Only those who have experienced taking care of a loved one who is dying from a terminal illness can truly understand the stress that comes along with it. Yesterday my boss stood in my office door and told me that I probably didn't even recognize the level of stress our situation is causing yet. Last night while laying awake listening to Kim sleep, I realized that he is probably right. It does seem to be a sneaky stress. Some days I think that I am functioning pretty well. I'm working and I think I am managing to keep the many balls I handle in the air. I'm managing my household and so far have not missed paying a bill or vacuuming every week. My pets are fed, healthy and happy. I am cooking and keeping up with the laundry. Other days I feel like I am moving through mud all day long. It feels like it takes a true effort on my part just to breathe. My thoughts are crazy and jumbled, even my vision seems out of focus.
I am often asked if I am taking care of myself right now. It is hard to answer that question, because I am not sure I understand what it means. I am keeping my bi-weekly massage appointments, which I need now more than ever. I am keeping scheduled doctor's appointments. I am making time to spend with my friends, going to concerts, dinner, shopping or just hanging out. I'm spending quiet time at home doing nothing but enjoying my husband and our pets. I'm praying and talking to God. I'm journeling (via this blog) to help sort out my feelings. I'm trying to do things that help me stop the obsessive thoughts of my dad's suffering, my step mother's suffering, my own suffering for a little while. Here's the thing though, every minute that I am not in Bowling Green with my dad, I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am not spending that time with him when I know our time left together in this world is short. I feel guilty that while I am having fun, Jan may be struggling to get him to bed or to the bathroom, or having to change the bandage on his side that is still leaking fluid from the cancer. Jan and I had this conversation last week about the guilt when you catch yourself in the moments away from him that are enjoyable.
Thing is, we both know that daddy wants us to get out, have fun, get away from him. He is struggling with his own feelings of guilt. He feels guitly that he can't do for himself and sees himself as a burden to us. He feels guilty that we will never leave him alone. I wouldn't take a shower the other day until Jan came home from running errands. I know it made him feel terrible, but what if he needed to go to the bathroom, or choked while I was in the shower and couldn't hear him? Guilt is as much a part of our daily feelings as sadness, anger and grief.
So, am I taking care of myself? I honestly don't know. I'm trying to find a balance between my life in the land of the living and my need to be with the dying. I'm trying to allow myself to feel and roll in all the emotions that wash over me daily and not stuff them down. I'm trying to talk about things when I need to and not talk about things when I don't want to. I'm trying to squash the guilty feelings when they come along. I'm just trying to get through the days, hell, sometimes I am just trying to get through the minutes. I guess that is the best I can do.