“Wow, you look good.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I'd be rich. You see, I'm not the one that's sick. It's my teenager. I'm just a caregiver. But since I haven't been out and about much the past couple of years, people seem shocked when they see me. It's almost as if they figured I'd look terrible.
Caregiving is a difficult job. It's not only emotionally taxing to deal with having a chronically ill child, it's exhausting to deal with the doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and school. It's a challenge because you never know what each day will bring. Some days are terrible, watching my teenager in migraine pain and feeling helpless. Other days are wonderful, when we get a glimpse of what life was like before she had POTS. After dealing with chronic illness for a couple of years, I can see why caregivers get sick themselves.
Often, when someone tells me I look good, they sound surprised. Certainly, I was supposed to fall apart by now or at least look deathly pale from spending so much time at hospitals. I resist the urge to say, “What did you think I would look like?” and just smile sweetly and accept the compliment. I’ve learned that people don’t really know what to say when you have a sick child and much of it can be inappropriate so I just move on. But here’s what I’d really like to say.
I look good because I refuse to give in to the beast that has attempted to take over my family. Granted, I’ve gained weight through this ordeal and I don’t exercise as much as I used to, but I wasn’t going to let illness consume me. For two years, I’ve told my kid that she will get her life back and get healthy. I couldn’t lose mine.
Despite not feeling motivated all the time, I worked when time allowed and continued to make an income. I took a shower every day and often put on make-up. While my wardrobe shifted to shorts and leggings, I still tried to look nice I continued to cook and clean and do all those things that normal people do because guess what? This was our new normal.
I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself or get down in the dumps because we couldn’t afford for our teenager to be there too. And, yes, I confess I’m grumpier than I was before (you try fighting with doctors all the time), but I have a deeper sense of love and compassion for others. I live my life with intention and meaning and I really am truly happy.
Lately, our normal has shifted. My teenager has more good days than bad and she’s back high school for the first time in a year. All of her hard work has paid off and I know in my heart that I’m a big reason why.
That’s why I look good.
Because we never gave up or gave in, I knew there would be a day when we wouldn’t have to be home all the time. When the normal would shift and both of us could slowly venture back into the world. It’s here and while that doesn’t mean that it’s over (that’s why it’s called chronic illness), it’s time to move on. Ask me about my LuLaRoe business or my blog. Feel free to ask me about my teenager, because right now, I’m bursting with pride. Just don’t tell me I look good.