Hands holding a bandaged heart.

Helping Versus Causing Harm

I have been a caregiving type of person my whole life.

When I was young, I would bring the neighborhood children to my mom when they were hurt. As I grew older, I always carried bandages and acetaminophen.

I was fascinated with the human body and decided to become a registered nurse.

Providing care as a registered nurse

I have spent 35 years as a registered nurse in various positions.

When fibromyalgia plowed into my life, I began to look for jobs that would be less physically demanding. After a four-month flare that resulted in short-term disability, I made a major change.

Once I was diagnosed with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, my job choice is to stay where I am as a parish nurse in a church. There is nowhere else I can serve.

Making adjusting along the way

These changes have all helped me to manage this disease. Indirectly, the changes have helped me adapt my outlook.

If my feet need to be elevated, I no longer worry that the house needs cleaning. That energy is better spent taking care of this body. When weeds take over my yard, I enjoy the green. If I have to order dinner, then I am supporting the local economy.

I try to look at the positive as often as I can. When I focus on the negative, I can become very depressed which makes my pain worse.

My caregiver side never went away

However, my caregiver side just will not give up.

In early July 2021, my single friend had a shoulder replacement. Knowing that she could not be alone for the first few days, I volunteered to stay at her house for a few days and help. She also has rheumatoid arthritis.

Being there for my friend after surgery

When I volunteered, I was feeling well. By the Wednesday before her surgery scheduled for Thursday, I had to have a steroid shot for a flare.

Thursday morning, I walked a “mile and a half” to get to the surgery waiting room, and then down the hall to pray with her.

Once the surgery was over, it was another “mile and a half” to her room. After five hours of visiting, it was a “mile and a half” to the car.

Caregiving as a person with RA

I had forgotten that she lives in a split level. (I moved to a one-level condo 8 years ago before my first knee replacement.)

Stairs are not my friend! Just getting her stuff and my stuff in the house required 4 trips up 2 sets of stairs. We both took a nap after that!

We ordered meals in, so I didn’t have to cook. However, I did have to go down the stairs to get the meals.

At home, I sleep on a memory foam bed. It allows me support with comfort. My friend has innerspring mattresses and I did not sleep well. I awoke stiff and sore.

Acetaminophen was my constant companion that weekend. My right hip chose that weekend to fuss and complain.

Happy to have helped a friend

I am blessed I was able to help a friend. When I left on the Monday after surgery, she was doing well.

I am grateful I could return home to my one-level condo and sleep in my own bed. It took about a week to recover.

So, I was helping a friend. However, I caused some harm to my body. Fortunately, it was temporary and I have recovered.

Are you a caregiver type? How do you make choices between helping and harm?

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