Monday, July 2, 2012

How Do You Cope?

mile    I am writing this blog  after four days without power in our home, as a result of the most incredible storm on Friday night. It crashed through the Washington DC area, devastating lives, damaging a lot of property and leaving millions of people without power in sweltering 100F weather. One of my friends from out of state texted me asking,

        How are you coping?

         In the scheme of things we are coping just fine.We have no damage to our home. Many of our friends have offered us beds. We emptied our fridge and freezers in time to save most of the food and deposited it all with another friend who is kindly cooking some of it up for dinner for us to share.
    The question “How are you coping?”  however resonated deeply with me.I have been asked that question often and in a previous post Pondering On The Porch I  reflect on the fact that many people are coping with something challenging in their lives.

    As a novice blogger I was introduced by a fellow, extremely skilled blogger, Rachel who writes Midlife Singlemum, to the idea of using a prompt to write my latest blog post. She suggested I join the A mile in my shoes carnival and email it to the host prompter who would also share it on her blog, thereby giving greater exposure to my writing. 

    So here is my first ever response to a prompt with an introduction from the host prompter, a blogger called Rebecca.She is Mom to 3 girls under 4. This was her raison-d'etre foA Mile In My Shoes Carnival, created and hosted by Rebecca at Here Come The Girls. Click on the link to find out more about her.

 This is what Rebecca says:

"I often wonder how people cope with the difficulties they are presented with. Or rather how I would cope in those situations. When I think about the single mums and dads, the people who have lost a parent, the children with an unexpected medical diagnosis or emotional and behavioural problems, I often think I wouldn’t be able to do it, without really thinking about what it is. It’s very hard to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and think what it must really be like. Yet that is what blogging does so brilliantly. You get to look into other people homes and into their hearts. It’s the perfect opportunity to share some stories, hopefully in a positive way. People are amazing. It’s incredible what we can cope with and I want to be able to celebrate that."

So here are my answers to her prompt questions. ..

1.     What is it about your life which has made someone ask how do you cope?

How much time have you got to read my list!?

This question made me laugh, because I have been asked it about so many situations we have lived through. Here are a few.

Well you did ask…….

2.     What is the best thing about the situation?

I have written about some of these situations on my blog and so I am going to focus on the most recent one about being a caregiver for my husband.

One of the best things about the situation is that we have had tremendous support from our friends near and far across the world. My nuclear family which consists of my husband and three sons are closer than ever, having lived through the experience together.

3.     What is the hardest thing?

Someone asked me “Was it harder when your son needed heart surgery or your husband needed brain surgery?”  Well I wouldn’t choose either of them. But in terms of responsibility as a caregiver, when our son was sick, my husband and I were a team. We carried equal emotional weight and were in the same clearly defined caregiving roles for each other and our children. So the support we needed and gave to each other was in balance.

When my husband’s trigeminal neuralgia pain spiraled and eventually put him in hospital to try to better manage the pain, I was alone in terms of responsibility as the caregiver, health decision maker, advocate and nurse for him and that is the hardest and loneliest role I have ever had to take on.

4.     What gets you through the day?

My family, my faith and my friends and a sense of humor.

5.     What would you change if you could?

I would gladly have taken on my husband’s pain for a while to give him a break.

Trigeminal neuralgia is described as the worst pain known to (wo) man-worse than giving birth, a kidney stone or a heart attack. It is like a knife being stabbed in your face over and over. It is brutal, unrelenting and unpredictable and very difficult to medicate successfully over a long period of time.. Watching him in pain was torture, but suffering in that kind of pain - he was the one being tortured.

6.     What piece of advice would you give to someone finding themselves in your situation?

Being a caregiver is a 24/7 job-no vacations, sick days, or benefits, so be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about what you didn’t manage to do, accept help when it is offered and sleep when you can.

There is much written about caregivers needing to take care of themselves-not easy if you are the sole caregiver, but surrounding yourself with people who will support you for the long haul, listen to you and laugh with you and respond to what you need, not what they think you need is crucial to your wellbeing, so you can take care of your loved one.

Thank you all for your support through the good and the bad. Know that  I will be there for you too.

Have a stress free week.


The A Mile In My Shoes Carnival is being published in 2 parts. You can see the first batch of entries here

Many thanks to you all for your support of  Brainstorm. If  How Do You Cope ? resonated with you, please help spread the blog readership by sharing this post or others to your face book page. It's very simple to do.  Click on the F icon at the very bottom of this post, write a comment if you like and post the link. 
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  1. Gilly, I thought I knew a lot about your life (as we have known each other for over 30 years and have very close mutual friends) but I didn't know all the things on your list. it is incredible what people cope with and even more incredible what they cope with behind the scenes without everyone knowing about it. I think this carnival will be a big sobering experience for me to read all the entries.

    Thanks for the (kind) mention and for joining in.

    1. Rachel, 30 years? We can't be that old can we?? It was a little shocking to begin to list the things we have coped with and this was only a partial list. But there have been many things to celebrate in our lives and the tough times have made the good things even sweeter. You never know what you can cope with until you are faced with it and then you have no choice if you want to come out intact on the other side.

      Thank you for introducing me to the Carnival and for all your encouragement as I find my way in the blogosphere.


  2. What a beautiful post and I love that the one thing you could change would be to have been able to take on some of Jonny's pain.

  3. Thanks Corey-there was such a feeling of helplessness at the worst point of the pain. I think I could have shared the pain out among many who wanted to give Jonny some relief.


  4. I am always inspired after I read your posts. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us.

    1. Thank you Lisa, for your lovely comment. I know you have been reading from the earliest of posts and I really appreciate your support.

  5. Gilly, from what I read, I get the impression that you could cope with whatever life throws at you. And it has thrown more than its fair share.
    I am so glad that you share it with us, rather than keep it to yourself. It helps knowing there are 'others' out there :o)
    Hope that no more storms come your way.

  6. Thank you Liz - I think many people could compile a list of things they have had to cope with and it is easy to think you are alone in having such a list. But I now know that is not true.
    We have power now and since the temperature is going to be between 100F-103F this weekend I am so grateful for my air conditioning. Nothing like taking something away to make you really appreciate it.
    Have a good weekend.

  7. Sorry Gillian, I posted earlier than I was planning. I can either
    Ink yours up this month or leave it til next month.

    1. Hi Rebecca - I have added a new link to your site on this post and the one following. I hope you received my email. You are welcome to link me up wherever the post fits best.
      Many thanks