I have been talking a lot and thinking a lot lately about finding “me” again. I have brief moments that I do feel like myself again. But at the same time, I think of how this whole experience has changed me.
I am not the same person I was 2 years ago when Donnie got his diagnosis. I am very different. So here I am again searching for me and my new normal. Who am I? I am a well spouse and a caregiver. My life hasn’t been focused on me in a very long time. How do I know who I am anymore?
I have changed. I am more tolerable now of people and less judgmental than I was before. I have learned that you don’t know what someone else’s struggles are. Even if you can’t see them, they could be fighting their own demons. I learned this of how people judged me throughout Donnie’s illness and still judge me today.
When Donnie was sick, people judged me all the time, good and bad. Some people thought I was so strong while others judged me for being to weak. “Donnie looks fine” Or “ he will beat this” and “you shouldn’t be negative” or things like that were said to me. I wasn’t being negative, I was afraid. I was terrified. Although I tried to remain positive as much as possible, I was afraid because I knew what lay ahead. No one else “knew” it. But Donnie and I both did.
You can’t imagine how awful of a feeling that is for 18 months to know that your husband and love of your life is dying and there isn’t a damn thing that you can do to stop it. Think about it, 18 months, every day, I was faced with the reality of knowing that I was losing him. I felt so helpless and my life felt out of control. We were fighting a battle that we could not win, even though no one else chose to see it. I have heard so many times since Donnie passed. “Wow, I was shocked!! I thought he would beat this” “He seemed to be doing so well” All of these people knew he had stage 4 cancer. They just didn’t want to see it because Donnie put on such a good front so they chose not to accept the truth.
I admire Donnie so much for the battle he fought. He never complained or asked “Why me?” He accepted his diagnosis and impending death with a courage that I could never do. He made the choice to LIVE everyday of life that he was given and not let cancer take away the precious memories that he had left to make. When most people would be wallowing in self pity and staying in the bed and being sick, playing the victim and afraid to fight, Donnie got up and he went to work and he got up and played with the grandbaby. He played golf, he spent time with me and the kids. He took advantage of every moment that he had. How many well people can even say that? We tend to think we have unlimited tomorrows and we put off things that we shouldn’t. Like spending quality time with the people that you love and letting them know that you love them. Donnie lived his life and especially his last 18 months with no regrets. I can honestly say that I lived those last 18 months of his life with no regrets either. We seized every moment and every opportunity we had. I am so thankful for that. How many people can say that?
People still judge me every single day. Some fault me for mourning Donnie for so long and how much I still cry over him. Some judge me for trying to continue to live without him. And I won’t lie and say that all of those judgments haven’t hurt me. They have. But I can say this, I have learned that it doesn’t matter what those people think of me. It only matters what I think and how I feel. I am ok with the person that I am and I’m trying to be. I am ok with the choices that I make. They can’t possibly understand what I have been thru and still go thru everyday. Donnie’s illness and death changed me so much and made me appreciate every single day that I am allowed here on this earth. As hard as it is to move on with my life without Donnie, I have to. I don’t want to waste any of the precious moments that I have been given.
It’s easy to sit in judgment of me and say what “you” would do and how “you” would act. It’s easy for you to sit and say what you think that I am supposed to do. I can’t fault people for that. I understand because I have judged people myself and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t. We would all be lying if we said that. But these people who think that they know what I am supposed to do or how I should act, haven’t been thru what I have been thru. They haven’t experienced the helplessness out of control life that I have led for 2 years now. They can’t possibly understand. Even the people who love Donnie can’t understand. They think about Donnie from time to time, some even daily and they feel the loss of him in their lives. But they all have lives that didn’t include Donnie. But what they can’t understand is that I feel that loss every single minute of every single day. He was my life and my love and my partner and my best friend and I feel that loss every moment of every day. When Donnie died, my world was turned upside down and it completely stopped. While everyone else around me kept moving forward, I was left standing here alone, wondering, “what do I do now?”.
The people who judge me are obviously not people who love me. The people who truly love me want me to be happy and find “me” again. They don’t judge me for the days that I lie in the bed and cry all day nor do they judge me for the days that I find my smile again.
There are so many times that I think that I will NEVER be able to have a somewhat normal life again. I think that I can NEVER get over losing Donnie and honestly, I don’t think I ever will. But, it was pointed out to me how far I have come since losing him that even I didn’t realize. After Donnie died, I lay on the floor and screamed and I begged God to take me too. I wanted to die with him. Nothing else mattered because I hurt so badly. I just wanted it to stop. I didn’t care how. I have never felt pain like that before. Nor do I ever want to again. I guess I have come far. Although, I still hurt every single day and would give anything to have him back and I still cry buckets of tears over losing him and the battle he went thru, I ‘m not wanting to die with him anymore. I get up everyday and I want to enjoy my kids and grandbaby and cherish the moments that I have with them and my friends and family. I guess I have come a long way. Maybe one day I will be able to remember Donnie and smile again for what we have shared and not hurt and have my heart break remembering him. I want my memories of Donnie to be happy and not painful. Who could fault me for that?
I am leaving on Thursday to get away with my 2 very best friends in the whole world. I am hoping that on our trip, I have moments that I find “me” again. I can’t imagine what I would do without them. I know that they would never judge me and only want the best for me and they know “me” better than anyone else but Donnie. They are my “sisters’. Although we are not blood related, it goes so much deeper than that. I know that they are always here to pick me up when I fall and cheer me on when I make steps going forward. I don’t know what I would do without them. I would have never made it as far as I have if they weren’t by my side.
With their help and all the other people who love me, I will get there. It hasn’t been an easy journey, nor do I expect it to be an easy journey. I can only hope that I come out of this on the other side, stronger than I have ever been and a better person for the wear.
I keep hoping it will happen and knowing that I will get there. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week or next month or even next year, but I’ll get there. I just need to keep on trying.