There are about a million reasons I can give you on how being a Caregiver (CG) is exhausting, frustrating, difficult and maddening! However, what if I tell you that being a CG can be and actually is kind of awesome? Well I have at least 3 reasons why being a caregiver has completely changed my life.
Reason 1: I am a Jack-of-all-Trades.
OK, so depending on whom you ask, being the Jack-of-all-Trades can be an absolutely horrible or a great thing. I think it depends on HOW you define the term. For example, take a look at the definition the Urban Dictionary provides and compare it to that of Merriam Webster.
Urban Dictionary defines Jack-of-all-Trades as:
“A Jack of all Trades is someone who is decent at everything, but not especially adept at any one thing.”
“A person who is skilled at a variety of different things, but not to the same level as a person who is specialized in one of these things.”
Merriam Webster defines Jack-of-all-Trades as:
“a person who has many skills : a person who can do many different jobs”
Well, all I know is that the second definition sounds a LOT better and therefore that’s the one I’m going with. 🙂 Never in my wildest would I have imaged that I would be able to accomplish the things I have in the last 8 years. Some might argue that I have nothing to show for, since I haven’t really held down a full-time job or have yet started a career.
(You know, because nowadays it seems you should have figured out how to have your things together with 4 years of experience in your chosen field by the time you are 18 years old, graduated college and completed 6 full-time non-paid Internships by the age of 21 and have a 750 Credit score and live in a tiny home that’s completely paid for by the age of 24.)
Even though, I have NOT accomplished any ONE of these things -especially by the perceived age requirements- I do know a host of other things that actually have some real life application.
Nobody’s held my hand to show me how to navigate a massive bureaucratic mess of a jungle the VA is- I did that!
Nobody’s held my hand, took 4-5 courses in a 16-week semester for 2 years straight, managed to get a Cumulative GPA of 3.69 and membership invitations to 2 different Honor Societies! I did that!
Nobody’s held my hand to show me how to research signs and symptoms of PTSD, TBI, Asperger’s syndrome and other conditions! All because I’ve had to figure out different ways of managing time, anxieties, medications, and making sure I can spot adverse reactions to the gazillion types of medications we deal with on a daily basis. I did that!
Nobody’s held my hand to show me how to adjust our expenses and bills when my husband’s disability check was basically cut in half for 3 years after the VA “made a mistake.” I did that! (Although, I must mention that I am extremely grateful for my parents who’ve helped us many times and my In-laws for opening their home to us!)
Nobody’s held my hand and showed me how to landscape an entire backyard that started with nothing but dirt and construction debris. I am doing that! I am leveling, grading, seeding, planting and fixing holes in that backyard! I can claim that I did that by myself! That’s pretty awesome. Would I have chosen to take such a project upon myself were I not a Caregiver? Probably not. I most likely would have taken out a loan, credit or used savings to pay someone to come out and do all the landscaping for us. But no, I am doing it! You want to know why?
Because I am AMAZING!
I am a Jack-of-all-Trades!
Reason 2: I am NOT normal.
What is normal? Who is normal? These are questions Psychology majors, like myself, tend to ask or are forced to ask at some point in the process of obtaining our degree. It’s amazing what society deems as normal and what it seems as different.
It’s not necessarily normal to assume the role of Caregiver at the age of 23.
It’s not necessarily normal to assume the role of Caregiver to a man who is supposed to be in his prime years.
It’s not necessarily normal to assume the role of Caregiver of your entire family; literally.
I am not normal, and that’s totally fine; because it has provided me with the opportunity to become totally AMAZING!
Reason 3: I know what empathy is.
Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s situation or condition. I find it a bit discouraging that many people nowadays don’t seem to understand what empathy is; let alone how to apply it. We live in this world that is so fast paced and judgemental that it seems as though empathy has no place in it.
While it might be hard for a young, safe-space demanding college student to understand why my husband chose to volunteer to fight for this country, I do. Conversely, older generations often times assume that because my husband “looks fine,” he should be well enough to hold down a full-time job at the local lumber mill, construction business or anywhere else.
Or how about the stares I get when I have to take my son to the store after he’s already had a long and difficult day at school and the sensory input just simply gets too much for him; resulting in a meltdown in the middle of Subway or Walmart!
I make an effort to give the mother who’s struggling with her 3 kids at the register in the middle of a busy store the benefit of the doubt. What if her oldest is fighting his/her own internal battle and their siblings are taking this opportunity to feed off that? What if she’s had an extremely long day taking care of someone at home and this is the first time she’s left the house all day? What if she’s fighting with her own inner demons and pulls it together just for her kids?
I feel the stares when my son has a ‘pre-meltdown’ or is about to go into full-blown meltdown mode. I see the disbelief in the other person’s eyes when I tell them that I have been taken care of my husband for the last 8 years.
I get it and I can relate.
I know what empathy is.
-and THAT is why being a Caregiver has changed my life!
Please share with other caregivers. Many of us could use a little encouragement every once in a while.
Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.