Caregiver Perspective: Tested by Fire

I was listening to a Bible commentary today and the commentator was talking about how God takes us through trials in life that prepare us for events yet to come. He described how precious metals are often put into fire for purifying so that the impurities are removed and the remaining metal is stronger and better able to withstand pressure and stress thereafter.  I can see how that has been the case in my life.

People often ask me how I do what I do.  How can I survive on five hours of sleep a night, hold down a very intense full-time position that often requires more than 40 hours a week to complete but yet be there night and day to take care of Lynn without losing my mind? Now, there are days when that last part might not be true; days when I think I am losing my mind, but for the most part, I’ve learned to take each day one minute at a time and just deal with whatever is the greatest need at that particular moment. I realize, I’ve learned to do this by being tested by fire throughout my life.

When I was young and still at home, I was very shy and very nervous. Facing new challenges often lead me to having an upset stomach, sleepless nights, and constant nausea and anxiety.  I was definitely a “nervous Nellie.” However, I was born with a determined spirit and my parents constantly encouraged me not to give in to that fear.  With their support, I would become involved in activities that made me interact with others and take on leadership responsibilities.  I learned not to give up but to keep trudging along even if I was tired and lost a few hours of sleep.  I learned perseverance.

Then, I went to nursing school about an hour away from home which for me was a big deal because I rarely ventured far from the security of my family. Being an hour away in those days meant that I often stayed at the school on weekends and I had to learn to be self-reliant.  I could call home for advice but I had to learn to figure out much of what I needed on my own. I obtained knowledge of patient care and health restoration which I’m certainly using every day now even though I no longer practice nursing. I gained knowledge and self-reliance.

I then moved to Richmond, four hours away from home, and had to become more self-reliant. I learned to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and I learned how to deal with conflict. I became aware of the advantages that came from being with people who were not like me but who had different ideas and knowledge to share so that my resources expanded. I learned how to survive in a place where no one knew me and I had to reach out for the help I needed.  I learned to ask for help and understand that I can’t do it all alone.

I got married, had children, and got divorced. Through establishing a family, I learned to adapt to the needs of others and that I can’t fix another person who is broken. I learned that sometimes even with all the efforts I can give, I can’t change what is happening and that I have to learn to accept where I am today and what I have and to be content within myself.  I learned that regardless of what someone else may think of me, I am a person of value and I have my own needs and I have a right to have those needs met.

As a parent, I learned to put the needs of others who cannot care for themselves, before my own needs. I learned that as a caregiver, I can influence and persuade and attempt to control everything that happens for the good of the other person but in the end, it’s the other person’s life and their decision to accept what I have to offer…and if they don’t choose it, then it doesn’t mean I was wrong or ineffective or didn’t do my job well, it just means they are a person too and have a right to make their own mistakes and decisions. I learned to let go of guilt.

Through being an employee in a very intensive job, I learned the joy that comes from a job well done.  I learned that I can’t please everyone all the time and as long as I’m doing my best, it’s all good.   I learned how to get along with others, how to hold my tongue when upset, how to speak up with sensitivity and how to succeed in the work world.  I also learned that the job can take over my life unless I put the brakes on and that I need to have a balance between work and home.  I learned that without balance, life becomes overwhelming and that’s not good.

When my husband’s MS became so progressive that he existed only with my help and his entire well-being became my responsibility, I realized that all that had come before had prepared me for my “now.” Without the hard lessons of life, this journey we are now on together might have become overwhelming but in taking the lessons of life that God lead me through, I am now prepared for what I have to do.  I have seen that I can overcome adversity.  I have learned that in all things, I am not alone even if I am the only one there. I have obtained an inner strength that comes from being tested by fire and I am now able to withstand so much more than I could have handled back in my earlier days before all the testing began.

I hate adversity and I pray for deliverance whenever it comes but I’ve learned that though I hate the struggle, it’s worth the effort to keep pushing through.  I’ve been tested by fire and am stronger for it. I now know that though I may bend; I won’t break and will continue to get stronger and wiser each day.

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