At a theme park in Japan there is a sign that asks riders of the roller coaster to “scream inside your heart,” meaning, don’t scream out loud on the ride when you are scared. Do it quietly. Inside of you. Where no one else can hear. While it is a very poor translation, it has profound meaning for our times.
Thinking back on your life, have you ever been so scared that even though every inch of your body said, “Scream!” you couldn’t make a sound? Truth be known, we’ve probably all had a “silent scream” in our lives a time or two. And now, as a care giver, in the midst of a raging pandemic no less, I feel like they are a part of my daily life. Long before life as we knew it, in all its comfortable nuances and predictable happenings, was irrevocably altered, we reluctantly traded in our day job to take on the mantle of caregiver. So, there we were, minding our business, adjusting and adapting to the changes care giving ushered into our lives when out nowhere, one fateful day in early March, someone snatched the rug out from under us yet again. Suddenly, the “caregiver normal” came to a screeching halt and we were told that “normal life,” whatever that meant for each of us, would never return. How could our “old life,” the one we longed for, be pushed even further out of our reach? After all, as a caregiver, life had already unceremoniously tossed our old routines out the window, replacing them with complicated regimes of endless therapies, doctor appointments, pill schedules, fatigue, and burn out. Spontaneous quick trips to run an errand were transformed into worries about leaving our loved one at home for even a short while; of debating if we should choose the alternative and convince them to come along for the ride, knowing that doing so meant waiting for the inevitable trip to the bathroom, the hunt for shoes, the quest for the elusive phone, and then, finally, finally maneuvering the walker into the car. Add dementia and cognitive impairment to the mix and it complicates matters even further. You felt isolated and out of touch before, only to now be told to social distance, shelter-in-place, not see your family or friends. And so, you sit at night, after an incredibly trying day, long after you should have been in bed asleep, wondering, “Can I do this another day?”
And, it’s then, at that moment, surrounded by fatigue, doubt, and grief, that you feel the silent scream creep into your body – that scream in your heart that can only be heard by you. The one that breaks your heart, but not your resolve. And it’s then that you pause. You close your eyes. You breathe. Most importantly, you remind yourself that in the end, you tried and you cared. . . and sometimes, that is enough.