"Caregiving is a Gift. But it should not be a burden"

By Christy Pappas, a Forgive and Forget Member

-Eckhart Tolle



Dear Readers: This is a beautiful post by a Forgive and Forget Member. Forgive and Forget is in the email circuit of Reno's Community Foundation's Caregiver's Support Initiative. They are a wonderful group of very caring individuals with loads of terrific information.

Please see below for more information.

 

"Caregiving Is A Gift. But It Doesn't Have To Be A Burden" -Christy Pappas


My parents moved in with my husband and I in 2014. My dad was falling and had the beginning stages of dementia.


In 2015 my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and it came back in 2018 and then in 2020.


In 2020, my husband suffered a stroke.....I was all alone. Could not afford help. Could not bring myself to consider assisted living. So, for the past 7 years, it’s just me. But it did not have to be. I never understood when people told me I needed to take care of me....and I, honestly, would get upset when people suggested it..."they have no idea how ridiculously impossible it is for me to even think about me!!!"


But I'm here to let you know that there is a way to take care of you. Because if you do not, you will suffer, and they will suffer with you. I know many caregivers throw up their hands and may think "you walk in my shoes".


Well, I think I can safely say "I have walked in your shoes, and I know...and I care".


I am reaching out to caregivers to help make possible, what feels "impossible". My father passed in Jan. 2021, and my mother lost her last bout of cancer in Nov. 2021. My husband still needs care, but I have learned to take care of me, and I no longer lie in bed crying when everyone is asleep at night. I finally opened my eyes and now I really do see.


RESPONSE & QUESTION from the Caregiver's Support Initiative: I wonder what message would have resonated with you earlier, before you had to experience such a challenge and so much loss. You are still in a caregiving role. What do you do now to take care of yourself?

What supports are you using, if any, to do so now?


I think the message that would have really resonated with me (should I have received it, earlier on), is that I am making them suffer, as well. The worst realization I could have had was that I was dragging them down with me. I honestly had no idea.


I know I was always good and pleasant and joked around, but they all knew I was not happy….not really. And I know they knew I was overwhelmed, but they had no advice they could give. I think in the end, we all felt a bit hopeless. But we knew we had each other, and that was the greatest love of all.


WHAT IS TRUE FOR CHRISTY


I cannot really put into words how to describe the epiphany. I was driving in the car and went to turn on the radio when I heard a voice say, “listen to me….” And went on to tell me I needed to strengthen and heal, and I just need to give up the fear and let it go……sort of like asking God to take it for me….. “Let go, let God"


After 15 mins. of listening and really hearing what was being said, clarity enveloped my whole being. The next day I signed up for a gym and began eating 3 meals/day. Began feeding myself what I fed everyone else. And all of the things I thought I did not have the time to do, became essential for me to do at some point in each day. And I made sure I did. And I was truly happy. …..and so were my mom and husband. My father had already passed. My husband is getting better since more access to therapy (his stroke was at beginning of COVID). And since it’s just my husband, much easier for me to manage. And I have been able to go back to work.


I do yoga every morning, exercise outdoors, once again, and pray every day (and connect with the Holy Spirit throughout the day). Patience, faith, hope and Love are a huge part of my everyday being. And I forgive myself for not being perfect, because I know I do everything I can do- the best I can do- for others, always.


But I know it’s a different journey for each of us getting to this place. And finding the path to take to get there was crucial for me. I’m grateful for my experiences. I’ve grown much stronger; more humble.


Caregiving is a gift. But it should not be a burden. But it can get that way, at times. There are always people to support you……you just need to ask. My Priest was one person. 2 girlfriends in my life were others. And when they were not around, I just put it out there for the universe….for me, The Holy Spirit. It sounds simple, but I know it didn’t feel that way for 6 years of my life. I would love to have a group get together to discuss what this looks like for each person, and what resources they truly have, but have not tapped into.


NOTE FROM VIC: I have read Christy's words more than once. Each time I goose-bump-up because she is a terrific example of how her role as a caregiver is shaping her life. She is not being defeated by it, nor is she defined by it negatively.


Like all of us, Christy is doing the best she can with what she knows. And when she knows better she does better. I applaud her for reaching out, choosing to learn, and deciding to grow. She is the poster girl for Forgive and Forget's existence.


Brava Christy... Brava~