take care cher

A single woman's journey as a caregiver to an elderly parent, 5 dogs, a house….and most importantly myself

Walking Saved My Life

Shoes 002The secret to being somewhat in shape and healthy is finding an activity you enjoy, or face it, we won’t do it!  My salvation, particularly as a caregiver extraordinaire, is walking.  Power walking, leisurely walking, strolling….whatever I’m in the mood for and that gets me moving.  Now, you’re looking at the title of my post and I know what you’re thinking….”saved your life?? COME ON!!”  But I will stick to my title and my belief that if it weren’t for walking, I would either be in a padded room, or would have had a stroke or heart attack by now.

You know how they talk about the top 5 stressful events in life?  Well I had 3 of them happen to me all at once:  (1) A close relative died, (2) I moved (3) I started a new job.  And that doesn’t include the fact that when my Dad’s health took a turn for the worse, I literally took over caring for my insulin dependent, diabetic, dementia, and nearly blind suffering Mom overnight!  During the day, I got the help I could scrape up to stay with her and worried all day, while suffering from a “new job” learning curve and having anxiety attacks that would quietly end in the ladies room by popping half a Xanax. The icing on my day would consist of going home and arguing with her about bathing (she didn’t think she needed one for weeks at a time), cooking dinner, taking care of our animals, paying bills, and learning to harness her pill box, take her blood sugar, and doling out the proper amount of insulin while learning to properly use a hypodermic needle!  Whoosh!!  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!

The effects of all of this stress and heartache consisted of:  Eye twitching, heart palpitations, trouble breathing, insomnia, hives, migraines, drinking too much, crying jags, etc.  I would lay awake at night and my head would swim with all the new responsibilities I had taken on and I became dependent on Xanax to still my constantly whirring mind.  I’ve always been active, but I started ignoring doing any type of activity because I simply didn’t feel like I had time.  I even bought a treadmill because I felt like I couldn’t go to the gym after work and leave my Mom alone any longer, but after a time I became bored with it…it wasn’t stimulating…it wasn’t what I needed.  Of all of my physical maladies, the eye twitching drove me nuts and was VERY embarrassing when it happened in front of someone because it was OBVIOUS! Then, I read an article in Prevention about handling stress with exercise and it was like an epiphany, although in hindsight, it was common sense.  Even though I had tried the treadmill, I realized I needed to have a change of scenery and to nurture my love of the outdoors, which I had unconsciously sacrificed for the sake of my Mom.  But my epiphany included realizing I HAD to reclaim something for myself, so I did.

I immediately started “finding” time to walk around the block every night before dinner.  I would walk around my office park at lunchtime.  Wherever I could squeeze it in, I walked and walked and walked…and guess what?  The eye twitching stopped! It was a miracle…NOT!!!  It just took paying attention to myself for a moment and MY suffering, not just everyone else’s, but MINE!  It’s not Shakespeare and I’m sure you’ve heard this before…If you don’t take care of yourself, you will have NOTHING left to give others…but it’s oh soooooo true!  I now log somewhere around 10 miles a week and it feels so wonderful to just get out in the sunshine and walk…I even walk in the rain! Every step is rejuvenating and also helps to keep my backside from not getting any wider than it already is!  It irritates my Mom when I walk out for an hour, but she’ll get over it when I walk back in the door.

Caregivers need respite from their cares, worries and the massive weight on their shoulders.  If walking isn’t your thing, try swimming, singing, dancing, yodeling, underwater basketweaving…SOMETHING to save YOUR life!

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