A very dear friend and I have had a couple of discussions about the word "hero". She doesn't understand how I can reject the word when people use it to describe me in this journey through Alzheimer's.
I have thought long and hard about this and how to explain to her why I reject something that she sees in this situation. The truth is, I reject all labels that cast me in a positive light for simply doing something that has to be done. Doing the right thing when there is no other choice... is not heroic. Doing that right thing and resenting every moment of it... is not heroic. I am here because there is no other choice. And I do resent every moment of it.
I keep returning to a short conversation that I had with my mom many years ago. Mom had done something very kind for someone. I no longer remember who she was helping or even what she had done. But, I do remember telling my mom that I thought that she was a very nice person. She shook her head and said that she wasn't nice at all. So, I asked her how she could do something so kind and not think that she was a nice person. Her response was, "Because I know what I was thinking when I did it and it wasn't nice."
For her, thoughts and intentions mattered more than the action. And that is the best way I can think of to explain my feelings... my thoughts are very clear while caring for my mother. And I know they are not worthy of the label of hero.
My friend understands that the word "hero" (or any of those positive labels) does not give me a feeling of support. On the contrary, it reminds me of how unworthy I am to be the one caring for my mom. But, I will take that thought one step further. While the word "hero" does not support me, the thought and feeling coming from the people saying it does. I reject the label, I do not reject the intention.