Carmel’s Notes: A former caregiver’s reflections and looking forward

Oct 8, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mental Health

by Carmel Christine

The soft-hearted, tender souls of the universe are the very ones who believe in people (like you) the most, who drop their own cares and responsibilities for someone who needs them more, who’s gentle – a sensitive spirit’s purpose can detect a need before anyone utters a word… like an autumn leaf that lofts through the air or driftwood lobs about atop the sea, quietly, seemingly aimless, for the spirit does not operate on the same level as the world does… quiet but not lacking in strength, for the strength to allow the air to pick them up or allow the waves, no matter how violent, to crash around them, is unlike any strength found in most. They move as the spirit within them moves – how they were made to. Lightly, gently and then… freely. 2021 Carmel Christine

It’s been twelve years since the lightening bolt of change pierced through the effervescent life of my one and only. It is still too heartbreaking to recount, that night, those times, but it changed everything and everyone around him and us and my future hopes. Thankful his life was spared, that was the hardest part of watching his mind taken over. But the best part was watching it unfold to the saved, strengthened and reshaped mind it is, and he is now, both mentally and physically. Now, sharp, keen, determined and skillful in his profession.

Drawn by Carmel’s son as a teen

What did it take? Ultimately, himself. He’ll tell you his first step was discovering his own self-love and determination from watching people around him from what he did not want to what he did want for himself. For me, likely the same, but in the middle it took awareness of what was happening in the moment. It was in the care of him at that moment that only mattered because the mood shifts changed on a dime, requiring listening and a deep sense of patience. Trust in others was necessary but didn’t always pan out as some were quick to judge methods, not knowing what was going on. This was especially true in his physicians because his treatment was based on their one-on-one consultations with him, and I was only later brought in to describe his schooling, friendships, social outlets, and home life. His ownership of his life was the reason.

Carmel

In the trenches, my experience with the new medicine regimes and diagnoses, and not knowing what would happen next was difficult, and I managed by praying and in practical ways by sleeping on the family room floor so I could hear the vibration through the floorboards in the middle of the night if he was up and about or getting home at whatever time in whatever state. All the awareness, attention (and sometimes knowing when to be in-attentive), making calls, bringing in people, medical team, and friends to help, was to give my best to my best one, my son. I had to know no matter what may happen I at least did that. Several times his life was held in the balance: where he’d leave home with smiles, leaving anyone who saw him to believe that he was good, and on the right track, only to find him in a seriously bad way. I learned that I couldn’t think I could save him by being close, knowing his whereabouts because even two-feet away one night he attempted “relief” by a handful. I learned that experts don’t know everything or only what their patients tell them, and I’m a mom…some things…serious things are simply beyond my abilities. So. Love and parenting only goes so far. I’m glad I did and still do this: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.” But never at the cost of losing yourself in the process.

In this month’s celebration of World Mental Health Day, I celebrate my own self frankly, and all the caregivers who are in the trenches. God-given, God-sustaining strength in moving my spirit and self through the nightmares and out into the light, allowed me to be moved, lifted in it all. Even better is knowing the greatest outcome was from teaching him to manage himself with all the resources and teaching him the art of self-love as he makes his own discoveries in achieving his best life. And he is. And the hope I thought for his life was small compared to what he has now become!

Carmel Christine is a native Californian, working as a business paralegal in West Virginia and as a freelance writer on grace in people, personal interest stories, and philosophy.

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