night. They were offering a tribute to 9/11 and it seemed so fitting for our group of Veteran Caregivers.**