When I think about my own resilience, I am only half-joking when I tell friends that I'm bullet-proof. What I mean by that is this: I experience a full range of emotions, but another part of me is in active self-protection mode. This second, 'bullet-proof' side of me is the product of loving and caring over years for people in my family who have high needs, especially our son Nicholas (but more recently, my Mom too.)
I wasn't always bullet-proof. I was afraid all the time when Nick was small. Every crisis was new and different. I had no experience to draw upon or buoy me with clear-headed confidence. Now, much of what we see in our family, we've seen before. We know what to do about familiar rashes, coughs, pain and seizures. We know how to detect when things are going right or wrong with our paid caregiving team and we're good at collaborating to praise them or find solutions to problems. I still get frightened badly when some new threat or mystery health issue rears its ugly head, though.
Every problem encountered in caregiving and every health crisis dealt with is another piece of chainmail in the bullet-proof suit of armour. Love is what keeps us upright and loyalty is what keeps us from tossing the metal shirt aside.
I think when people say, "I don't know how you do it" (a phrase that grates on me, by the way), they are seeing our chainmail self-protection and they are expressing the wonderment of how we caregivers manage go on loving and experiencing heartbreak while still being so stoic, steadfast and hard-working for the sake of someone we love.
In this first week of National Caregivers Month, I salute my fellow bullet-proof friends who balance the intensity and intimacy of love and care with bravery and abiding loyalty.