Why You Should Thank a Caregiver Today

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.

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We had a wonderful time, although it was cold and snowy. The trails were so covered in ice and snow; it was quite treacherous.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the period train ride. Here is the entertainment on the way to the canyon.

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Here I am knitting Color Affection. This is my new favorite way to travel. Plenty of room and plenty of time to knit!

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Our fabulous train attendant was kind enough to hold my color affection.

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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.

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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.

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Resources for Caregivers and their Families:

Caregivers.org

Medicare.gov/caregiver

NAMI.org/familymembers

ChoicesinRecovery.com

How to Take a Mental Health Day

I didn’t plan on taking a mental health day today. But I guess that’s generally how it works. You wake up and you feel unhappy or frustrated or overwhelmed and realize you need to give yourself a break. And so I did. I got lots of sleep, spent a little time on work I felt like doing, listened to an audiobook while knitting, meditated, colored with new pencils, sat in the sun with Sadie and knit, snuggled with my love bugs, and went to bed early. Here are my basic tenants for a mental health day.

Do not participate in mindless, diversionary activities.
Do activities that inspire you – color, rock climb, knit, draw, write, read, go for a walk, sit in the sun, hike, watch something interesting on TV.

Do not sleep until noon.
Do get plenty of sleep.

Do not guilt yourself for anything – you can worry about exercise, seeing people, and chores another day.
Do spend some time in the sun – walking, running, sitting, sleeping Do anything outside.

Do not eat junk food, fast food, or sugary drinks – Avoid processed food if at all possible.
Do eat good, healthy, whole food.

Do not let anyone convince you to do something you don’t want to do.
Do any of your hobbies that make you feel peaceful, accomplished, and/or happy.

Do not spend time with people who drain your energy.
Do spend time with someone who loves you.

Do not expend more energy than you are fed by the activities you do.
Do relax – take a bath, get a massage, listen to music, write in a journal.

Above all, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not doing it right. And if you don’t think you can take a whole day, then take a mental health hour or even ten minutes. Sit down, take a break, doing something that makes you smile.

“Early” mornings & Happy Friday

We’re headed out for the weekend to visit friends and so Erik can attend drill. The dogs are off to the kennel and as soon as Erik gets home from work (any minute now), we’ll be loading up the car and dashing off to Albuquerque. There’s a lovely bruncheon tomorrow with some of my favorite people, followed by a holiday concert. Sunday I’ve heard news of an ugly Christmas sweater party and I have just the thing. I will endeavor to remember my camera and to use it.

I’m going to sound spoiled rotten for just a second – I hate getting up before 9am. For the obvious reasons, I like sleep. And for less obvious reasons, whenever I get up before 9am, even if it’s only 8 or 8:30 am (as it was today), I wake up feeling sick. This morning I woke up at 8:15am and immediately started to feel nauseated and light headed. I continued about my day (whilst feeling sick), dropped off the dogs, went to the grocery to grab a few things for the trip, and at the store I barely made it to the bathroom before throwing up. I felt incrimentally better, finished my trip came home and now I’m here, sipping gingerale on the couch writing to you. I still feel queasy and I’m not sure about eating anything. But I know I’m not really sick. It’s just my body’s very odd reaction to waking up before my normal appointed time. I’ll feel better in a few hours. Does this type of thing happen to anyone else?

I’ll be knitting Christmas ornaments like mad all weekend (there’s a plan and a deadline for them) and I threw yarn for some bootees and perhaps a hat in there for my new little cousin William.

Happy Friday everyone!

478

That’s how many of these tiny picot scallops there now exist on the edge of this shawl.

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Towards the end there I timed how long it took me to finish 40 of them. It was about twenty minutes. Which means this cast-off took me approximately 4 hours, not accounting for bathroom, food, water, or itching my foot breaks.

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This is how close I was to done when I suddenly and rather unexpectedly finished a ball of yarn. I had a third ball of that yarn (thank the yarn gods), but I was annoyed that I had to start a new ball that close to the end. Also, we won’t discuss how I almost didn’t buy that third skein of yarn.

I also don’t want to talk about how I’m going to block this shawl and pin out 478  picot scallops on a ruffle edged crescent shaped shawl. I’ll take proper pictures once I figure out how to block it.

On the brightside, I finished all of the cooking yesterday (except for the turkey I’m making just for us, which I’ll cook on Friday I think), so today I get to hang out with my hubby who is off for the rest of the week.

The blog will probably be dark for the rest of the week, while I’m off celebrating the holiday. So, Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours. I hope you have the merriest and grateful-est of holidays. I’m sending my love.

I have made fire!

You know that scene from Cast Away? The one where Tom Hanks has been stranded for just a little while, but he’s cold and he needs to be able to cook or something, but he can’t get the damn thing going? He sits there for hours with his stick and his rock and his kindling just rubbing them together desperately trying to make it smoke or spark or something. And then miraculously, the grass kindling starts to smoke and he blows on it and it bursts into flame? And then he jumps around yelling, “I HAVE MADE FIRE! I have made fire,” for like five minutes, because holy shit, he’s basically reinvented fire.

This is how I feel every time I make something new with my Vitamix. It makes me feel like a friggin’ genius.

There’s this to balance it out:

I’m making this lovely shawlette for my stepmother, but it’s a little plane for my liking. So I decided to change the bind-off to add a little flare. I picked a picot bind-off. Because of the ruffles the bind-off edge already has 600 stitches, and the picot bind-off requires me to cast-on two stitches for every one stitch I bind-off….which means I have something like 1800 stitches before this damned this is finished.

This much edge took me at least two hours and it’s maybe a quarter of the stitches. I don’t want to talk about what that means for how long this is going to take me. I have to cook a dessert and stuffing and write an article for the magazine I contribute to today. If you need me, I’ll be rocking back and forth in the corner mumbling something about unnecessary ruffle stitches and picot edging.

Mental Health of the World

In light of the utter chaos that occurs every day all around the world, no more so than in the last few weeks, it feels small to talk about mental health. There are so many people starving, struggling to survive, and dying in extreme and violent ways. It can seem insignificant to discuss and worry about other problems.

And then I remember that mental health would go a long way to making our world a better place. If emotionally wounded people could be helped and healed and loved, there would be far less violence in the world. If we could speak and act towards each other with love and kindness, there would be far less fear and misunderstanding between us. If we could learn to accept people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, and ideologies, then we might have hope of peace.

As it is, news all over is full of death and destruction. It is not all that is happening and certainly the news is tailored, but it is happening. And more of the world’s population is in danger with each minute that passes.
In the middle of this gratitude season, I must remember to cherish those around me with love and action. I invite you to join me in being my brother’s keeper and defining brother as widely as I possibly can. I will smile at everyone I see. I will (try to) assume the best of all people no matter the circumstances. I will give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I will remember that we are all human beings. This is how we will heal each other. This is how we will heal the world.
This happened over the weekend.
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This is Margrite Karabella Yarns in color 6 from Grandma’s Spinning Wheel. Yes I bought my yarn and cast it on instead of finishing the two sweaters I have going right now. Also, these have multiplied.
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They are a wonderful break when my other knitting gets boring. This week is for cooking. I will try to resist the urge to take pictures of what I cook. I hope you all have a wonderful Monday to your holiday week.