Crazy to think a year has passed already since I first wrote my Gaming AND Caregiving post. Our daughters are now in their sophomore year of college, and I am in my second year in my new position at Taylor. Why am I returning to this topic? Because things have not progressed as we expected, and I wanted to share about our past year. The new medication for Multiple Sclerosis (Ocrevus) that my wife began last summer has not had the positive impact we had hoped. She has continued a slow decline, which has required us to continue to adjust our plans and life schedule as my caregiving responsibilities have increased.
Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, we worked to find a new rhythm of life with our daughters off in college and just didn’t quite find it. Either Angie’s fatigue would increase or her mobility would suffer, requiring us to adjust our plans and for me to increase my assistance to her. I have been blessed that my position at Taylor University allows me to be flexible, so I occasionally have to work from home for part of a morning or afternoon to support Angie. Our daughters would come home for breaks and again adjust our schedule. And I was still finding a new rhythm at work as well in my new position. My gaming hobby had to get set aside quite often, game nights canceled, and freelancing projects declined.
Summer improved as our daughters better understood their life as college students, and they were home to assist me with the caregiving. We even made it to Gen Con again for another wonderful convention experience, albeit bittersweet. I made the decision this year to step down from helping manage the Modiphius booth for Gen Con because I need to focus more on my caregiving with Angie. We still will attend Gen Con in the future, but with less responsibilities than in the past. The summer ended well with our daughters moving into college for their sophomore year. This year, they understood more, as did I, the impact of move-in week on their mother and me. So, they assisted much more with cleaning up and organizing the house after they packed and before they left. They helped leave the home in better shape for us to start another school year of us being empty nesters.
So that brings us to this month and why I am writing again. Since school started, I have been struggling quite a bit emotionally and mentally with my responsibilities as a caregiver and how it impacts my work and hobbies. I love my wife dearly and am here to support her, but I finally came to realize that I was not supporting myself well. An unhealthy caregiver does not provide the physical and emotional support needed. I had stretched myself too far beyond my career, family, and caregiving with overzealous home projects, garden expansions, volunteer work and ministry, freelancing projects, prepping for planned homebrew rpg campaigns, hosting board game nights, and other hobbies of interest. I was trying to keep a pace that I did when I was younger and had two young adults in the house assisting me. One older caregiver is not the equivalent to three younger caregivers. Add that my grandpa and grandma passed away within two months of each other, which also altered our schedules and had emotional impact. After a recent hard week and weekend of emotions and discussions with my wife, I have finally come to accept that my life needs to change again with more realistic expectations of what I am capable of.
What does that mean? Well, I am still working on that. Some things have happened on their own for the better, which was wonderful timing. My position at Taylor is not as stressful in my second year, as I understand it better and my team members are working well together. Less work stress means less stress I bring home with me. An opportunity arose where my freelancing work will be changing soon, as I focus more on board games and working with fewer publishers. I will be more mindful, focused, and directed in my work, which will increase my quality over my quantity. In other areas, I have to make hard personal decisions. Many of you know that I love my gardening and cooking. I will be rethinking my garden to move toward decreased hours of work options such as increased lower-maintenance berry patches rather than higher-maintenance vegetables, fewer of all plants, and more pots and mulching to reduce weeds. And my gaming hobbies are going to change for the foreseeable future. I have informed my regular gaming group that the Spelljammer 5e campaign I have been so passionately working on is going to be shelved for a while. I just do not have the time or the mental capacity to devote to a version conversion and custom campaign at this time. Instead, I am going to game master some pre-written campaigns, which take less prep and do more playing for a while. I am also setting aside some other hobbies for now and only focusing on a couple that really interest me at the moment. Hobbies and gardening are still important as they provide me outlets from work and caregiving, but I need to do better to keep them in moderation.
As I stated this time last year, I share this for others out there who may not have been able to put this into words themselves and need someone to talk to. Whether you are parent caring for a child with special needs, you are an adult taking care of aging parents, or you are a caregiver for a spouse with a chronic illness, I want you to know I empathize with you and and want to be here for you. If you need to chat about your caregiving, life changes you have had to make, how gaming gives you respite, or just need a listening ear, please reach out. We can talk over email (tr “at” freelanceknight.com), we can set up a time to Skype, or perhaps meet face-to-face if you are nearby.
I also share this for those game groups out there with a caregiver among your members. Know that your patience and willingness to work around the caregiver’s schedule and flexibility to manage last-minute changes and cancellations is appreciated so much more than you realize. That you stick with us even though we require cancellations and frustrate your plans is a blessing and a gift. Thanks to all of you gamers out there who care for more than just the game, but care personally for the members of your gaming group and support those who are caregivers.