One of the struggles we have had to address with Lynn’s MS progressing so rapidly at one point was the loss of his feeling useful. Lynn was very strong, flexible, and talented all of his young adult life. Then over the course of three years it seems he went from having the ability to build his own home (drafting the plans, laying the foundation for a full basement, toting, lifting, hammering, shifting, etc.) to not being able to have the strength to push a button on a keypad. He was the supervisor of a fabrication shop that designed and built displays that were the size of small houses. He was a very talented carpenter but he could do just about anything related to construction and was even good at auto repair.
Unfortunately, just as his MS was progressing to the point that his work was being affected, his company closed the fabrication shop. He was still in the state of mind that he was not going to acknowledge he had MS and needed help so he did not apply for disability; therefore, he lost access to that financial assistance. He was convinced that if he didn’t own “it (MS)” then “it” had no control over him. Though I tried to explain that he could and should fight to keep all of his functions intact and working well, he did not want to accept that disability insurance and other resources were there to help in that fight; not to prevent him from doing what he could on his own….but my husband is very stubborn. Enough said on that.
While Lynn struggled to continue to “work,” being a carpenter doing physical labor is not safe when you lose your balance and fall often. Also if hands and fingers don’t grip well, then the use of power tools is dangerous. He realized after a couple of close calls, he needed a new line of work. His son suggested he start writing because he seemed to have a talent for it and enjoyed using his imagination. He started with short stories but soon had an idea for a novel. He found that he loved to write and it became his new job. He had his first novel published (Rising Tide) in 2009 just before his physical spiral downhill resulted in months of hospitalization.
After his third hospital discharge in six months, he was very weak; however, he continued to want to write. He NEEDED to write because he NEEDED to feel productive. As a man, Lynn had to feel needed and productive to feel he mattered. Actually, don’t all of us feel that way to some extent? No one wants to feel like a burden. People have a need to contribute and when they can’t, depression sets in and health starts to deteriorate. Therefore, I realized that part of my role as Lynn’s caregiver would be to help him work and be productive. I needed to find a way that he could write daily that would still allow me to work. It’s often a challenge and can be very frustrating for both of us.
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2 thoughts on “The Need to Feel Productive”
Bill had the same problem. After being paralyzed by two strokes, he could do little for himself except eat and use his computer, radio, and talking book players. Perhaps that’s why he decided it was time to go after depending on me for everything for six years. Maybe I should have done more to help him feel productive, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t have had the time to publish two books of my own which also made him happy, and he always wanted me to be successful as a writer. Oh well, what’s done is done and can’t be undone, and I can only believe he’s at peace now.
Abbie, I thought I sent you a response earlier but now I don’t see it. You should never feel bad about how you cared for Bill. You were an awesome caregiver and you did your best to give him what he needed. Perhaps it was his way of giving back and being productive by seeing you write! You can’t lead someone’s life for them or make them feel a particular way; all you can do is be there to lend an ear and encourage. I expect if he had wanted to do more, he would have let you know. Never feel guilty for what you gave. You were a good support to him till the day he died.