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I focused on changing myself rather than ‘fixing’ my husband’s health

It was the beginning of 2013 and my husband and I hit rock bottom. Once again, another medication did not work. This was the 10th medication in 10 years my husband tried to relieve his chronic pain. He was depressed, angry, and began to talk about divorce. I was about to throw in the towel as well because I was experiencing caregiver burnout.

I felt isolated, unsupported, and depressed. I was so angry and felt desperate to find a community that understood. I turned to the internet to find any support, guidance, or advice for someone like me. I found nothing. Yup. Nothing that I could relate to. Nothing I could say, “yeah, this person gets me.” Further, because my husband didn’t even have a diagnosis for his chronic illness, I did not know what support forum to join.

Another issue I ran into was that every website for caregivers was for older caregivers. Every site I found or resource that was recommended was for an aging population. I was 30 at this time and not even close to the end of my life (although it sure felt like it).

I was angry at my life path. While all my friends in their 20s and 30s got to have involved husbands as fathers, go to brunch with their boyfriends, hang out with friends as young people should, here I was: locked in a marriage with a disabled, chronically ill person. Something had to change . . . and the only thing I could change was me.

I decided to take self-care and self-development seriously. I found success by experimenting with different approaches, including life/career coaching, keeping active, adhering to a schedule, meditation, and a self-built AMAZING support system. There are plenty of days that I feel overwhelmed—but instead of letting that feeling take over, I’ve learned to keep going no matter what life throws at me and have fun in spite of it all. I’ve had tons of help, especially from my amazing circle of friends and family.

Once I decided to focus on changing myself rather than on “fixing” my husband’s health, my husband started to respond better to me as a caregiver and pulled through the depression to keep going on the search for answers. Today we have a diagnosis and are still on the search together to find the right balance for managing the chronic pain.

A year later, I feel positive and upbeat more often than not. That’s a success I worked hard to earn, and I’ve learned a lot along the way about maintaining my individuality while balancing my relationship with a person whose needs are more pressing at this time. I am not just a primary caregiver. I am a young, funny, passionate, generous, and ambitious woman. I’m here to share what I know with you, in a space where caregivers can share their successes, so that others can learn to be a Primary Ally too.