My Broken Habit

writingloveI can’t believe it’s been over three months since I’ve written on Uniting Caregivers. I’ve missed it and the therapeutic nature writing is for me, but as with any good habit, they are hard to start and easy to break. Why is the opposite true with bad habits? They’re too easy to start and hard to break. Now that I’ve broken my writing habit, I’m struggling to know where and how to restart.

A lot has happened in the past few months. December is always a crazy month with it being the end of the year and the holidays thrown in the mix with related parties. It’s joyful and stressful all wrapped up at the same time. This year my mom, who is the supreme organizer and chief executive of all our family gatherings, was not feeling well so my siblings and I tried to step up to the task. We enjoyed our time together, but nobody can fill my mother’s shoes.

Arthritis and a bad hip are keeping my mother in constant pain and making it very difficult for her to move. Using a walker has been a hard recommendation for her to follow, but for safety sake’s she reluctantly agreed. My mother has always been the ultimate caregiver to those around her, yet it’s difficult for her to accept help from others. Switching roles is a hard transition for all of us, but there isn’t a better alternative than to accept health problems and make the best out of life challenges. Therapy and cortisone shots are her best hope now and she’s doing both.

Dad works hard to keep up with his new household responsibilities in addition to all his old ones. Assisting Mom with cooking meals and doing laundry along with driving to every doctor and therapy appointment can be strenuous. Living in the same household with them has been a blessing and I help as much as I can along with four wonderful siblings who all live nearby. Unfortunately, Dad recently developed pneumonia. We’ve all stepped up a little more to help out and as our family works together, our love and appreciation grows stronger.

Caregiving comes in all sorts of intensity sizes and experiences. Soon after Thanksgiving, our twenty-year-old, outdoor cat became very sick. I love all animals and have had many in my lifetime. Several years ago I started suffering with asthma and my complete dependence on breathing and the adverse impact that animals have on my airways made it necessary for me to love them at a distance. What I wish could be indoors had to be outdoors and as our beloved pets passed on, we haven’t replaced them.

Sammy

Sammy, February 2017

Sammy is a beautiful Siamese cat with more than nine lives. He has stayed with us longer than either of our two children, who both left home at eighteen years. He isn’t cherished more than our children, but still cherished for being a loyal friend day in and day out for a very long time. When I pulled our van into the garage, which is also Sammy’s apartment and he didn’t come out to greet us, I was worried. I found him in a corner looking distraught and unloved with his matted hair. I grabbed his hairbrush and with the first gentle brush stroke he nearly fell over. I put him in his bed and brought it in the house. He lay motionless for most of the night, which I know because I tried to sleep on the couch by his bed with one eye continually on him. I expected him to die that night.

I don’t know for sure what happened to Sammy, there was no blood or noticeable injury, but I suspected a cat fight. There had been a black cat hanging around, which Mark named Spook Impostor after a similar adored black cat we had thirty-five years ago. This particular night we saw him leaving the yard as we drove in.

The next day Katie helped me give Sammy a bath and we inspected his body for wounds. We did find a couple of puncture wounds by his right shoulder, but they didn’t appear to be bad. Days went by where he only woke up to eat and to use the litter box. I continued daily breathing treatments and shed many tears because I didn’t expect he’d live much longer and it would be the end of the pet era of my life.

Some family and friends suggested I put him down. I had to do that eight years ago with our cat, Figaro and that tied my stomach up in knots along with giving me a bad asthma attack from the vets office and all the animal dander in the air. Since Sammy didn’t seem to be suffering in pain, I wanted him to go naturally.

Nearly four months later, I continue to give Sammy hospice care. He’s had a cyst fill with infection, drain and heal, then come back four times now. He has gained weight and strength, only to lose it again. It’s a roller-coaster ride, but I want to care for him as an expression of my appreciation for his long-time companionship.

Dad & Sammy

Dad with Sammy December 2016

Amazingly, my asthma is doing better. I rarely need breathing treatments now. We did get an air purifier, which I’m sure has helped my allergies, along with hypoallergenic wipes I use on him almost daily. I’m enjoying this time with Sammy and he is the perfect house cat. He’s too old to jump up on furniture or counters. I know his days are numbered and I enjoy every day we have with him.

Aging in any life is hard. As I try to help and support my loved ones through it, my life is enriched. So as much as I enjoy writing, providing for the needs and cares of my family will come first while I try to mend my broken writing habit.

Advertisements

The Write Invitation

I’ve written a few articles on the value of writing your story. In Six Benefits of Writing I explained how writing is therapeutic. Now I’m inviting you to share your story on Uniting Caregivers. Your story is important and will be inspiring to all who read it. If you’ve been a guest author already, we’d love an update. I hope you’ll give it some serious thought. Please consider this your personal invitation.

Click invitation image to enlarge.

flyer-5.5inx8.5in-h-frontThe questions listed do not have to be answered. They are only suggestions to get you started. If you have questions or concerns,please email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.

You can also check out Writing for Past, Present and Future and In The Beginning to read more about the value of writing and sharing your story.

Six Benefits of Writing

Sharing how Uniting Caregivers got started, In The Beginning, reminded me of the value in writing. I believe you can benefit from it too.

WritingAfter the car accident I felt the need to write. My head was spinning with all kinds of worries about Mark, our children and how I would juggle all the responsibilities. My attention span was very short. I couldn’t watch T.V. or concentrate on a book—so I wrote. I would maybe write a few sentences about my worries, but mostly I recorded Mark’s progress such as how many breaths he took on his own that day and what his temperature was. I wrote about things most people don’t think about let alone write or read about, but it helped me focus on the positive. I still have that notebook and when I look back on it I’m reminded how far Mark has come.

The value of writing about our experiences brings meaning to it and helps me understand the purpose in the events. It’s amazing the clarity that comes from writing. Through writing I am able to sort out and work through the emotions by searching for the right words to describe it. The act of writing has provided me with a greater depth of self-knowledge and has helped me become a resilient person. Some seek the comfort of a therapist’s office, I find it in writing.

Writing is so much more than a method of communication. Six benefits I’ve found in writing:

  1. Become better at expressing yourself. When we are lazy with words, it is more difficult to describe feelings, share experiences and make ourselves understood.
  2. Remember things long forgotten. As you write about memories it is like opening an old photo album. Your pen begins to expose feelings and details you had forgotten, and dreams you had lain aside. You suddenly remember people you would like to reconnect with.
  3. Keeps distractions at bay long enough for you to explore wonders of the past. Sometimes it is frightening, sometimes wonderful and almost always beneficial.
  4. Records history which will impact how you make future decisions.There’s a reason that the greatest leaders in history were students of history. They learned from what had happened before. Your history is important. Don’t let it be forgotten.
  5. Reminds you of your dreams and keeps you moving toward them. It is a means of keeping track of your purpose and the goals that will lead you to fulfilling them. Reviewing what you have written is a perfect way to see your progress and to reveal when you have been distracted and may need to refocus.
  6. Gives you a record of God’s blessings. In the midst of troubled times it is so easy to forget what He has done for us. Reviewing our blessings will give us the faith needed to endure our trials.

Reference: http://www.kendavis.com/personal-development/daily-writing-benefits/

typingYou don’t need to be a professional writer to achieve the benefits. Writing is an exceptional tool for self-exploration and inner growth which is available to everyone. It can facilitate understanding and change in our lives. From the art of writing, we learn and grow and it is a powerful method to share our love, happiness, gratitude and fulfillment.

Do you write? How has it helped you? If you don’t, you really ought to try it. Whether you write it for yourself or want to share it with others, it will be benefical. I dare you to try it.

Marathon vs. Sprint

Long Distance Runner

Imagine Credit: tobyamidornutrition.com

I loved the analogy in Evey’s Story Update by Cally Johnson, when she stated, “We continue to learn that our caregiving journey is a marathon and not a sprint.” The quote reminds me that often caregiving is a long run which tests endurance, rather than running full speed over a short distance. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility. A single life is busy enough, but add the care of another person and you may be dashing at full speed to doctor’s appointments, therapy and taking care of whatever other necessities they may have. How do we take care of all these responsibilities without exhaustion?

A few ideas I’ve come up with while thinking of Cally and Nate’s caregiving example:

  • Make time for recreation. The Johnson’s take family vacations and do other fun activities often. From personal experience I know it’s not easy to pack up a family and go somewhere. When you have added equipment and medical issues, it becomes cumbersome and more difficult. Doing it anyway gives you a change of scenery, a break from routine and builds memories that get you through the hard times.
  • Regular date nights. If you’re a couple caring for a child, it’s important to make time for your relationship. Hopefully during a date night you can forget about the cares at home and just enjoy one another’s company while building a stronger relationship. If you’re a caregiver to a spouse, dates are equally important for the same reasons. Hopefully you can forget you’re the caregiver for just a few hours while enjoying each others company, building a stronger relationship and just being a spouse for a time. Hopefully, your spouse will enjoy it too.
  • Make time for yourself. Pursuing a hobby is refreshing, whether it’s reading, writing, gardening, sports or playing an instrument. Doing something you enjoy which rests your mind and body from the worry and care of another person builds strength for enduring the hard times.
  • Be physically fit. Just as a marathon runner should train for a race, so should caregivers. A weak person is not capable of dressing, transferring, bathing, pushing wheelchairs, preparing meals and feeding another. Exercise improves muscle strength and boosts endurance. It’s essential for safely managing the physical help needed for your loved one. Don’t forget that exercise can also improve your mood and releases stress.
  • Let others assist. If someone offers to help, let them. They will feel better and so will you. When they realize you’ll accept rather than reject their offer they may be encouraged to do more. Remember, a marathon runner gets encouragement from others, lots of drinks and snacks along the way. The support helps the runner complete the race. As Cally also stated, “There continue to be highs and lows and battles to fight, but we’re feeling more seasoned and continue to be in awe of all the goodness that surrounds us.” Let goodness surround you also.

What other tips do you have for the daily or weekly scurry to the finish line?

Writing for Past, Present and Future

writingloveI appreciate the comments left after a blogpost. It’s feedback on how an article was received by a reader, which can be eye opening. I also enjoy answering questions. On my last post, Conflicting Viewpoints, a reader commented, “This all feels so traumatic to read. Do you ever get PTSD just writing this?”

My answer is a definite no. I find writing is therapeutic and I recommend it for everyone. Your style and story may be completely different than mine, but I believe no matter what you’re going through it can help you see things more clearly. There is an insightful power in writing down words which describe how you feel or what you want to accomplish. It assists in sorting out as well as improving the understanding of your feelings. Most of all it helps me to recognize my blessings as I objectively look at what has or is happening.

As soon as my collarbone had healed and my right arm was free from the sling, I started writing and keeping record of Mark’s progress. They were baby steps—small, wobbly with frequent falls, but through my writing records I could see the progress. At the time, writing it down helped me stay focused on the positive. I’m glad I have it now to look back on because it makes me realize just how far Mark has come and what a miracle his life and recovery truly are. I don’t want to forget where we’ve been because that would lessen the value of where we are.

Writing is a good way to plan for the future. When you want to accomplish something, writing it down is a first step in achieving it. After you write the goal, it becomes visible and clear, no longer just something you think about. Writing the plan will help you prioritize the order of steps needed to make your goal a reality. A person who is trying to lose weight will benefit if they record their weight and the food they eat. By writing it down, one becomes more aware of what they are putting into their mouth. No more mindless eating. Writing provides tangible evidence and can show you why you are or are not making progress. You guessed it—I’m a list maker for everything, from household chores to my work schedule, even writing down my exercise plan and accomplishments encourages me. I also believe there is a benefit in writing a meal plan, but I haven’t worked on that yet. That is my next goal.

writing2Almost twenty-four years have passed since our car accident. When I look back, I rejoice in how far we’ve come. I’m in awe at how all the pieces came together to get us to the point we are now. Our trials and grief may come from different sources, but we all have them. My experience with writing about them improves our understanding and facilitates getting through them. I hope my writing encourages others, because if I can endure, I know they can. I don’t want to forget where we’ve been because when I’m discouraged about life, I can look back at what I’ve written and realize we’ve made it this far and that gives me courage to keep going.

Have you tried writing your story or a goal and steps to accomplish it? What impact did it have on you?

The Write Invitation

On Tuesday, I listed six benefits of writing  and how writing is therapeutic. Now I’m inviting you to share your story on Uniting Caregivers. I hope you’ll give it some serious thought.

Click flyer image to enlarge.

flyer-5.5inx8.5in-h-front

The questions listed do not have to be answered. They are only suggestions to get you started. If you have questions or concerns please email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.

 

Writing is Therapeutic

It’s good to look to the past and gain appreciation for what we have in the present. This also gives perspective for the future. If the pioneers or forefathers didn’t write about their experiences, we wouldn’t have records of it. How could we have learned from them if they didn’t share their thoughts and events through their writing?

WritingAs a teenager I faithfully kept a journal and found it helped me understand my roller-coaster feelings of the love/hate relationships between young boys and girls. A few years ago I read it and didn’t want anyone else to know those inner feelings, so I decided to destroy it. Even though that journal no longer exists, I believe it helped me navigate through some rough teenage years.

After the car accident I felt the need to write again. My head was spinning with all kinds of worries about Mark, our children and how I would juggle all the responsibilities. My attention span was very short. I couldn’t watch T.V. or concentrate on a book—so I wrote. I would maybe write a few sentences about my worries, but mostly I recorded Mark’s progress such as how many breaths he took on his own that day and what his temperature was. I wrote about things most people don’t think about let alone write or read about, but it helped me focus on the positive. I still have that notebook and like to look back on it to remind myself how far Mark has come.

The past nine months I’ve benefited from writing about “Our Story”. Putting words to our experience brings meaning to it and helps me understand the purpose in the events. It’s amazing the clarity that comes from writing. Through writing I am able to sort out and work through the emotions by searching for the right words to describe it. The act of writing has provided me with a greater depth of self-knowledge and has helped me become a resilient person. Some seek the comfort of a therapist’s office, I find it in writing.

Writing is so much more than a method of communication. I’ve listed six benefits of writing:

  1. Writing is a powerful teacher that can guide us toward a happier, more contented and positive purpose-driven life.
  2. Writing promotes self-awareness and personal growth.
  3. Writing enhances knowledge, which guides us towards realizing our truth and values.
  4. Writing is a support system which creates confidence in our own unique style. With thought and purpose to what we’re writing, it can be done without apology.
  5. Writing can educate, inspire, influence and help others.
  6. Writing is like a sieve, separating worries and insecurities. It compels us to do the daunting task of confronting them, which facilitates in understanding them. Ultimately the words help us leave our fears behind.

typingYou don’t need to be a professional writer to achieve the benefits. Writing is an exceptional tool for self-exploration and inner growth which is available to everyone. It can facilitate understanding and change in our lives. From the art of writing, we learn and grow and it is a powerful method to share our love, happiness, gratitude and fulfillment.

Do you write? How has it helped you? If you don’t, you really ought to try it. Whether you write it for yourself or want to share it with others, it will be therapeutic. I dare you to try it.