Welcome to Hell: A Caregiver's Nightmare

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I just sit. I scratch my leg and wonder why I am such a challenge, even to myself. I go on, “And I feel like I lost more than just who he already was; I lost everything he could have become, his potential. And my mom’s too. She cares for him and she is good at it, ridiculously good at it, but now…now she can’t be good at anything else.”

I sigh, overwhelmed by loss, a crushing absence. “And I’m the only one still struggling with it. My dad is fine. He’s not, of course. Injured. Disabled. Damaged. But he has his outpatient therapy and his enlarged print books and his recorded television shows. He still smiles, laughs, jokes. My mom has accepted it. She cares for him. She dresses him and cooks for him and drives him to therapy and cleans him and tucks him in. And that is all she can do. And that’s not a bad thing, is it? But it just never feels like enough to me. I witness it and I hate it. I hate it so much.” I wrap my arms around myself. I feel chilled now; I curl into myself.

“These are my parents! They gave me everything. Everything. And sometimes I am too drained to muster a ‘hello’ when I walk through the door. Sometimes I sit in my car and try to think of errands that will keep me out the house. Sometimes I dread getting him up from his nap. Sometimes I don’t want to come home. Because it doesn’t feel like my home anymore.”

Hell is displacement.

“But…she loves him. It’s pure and beautiful. It may be the most beautiful thing I ever witness up close. And she has enough left over to love me too. Even when I roll my eyes and I mumble responses and I slam doors, they love me anyway….And I was too busy being pissed off to thank her for it.”

“This is ridiculous. I can’t just sit here. I am healthy and strong and I owe them. I can’t stay here.” Suddenly there is nothing more important than finding my mom and saying “thank you.” Suddenly I will do anything, overcome anything, to get back to her, back to them. “I have…I want to help them. I want to look them in the eye again. I want to believe in my family again, in us.”

And I can almost swear I hear papers shuffling, as if someone has leaned on the PA button accidently. But it cuts off immediately and then I hear, “We’re listening. And we do not believe in you.”

“What? What do you mean? I told the truth!”

“Oh yes we know that. We know you think you told the truth. But we do not believe in you.”

And then silence descends.

I thought it was quiet before; I was wrong.

I thought I was scared before; I was wrong.

I thought I was alone before; I was wrong.

This is Hell.

‘I am too late,’ I think, and I am just about to sink back into the cushions when I remember that it’s a dream anyway. I decide to stand up, and then I actually do. I stand up.

No alarms sound. Nothing changes. As the seconds pass, I slowly realize that he did not say, “We do not believe you,” he instead said, “We do not believe in you.”

And I start to laugh, working myself up from a contained chuckle to a full blown fit. Because, you know something, I don’t believe in them either. There is time left.

Hell is what you make it.

I take my first step forward, and that’s when I hear, ever so faintly:

“We couldn’t agree more.”

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