I was sitting on the couch last night after having had a migraine all day. I was feeling better, but I was comfortable and so I didn’t get up. The dogs needed to be let out and given water. I needed food and water. And Erik just got up without asking if I would get up. Later in the evening when he was in his office doing some work and I was still sitting on the couch knitting, he came out, not because he needed anything, but to check on me to see if I needed anything.
This may sound like a sweet and caring thing that my loving husband did, and I’m not saying it wasn’t, but this exchange gave me pause. It made me realize that Erik and I have fallen into some bad habits.
For a large percentage of the last four years of our marriage, Erik has been my caregiver. He has made sure that I have eaten, bathed, gone outside, and has held me when I cried. He has watched over me and made sure that I have had whenever he could give me.
Looking back, I think that we both put my happiness ahead of his. I can see it when I ask for his opinion or when we’re trying to decide what to do. He almost always defers to my choice even when I double check to see what he wants. It seems that the dynamic between us has become: I get what I want because neither one of us wants me to be sad.
But the truth is, always getting my way doesn’t make me happy.
When I look at him and know that he is giving up what he wants because he thinks that’s what I want, that makes me sad. Somehow I have created a relationship where only one of us is getting our needs met.
I think it’s easy for this to happen when someone in relationship has a chronic illness. Too frequently we don’t think of mental health as a chronic illness. There is all kinds of assistance emotionally and mentally even monetarily for caregivers of physically disabled people. But we hardly ever think of family, friends, or partners of a mentally ill person as caregivers. (There are certainly exceptions to this. People who suffer from the most severe mental illnesses, for example, need and often have full-time caregivers.)
To be clear, I’m not saying all mentally ill people are disabled, although I do think that people with moderate to severe depression or moderate to severe anxiety, for example, are sometimes temporarily disabled. And if they’re in a relationship during those periods when they’re having a hard time managing their life, their partner absolutely becomes a caregiver.
So we need to start thinking about the loved ones who care for us when we’re down and out. We need to start thinking of them as our caregivers, because once we start doing that that we are less likely to take them for granted. Caregivers need a break and we need to find the time and space to give it to them.
As a person in relationship with someone who I consider to be my best friend and who I love very much, I think it is very important that we nurture each other so that the relationship doesn’t become toxic.
Caregivers frequently give and give while getting very little time to relax and recoup the energy they are spending. In the case of family, friends, and partners, they often work full time jobs and then come home to take care of a loved one. Taking care of anyone day in and day out is exhausting and can be difficult to maintain without gratitude and a little time to themselves. Be grateful today. Say thank you and then do something nice for the person in your life whom you turn to when you need a hug.
Is it possible that you or your partner are acting as a caregivereven if it’s only some of the time? Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and that your partner is too. It may not always be possible for the relationship to be balanced, but it is important that you do everything you can to make sure you are both taking care of each other in the long run.
So let me start the process by saying Thank you Erik. Thank you for standing by me and standing with me. For being my port in the storm (even through a hurricane). Words will never be enough. I love you.
Here are some of the lovely pictures I took at the Grand Canyon.
We had a wonderful time, although it was cold and snowy. The trails were so covered in ice and snow; it was quite treacherous.
We thoroughly enjoyed the period train ride. Here is the entertainment on the way to the canyon.
Here I am knitting Color Affection. This is my new favorite way to travel. Plenty of room and plenty of time to knit!
Our fabulous train attendant was kind enough to hold my color affection.
We had lunch at the famous El Tovar and explored the South Rim via bus tour. It was fabulous and I wasn’t ready to go home. All in all, a very grand thing to do for my thirtieth.
I finished Color Affection Sunday evening and blocked it out. It’s not exactly the shape it’s supposed to be and I’m not sure why. The cast-on edge ended up being really tight, which I think is part of the problem. It still turned out lovely though.