Have you ever misplaced something and for a moment thought that it was lost forever? Most of us have gone through the experience of misplacing keys, papers or some other item. However for many current or former caregivers, there is a sense that they have misplaced their lives before caregiving and those lives are lost to them forever.
For many years I felt that way however, after connecting with support groups like "The Caregivers Space" and "Memory People" I discovered that I was not alone. A primary requirement of being a full-time caregiver is being able to put the needs of another person before your own. However when that becomes a daily habit over an extended time period, a person slowly loses their sense of identity, and as an extension, their life. And once that life is lost, in many ways it is lost forvever. Thankfully that's not the end and, that lost can become an opportunity.
You learn a great deal from being a full-time caregiver and those lessons will change you forever. You will not be the same person you were when you started your journey and you should not expect to go back to the life of the "pre-caregiving" you. You are a new creature and your goal should not be to resume life as it was but rather to begin a new life that suits the new you.
So where do you begin. Ironically in order to move forward you need to first take a good hard honest look back. This will not be easy because we all have a tendency to romanticize the past. So be honest there were both good old days and bad old days.
Your main objective in looking back is to remember yourself at your best and ask yourself these questions:
What was I doing right? How did I feel about myself and treat myself? What were my surroundings? Who were my encouragers? What were my habits? What did I want out of life for myself?
The saying is very true that we make a life by what we give. However when you've given all you had, it's not selfish to begin building a new life by focusing on your own needs.
Wishing all of my fellow former caregivers and friends a wonderful new beginning in 2018.
--- originally posted in 2015