As a Caregiver, I’m Learning to Chase Happiness

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by Jaime Christmas |

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happiness, resilience, caring, expectations, pain, live intentionally, environment, well-being

One activity I really enjoy doing is going for coffee dates with my girlfriends. This allows me to take a break from my normal routine and spend time with those in my support network. As a carer, having people to confide in and share life’s journey with is vitally important for mental wellness.

While catching up with a close friend, I was struck by how she won’t let the circumstances of her life discourage her. She shared with me that recent events in her life have made her feel like she was losing a handle on things.

For example, her mother, who lives abroad, suffered a severe heart attack. But due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, my friend was unable to be with her. At the same time, and closer to home, the last of her children decided to move out of the family home, leaving my friend and her husband as empty nesters.

U.S. statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you are finished changing, you’re finished.” Change is inevitable in life, and sometimes the force of it comes on like an avalanche. If you are a patient or a carer dealing with an illness like amyloidosis, you probably are used to change.

I was encouraged to learn that despite all my friend was going through, she still had a smile on her face and a positive attitude. When I asked how she could be so calm, her reply threw me off: She said she was chasing happiness.

I have always thought of happiness as a state of being: One is either happy or not. I never viewed it as a living, moving energy that awaits us. If we run after it, we can catch it.

Perhaps if I appreciate happiness as a mixture of feeling pleased, proud, awed, satisfied, blessed, affirmed, and encouraged, being happy would become more attainable. Perhaps I need to see happiness as emotional well-being — feeling positive and content with my life and the lives of those closest to me, and being at peace with my current season. Then I can say that I am happy.

As a caregiver to a spouse that suffers from hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, life is full of ups and downs. This terminal illness has negatively affected so much of our lives. At this point, I feel slightly dazed and have a tendency to focus exclusively on being practical and pragmatic. This can come across as being unaffectionate or uncaring.

If I am not mindful, anything that exists below the surface, such as feelings and emotions, can be deeply buried. This is not healthy for a caregiver and does nothing to help our relationship as husband and wife.

Hence, I constantly endeavor to be intentional and resolute in all that I do. I strive to fix my eyes on life’s joys and the contentment of living. I seek essential growth lessons provided by those in my sphere of influence to become a better person for those I love. I dig deeper into the meanings behind positive affirmations, and understand the philosophy behind significant expressions such as resilience and happiness.

After spending time with my friend and catching a glimpse of her optimism, I am indeed happier.

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Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.