I have an immediate family member who is sicker than I am. This is not a mental illness competition; I’m simply stating a fact. My depression has profoundly marked my life but I’ve never needed hospitalization or been unable to get out of bed and go to work. If an onlooker studied me closely on one of those ‘I’m at work while very depressed days’, they’d notice my thousand mile stare during downtime. But for whatever reasons, no one has ever seemed to look that closely. I go undetected. It’s pretty weird actually.
Someone in my family HAS been hospitalized. Someone in my family is NOT able to get out of bed and go to work (a lot). That makes me part of an army of millions who care for a parent, sibling, friend, client: the list goes on. I have a life of my own, of course, my own psychological battles to wrestle, my own responsibilities and needs. Everyone in our army does. I try to keep up with my own stuff while being at my family member’s side, but I know my work life suffers. Does that mean feelings of resentment bubble up while I’m at the bedside? Yes. Yes it does. But does compassion win out in the end? Of course.
As I write this, I’m in the midst of one of these care taking missions. I’ve gotten a cold, my head hurts from barely sleeping: I’m on a futon in an apartment that reeks of cigarettes and isn’t clean enough by my standards. But I can’t jump ship and go home to my loved ones and creature comforts because then what? And even more of a torment is the constant question of ‘am I even helping’? The check list I made of tasks isn’t getting done. How do I measure my level of success if my family member is still hardly getting out of bed? Is the success that he’s at no risk of physical harm? Is the success that I’m giving the rest of my family piece of mind by being here?
I have zero answers to these questions. Today is another day and I’m here. That is all.
Enjoy this article? Please consider donating to keep the stories coming!