I can only imagine how impossible it must feel for someone who has to face clients when in this situation. The reality of dealing with the daily agony of a sick, possibly terminal loved one, then having to go to work, facing clients, buyers, even workmates with a smile on your face has to be draining beyond comprehension.
Me? I’m lucky. I get to sit in front of my computer and promote my books, trying to make a living while my wife, the love of my life, goes through the most difficult, impossible challenge of her life.
How does that make me lucky? Well, if she has a need, I can just get up and walk downstairs to help her. When she has an appointment, I save whatever I’m working on and take her. When I launch a new book on a bad day (like I just did with Hedged) I can sit and cry until my eyes are red and swollen, but still make interesting memes, posters, quips and contests to drive interest in my latest release…no one ever need know I am in agony as I post my latest ranking or interesting review. If my grief or depression wells up too much to continue, I can save my progress and come back after I’ve gotten my head straight.
I don’t have to look in anyone’s face and smile, pretending I’m fine. I can be a total emotional wreck on the other side of the screen and still drive engagement on, what I think, is my best book ever (granted, a biased position).
So what’s the solution? Well that’s the worst of it…there isn’t one. If a caregiver also happens to be the primary breadwinner of the family, the choice is to keep plugging away at work (as best you can), or go broke, adding the burden of debt, bill collectors, or even foreclosure at a time when someone you love is fading. Putting one foot in front of the other, though a poor strategic plan, is tactically all you can do.
You’re never at 100% at work if you’re a caregiver, and many people fold under the pressure–I know I’ve been tempted to fold.
Though Hedged has received a lot of good feedback, and has even been a Top 20 Bestseller in a couple of Amazon Thriller Genres, it didn’t launch as cleanly as any of my previous novels. After 8 book releases, you’d think I could go on auto pilot, but the truth is it’s grueling. It takes 14 to 16 hour days to launch a book, often for months after the launch, with interviews, contests, book signings and (if you’re a pure indie like me) all your own promotional material. It consumes entire months of effort, 7 days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day.
Needless to say, I haven’t had that sort of time or strength for this launch. I’ve relied heavily on friends to help promote Hedged. I’m so grateful for all their hard work trying to get the word out, but honestly, it takes an author (or a publicist…something I can’t afford), to make a book go viral.
But if I had to face the public, plaster on a smile, shaking hands and trying to convey confidence, optimism and belief in my product face to face, as many caregivers do, I’m not sure I’d be able to pull it off.
There is a lingering, ever-present grief that comes with the dual job and they are usually in conflict with each other. I’m sure some people handle it better than others, but the depressing fact remains, any light you might normally see at the end of the tunnel is obscured by the fear of what is going to happen to your loved one. And you feel guilty, smiling, pretending…it feels like you are going into social debt by faking calm and confidence, stealing legitimacy from the pain your loved one is suffering.
How can you not feel guilty for smiling when someone you love is in pain or dying? Thus the Bipolar nature of the dual identities. Isolate, compartmentalize, swallow that grief and suppress your feelings. But then you’re detached when dealing with your loved one. It’s a lose/lose situation…and you know it. But you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the other shoe drops. Then you can figure a new way to put one foot in front of the other…or you can fold.
I don’t plan on folding, but I suppose no one ever plans on it. It’s that unexpected swift kick to the head, something you didn’t foresee, didn’t plan for, weren’t strong enough to withstand that ends up putting you on the floor.
Until then, though, I’ll keep posting my promotions and doing my best to interact, blog and engage. If I stop, you’ll know something got to me. In that case, say a little prayer for me before you move on to the next article, the next post, the next book. Don’t forget that I entertained you for a while before something pulled me down.
And keep an eye out for others like me out in the real world. If you see a smile and feel a firm handshake, but behind the eyes is fear and sadness, contemplate for a moment that the person in front of you might be going through one of the hardest things a human-being can be going through. Give them the benefit of the doubt. It might just keep them on their feet another day.
S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series), and the new Bestseller, Hedged. Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook. His wife is currently battling an aggressive, rare cancer. If you feel the desire to help, you can make a contribution at the GoFundMe that their daughter set up, or buy his books.