Caregiver Burnout?

Listen up guys… I am not naïve to mental illness and how it takes hold of all kinds of people.  I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, so I know what anxiety and depression are supposed to look like.  In a previous post I told you how I had realized that I needed extra help but I wasn’t sure where it needed to come from.  I had tried medication but it made my migraines come back so I tried just focusing on my marriage, my family, and slowing down.  Fast forward to about two months ago maybe a little longer and I realized I had slipped into a depression and I wasn’t sure how I got there. 

Again, I have a highly stressful job, that I enjoy very much, but again very stressful.  Imagine coming to work every day and it being your responsibility to make sure 20-25 of your closest family members or best friends make it home alive and safe?  Well that is what I do on a daily basis not to mention some of the calls that we take on a daily basis that haunt our nightmares.  However, it is something that I love and I feel like I have a purpose, not to mention I am very good at it.   When you take that level of stress mixed with the daily care of a Type 1 Diabetic and trying to keep your marriage afloat a person just gets overwhelmed with their emotions and life in general. 

There had been more events leading up to this than just my job and Abbi’s T1D, a lot more but those issues are not something I am willing to share and really do not add to the story.  Just know that I knew I need some help and all the date nights in the world were not going to do it.  So, I went back to the doctor and she teamed up with my neurologist to find a non-SSRI medication that would not cause my migraines to return.  After doing some research the original medication I was taking was an extended release and the number one side effect was headaches.  They had a standard release form of the same medication so we decided to try that.  So far, this medication has worked beautifully, minimal side effects and no migraines. 

I knew medication was not the only answer, that I needed to work on me too.  I needed to start seeing a counselor, however, the one that was recommended to me was booked until this month.  Thankfully, our insurance has a program called “health online” and they allow visits with a counselor online.  So, I have been talking with one of those once or twice a week until I can get into a face to face with the counselor I wanted to see originally. 

I know a lot of you are probably saying, “What about your husband, where is he? Why isn’t he helping you? How does this make Abbi feel?”.  Unfortunately, depression takes many forms and I kept it very well hidden behind smiles and laughs for months.  I went about my regular routines, work habits, family habits, and everything in general until I just couldn’t anymore.  Has he been supportive?  Absolutely, I don’t think he fully understands the depression but he supports what I need to do in order to work on me during this process.  I am still fully involved in Abbi’s care, in my family, in my job; I just am making sure I am taking more time to work on me as well.  I am healing a part of myself that I wasn’t aware was broken until it was too late and now it is very difficult to fix. 

Do I think taking care of the diabetes lead to me feeling the way I do? Absolutely not. I love my daughter and would do anything for her.  I would take this disease from her at any given moment without thinking twice.  I have no complaints about caring for her and teaching her how to count carbs, dose her insulin, have her supplies organized so they are easily accessible, and prepare tasty meals that are still low in carbs.  I think it was a mixture of events that transpired over the course of the year.  From losing someone close to me to suicide, to the stress of my job and working 40-60 hours there, to Abbi hitting her “teenage years” and being a Dia-Mom 24/7. And even though I knew I had all the support anyone could ask for from my husband, my family, my work family, and my friends, I never asked for it.  I was too stubborn for that.  I could fix it by myself when in reality I couldn’t.  I am doing somewhat better now.  I still have a long way to go but the fog is gone and I finally have a clear picture.  I am still not 100% sure what part of me broke and what caused it or if it can be fixed fully, but I am trying every day.  Abbi is still my primary concern, but so am I.  Because it’s kind of like when you fly on an airplane and the flight attendant is giving you instructions for the oxygen mask.  They tell you to place your mask first before helping anyone else.  This is because if you pass out from lack of oxygen you can’t help anyone else.  Same theory, if I forget about myself and just focus on Abbi or T1D or anything else, I will forget to breathe and then I won’t be able to help anyone.

…there’s another kid, remember?

As most of you know Abbie is our oldest daughter.  She is 11 and her younger sister, Jamee, is 9.  When Abbie was first diagnosed this disease CONSUMED us.  I will fully admit I didn’t know how to deal with everything it took away from the family, how to give Abbie the attention she needed, how to maintain myself, how to maintain my marriage, how to maintain my job, and how to maintain my other child.  That was the big one….  I think the toughest challenge is the other siblings.  

When Abbie first came home we sat down as a family and tried to explain that until we got everything under control… (because that was going to happen right?) …  Abbie was going to require more attention and if Jamee ever noticed it or it bothered her we really needed her to step up and just tell us.   But I mean she was 7, what 7-year-old would look at Mom and Dad and tell them she felt left out.   Jamee was and still is the most loving and gentle child I have ever met.  She wants nothing more than to make everyone else happy, so for her to look at someone and tell them that they need to focus more on her would just not work in her favor.  So, for the first month or so everything seemed to go very smoothly.  Jamee even seemed to want to be overly involved. She would help get Abbie’s lunches and snacks ready.  She wanted to learn everything there was about T1D.   We thought it was very sweet and it fit very well with her nature. 

Then about a month later, she became very distant and started picking arguments with her sister.  She would talk back to us and would try anything to be defiant. She no longer wanted to help when it came to anything T1D related at all.  I remember looking at Andy and telling him this was an attention thing but I didn’t feel like we were showing Abbie more attention or I didn’t see a way to show her any less. I mean she had to have the amount she was getting right?  So, what could we do?  I mean it was a rock and a hard place.  Abbie was not self-sufficient enough to take care of the major or even the minor stuff without help and we couldn’t divert all of our attention away to placate Jamee.  And placate might be an awful term but at that time that is how it felt. 

I remember sitting Jamee down, just her and I, and asking her what was going on.  She denying anything of course and me having to pull it out of her.  She broke down into tears and asked if we still loved her as much as we loved Abbie.  (insert broken heart here) That’s when I figured out that since Abbie had come home, T1D had consumed us.  It had taken over everything, our walls, our fridge, our eating habits, our conversation, our family outings, even how we treated each other…everything.  And it was going to end that day.  Don’t get me wrong, T1D will always be there and it is something we have to talk about but we just try to take a lighter approach to it now. 

It’s the small things, instead of asking Abbie first thing when she gets in the car after school, “how was your blood sugar today?”, I ask her “how was school today”, or I speak to Jamee first.  We have put T1D on the backburner if you were looking in but still have tight control only because we have learned how to have a conversation without having the conversation.  We make sure to do lots of things NON T1D related and since that day we all made a pact with each other that if the attention turned back that way again we would speak up.  Has it happened?  Absolutely…. When Abbie went on the pump and the Dexcom our world was changed again.  The focus went back 100% on T1D, Jamee stepped up and put a halt to it.  So, we all worked together to make sure we maintained the family focus that we needed to have.  Does it get out of whack…yep all the time.  We are not perfect, no one is, and if they tell you they are they lie or it’s what they need you to believe.  However, we work on it daily and as long as my kids can grow up saying they know we all tried as a family… well that is all that matters to me. 

XOXO P.S.  My thumb is slowly healing hopefully, MRI is next week or so and we will find out if I have to have surgery or not… fingers crossed not…

It’s just too much…

This post will be shorter than most. I just wanted to explain why I have been MIA lately. Sometimes I look at our life and think we have everything under control. Abbie’s blood sugar is for the most part in a great range, her pre-teen hormone levels are as controlled as they can be (lol), Andy and I just finished our bathroom remodel today, and Jamee is blossoming into an extremely smart and beautiful young woman before our eyes. Yep, life is completely and utterly under control right?

Wrong?! So just like in the bathroom remodel.. when the measurements were correct, but the plumbing didn’t line up; or all of the finishes were up but then the water supply line busted on the last day, life decided in our Type 1 journey it would throw us another autoimmune curve ball and see how we would play.

We noticed over the past several months that Abbie had become extremely moody, had a lot of anxiety, she was losing hair, and it seemed she was not growing properly. I knew it all seemed like a Thryoid Disorder but I thought she was tested for those antibodies when she was diagnosed and thought she had been tested for those levels as her previous endo appointment with the old endo. So last month it was time for her recheck at the new endo and I brought up my concerns. She had a blood draw done.. guess what it showed? Higher than usual TSH levels. Ding, Ding, Ding, Momma wins again. Not that I wanted that prize, but I should always go with my gut. So endo wanted us to have her rechecked in a month, but this time we would do a slew of tests including the antibodies tests since those were never done either… ugh!

So, over the past month we have been going on family camping trips, going to cabin, going to Busch Gardens, remodeling the bathroom… did mention it’s finally finished (I’m a little excited).. and we just went in two days ago for the redraw. Now we wait…..If the numbers are still high, we start her on a synthetic hormone to regulate her Thyroid levels and of course that will take a while it just means her body attacked one more thing in her body.

Sorry for the vent post… it’s just all very frustrating to be honest. These kids should just get to be kids instead of worrying about taking pills and what they eat and how they eat and what time they eat. Instead, they get to put their big girl panties on about 10 years too early and try not to worry about what might fail next.

Okay… enough venting for tonight….