As a caregiver, there are some things that are just no brainers. Things that we do for our caregivee without a second thought. Many of those things are things that they could possibly do for themselves, but it is often just easier to do ourselves. (Of course, I might also be explaining characteristics of a control freak and not just a caregiver!) However, since Allen has been away, I've really thought about the things he can do for himself as well as for me and the boys.
Since his injury, he has become very dependent on me. This is not all his fault by any means. Actually, I have no doubt that much of this is because of me. I've tried to make things easier for him and looked out for him for quite a long time now. So, patterns have developed that are not necessarily conducive to his being well. Much of this comes because he is not able to drive and therefore, I have to take him everywhere. Therefore, there is very little time that we are ever apart in our "normal" life anymore. The other big part in this is that he often has no idea the kinds of behaviors he has during his "episodes" so I have to be able to fill in the missing blanks during most medical appointments and often speak for him in MANY situations.
The 20th of this month will make 7 months that he has been away in treatment. It has been a blessing for both of us. Obviously for him, he is getting much needed treatment and support. For me, it has given me a chance to have some of the responsibilities lifted from my shoulders and given me much needed time for myself and our kids. I have spent a lot of this time trying to figure out plans for our future, but also to work on me. I've tried to figure out things to help him regain some of his independence and sense of purpose.
One of the biggest obstacles is learning to let go a little. I like to be in control, and I also have a hard time giving that up sometimes. I have to learn to trust him again in a sense, that he can do some things, and even if they aren't just how I would like them to be done, it's ok! The world will not end because the towels did not get folded exactly the way I fold them!! This weekend is going to be a huge test to this relinquishment. A small group of the guys from The Pathway Home are going to go repelling. This is a huge step for him, in that he actually wants to go and be social and physical. These are 2 things he loved before, but something kind of new, post war. It's exciting to see him getting involved. However, it is all a little scary from my point as well. I worry about his safety, his decision making skills, and his service dog Frankie. Has he thought about these things before deciding to go? Who will watch Frankie while he repels? Will he be able to handle his finances so he has enough money for everything he needs? Do the people he will be with know what to do if he has an "episode"? So much for me to worry about!!
He had tried to plan a trip to Tahoe a couple of months before this outing. He had not thought about any of that stuff so he ended up not going. This time, he started talking about it with me about a month in advance. It was really hard for me to not to tell him I thought it was a bad idea and that he shouldn't go. (He absolutely would have listened to me.) Instead though, we talked about it in detail. I asked him questions about the things I was concerned with. Unlike the Tahoe trip, he was much more prepared this time and had obviously learned a lot since trying to plan the previous one without any thoughts or plans. He had found out how much it cost, how long they would be gone, what Frankie would do, which were all of my major concerns. So, I told him, as long as his therapist was ok with it, I was ok with it.
I was so excited that he had prepared and thought about this stuff all on his own. He spent a lot of time thinking and planning before he ever brought it up to me. He could answer my questions I had. He is excited to be going and looking forward to the adventure. His therapist gave him the ok, so this weekend he will get to go repelling. There are four of them going along with several people from the Rotary club. He has someone who is going but not participating who will watch Frankie for him while he is on the mountain. It is great to see him planning something and carrying it out!
I will say that this still is not easy for me. It is really hard being so far away in case something does happen. It's hard to trust that the others with him will be able to help him if he has an episode. Trust me, they are not easy or fun to deal with. However, I am so proud of Allen for the way he has planned this all out. He thought about everything! He budgeted for it which is a HUGE step! It will be interesting to see how it all works and I pray it all goes smoothly.
It's nice to be in a place where I have learned how to help him make some decisions, instead of making them all for him. The Tahoe trip was a big learning experience for both of us, in that it taught me how to help him decide that it wasn't a good trip for him to go on. It was great to be able to have him make that decision instead of me just having to say, "no, you can't go." These small steps make me really excited to see how much The Pathway Home has helped him. It has been a lot of hard work, and he has a lot more to do, but he is doing it!