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Create Self-Care
By Learning How To Think Like A Soldier

By Joan Fay

(Page 2 of 3)

No wonder I was exhausted! Yet, there was no retreat. I had to face the challenges in front of me; and as I thought it over, I realized it was my choice how I dealt with these many challenges. I could react to each new medical symptom with complaint and drama, or I could meet the challenges head on, as the soldiers are taught to do, and take care of what needed to be taken care of in the moment. This realization stopped my internal whining and allowed a well of strength to rise up from somewhere deep inside, reducing the amount of anxiety I carried. Taking a good look at what I had to do and what I wanted to do did not stop what was happening to Vick, but it did stop some of my anxiety about all the issues we were facing.

The assessment also showed me how insane it was to do all of these items on my own. I knew I needed help and needed it fast. So, when people asked me if there was anything they could do, my answer became “Yes!” I would rattle off the tasks that I needed done, and let the person decide which one suited him or her best. This new declaration resulted in delegating my credit card and grocery shopping to my mother, house cleaning to my sister-in-law, and yard maintenance to our neighbors. I also gave up the need to be a hostess to the numerous people who came to sit with Vick. Utilizing the support of others in this way helped me to fend off some of the exhaustion I had been enduring.

Reducing the level of internal complaining and the number of tasks on my never-ending to-do list allowed me more energy. However, nothing helped as much as the attempt I made to adopt the third tenet of soldier training – trust. Soldiers are taught to trust their military training as a way to help them move through fear and build inner strength. Even before Vick’s health declined to the point of needing hospice care, I was enveloped in fear. As odd as it sounds, I wasn’t afraid of Vick’s inevitable death as much as I was of not being able to ease her suffering. I didn’t trust myself, or my emotional strength, to deal with such outcomes, so I over-compensated by trying to anticipate her every need. I constantly asked her how she was feeling and if she needed water, pain medication, food, or blankets. A part of me believed that I could eliminate her suffering, and thus my own, simply by making her comfortable. Not surprisingly, my attempts resulted in her feeling suffocated and controlled.


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