By Dave Nassaney, Special for USDR
My wife Charlene and I had a fairy-tale courtship, romance, and marriage for the first twenty-one years of our lives together.
Then one morning, Charlene complained of a bad headache that she’d been having for a few days. We didn’t pay much attention to it. But then, the headache ceased being only a headache.
By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. The woman I loved had a massive stroke, and our world immediately turned upside down. Our lives have never been the same.
Instead of entering the empty-nest phase of life that we always looked forward to, I found myself having to constantly care for the love of my life 24/7. There is no way that anyone can ever prepare for that.
To be honest, the first two years were a living hell for us. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to care for my wife.
Charlene became angry and bitter because she was no longer the woman that she was before; I became angry and bitter for the same reasons. I grieved that my wife was no longer the woman that I married. I still loved her, but it was very hard being on the receiving end of her anger brought about by her grief.
I felt so guilty. In fact, I came to a point that I didn’t know if I could do it any longer. One day, I sat down and wrote her a letter: “Charlene, you are so mean to me. It’s so hard being your husband taking care of you all the time without feeling any love in return. I just don’t know if I can be with you any longer. I’ll take care of you financially, but I can’t be with you.”
I read that letter over and over again, but I just couldn’t give it to her. I wanted to love my wife. I wanted to care for her, but it seemed impossible. I really didn’t know how to care for my wife anymore. I didn’t know if I even wanted to. I wondered if there was any hope for us.
Then one day, I found a card in my pocket inviting me to a caregiver’s support group. I didn’t even know what a caregiver was. But I figured if someone gave it to me, maybe I should go. Going to that group changed everything for me. I found hope again, and I discovered that I had to take care of me before I could take care of my wife.
They tell us on airplanes that in the event of an emergency, we are to put our oxygen mask on first before we attempt to help our loved ones with their masks. That’s such a great metaphor for all of life: Take care of you first, not out of selfishness, but out of survival.
When I finally realized how much I was able to change, to my surprise, my wife also changed. I was no longer thinking about how she made me feel. I was just taking care of me, so I could take care of her.
After two years, Charlene finally reached the acceptance stage of her grief, and she became her old self again. I am very proud of her. She was, and still is, a cross between Martha Stewart and Wonder Woman. She makes us “normal” people look like whiners and complainers. She is my hero!
Because of my experience, I realized that there are so many other caregivers out there all going through this incredible pain, feeling lost and alone, and I wanted to help them triumph over that pain. I didn’t want them to give up like I almost gave up.
That’s why I became Dave, the Caregiver’s Caregiver. Now, I host a weekly syndicated radio show in 180 countries, and a private membership site for caregivers. I provide a wide range of resources—blogs, articles, and podcasts; I interview those who not only survived, but thrive at caregiving; I do uplifting videos, weekly conference calls, and I also offer personal coaching. I absolutely love it.
Watch my welcome video on my website, www.CaregiverDave.com. We want to love on you and be your support. We don’t want you to give up, like I almost did. 30% of caregivers actually die before their loved ones do. We want you to stay alive, and thrive!
My new book, It’s My Life, Too! Reclaim Your Caregiver Sanity by Learning When to Say “Yes” and When to Say “No,” is perfect for caregivers who know they should be putting their needs first but just don’t know how. Everyone is going to become a caregiver eventually. NOW isw the time to learn how, not after your loved one becomes disabled. Visit us now.
DAVE NASSANEY is a best-selling author, speaker, radio host, and entrepreneur who has just published his #1 Best-Seller book, It’s My Life, Too! Reclaim Your Caregiver Sanity by Learning When to Say “Yes” and When to Say “No.” However, his most important role is caregiver to his lovely wife, Charlene, who suffered a massive stroke 21 years ago. Visit his website: www.CaregiverDave.com to watch his welcome Video to learn how to become a part of his caring Caregiver community.