On Sacrifice

I don’t know if this is the best place for me to write, emotionally, right now, but it is the most honest. I’m writing from a place of self-doubt, negativity, and lot of questioning when it comes to my own self worth (not what I’m worth to others, just myself). This pops up from time to time, and up until now I’ve never really written about it. Most of the time I keep it buried within my subconscious because I feel like I have to be the strong one in a bad or upsetting situation. But there are times when something just triggers me and I end up becoming passive-aggressive. I had one of these moments this morning, and I stupidly tried to take it out on my dad, which I should’ve known is a bad idea because he’s the kind of guy with whom I’ve learned I have to pick my battles wisely. He didn’t yell at me, but talked to me in such a stern way that I knew was a gut punch and a reality check. And he was right. But at times I am stubborn as f🤬k and I wanted nothing to do with him or say with him and I just wanted to feel like I was worth something to myself, because at this point I feel like I lack that.

So, what does this have to do with sacrifice? Quite a bit, actually.

There’s something I’ve hinted at at times on this blog that I haven’t felt entirely comfortable talking about in such a public manner (as I do make this blog available for public viewing), and it has something to do with my mom. Before I get into the meat of what’s going on with her, I want to tell you a little bit about the mom I grew up with. My mom was a kind, gentle soul who I could come to for so many of life’s problems. She was also strict and a bit overprotective (especially since I was her oldest child), which I think she inherited from her father, who was a captain in the United States Coast Guard and a strict disciplinarian (although my mother was a little bit looser in her strictness compared to her father). She was vibrant and had a personality that made her seem a lot younger than she actually was. She was very close with her mother (who died of cancer in 2004) and that closeness made its way to her and I as I was growing up. She was my world, and still is.

What I’m about to reveal, only family, close friends, and some Ravelers have known. Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was about 64 when she was diagnosed and is now 66. Her father (my grandfather) and her aunt (his sister) both died of the same disease in their 80s. In fact, my grandfather passed away four years ago this month at the age of 85. She’s in the middle stages of the disease at the moment: she can talk, but has trouble formulating complete thoughts; she can still walk and can still feed herself, but is getting more and more dependent on us to help with things like bathing and making sure she gets to the toilet when she needs to use it. My dad and I are her primary caregivers, and we’ve done it so far without need for outside assistance (although she does see her doctor twice a year, and he’s been her doctor for many years). We kind of “tag team” when it comes to her care.

I’ve ended up having to sacrifice a lot in my life as a caregiver, from the physical to the way I live my life.

These last couple of years especially have been tough on me. I can’t remember the last time I got a full night’s sleep without having to worry about her, checking on her, or having to go to the bathroom. Even when I get an aggregate eight hours or more of sleep, I often still feel tired and incredibly exhausted. There are times when I feel completely alert in an afternoon and then I end up falling asleep while sitting in a chair. There are times when I feel like just lying down in my bed and passing out into sleep. Coffee doesn’t do much to ease it; washing dishes or doing laundry keeps it at bay for a while, but I typically don’t get my energy back until 6:00 pm at the earliest.

I spend almost every waking hour with my family; the one break I get from being around my parents so constantly are the two hours I spend at the grocery store every couple of weeks. It never seems like enough. I’m always glad to see them again when I’m done, but sometimes I wish I could just get away from my family, even if it’s just a night out with a few friends. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone not related to me when my family wasn’t present.

I’m not gainfully employed because I spend almost all my time taking care of my mother, to the point where it really isn’t feasible for me to look for work right now. Because I can’t work, even part time at this point, I’m not able to drive (and I would have to get a steady job in order to pay for auto insurance). I don’t drive, so I’m not able to socialize, and I end up at home all the time, with not much more than mom, dad, dog, and my iPad for company.

At times, I feel so jealous of my brother: he’s gotten to live the life he wants, on his own terms. He was able to find steady work and drive a car, he has his own house and a wife he loves deeply and a daughter who is the apple of his eye. He’s gotten to do everything he wants to do in life, and I feel like I’m watching from the sidelines.

I feel like every dream I’ve ever had in my life has been ruined, either by my own hand (quitting band just a couple of weeks into my sixth grade year for seemingly no reason at all or giving up on going to my dream college because my parents wanted me closer to home or dropping out of the community college to ease the financial burden on my parents when their longtime employer laid them off because changing technology was making their jobs obsolete) or because of my mom’s illness. My dream of possibly becoming a mother has likely been ruined because if my hunch of my mom’s illness being genetic is correct, I realistically only have about three or four more years to have a child and see it grow to adulthood before I possibly begin to lose my own cognitive faculties. My chances of finding lasting love are practically nonexistent; lookswise, I know I’m plain and plain usually means ignored and under appreciated and socially my prospects look awful. My dreams of having a decent career seem dashed because I’m getting too old. I don’t want to be just another housewife like my grandmothers were, and I don’t want to shuffle from job to job like my mom did. I want to be able to say I got my degree, but sometimes I feel like there are so many roadblocks in my way that I keep wondering if I have to change routes to find my own path in life. I’m 31, I should be living my life right now, but instead I feel like I’ve lost myself in the needs of so many others. I can’t just “get away from it”, so many bricks would fall out of the wall without me in it.

Most people my age are expected to at least be independent, employed, and able to support themselves. My dad claims that my being unemployed doesn’t change my worth to my family, but the thing is, it hangs like a dark cloud over me and I feel like I could do so much better.

And what if I have the same gene that is causing my mother’s brain to slowly kill her? What if the prospects for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients haven’t changed 20 years from now, and I end up having my own brain start to slowly kill me? What if it happens even earlier than that? Was all this truly worth it, or will I be forgotten by almost everybody but the ones who cared for me the most? Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself in all of this.

I apologize for all this personal melodrama, but I was feeling feelings this morning that couldn’t really be spoken to my father. I had to find a way to let them out. I don’t know how many will actually care about my corner of the planet, but I don’t really care so much about the response I get from this. All that matters is that I let those feelings go and try to figure out my next steps.

After I post this, I’m gonna try and get back to doing my daily work of trying to get the kitchen straightened out and washing those dishes that I can’t stand. I have to try and get back to some sort of normal, whatever that is.

4 thoughts on “On Sacrifice

  1. You are contributing to your family in a way that a nonfamily member can’t. That makes you the most valuable member. What you need is a regular break for some fun. When my grandmother had Alzheimer’s (it is the cruelest disease for all involved) my father and his brother used to give my aunts a break one evening per week. Could your brother come for a few hours so you and your dad could get out of the house? My aunts always took the time to go to church and have dinner out. When my aunt had the disease (it runs in my family through 3 generations at this point) her husband found a senior center that offered care for the patient so the caregiver could have a couple of hours to themself. Maybe there is something like that near you.
    It’s important for the caregivers to take care of themselves both mentally and physically.
    I know you like to read and have access to your iPad. Have you considered online college classes? MIT offers all their classes online for free. You won’t get credit but you will be able to learn things that interest you and be a few steps ahead when you do go to college or get a job.
    Feel free to let your feeling out on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. My brother works a lot, so that’s not the best option. My dad works four days a week (10 hour days), which gets him out of the house regularly. My sister-in-law was trying to get me to go to bars with her once a month, which I wasn’t able to do because of a lack of ID, and now that’s off the table (well, at least the bar-hopping part) because, well…I’m waiting about another month or so to talk about this publicly, but this emoji is self-explanatory…🤰🏻. (Not me, but the SIL.) Luckily, I don’t need alcohol to have a good time, so I guess having a weekend dinner or get-together with my sister-in-law wouldn’t be a bad idea, even after the baby is born, just as long as she can get my brother or her mother to watch the kiddos. She also loves to go shopping and antiquing, so I guess if she needs a shopping buddy…😁

      My local community college does have an online learning option that could allow me to complete my AA degree (I’m missing just a couple core science courses and the rest of the credits are all prerequisites for the intended major), and one of the local public universities does offer the major I’m interested in as an online bachelor’s program. It’s a conversation I’d need to have with my dad, but my sister-in-law did take some college classes online over the last couple of years (I’m not sure if she’s continuing with it this academic year), so the option’s not off the table.

      Sometimes the stress just gets to me, but it’s always good to have encouragement and knowing people have your back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are the center for both of your parents and I don’t think your family would be able to count your worth:)
    It’s a tough disease as I lost my grandma to it a few years ago. My heart and thoughts are with you as I realize how difficult it can be when your life doesn’t follow “the norm”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My family took care of my Grandmother with Alzheimer’s for 10 long years. It’s a very cruel disease, for everyone involved. During some of these years I’ve been living at home with my parents and later when I moved out, I tried to help them as much as I could. There are things I still remember so well about this time, and I wish I could forget. Alzheimer’s in a family changes it forever. We still have “scars” from that time and some things will never be fixed. You have my sympathy – it’s a very tough situation to be in. It takes a special person to do what you are doing!
    I also second the advice of nothingbutknit in the comments above. You need some kind of help, support system – someone who could help even once per weak, allow you to get out of the house, to feel free. It’s very easy to burn out otherwise. Please talk to your brother, sister in law, any other relative or family friend you can think of. You deserve a break every now and then! We for instance were able to connect with the support group for carers for people with dementia and it was a blessing, to talk but also for practical hints and help. Maybe something like that is available in your area? I don’t know much about US healthcare system but perhaps there is a chance to apply for a service like a nurse visiting once in a while? And the idea of online courses is also great! Something that will help you take care of yourself for a change, because you are already doing it for others.
    Like you, the thought of inheriting Alzheimer’s scares me. I know my Mum also thinks about it after everything we’ve seen happening to my Grandmother. We’ve had some really sad conversations about “what if”… and there are no good solutions really, only hoping that medicine will make enough progress to treat it some day.
    There’s really a lot I relate to in your post, but I don’t want to write a novel here so please just remember that you are important and that you deserve to have support too. If you ever need to talk just write!

    Liked by 1 person

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