Everything feels so upside down. Today’s doctor’s visit with my mother didn’t go well. I’ve just about gone crazy, and I’m pretty sure that trend is going to continue until I do.
People will tell you not to worry and that things happen as they are meant to but when nearly your whole life is at risk, plus the literal life of someone else if you don’t risk your own situation (in my case, my little farm), it’s really hard to keep your sanity.
It’s really hard to keep your faith in a Creator that doesn’t seem to be paying attention and in a system that has proven over and over again it doesn’t give a single fuck.
It is becoming very clear to me just how emotionally draining caring for someone can be when you’re doing it on your own – and by that I mean not a finger of help from anyone else being lifted, including so called medical professionals.
Caregiver depression is a very real thing, made much more difficult by being invisible not only to those who know you but also by the one you are caring for. I truly don’t know how long I can continue on like this mentally…
Session tonight was…emotional. It was one of those tearful, snotty, sobbing sessions – one of those ones that I go into wishing I could slide down a razor blade into a bucket of alcohol instead because that would hurt less, but at the end of it am left calmer and numb and call my mother back on the phone and say, “hey, I love you. Despite all you do to make me hate you, I love you, and that’s why I have done the things I have done.”
I’m trying very hard to accept and continue to be myself, and appropriately deal with my mother, even while many people in my life are dumping their opinions and unwanted advice on me like seven dust on a yard full of fleas.
I believe that…
No one has the right to tell you how long your grieving should last or how fast or when you need to move on, not even your own mind. Follow your heart.
No one has the right to judge or hurt or ignore you – especially when they call you “friend.” Don’t believe them when they call themselves your friend. Friends don’t do those things – not on purpose.
No one has the right to tell you how to live your life or how to be who you are. Don’t listen to them. Don’t try to manage or live your life based on other people’s double standards.
No one has the right to make you cry. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your tears are your own fault.
Just because you’re not dealing with things the way someone else is dealing with things is irrelevant – they’re not living YOUR life or YOUR situation or walking in YOUR shoes.
That said, sometimes we care about other people so much – the people who do these things to us – that we continue to try. We continue to take responsibility for them when we know or believe we have a responsibility to keep them safe – especially when they’re mentally ill or senile or sick…
Because while I DO believe in taking responsibility for our lives and in taking care of ourselves, I also believe in taking care of others – even those who have hurt us – when they need to be taken care of – especially when they are mentally ill.
If my husband, for example, had given up on me because of my depression and actions and words (or lack thereof) – and Lord knows how many bad episodes there have been throughout our relationship – if he’d walked away to take care of himself or because he decided not to “allow” it anymore, I’d be dead by now. I’d be dead two or three times over. And that’s the truth. But this post isn’t about my depression. It’s about my mother.
Whoever reads this gets to have their own opinion. That’s fine. But don’t comment to me about how no one has the power to make a person do or feel anything unless the person hurting allows it because that’s bullshit. That’s what my therapist and I have been talking about in session tonight – how that’s all I’ve been hearing for three days now from different people around me regarding my mother, and I’m sick of it.
People’s words – or even lack of them – can HURT. People DO cause tears and pain and it has nothing to do with what someone is allowing to “control” their emotions. That’s a copout and it’s blaming the person feeling the pain for feeling pain that they didn’t bring onto themselves.
Sometimes a person can’t “walk away.” Sometimes there is no choice but to allow it to continue to some extent, or even fully. Sometimes there is no other option but to bide your time and wait for your moment to “escape.”
So for those people who keep saying things to me like, “why do you “allow” it to continue this way,” or telling me how I am only responsible for myself, I have a question (or two or ten):
How many times did YOU choose to allow someone to continue hurting you (in ANY way) because you loved them, or because you FELT you had a responsibility to take care of them (whether you actually did or didn’t)?
How long did it take YOU to start blaming yourself instead of someone else for how they “made” you feel? I’m sure you probably ALWAYS blamed yourself for the actions or behaviors of others, right? I’m sure you NEVER, ever were hurt by their words or actions and only blamed yourself for “allowing” it. Pfft.
And then, how long did it take you to STOP blaming someone else? Or do you still say things like, “he is/was such an asshole,” or, “she is/was such a control freak,” or, “they were/are so ridiculous?”
You know what? He/she may have been or may still be those things. That’s the role some people play in the world. And they’re hurtful and they ARE to blame for the pain they cause. And you may not always be to blame for “allowing it to continue.” Every situation is different. Don’t judge mine.
From my therapist:
“Maybe a person’s situation doesn’t allow them to fully escape the person hurting them. Maybe a person judging, or telling you how to live your life and deal with your situations, even when you agree with a lot of their advice and wish that it COULD work for you, just doesn’t get it. Maybe they don’t or can’t grasp the full scope of your situation.
Or maybe, just maybe, other people just don’t have the heart or the character you have – not everyone is strong enough to endure mental illness or abuse and still love the person or care for the person who has or does hurt them (emotionally in this case), and not want them to hurt themselves, and want to protect them from dying or care for them while they are dying despite the pain they themselves might be feeling, or want to try to help them to help themselves.”
And so this all sums up where I currently am on the situation with my mother. Her idle threats don’t scare me. State laws don’t scare me (at this point). But I DO have a responsibility to take care of a woman who has no one but me and is literally going senile.
Not eating or taking care of herself.
Becoming a danger to herself and others.
Even if that care exists only in bringing in outside help and even if it means having to sometimes be exposed to her narcissistic and emotional abuse, I DO have and carry that responsibility.
She’s not my mother, but she used to be.
Sometimes she was.
Until session tonight I’d forgotten that sometimes she was normal.
Sometimes she helped me with school projects all night until they were finished (even if only because she wanted me to get an A for her).
Sometimes she cooked meals instead of delegating that task to my father despite his working, too.
Part of her controlling behavior was keeping the house spotless and sanitary and that’s was, in some ways, good for me and my health and well being.
Sometimes she made me clothes, with her own hands, because they couldn’t afford to shop for them.
Sometimes she hugged me, and meant it, even if I never remember her ever telling me she was proud of me unless it was in front of someone else.
There were others, but I’m finally sleepy now and will save them for later…
Tonight, my therapist cracked open a whole new set of memories from my childhood with my mother that I had blocked in the process of trying to block the bad ones. And tonight she made it a point, in “forcing” me to share some of those better memories, to remind me that despite my mothers illnesses, she is human – just like despite my illnesses I am human. That’s the thing I have kept trying to get people to understand about my heart and why I struggle so with the whole situation since my Dad died.
There’s a song by Rascal Flatts called, “What Hurts the Most,” that comes to mind and while it is actually meant to be about a romantic relationship, it reminds me very much of my relationship with my mother throughout my life. There are these moments – or have been – of being so close…and what hurts the most is not knowing how it could have been to have had her as my mother consistently when every now and then there would be a little taste of her being kind, being motherly, not hurting me…and those are the parts my heart still carries that keep me in this place of caring…
Don’t. Judge. A. Heart. You. Don’t. Know.
Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You. Don’t. Know.
Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You’re. Not. Living.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. -Arthur Ashe
That’s all I can do, at this point.
Today I walked my mom to her mailbox with my grandmother’s walking cane. It was iffy. I was terrified. It was very strange to feel the same “fear” for her safety as I often feel for my son’s when I’m the “responsible adult in the room.” It’s very disorienting to have such a very clear role reversal. It’s been semi- like this for a while now, but at this point we have crossed that line very definitely. It’s no longer a sort of blurry line or a dotted line. It’s a very solid line and we have very realistically crossed it.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with the home health nurse about getting PT out a couple of times a week and having a social worker assigned to the case to help me to make sure I have access to all the resources I need. My mother is gone. As tumultuous as our relationship has always been, I’m still really sad inside, which was unexpected. I don’t know who this woman is. Neither does she.
I saw a side to my mom when my dad died that I’d never seen – I saw an independent, capable woman emerge, brave and strong and extremely adept. Within months I saw that woman begin to fade away. In the last year I have witnessed (and fought against) the slow decline that has led to this sudden, extreme decline we have been facing over the last month. And the only thing I can say with truth and with compassion is that for her sake, not my own, I hope that dementia is a swift journey for her, like cancer was for Dorie. Because even when you have very little of a good past with a person, this is a very difficult thing to witness.
It is hard with Granny Dot. With my mom…it’s beyond that. Maybe it’s because it’s not just compassion, but the nitty gritty caregiving I am responsible for with her. I don’t know. I never really liked my mother (because she wasn’t and never has been “my mother,” though I suppose I’ve always loved her, if that makes sense) until now – and it’s because now I’m seeing the mother I always hoped she would become…and I’m seeing that mother, in me…