Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finding Friendship......

Proverbs 18:24 says, A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

As a caregiver, we each deal with some measure of isolation. We feel alone, separated from others, and we often feel forgotten. It happens.

I recently read on a website for caregivers, that perhaps the isolation that we feel is really not so much that others are pulling away from us, but that we are pulling away from them. I'm not exactly sure about that, but maybe there is some truth in that.

I know that as my husband was able to do less and less, there were fewer opportunities for us to participate in activities. Some things were just physically impossible for him. And, then we began to notice that certain things really bothered him. Loud background noise, large groups of people, heavy odors, and more than one thing happening at once. (Like eating in a restaurant.... trying to eat, having conversations, music playing in the background and lots of noise.) He had sensory overload.

And, then Dear Hubby would tire out very quickly. So we didn't go to something that would cost us more than a couple of hours in time commitment. And, then, if it was too far from the house, you had to factor in driving time. Sitting up in the seat of the van was difficult and would tire him out.

For a period of time, Dear Hubby also didn't want to have people into our home. It was almost as if he had retreated there for quiet, peace and safety and he didn't want anyone invading our private space.

I began to decline invitations to do things too, because I would think about how it was once a family affair and I felt very strange doing things without my husband. I felt like a third wheel. I also had some bit of guilt in going places and enjoying things when Dear Hubby couldn't. And, in some weird way, it felt wrong. (It definitely wasn't, that was just my thinking at that time.)

Part of the isolation was because I felt as though I had nothing to talk about. People really didn't want to hear the details of how my husband was doing. They would ask, politely, and I got the feeling that most wanted a 2-3 minute explanation and that was it. Or if they wanted more information, it was mentally and emotionally exhausting to go through it all and explain the details of a disease most people knew nothing, or very little about. Or if the subject got off into other areas, I would begin to feel uncomfortable. Things like complaining about their husband who hadn't taken out the trash. Discussing their next family vacation. Or even discussing a trip to the park with their kids, which we hadn't done in years. It was too difficult to listen to and I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

And, I was an emotional basket case. I never knew what would set me off, and I might end up crying at weird times, in public places, making myself and my friends uncomfortable.

I wasn't really at the point where I was ready to move past the idea that this was my life. Maybe I was clinging too tightly to my past life, the things that were and would never be again.

But, over the past year or so, I've seen the change happen. As I've said before, I began to realize that today IS my life, and I need to learn to enjoy and participate in the life I have. And, I need to stop focusing on what I don't have.

So, I've begun reaching out. I've called friends, sent messages, and let people know that while I can't leave home as often as I once did, that they can come see me. I've had to work at it, but I'm learning to accept these limitations and do what I can with them.

I've learned that I cannot have the house prepared for company, have Dear Hubby and I both dressed and in our right minds, make a meal and dessert, etc. It's just too much. So, I've learned to speak up and tell my friends that I can't cook, but I can sure make a great cup of coffee or tea. I can make an easy dessert the day ahead. And, sometimes, friends will volunteer to bring us a meal to share, or to pick up some take out.

Because of the isolation I've felt, real or imagined, and because most people don't know what we want or need, I've had to start the ball rolling. I've had to let it be known that we need our friends, we need time of fellowship, while Dear Hubby and I can both enjoy it. There may come a day when he can't handle having people in our home....and then I'll have to make a new plan.

Perhaps then I will make lunch dates with girlfriends, or like I did recently, I can go to a friend's house and drink coffee with her. Or maybe I can plan a 3 or 4 day respite trip and take a girlfriend with me. Or catch a movie with one of my kids.

If we don't make plans, things won't happen. We have to reach out and show others that we need them. And, most people are kind and will reach out to us in return.

I'm beginning to see people again and I'm realizing just how much of life I missed out on. No, life is not perfect, things aren't the way I wanted them to be, but life is pretty good.

And, I have some really amazing friends.


Megan said...

I think it's eerie how many similar feelings I've had with regards to our situation despite the fact it's not really a caregiving thing. Maybe some of it has to do with being in a family crisis that also makes you withdraw? Anyhow you are so right, if I don't plan things with friends they don't happen!! I need "my peoples" more than ever so I try to schedule lunches and things. It helps the rest of the week go by so much quicker when you have something to look forward to. :)

RuthAnn said...

Sometimes I think you and I are walking the very same path. I can so easily relate to everything you write. Thank you for continuing to post on your blog. It has really been a blessing to me!