Learning to Love in a Different Way
Robert is the reason I’m the person I am now. Maybe it’s because we’re both independent and strong-willed that we work well together. Recently I’ve had cause to examine some of what I’ve experienced over the last fourteen months, since Robert’s injury, in an attempt to deal with my feelings of loss. It’s not easy to examine oneself because you feel the pain all over again, but I wasn’t coping very well and had to take some steps to remedy that.
He is my motivation for everything I do now: not work, not money, not friends or popularity. I try to do what I think he would do if the position was reversed: if I was the one who was hurt. I know he’s stubborn and determined – like myself, it might take some time to get him going but he’s unstoppable when he starts. He will not fail. We’re alike in that also. I’ve seen him persevere in the face of unbelievable opposition and he got there. I’m doing that now and he’s coming with me.
Robert once said to me that he couldn’t understand ‘unrequited love’ – “how can you love someone who doesn’t love you?” was his reasoning, and he’s right of course. Unfortunately that’s the closest I can come to describing how it feels when the person you’re in love with (as well as love) can’t communicate with you; when you don’t know if they know who you arel; and don’t know if they’ll remember you when they do improve. Trying to believe Robert’s feelings for me are intact is quite difficult – and of course that’s not our major concern so it feels a bit selfish to want it – and so feels like unrequited love sometimes.
Fortunately I’ve had the benefit of advice from several people: some experienced in dealing with these crises and trained to do so, and some who advise out of love. All of these inputs have helped me to see that not only have I been dealing with the loss of the company and personality of the person I love most in the world, but I’ve had to change my entire life and parts of my personality to try to help him.
Becoming ambitions for Robert’s recovery is one turn-around in my persona. An ex-employer once told another employer of mine that I had ‘no ambition’. The second employer told me this thinking I’d be upset, but I wasn’t. The first guy was right – I’m not ambitious. That’s not to say I don’t take pride in my work – no matter what it is – or that I don’t work hard and enjoy it, but not because I want ‘advancement’ or promotion – it’s just a strong work ethic. So when it came to getting coverage for Robert’s story and trying to get him into rehab, I had to change that attitude and become unrelenting. Possibly when your motivation is pure and you’re focussed on one thing only, it becomes the only thing that matters.
I’m quite a lazy person by nature, and was quite happy to let Robert make decisions: he did it well and once he was with me I’d go anywhere, anytime. Of course we discussed the major things but always agreed, fortunately. But in our day-to-day lives, for instance, he did the driving, liked to choose furniture and lighting, stuff like that, and I’d look after the other aspects of our lives. This suited us perfectly.
Assuming the responsibility for both of us has been a huge change, crushing sometimes when I feel that our future hinges on what I can organise. It’s all down to me now, and I’ve never had that kind of responsibility before. Some people experience this when they’re looking after their children, but I’ve never been a parent so it’s quite frightening.
Trying to find somewhere that can be a home for us, that Robert can – initially – visit and then possibly stay over, and maybe – in my wildest dreams – live with me again: that is a monster aim. We both love our home here in Aungier Street but it’s inaccessible for him for the foreseeable future, so I have to plan and work towards getting us somewhere that we can again call home.
Family relationships change too – I don’t get to see my family as much as I might have before. Of course they understand and come to me when they can, but my 89-year-old mum can’t do that. And now that Robert’s in the NRH I don’t get to see Ritamary and Eamonn as much as I once did as our paths don’t cross during visiting times as they did in SJH. But we do try to keep in touch and talk every day if we can.
My life now revolves around Robert’s injury and how we can help him experience life again. I’ve made several friends over the last fourteen months – all of whom have either experienced injury themselves, care for someone who got hurt somehow or is involved in the medical field. My ‘regular’ friends – pre-injury friends – are still there but I haven’t seen them since this happened: not because we don’t want to but simply don’t get it organised.
I guess all these things have contributed to my feeling overwhelmed sometimes, and that’s probably natural enough. And because I’m a proud person who’s normally quite cheerful, it can sometimes seem like I’m okay. A friend said to me recently, when I told them I was miserable, that I didn’t look it. But I am: hopeful, but so unhappy. Appearances can be deceptive.