My husband had a stroke when he was 34years old.
I always thought that stroke could only happen to the elderly. We were too young. How could this happen?
He was paralyzed waist down. He was prescribed 4 medicines to be consumed for the rest of his life.
I was scared beyond imagination to see how our life was changing so drastically so fast
Rajat was wheelchair bound and fully dependent on me now which made me feel anxious as he was the one who I relied on for decision making within the family.
He left his job. I was the sole bread earner in the family.
My understanding of the vows “In sickness and in health” began and deepened with this event.
The initial few days I was in a daze as I had not the foggiest idea of what to do. Being a wife, I didn’t know how to take care of my husband in this state.
Luckily our family doctor was gracious enough to help me out with the whole process. It took me more than a month to get used to the routine. I had to be careful of his diet, medicines, health.
I had to take care of our children. I would wake up at 6, make breakfast, take them to school, and give Rajat his morning medicines. Do the household chores- grocery shopping, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, fixing lunch, dinner, helping with school work.
By the time my head hit the pillow, I was tired to the bone.
Then morning came and the same routine followed
Medications and routine check-ups became a part and parcel of our life.
I had to take leave from my job to take care of him.
I am a teacher and initial few days when the change overtook our lives, I was caught up but there were some days where I would start missing walking through the school halls, my classroom, my students and my best friend Jigyasa.
They had all visited initially to meet Rajat and offered their condolences but even that stopped after a week.
I could not leave Rajat alone at home. We declined invitations to parties, get-togethers which used to be our normal weekend events
As months passed by, I started isolating myself from my friends.
They were sympathetic but beyond offering their sympathies, I didn’t feel they could understand our situation. In fact, no one could.
Now my days and nights only revolved around Rajat and my kids.
So I myself stopped going out with my friends because of this selfish reason that I couldn’t bear to hear them talking about their normal, happy lives with their husbands and children
It only made me crave my old life back.
I would often have crying spells if I did something wrong like not giving Rajat medicines on time. If there was any new complication, it used to make me panic. I didn’t know what to do at that time.
This helplessness was frustrating and made me feel like I was not capable of doing anything right.
Rajat used to understand and be patient with me but I have never felt so hopeless and useless in my life.
We used to go on vacations as a family and me and Rajat used to go to the movies every other weekend. I started missing that.
I started feeling restricted from being cooped up in our house.
It was after 6 months that I started noticing changes.
I started acting in ways I had never imagined myself to act
I would frequently take out my irritation and frustration on Aryan and Aditi
Aditi was 9 years old and Aryan was 15 years and a talented basketball player. It started with me ignoring to look at the trophies he won which he showed with so much pride.
Aditi and Aryan had tried several times to help me but I used to feel guilty for getting them involved in our household chores. I would always rebuke them and tell them to concentrate on their homework or tests.
Then lack of patience when Aditi would fuss about homework or food. I would snap at her often
That poor girl felt that I was angry with her. That she had done something wrong. It hurt me to see her looking at me with teary eyes
I felt I was losing control bit by bit.
My outbursts started straining my relationship with Rajat and I could see that there was guilt on both our faces.
In me for acting in this manner and in him for being responsible for my ordeal even though it was not his fault.
The last straw for me was when on the same day I had to help Aditi with a fancy dress competition and help Aryan prepare an important Olympiad examination.
Aditi’s turn came at the end and it turned out to be a whole day event.
When I came back home, the first thing I noticed was that there were glass shards in the kitchen and Rajat was on the floor with his hand bleeding. His wheelchair had toppled
I had never felt such extreme panic in my life. My heart pounded so loud.
He was in bad shape. Aryan and I helped him back on his wheelchair.
I immediately called our family doctor and he rushed to our place.
Rajat told us later that he was trying to reach our kitchen faucet to wash a glass when he lost his balance
The glass broke and as a result, the shards pierced his hand
The doctor cleaned and dressed the wound.
That incident scared me so much.
While apologizing to Rajat for my inconsideration and forgetfulness, I broke down…What kind of a wife and mother was I? I was failing to take care of my family.
I love him but taking care of him was taking a toll on me, on us.
That’s when I reached out for help and connected with a Life Coach
In the first few sessions, I realized how good I felt when I was the center of attention and it was only about me. Someone wanted to know what I was feeling, what I was going through in this situation.
I felt it had been so long that I had devoted each moment and everything I had into others.
This thought used to earlier make me feel that I’m a bad wife and mother.
The guilt I felt was eating me up from inside but my Life Coach explained to me in detail about what I was experiencing and before my session, I was not even aware that there was a term for it: Caregiver’s Burden
With each session, I began to realize how important it was to accept of all of these feelings that I had. After accepting that these emotions were natural, I needed to express them in a healthy manner which could be by talking to my family members, friends, by drawing or painting, going out for walks, etc.
She made me understand that it would be helpful, to be honest about my feelings with Rajat and express it to him.
At the same time, I needed to allow him and my children to express their own feelings as well and recognize that these are equally valid and important.
I knew that I had to make things right between me and my family especially with Rajat
This was a new situation for our whole family and I had felt that I had to take the whole responsibility on myself after this incident which was stifling for me.
I used to feel that if I tell Rajat what I was experiencing, I might seem so self-centered considering what he was undergoing.
I was so caught up in our daily chores and responsibilities that I was not there for him emotionally.
We somehow never talked about what we were going through internally. Our conversations used to revolve around the hospital procedures, household chores, bills, kids.
This lack of communication had made a rift in the bond we used to share.
Rajat came up with the idea of accompanying me to the therapy sessions. I was caught off guard but then I thought it might prove helpful…It definitely wouldn’t hurt so we went t our next session together.
Surprisingly in the sessions, I found out that he felt like a burden and used to feel helpless because he couldn’t support me financially or in all the household chores.
He knew how exhausting it had been for me. I have never seen him being so vulnerable and expressive.
My sessions made me realize how much was left unsaid between us.
My Counselor made us understand that mutual healthy expression of feelings with each other could restore the strength in our relationship.
We talked about how we could help each other in this situation and deal with it better.
Our Counselor and we came up with a few changes that we are trying out now in our daily life.
I am still supportive of Rajat but we have given each other space to do things for ourselves as in one session, he expressed his desire of going for a job again. He had gone through several motivational and inspirational videos and he was tired of seeing me bear the entire financial burden.
So we started searching for jobs that had appropriate provisions and after 2 weeks we found one job to our liking. His joining is in a few days. I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Though it takes a little more effort now, we have again started planning for picnics and movies.
Our Counselor helped us understand that we could seek support from our family and friends.
I have started going to school again and the best part was to be welcomed with the wide, beautiful smiles of my students with a banner that read “Welcome Back Ma’am, We Missed You”
Now even small accomplishments like when Rajat remembers to take his medicines on time was helping me feel more assured and he has started becoming more self-reliant and confident.
My happiest, most celebratory moment was when last week I came home and was surprised to see that our house was all decorated with streamers and balloons.
Rajat had baked a thank you cake with the help of Aryan and Aditi
I felt emotionally overwhelmed. I couldn’t contain the tears gushing down my cheeks
That moment made me realize that I was focusing on all the things that were going wrong rather than all the things that I am blessed with.
Maybe life was not going to be the same as it was earlier but it was still a good life.