David and I have been friends and then partners for 20 years. Even when we were not straightforwardly in each other’s lives we’ve been umbilically connected somehow.
Our path has not been uncomplicated, but I’m happy we have a strong relationship now, even if the circumstances aren’t as we’d like. I want to be there for him as the dementia takes hold; and to make him as happy and comfortable as is possible through all of its wretched stages.
I don’t mean to romanticise caring in any way. It’s bloody galling at times. But then David knows that.
When our relationship was first strained he’d been dealing with my depression – I was desperately low, unmotivated and couldn’t face leaving the house or bear any social contact. But he continued to support me and I allowed him to.
Later as our relationship grew and the depression returned, but deeper this time, there were days when he took charge of the daily stuff of living. David didn’t always do so gladly but he did so with love.
I think what I am trying to say is that throughout our lives what we require from others, and how much we need to lean on loved ones alters profoundly.
A truism perhaps but an important one.
I learned to lean on my mother last summer after trying to shield her from my depression for many years. I needed her; especially as David couldn’t quite support me in the ways he had done before. And I hadn’t realised how much she needed to provide that support – how she saw it as a way be my mum. She said she was relieved when I asked for help. I had always tried to be strong for her I suppose.
Over time, as the burdens of life inevitably weigh on us differently, we may need to shift the privilege of supporting loved ones and allow them to take the weight sometimes.
Once I leaned on David, now I stand firmer so he can lean on me.