Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when becoming a caretaker for my wife. It seemed like it wouldn't be a big deal, that hard, or overly stressful. I honestly thought that it wouldn't be that life changing. All the shit I was told about making sure I take care of myself and using my support system I kind of brushed aside because "I knew" all that already. Unfortunately I knew all that already in theory and not from ever really experiencing it. I saw my mother, grandmother, and grandfather do it when my great gram was coming to the end of her life. I knew what I was getting in to and it wouldn't be an issue...I'm finding out that all the things I knew, didn't add up to "piss hole in the snow" as my grandfather would say, once I began putting them into practice.
I don't tend to talk much or open up about my feelings. I'm a work in progress on that front but still have a god damn long ways to go. I'm aware of it but it still doesn't make it any easier to do it. I swallow and bottle and believe that my shoulders are strong enough to take on my issues and anyone else's that I care about. I suppose it's why people come to me with things. Unfortunately, while I can help them with issues I haven't always been able to help myself. I've often been so busy helping others take care of their problems, mine get masked over and I keep pushing them further and further down the list of necessary items to take care of. In this kind of life that will eventually lead to issues.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a support system. And I'm not just talking about people who'll tell you what you want to hear or just try to make you feel better, though there can be a time and place for that. I'm talking about friends and family who are the kind of people that will tell you when you're doing something wrong and are acting like a douche. The people who can see that's something isn't right and will say something or ask questions without you having to approach them. Who understand that you're not having issues because you're weak but you're having them because, like carrying a 50 lb weight on your back, eventually you get tired and have to unload that shit before continuing on. They can put your mind as easy and let you know that it's ok to let your guard down and talk to them without having to censor your feelings or thoughts. Those are the people to search out when seeking support.
I'll be honest. I don't tell my wife everything that's going on in my head and I don't expect that she does with me either. I know she's aware of that fact and I know this bothers her somewhat. We try to protect those that we love and guard them from any unnecessary hurt or concern. That's when the support system is most necessary. It allows you to get things out in the open and free your mind without causing any undo stress. Sometimes what you reveal may stay strictly between you and the one you're opening up to and other times that second point of view may reveal other approaches that allow you to open up to your loved one. That depends on many things including what the information is, the circumstances, ect.
Having a support system is very influential to the other major facet of being a caretaker: Taking care of yourself. This encompasses so many different variables that I'm not sure I can touch on them all but there are a few key ones for me. Diet, fitness, and hobbies. Here's some truth. If you're in poor health how are you going to be able to take care of someone else and insure that they're in the best health possible? You can't. If I'm cooking and eating nothing but prepackaged foods and serving fatty cakes and coke what is that going to do for us? I'm going to be tired and lethargic all the time and am likely going to end up causing myself health effects down the road. This is not conducive to insuring that my loved one is being well taken care of. Food and exercise also effects my mood and the way I conduct myself. Bad food makes be feel like shit. I notice a vast difference in my behavior when I'm eating well vs when I'm eating trash. My family notices it as well. I'm almost a different person. It's the same when I'm not injured and can exercise on a regular basis. I feel better about myself and in turn I'm a better father and husband for my family. If you're a caretaker and unaware of good diet and exercise habits, getting in touch with someone who is is vital.. Eating and moving are two necessary, yet often overlooked essentials to this lifestyle and I implore you to work toward getting on the right track for your health and your loved one.
Hobbies is huge. When I say it's huge, I mean it's ABSOLUTELY FUCKING ESSENTIAL TO YOUR LIFE! You can live solely for another person for awhile but eventually it's going to catch up to you. You need to find things that you enjoy and pursue them. I like to write. It's a hobby (and one that I haven't been very good at keeping up with honestly) but I have other interests I want to pursue as well. Some of them are on hold at the moment because of where we live but you can bet your ass once we're moved I'm going to be finding some outlets that I enjoy. You have to. Living life without doing things one finds interesting, challenging and enjoyable leads to boredom, depression, and oftentimes resent. Don't let it get that far. Find a passion and pursue it. You don't have to put other things on the back burner, especially as a caretaker when you may have a lot of down time between when you're needed. Use that time to relax your brain and explore your passions.