Thursday, March 1, 2012

Caring for the Caregiver

In my effort to help Matthew through his medication issues, school problems and today's suspension from school, I forgot something very important: I forgot to take care of myself.

With errands to run, chores to do, remodeling, working, driving to and from school and phone calls with the teacher and the principal, I was doing very little for myself.  It's a trap that many caregivers fall into.  They become so immersed in the life they are trying to care for, that they forget that their own life, and sanity, are fragile things that if not nurtured slip away.  No matter how strong a person is, no matter how centered and loving and dedicated, at some point care giving becomes nearly impossible if the caregiver hasn't taken care of herself.

After the incident at school on Wednesday, I simply broke down.  All of the stress and all of the neglecting myself had finally taken its toll.  I couldn't cope; I spent hours crying on and off all day.

Today, I asked my mom to watch Matthew for the day so I could find some "me" time.  I weighed a pedi, a nap or a long drive, but nothing appealed to me.  Finally it came to me: a long, solitary hike.

I chose Myakka River State Park.  The park has almost 40 miles of hiking trails, and one loop that is a little over two miles long.  I drove the hour to get there, picked up a trail map and my backpack, and headed out.

At first, I couldn't stop thinking about what to do with Matthew.  But after an hour of hiking, my mind finally began to clear.  The first part of the trail wound through trees and canopy.  There was no one else out there.  After a couple of miles, the trail opened up to a grassy "road" that serves as a bike trail, with the most spectacular views of hammock, palms, the river and the occasionally trees far into the distance.

I sat down at one point to pull the athletic tape from my left foot (I think I have plantar fasciitis -- you know, with the knowledge from my medical degree) and spent about fifteen minutes resting and enjoying the breezes through the cabbage palms, the flocks of robins darting from tree to tree, and the calls of a bird of prey (possibly a hawk, maybe a red-shoulder, based upon its cry).

Unfortunately, about a mile and a half further along I met up with a ranger leading a bicycle tour, and she informed me that I had missed the blaze indicating the turn back toward my car.  Hello.  As a result my two mile hike became 6.5.  As I was dragging my butt along the last mile of that distance, exhausted, these lovely vultures began to circle overhead.  I think they were waiting for me to drop.


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