The first week of my internship and I don’t think I’ve been this mentally exhausted in years. Not that I’m complaining. I’m not. I’m also feeling a sense of fulfillment I haven’t experienced in a very long time. I feel like I’m working for my future, which I didn’t feel when I was caregiving. But underlying all these emotions is a deeper sense of needing to catch up to all the time I lost while taking care of my mom. I try not to focus on it. I try to appreciate all the time I got to spend with my mom, but it’s hard when I look at my dwindling bank account and realize all the time I lost working and all the money I missed out on making. That’s definitely the biggest downside of caregiving, the financial impact. When your caregivee isn’t here anymore, and you are left alone with thoughts of imminent financial ruin. But, that’s why I’ve worked so hard to get my transcription certificate, so I can start earning money. I just hope I’m not too late to pull myself from the brink of the abyss.
So, good news! I passed my exams with a high enough average score to qualify for an internship with a transcription company! Yeah!! I’ll find out more details tomorrow, and I’m pretty anxious about it. I’m not questioning my skills or abilities; I’m wondering whether or not my time as a caregiver will be an obstacle to me getting a job. I haven’t worked since the summer of 2005. I spent the last 13 years caring for my mother full time. Ideally, I’m hoping my work will speak enough about who I am that the work gap won’t be a factor for prospective employers. Realistically I know there are people out there who don’t see caregiving for an elderly parent or a family member as work. My own siblings slightly fall into that category, although now that our mother is gone, I feel like they are beginning to see what my reality was like. It was work. It was 16 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year nonstop. I’m hoping those I encounter in my job search will be empathetic and realize that what I did was work. I have the skills to do this job well and be an asset to any company I end up working for. I just hope I get the opportunity to prove my worth and the 13-year work gap won’t be a hindrance. I hope potential employers will see that my caregiving shows that I am dedicated, that I am a hard worker, and I would be a valuable employee to add to their team. So onwards and upwards with fingers crossed.
I have a confession to make. Before my mom went into the hospital, I was tired. Tired of being her caregiver. Tired of not having a life of my own. Tired of feeling like life was passing me by while everyone else got to move along with the traffic of their lives. I was her caregiver full time for twelve years and part-time for eight years before that. Twenty years I spent helping her out while putting my hopes and dreams on hold. While she was in the hospital and her condition was declining I hate to admit that part of me felt like a horse at the starting gate of a race. Chomping at the bit of what was to come. Those feelings made me feel so incredibly guilty but there they were. I was ready to move forward with my life and enthusiastic about what would happen after the inevitable happened.
Then my mom passed and the racing gate burst opened and nothing happened. I couldn’t move. The days just crept by and I didn’t want to move or do anything without my mom. My identity had become so intertwined with hers that I just don’t know who I am now. It’s a strange feeling, to say the least, to be in my mid-40s and have no clue who I am. It is so strange seeing things that were my mom’s leave the house. Last Wednesday her oxygen compressor that whined and wheezed 24/7 was picked up by the company and I had the most dreadful feeling that it couldn’t go because she needed it to breathe. Then the realization hit and the dam cracked, but didn’t completely break, and I cried. I put the tubing that came with the machine, in the trash and I walked back to the house shaking so hard I could hardly take a step. I feel the pull of her still and I need to break away from that. I need to move toward a future without her but I don’t know how to. I try to take steps and feel this gravitational pull backwards to a past that no long exists. I keep listening to a song called “Never Lookin Back” by the husband and wife duo of Pear. There’s a line in the chorus, “….no future in the rearview mirror” that is resonating a great deal with me these days. I can’t keep being pulled back by the past. I need to move forward towards a future of my own. I’m just not sure how to do that at the moment, but taking one baby step at a time I know I can. It’s just going to be the hardest journey I will ever make in my life.
Last night my mom was rushed to the hospital. She is 87 now and has congestive heart failure among other ailments. Sitting here alone in the house we share seems so strange. We’ve been in this situation before but for some reason, this time seems different and I’m not sure why. Usually, I’m very worried about her but this time I’m not and I’m not sure how to feel about this. Maybe it’s because I know she is getting the best care and will probably be home in a few days or maybe I’m just resigned to the fact that she is getting older and know she won’t be with us forever. I don’t know. My sisters are handling communicating with her nurses because of my speech, which is fine. But somehow I feel like they have rallied the troops around each other and I’m on the outside of it all. I understand why I feel this way. Several years ago, they got together to talk about mom’s care and left me out of it. Here I was living with our mom and dealing with her medical issues on a daily basis but they felt it was ok to not consult me in any way. It really hurt. I talked to one of my sisters about it and she said that she had no idea I had been left out and promised to do better. And she has but yet here I am. My nerves and emotions are just raw right now and I’m still fighting my bronchitis so that has me at the edge of exhaustion from coughing all night. Anyway, if any of my readers could send prayers and good wishes her way, they would all be very much appreciated. And I will keep you all posted about her condition in the upcoming days.