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photo and graphics: Martha G. Brady

Click this link for the other days in the 31 DAYS OF CARETAKING: ONE DAY AT A TIME.

At some point after the Event, you will hit the wall! It may happen all at once, in slow motion or in increments. But it is highly unlikely that you will not be affected by the Event at some point.

Sometimes there is an additional precipitating factor. Sometimes the slow realization of what the outcome of your Event is will have finally dawned on you and you aren’t sure if you can move another inch. Sometimes, it is another hospitalization. Sometimes, who knows?

It will be some combination of depression, grief, reality hitting, and all the other circumstances of your life coming together and you will feel like you fell into a giant dark hole, or were punched in the gut by the worst punch of your life, or…(fill in the blank) It feels different to different people. But once it has happened, you will know it.

When you hit the wall, you learn that a number of things in your life aren’t working. The key is to find out what and why!

Sometimes you find that the support systems you had in place weren’t sufficient for what you needed at this point in your life and you need to find new ones. I was in a new town and new-to-me church (2 years). Some of the things I did were not what you would do at all! It depends on how limited you are by your loved one’s situation. I wasn’t as tied to my house as many of you are.

I continued on a creative project I was working on at church. It was one thing in my life that was working and put me in places I needed to be.

I continued on a trajectory that had started before his illness. It was something that meant a lot to me and over the years had been very fulfilling. A younger friend and I were working to renew our women’s ministry. We attended a conference together and knew some simple things we needed to do based off of what was already working. Sadly, not many others saw a huge need for what we wanted to do, but we knew it was needed and people were not connecting in our church because of it. We had enough of the support of our church leaders that we were able to move ahead.

We started praying and working where we were. I wish I could say that everything we did was neat and polished. It wasn’t. But things started happening…and it wasn’t easy to explain apart from GOD. We were not well organized (although I don’t recommend it). We tried to be. We had a focus.

Our goal was to be life-givers, and those who built-up instead of tearing down. That can be unique to some women’s ministries. It’s not necessarily in their stated goals, but in the ways they function. Finding women who were committed to our church even when she wasn’t perfect and were willing to work toward goals our leaders set and support them was what we wanted to do…with no background complaining, bickering or gossiping.

GOD brought a variety of people along at the right times…a new pastor who had some time to focus in that area, more women to help, an encouraging comment here and there, and opportunities to serve in unique situations, have all brought us to where we are now.

Some of this was happening during my darkest days. (Now that I look back.) But I could look and see GOD at work in other parts of my life and know there was a glimmer of hope. No, I don’t actually recommend this as a way to function, but it was something GOD used in my life for good. Now, a couple of years down the road, we have replaced ourselves so we can do some other things and so this ministry can move on with different leadership and grow in different directions. At the time, it was a wonderful creative outlet for me. (Pardon the rabbit trail.)

Below, I’ll mention some areas that will need to be addressed, as well as some good resources for you when you hit the wall.

  • See your Doctor-If you haven’t been recently, check in with your doctor. Extreme tiredness can be symptomatic of anything from depression to pneumonia or worse. Check in with him to see if you are ok. Sometimes, it is a sign that something is brewing physically. Now is the time to find out. Once that is ruled out, you can move on. Being depressed is no small thing. You may need counseling and/or medication for a while as your brain calms down from the chemical reactions to the trauma you have been through. Don’t ignore it.
  • ActivityIf you are not maintaining a decent activity level, you will not be able to maintain good health, both physical and mental. That is the truth. There is no way to get around it. My life had gotten way too sedentary, I was gaining weight and I felt lousy when I looked in the mirror and I felt lousy period! Over time, I put on between 20-30 pounds. This is never good unless it is a pregnancy and it is gained over 9 months!
    • Solutions– I bought a Fitbit and started looking at it to see how much I actually was moving around. In a small apartment, it wasn’t much unless I got out and walked around the complex (which has lots of space to walk around in). Depending on the model of Fitbit, it will notify you every hour to move around an extra __ steps if you haven’t moved in the past hour and will track your heartbeat too. If cost is a factor, ask your kids to go together and give it to you for your birthday or Christmas. If they know it will help your health, they will probably be glad to help since you are helping by taking care of this loved one.
    • Deciding to walk around the block once is a good way to start moving as you add to it more times each day and/or more times at a time. It is also a great time to relax your mind. If life is getting stressful, take a minute to walk around the block and breath. When you return, you will find that the stress of the moment will have eased and the issue you were discussing will have gotten smaller or gone away completely.
    • Finding ways to do an activity with your loved one will help them as well as you. They may need to walk or ride in a wheelchair, but the fresh air will relax them as well.
    • Being involved in an exercise class.  We are involved in one recommended by our physical therapist daughter. It is a balance class but also includes some cardio as well. We both go. We try for 3 times a week. Usually, we make it at least 2. If you can be involved in a class like this, it is good for you and your loved one. They have different levels. There is stretching, moving and balance. Our class does all the activity, but the other class near us does everything from a chair. They are less mobile. Some couples come and one takes one class and one the other.
  • DietI also needed to start eating right. I had gotten into some awful eating habits. For example, I was never a comfort food eater. I ate at meals with a rare snack in between. I tended to keep active between times and I never had trouble with my weight…ever. I had one time I had to lose weight from a medication change when I was 50 and WeightWatchers worked great.
    • solutions-I tried WeightWatchers a few times in the intervening years and each time, the diets changed. The numbers had me so confused. I barely learned a new diet and they changed it again. It just didn’t seem to work well for me. This time, I went to a dietician and took a class that was very helpful. It took gluten, sugar and optionally, meat out of your diet. The meals were smaller but more frequent. I didn’t do the vegan part of the diet, but I did discover the change that a very low sugar diet had on me. My aches and pains were nearly gone! Choosing to eat complex carbs, protein and more water helped me so much. I couldn’t believe it! Also, eating nuts for between meal snacks kept me from having those sinking feelings between meals. I lost weight without feeling deprived. Fifteen pounds was gone in no time. The other caveat was that this was an 80/20 or 90/10 diet. 10 or 20% of the time, you could cheat. I liked that. No one wants to feel there is a food they will never be able to eat again. I have kept the 15 pounds off, but have fallen off the diet since those early days. As I write this, I am aware that I need to get back on it more strictly during these Fall and Winter months that will be achy or I will be miserable. Besides, I need to lose 15 more pounds!  To be continued…

Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
 Here is the sea, great and wide,
    which teems with creatures innumerable,
    living things both small and great.
 There go the ships,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

 These all look to you,
    to give them their food in due season.
 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:24-30