Sunday, December 05, 2010

Partner as Caregiver?

I've been thinking about my last serious boyfriend lately. I think it's just because of the holidays approaching which make me think about people that are no longer with me. Because we broke up less than two weeks before my dad died, the grief of those two events is forever melded together in my mind. So, Christmas is coming, I'm missing my dad, and then I start missing him a little, too.

On bad days, I remember myself as the victim who was heartbroken after the relationship ended against my will.  Awwww. Poor me. Except that's not true. The truth is that I started being honest with myself about what I wanted in a relationship and when I shared that with my ex, we realized that we weren't in the same place and didn't want the same things. I wanted to move forward and he was happy with things they way they were. So, it ended. I'm pretty sure that if I had been content, things would still be going along the same way two years later without any further commitment. Except that that wasn't what I wanted. And, you know what? It's STILL not what I want. Although I miss being in love, I don't miss settling for less. I don't miss silencing my inner voice just to avoid being alone.

I was talking about all this with a friend this weekend and she asked me if I thought MS had anything to do with our break-up. Although the issue was never raised, it's hard to say whether or not MS was a factor. Because I have MS, it's impossible to know if things would have been different without the MS. I've never managed to find a crystal ball that shows me the parallel universe where my life is not exactly as it is in this world. When I met my ex, I didn't have MS. We had been dating exclusively for almost two years at the point that I was diagnosed and then we dated for another year and half before we broke up.  Who knows? Not me.

So, I told my friend honestly that I didn't know, but that it didn't really matter because I am who I am and part of who I am is someone with MS. Love me and accept the MS.. Her response was like a punch in the gut. She said, "Maybe he couldn't commit to being your partner because he worried about being your caregiver in the future."

I don't blame my friend for her brutal honesty. I had thought something similar myself but I never said or heard it outloud before. But there it is.

And because it's the time of year that I have to work extra hard at RSVPing "no" to every possible self-pity party, my mind started to race: "Oh my God! I'm going to be alone forever!;" "No one is going to want me;" etc, etc, etc.

SCRRRRRREEEEEEEECH. Thankfully, I put the breaks on that little trip to nowhere lickety, split. Here's the pep talk I gave myself to get back on track:

I don't need a caregiver today. I care for myself. Anyone that I'm with could be the one to end up needing a caregiver. My MS might bring that possibility to the forefront, but isn't that a possibility in any relationship?  Isn't that part of the risk of spending your life with someone and growing old together?  Most people don't age without issues. I have Multiple Sclerosis and Ulcerative Colitis, but I'm a pretty healthy 46-year old woman in every other respect. I don't drink, smoke, do drugs, I meditate, eat healthy, have loving relationships, and I stay relatively active.

Maybe I'm in denial but I don't think it makes sense to plan my life around potential disability. Am I crazy?  I mean, yes, I have MS, but I've had it for three years and I feel great. My vision issues are real and have taken away my ability to drive, but even if it gets worse, there are plenty of completely blind people who don't need caretakers.

So, the pep talk worked. I've back on my track of gratitude, trusting that, with a higher power that lives inside me, I will never truly be alone and that I will be ok, no matter what.


  1. I just want to say be stress free if you take needles don't stop I can barley walk and i walk with a foot and calf brace, but my walking is very unsteady, i'm 44 got diagnosed at 26, if a guy likes you and wants you to like him he won't care about MS. My 96 yr old Gramma see's better than me and walks better than me, I don't want you to end up like me. Stay Stress free keep your body stress free. I wish the best for you

  2. A caretaker is someone who takes care of someone else. In a strong, healthy relationship, each person takes care of the other. All the time. When illnesses or accidents occur, the balance sways but at the heart of it is that if someone loves Julie Baker (and who wouldn't, unless you don't care for soup), taking care of her should not be an issue.

  3. I hope you surround yourself with love and kindness this holiday season, Anonymous. And thanks for the reminder about the importance of taking my meds and reducing stress.
    Thanks, Jason...especially for the "who wouldn't." :-)
    Lazy J

  4. I agree that you do not need a caretaker, A relationship is not all that? Good Luck, someone will see the personality, hopefully

  5. Julie, you've got it all right in my book. Nobody, and I mean No. Body. Knows whether or not they might find themselves in a caretaker role with the person they love, MS or not. A colleague of mine - one of the most active, healthy people I know. Suffered a massive stroke a few months ago. The husband of a good friend of mine had a massive heart attack at age 40. Both survived and are thriving, but did either one of their significant others bail because of the now greater risk of those things happening again? Hell no. The right person will roll with whatever comes. And you're not gonna settle for anything less! Go, girl.