So many of the caregivers I know are deeply entrenched in caregiving, and I was too, for many months following my husband’s brain injury. Life revolved around his needs and trying to fit in everything else — take care of the house, the kids, my job, the bills — it felt as if I needed an extra twenty-four hours tacked on to every day just to stay on top of things.
I remember saying to a friend once, “When is anything going to be about me again? I feel like I’ve lost myself. I don’t even know what I need anymore, let alone what I want.”
It’s easy to lose yourself when you are caregiving for someone with a brain injury.
Luckily, my friend was a real friend. She didn’t chastise me and say, “How can you be so selfish? How can you think of yourself at a time like this?” She was understanding, and said she felt the same way once before when tragedy struck her family. She felt like she was drowning. “Try doing little things for yourself. Have you read a book lately? You love to read. Look, Rosemary, it’s got to be about you sometimes. Just make the time.”
She got me thinking. Hugh was beginning to make progress, but I was stalled and stuck in my caregiving role. My fingernails were ragged, my hair needed cutting, and I had big bags under my eyes. I sat down at my computer and typed up a list of things I love: reading, writing, music, flowers, delicious home-cooked meals, working in the yard, a good movie, and being with friends. Maybe I need to venture out a bit, I thought. Maybe it is time to plant a few seeds for my own future.
Instead of slouching in a chair when I felt tired, I began to go outside. Pulling weeds in the garden and planting a few flowers made me feel less trapped. There’s something about the solid earth under your feet and your hands in the dirt that grounds you. I noticed something else happening, too. I began to think creatively when I ventured outdoors. I had begun to toy with creating a book out of my journal, and the words seemed to come to me as I strolled around the block, or raked the mulch around the front bushes. I began to think of these times as my seeds of contentment. Life was still hectic, but there were pockets of peace.
Between all the trauma and turmoil, thin layers of joy crept in as I gave myself the gift of personal time. Time to read and think. Time to dream and consider. Time to plan and consciously prepare a new way for myself. Today, I’m an author and speaker. Back then, I would not have believed this could happen in a million years. But it all started with a journal and a few dreaming sessions when I stole some moments for myself.
What seeds are you planting?