February 11, 2017, Saturday
I spent the day with my friendster (sister-like friend) and her daughter, my niece. It was the first time I’ve left Chris alone since the stroke. Alone, with the three dogs that is. I was a little uneasy about it, but not enough to stay home. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a grown adult to be ‘babysat’ every day. So I sincerely felt that it was the best thing for him. It was something of the old life that needed to be returned to him.
He has never been unattended since January 20. As an introverted empath this would be torture for me. I have to have time alone every day and long stretches at least once a week. I would be on overload if I had to be attended to 24 hours for 20 some days straight! So, I felt for him and since he’s been doing really well I felt it was time to give him this opportunity for success.
I made sure that he had whatever he needed and had a strategy for whatever the dogs needed. Before I left, he said to me, “Thank you for taking such good care of me. I don’t know anyone else who would still love me after this. I’m a mess.”
My heart broke. Does one really think that they are unlovable because of a physical event? Does HE really think that I couldn’t still love him? While I am touched he expressed his gratitude, he is such a wonderful man that everyone who has ever met him, loves him; that he truly thinks he would be unlovable, makes me breaks my heart down to my soul.
I cannot allow that. I cannot allow him to ever believe that he is less lovable.
No one who suffers a stroke is ever the same person again. Anyone who loves someone who’s survived a stroke hasn’t experienced at least one moment of questioning. Questioning if they can continue caregiving. Questioning if the stroke took away their loved one forever. Questioning if a new behavior is permanent or passing. And yes, questioning if they still love their survivor, but also if their survivor can truly love them back.
It’s natural. It’s fleeting. And in same cases it can be permanent. In some cases the stroke takes away the entire essence of the survivor leaving in its wake a negative image of the former self. Even in these cases it is not the person they have fallen out of love with, for that person died with the stroke, it is the stroke that is unlovable.
About 8 months after Chris and I started dating I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Chris was nothing but supportive, yet I still remember feeling like a burden and thinking that ‘he didn’t sign up for this’ as I attempted to manage the daily pain and fatigue. I never thought I was unlovable for it though. Too much trouble, yes, but not unlovable.
Truth be told it was good and necessary for me to get out of the house today too. To do something non-stroke related to give myself a bit of reprieve. Now, I could’ve spent my time worrying about him, but I didn’t allow that. I called twice only. I focused on unpacking boxes and organizing kitchenware. It was the greatest reprieve. I wasn’t in charge. I wasn’t responsible for anything more important than where the pots and pans would fit best. It was a gift. And of course spending time with my beloved friendster and my niece was just icing on the cake.
This morning started with gratitude but the day ended a little differently.
He came completely undone because when I made the bed the top sheet and the comforter were upside down. While pre-stoke him was OCD enough for it to matter, he just would’ve fixed it. This time he was seriously upset about it and talked about it endlessly. As he was getting ready for bed he started in on it again. About how he didn’t understand why the sheet and comforter would be on upside down.
Mind you, I changed the sheets yesterday.
He mentioned it at breakfast, but I ignored it. He made another comment when I got home, but it really escalated when he was getting ready for bed. I finally had to snap him out of it by giving him explicit instructions to change what doesn’t suit him.
“If you truly need the sheet and comforter a specific way then you are capable of fixing it. You really need to be happy you have someone to put clean sheets on your bed.”
It was as if he hadn’t even considered that he could change it himself, but once I planted that seed, he fixed it and never said another word about it. I didn’t take it personally, I know it was the stroke talking.
Just as before this I could never have imagined what it would be like for a supporter of a stroke survivor, I now can’t imagine what it must be like for stroke survivors…heart breaking.