Saturday, August 5, 2017
Before and After
I don't know how to explain how I survived this time without sounding trite. I will not slap a platitude upon grief-induced depression just because it is more of the mind and heart than of the physical body. During this time, even the effort required to open my Bible was difficult, and the words on the page would run together meaninglessly. I subsisted on a verse or two of Scripture a day and spent a lot of time crying out to the Lord with my sorrows. But through all my misery there was a slender thread of assurance that the Lord was with me in it. Maybe this quote from my mother will shed some light: "There have been times in my life when I let go of Him, but He never let go of me."
I suffered a series of physical ailments that forced me to the solitude and security of home. I wanted badly to escape into the distraction of church and community activities, but even as I suffered one minor illness after another I understood the Lord was showing me that running from my misery would only lengthen its duration. It was as though he gently ushered me to a quiet place apart, and kept me there. I spent my days doing housekeeping tasks that could not be avoided. I visited my mother most days, and did the necessary bill paying and paper filing, but it was like wading through deep water. It was somewhat like being isolated by a cloying, dark mist so that all my senses were dulled. It was as though Lord provided just enough strength for the necessary activities and then withdrew His enabling power. When I inquired of him (time and again with tears and shouting and journal pages filled with my sorrows) I received one word: rest. Over and over again. Rest!
My sorrow had its roots in physical and emotional exhaustion from a rocky final year as my mother's primary caregiver. It has taken me a full year to assimilate what has happened to me, regain my emotional balance, and process the grief of all that my mother's Alzheimer's has taken from us.
One morning last week, a year from the day that I had escorted my mom out the door from the home she'd had with us for 12 years, one year from the date that I entrusted her into the care of others, the burden of depression lifted. It was as though scales fell from my eyes and I could see in color once more. I walked into my living room, stared with distaste at the 1980's fireplace brick, and rummaged around in my basement looking for supplies to rejuvenate it. I spent all day with spray paint, chalk paint, and 3 boxes of plain white chalk. When I stepped back and surveyed my work, I felt unreasonably happy: dancing and singing happy! I can still do things. I can have new life following this season of caregiving! The Lord has been good to me.
Healing is a process, and I've experienced minor setbacks. A wave of sorrow here, a day of exhaustion there. But I am better. I am getting better.
The point of this post is to encourage anyone who is in the midst of a what I call caregiving recovery period (the time of transition away from the role of primary caregiver) to give yourself time and space to heal. Don't jump into a new phase of life until you have had time to regain your physical, mental, and emotional balance. Pray for a space apart and cry out to the Lord.
Even if you let go of Him, He won't let go of you.