The World Turns Upside Down

By Breeda Miller

The world turns upside down when the caregiver becomes the patient. Last week I had a routine colonoscopy. No problems, just an adult thing to do and I dreaded it. I got the LARGE container of prep drink ready and followed the instructions, like a good patient. Ever the optimist, I figured I would plan to stay home, drink the prep solution and make trips to the bathroom throughout the day. I also thought I would be able to catch up on some emails, write a blog, organize a new event and refinish the kitchen island countertop. Because, well, I wasn’t sick and I just had to stay home and make sure my colon was nice and clean for the test the next day. How hard could that be?

Delusional

I don’t know who I thought I was. In HINDsight, I should have just decided that the day was dedicated to prepping for the scope and let go of any other plans, misguided or otherwise ridiculously ambitious. I decided that I wanted to get things going, so rather than following the instructions to drink 8 oz every ten minutes and pause. I glugged down a 20 oz biggie size in record time. That’s when I got dizzy and started to feel nauseous. Then I had to lay down. Then I had to get up and get into the bathroom. Then I had to go lay back down. I couldn’t eat anything and I needed to finish all the prep solution so they wouldn’t send me home to do it all over again. I waited a while and then slowly sipped the jug of prep solution. All I have to say is that this prep day took a lot out of me – literally.

Spa Day

You know you need a break when you consider a colonoscopy a kind of a spa day experience. Everyone asks how you are feeling, they look after you, bring you soft warm socks and when you wake up they offer you some crackers and a beverage, complete with a bendy straw. Best of all, you are wrapped in warmed soft blankets. All you have to do is lie back and rest. Until you have to leave and go home.

Unrealistic Expectations

I have been a caregiver for many years. I cared for my mother through hospice, I have three kids who have had several major surgeries. I know what to do, what to provide and what to ask about. Apparently, no one else in my family got the caregiver memo. My husband is a wonderful, kind loving man. He would do anything I ask. The key is to ASK. It doesn’t occur to him to anticipate things a patient might need to be more comfortable. He went with me to the hospital for the test and he stayed home from work to be near me as I recovered from the anesthetic. He was near me, as he slept.

Eye Opener

I am in good health and I am grateful. Other than the occasional migraine attack and a very serious illness in my teen years (I nearly died), I have never been really sick. The colonoscopy provided two days of self-inflicted discomfort and inability to function normally. I had a view of what it must be like for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. Whether it’s an invisible disease like Lupus, depression or neurological illnesses that present in inconsistent and varied ways or more obvious disabilities, I had a window into the patient’s world. It is just beyond comprehension. I had a short experience into the frustration, exhaustion, and isolation that patients must feel everyday. But they don’t experience it for a few days and are back to “normal”. This is their life. How people are able to function with constant nausea, dizziness, and pain every day and still manage to be productive, parent their children, keep a job and carry on is nothing short of miraculous.

Caregiving is hard. Being sick is harder.

Unless you’re unconscious, then being the caregiver is harder. Honestly, being sick is awful and being the caregiver can be really hard. We all hope and pray that our days of being ill are limited and that our role as a caregiver is short and fulfilling. Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes caregiving is the most draining and exhausting experience known to humankind.

You Can’t buy Mental Agility

So, all the more reason to take care of yourself. Caregiving is hard. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and isolating. You must be mentally agile to deal with the complex situations from mental and physical challenges to financial and legal complications, not to mention family drama. Take a Break Before you Break. Your family and your loved one in your care will appreciate a healthy and happy caregiver. My colonoscopy results came back and all is well.

For information about Breeda Miller’s new online membership The Caregiver Clubhouse go to https://breedamiller.com/join/ Registration is only available August 5 – 8.

About Breeda Miller

Breeda Miller works with organizations to support professional and family caregivers. Her self-care strategies help caregivers care better for others, reduce stress and burnout. A professional speaker, award winning author and family caregiver, Breeda cared for her own mother for 8 years including hospice care.Connect via email: [email protected] or Breedamiller.com

4 Comments

  1. Lori Kucyk on July 15, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Breeda, as usual, your artful summation of your day ‘down under’ left me feeling a little giggly and a little pensive. The giggly part was because everyone who has undergone this test knows the drill of the necessary and dreaded prep. We all hate it but know what must be done—must be done! We’ve heard every joke about the subject, too! Right? The pensive thoughts took me to those who aren’t fortunate to have caring loved ones standing by in case of an unplanned dizzy spell or a nausea attack while doing ‘business’ (we know it can happen, simply because, well, why not?). Though nobody really wants to be in close proximity to the prepping patient, just knowing another human is in the house is very much a comfort. I’m grateful for my husband and all he has done as my caregiver. He knows when to watch me closely and when to just quietly observe. I’m very independent and don’t like to be pampered but there have been times when the pampering is nice. I’ve had two opportunities to be his caregiver following surgeries and I hope I performed my duties as well as he has done for me.

    Whether a routine test or a full out operation, it’s a comfort to know there is someone who has your back. I think I just added a new item to my list of blessings!

    • Breeda Miller on July 16, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks so much Lori – yes I am so grateful to have people in my life who look out for me (even if they fall asleep) and even more grateful that this was a routine screening and the results were good.

  2. Beth Kennedy on July 15, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    glad you made a full recovery. interesting shift in perspective here – changes everything

    • Breeda Miller on July 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      Yes Beth – On Wednesday I was feeling great and back to normal – whatever that is!

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