Care Giving is a Two-Way Street
By: Saralee Perel
My husband Bob and I began a wondrous new journey. All because of a dream. We are now the happiest we have ever been, though it took years to reach this point.
Most of us will be caregivers in some way. By sharing our lessons, I'm hoping you won't need to wait as long as we did, to heal.
Nobody meant harm; nobody was to blame. But nobody was prepared for what lay ahead.
The honeymoon phase
Never wanting me to feel bad, he'd say, "It's nothing," when I'd thank him. Our roles became exclusively caregiver and sick person. "Where did husband and wife go?" I'd wonder -- to myself. The distance was evident in my dreams. Not once in four years, was Bob in any of them.
Coping with the disorder
My self-esteem took a nose dive. Once an independent, self-assured woman, I became dependent and subservient. I was a burden. I constantly apologized for needing help. "I'm sorry I can't put my socks on by myself."
I longed to talk with Bob. But it seemed more loving not to. I desperately wanted to tell him what living in this defective body was like. I needed to share -- to be heard and understood. That's exactly what Bob needed too.
There still is hope
"The way I have all along. Protective." He hung his head. "And powerless to fix you."
"Nobody can." I kept my hand on his face -- so needing to touch him -- so needing to be touched. "It would help if you'd tell me how you're feeling."
"It's hard. When I'm exhausted or my back hurts, you'll feel bad."
"I could rub your back." I held his hand like the lifeline it is. "I've never told you about feeling like a burden."
"I love taking care of you!" he said. "I want 'us' back."
"Oh, so do I."
"I think we're having a breakthrough." We were laughing through tears. Then he told me his dream.
The man of her dreams
We put our arms around each other, like in the dream, but now for emotional support. I said, "You made our path," I could barely get the precious words out, "on solid ground."
And just as our roles had instantly changed that fateful day long ago, we were no longer caregiver and sick person. We were lovers and best friends.
Though Bob has always been the man of my dreams, he's back in my dreams as well. We have finally found our way.
Saralee Perel is an Award-winning nationally syndicated columnist.