Being a caregiver is not something that I often discuss; being a caregiver is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I also don’t discuss it because I don’t normally like to verbalize what is going on with my mother, but I decided to write about it because I felt like it might encourage someone.

When I was about 12 my mom started having strokes.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand what a stroke was.  I knew that my mom being a single parent was afraid of being on a medical leave from work too long, so she decided to go back to work.  She seemed ok, so we though she was ok.

I remember after my mother’s first stroke wondering what that meant for my sister and me. All we had was my mother and grandmother. My grandmother was much older, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to take care of us alone. I think that was the first time that I thought about what my life would be like without my mother and it scared me. My mom told me that she prayed that she would love long enough to raise us. She was just as scared as we were.

In the coming years, my mom would either have a stroke or a car accident every year for about 6 years. Each time she would get up and go back to work. Eventually, as time went on, she wasn’t able to do the things that she used to do. She would go around the corner and get lost. She would put Ramon Noodles on the stove and forget to add water. I knew that something was going on but I didn’t know what. I later learned that the strokes had caused irreversible brain damage.

At the time that my mother became ill, I was ill. I had just been diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis . I was barely healing when I realized that I was going to have to jump in and handle my mother’s affairs.

It was scary and I did it alone. In the beginning I was completely alone. I was 25 years old looking for Assisted Living homes and applying for Medicare. I had no idea what I was doing or what i was looking for. I did an ok job. Looking back, I didn’t make all of the wisest decisions, but I didn’t know and no one stepped in and helped me.

It’s not always about the money. It’s about time. It’s about me being tired. It can be exhausting for one person when you have no relief. It is emotionally draining for me to see my mother who was once a hard worker not able to even stand. I have to deal with the emotional impact, the physical impact, and the money.

My friends don’t understand why I can’t go out, why I don’t have the money, why I don’t show up, but most of my friends have parents in good health. They don’t know what it’s like not be able to go back to their childhood home, or ask their parents when they need help. Yes you can get help from other people but it’s not like if it were your parent.

The aftermath has turned me into a different person.  I am often told that I am a worrier and an over thinker, but how could I not be? Someone else quality of life is depending on the decisions I make. I am not able to accept help in the way that I should.   I did it alone for so many years that I would rather struggle than ask, but I have had to learn that when I do that no one suffers but my mother. I am learning as I go, but sometimes it’s hard to even go.  People have no idea what I don’t ask for and what I do without mentioning.

I have learned to have a support system.  Sometimes it’s not your family, sometimes it is.  Sometimes it will be your friends.  Whoever it is, you need to be able to talk its ok to be tired.  It’s ok to be scared.  It’s ok to be angry, but don’t act on these things. 

The moral of the story is that being a caregiver is a hard job, and no one may understand you. That doesn’t matter. People will criticize you. While it may hurt, that doesn’t matter either. Do it for your loved one that needs you. Don’t give up on them. Understand that it’s all worth it if they are happy and can live to laugh and smile another day. I get frustrated, but I love my mother. She was a single parent and she never gave up on trying what was her hardest to give us the best life that she could. Even if I have to cry I will cry and keep going because I LOVE MY MOMMY.