Distracting Myself From the Pain Helps Me Cope With It
My husband, Todd, and I had our second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. The side effects from the first shot hadn’t been bad for either of us — just minor headaches — but the second one hit us harder.
Todd woke with extreme chills at 2:30 a.m. the morning after, but thankfully he had a caregiver that night, and she piled blankets on top of him. I developed the chills around 5 a.m. along with a headache.
In the morning, Todd was tired from a restless night, but he was ready to get out of bed because his body ached. I put the transfer sling under him, and then I felt so exhausted that I needed to lie down next to him for a few minutes before lifting him into his wheelchair.
I fed Todd cereal, laying my head down on the table in between bites.
There are no sick days for spouse caregivers.
Once Todd was set up on his computer, I lay down, but I couldn’t sleep with my head aching. I closed my eyes and half-listened to episodes of “The Office.” It was distracting enough to get me through to the afternoon when my headache finally subsided.
Distracting myself from pain is a coping mechanism I’ve developed as I’ve lived with the sorrow of Todd’s ALS for over a decade. Grief is always there, bubbling beneath the surface. At times it spills over, and I cry for what we have lost and what we are losing as the disease progresses.
Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a job outside of our home, not only for the money, but also for the mental stimulation and social interaction. But finding caregivers is stressful and expensive, so I look for things I can do from home while I take care of Todd.
My creative pursuits are good distractions. I wrote a series of novels set on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, where we live, and during the holiday seasons, I make Fraser fir wreaths. I sell my books and wreaths at craft fairs, and the small income they generate is helpful.
Recently, I’ve been on the lookout for another project, something I could make during the summer and add to my tables.
I’ve been perusing Etsy for craft ideas using natural elements from our area. I love collecting driftwood and rocks from the shores of Lake Superior, so this spring I decided to try my hand at pebble art.
I went to several beaches and gathered materials. I bought the needed crafting supplies. Todd designed a logo for me and ordered a stamp so I can mark my creations with the tag, “Lake Superior Pebbles.”
I created various scenes with people and birds, and even Todd got in on the fun, suggesting pieces to make a man sitting under a tree.
I don’t know how they’ll sell at the fairs, but creating them has been a fun distraction anyhow.
This morning we listened to the news as I got Todd out of bed, and then we discussed the current state of our world over breakfast. It is so overwhelming and hard, just like our lives, so I try not to spend too much time dwelling on things I can’t change.
“There’s beaches of pebbles waiting to be made into art,” I said.
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