(The post below was written on May 28, 2020. My mom passed on April 4, 2020.)
“I feel like I’m not myself right now. I don’t even know what that is. I feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
I said these words to my husband this morning. And I meant them.
So much has happened over the last ten years of my life.
My mom being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and battling the disease for ten, long years before she recently passed.
Quitting my full-time job to help care for my mom and never really figuring out what I wanted to do next.
Moving several times to support my husband’s dream of becoming a helicopter pilot and always feeling the need to be on his crazy schedule.
I know plenty of people have been through so much more, so much worse, but for me, the last ten years have been…a lot.
I haven’t made things any easier for myself. I’ve allowed my struggles to consume me.
Mostly, I’ve allowed my mom’s Alzheimer’s to consume me. It has taken over my life. It has taken away my identity.
For the last ten years, I haven’t really had a life outside of Alzheimer’s. It has been my whole life.
And what’s crazy is that I have never even lived with my mom. I have never been her full-time caregiver. I have only ever just helped out.
How in the world did I allow a part-time role to consume my entire life?!
As an empath, it is hard for me to compartmentalize anything. I feel what I feel and I can’t shut it off.
I didn’t have to be with my mom all the time for my mind to be on my mom all the time.
The constant worry, dread, concern, grief…those feelings never left me. Those feelings consumed me for ten years.
I no longer identified myself as Lauren.
I identified myself as Alzheimer’s daughter.
I don’t regret taking care of my mom and I don’t regret being there for my dad, but I do regret not having a part of my life that was just for me.
I gave up on my own life when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And I was only 25 years old.
Now that my mom is gone and that journey has ended, I can feel myself doing the same thing for my dad. His life and his grief are more important than my own. His health and his well-being are more important than my own.
I beat myself up if I go even one day without texting him or too many days without calling him. I’m constantly thinking about what he is doing and when I will go see him next.
But I know for my own good I need to stop doing that. I need to start putting myself first. I need to make myself and my life a priority.
My point is it is ok for you to have a life outside of Alzheimer’s. It’s healthy. It’s good. It’s necessary.
I am proof, as I am now 35 years old and left trying to pick up all the scattered pieces I neglected to keep intact for the last ten years.
I know I’ll get there. I know I’ll be ok. But I also know I have a lot of work to do.
My hope is that I can prevent you from making the same mistake I did.
You need to have your own life.
You need to have your own identity.
You need to have your own sense of self.
And yes, you do deserve it.