This may sound crazy but it really has just occurred to me that in my current situation of being fully responsible for this other adult human being that I have been neglecting myself on a regular basis. And truthfully I find it challenging to take care of myself or to at least pencil in time for me.
My favorite exercise or activity or whatever you want to call it is walking. I absolutely loving going for a walk. And in the past when it was just me that meant waking up and going for a long walk (3-8 miles) around 6 or 7 AM. Now, that is the time I must get my mom ready for her daily activities, or I just somehow feel obligated to take care of her when my day begins.
She's looking good too. She looks so happy and healthy (compared to a year ago), and just overall good. She is taken care of fully. But me...well...
I had a volleyball game this past week and that's where I had my eye opening revelation into myself. I felt heavy, sluggish, weak and slow. My regular gym clothes were way too tight. My feet hurt which is the result of the work I do and the shoes I wear. I didn't feel like myself and didn't play like I normally do. My timing was way off, my skills were icky, I couldn't jump worth nothing. I was the weak link on my team which is composed of men and women all in our late 40s to late 50s. This person I was on that court that night wasn't comfortable. My neglect of myself was on full display and I finally saw it.
How do I make the changes given my current circumstances?
I am tired a lot, and if I'm really honest with myself, I'd say that I am emotionally tired. My mother calls my name a lot. Her TV is so very loud (a reminder of another financial woe). She has some peculiar habits that rock my nerves. My senior dog has to be walked and fed. My senior cat has suddenly grown older, slower, skinnier and developed a exceptionally sensitive stomach, and definitely needs to go to the vet in the midst of this endless expense storm in my life, but the vet loves to dole out $500 to $1,400 bills...Who has that?
I'm not the happiest when I come home and look at the mountain of stuff needing to be done. And having zero opportunity to just do it because my mom will call me and call me and call me. (More on how I now deal with that later.) I hate the door alarm I set up for her (and for me in case she decides to wander off in the middle of the night again). But the door alarm is something I can control when I'm home. It's when I come home after she's returned home that the alarm is set and screams my arrival. I miss the anonymity of walking quietly through my own door, coming and going as I please. That screaming noise blasting my eardrums is a constant reminder of the changes in my life.
Who is this woman?
I eat poorly and way too often. It's all emotional eating. I feel so stuck at times. Before I spend money, I'm constantly having to think ahead to her expenses (I realize thinking ahead before spending isn't bad at all, but it does get exhausting). In an effort to save our financial life my gym membership was one of the first things I got rid of, but to be honest I really stopped going. With my sporadic work schedule, my mom, my dog, and now my cat I didn't know how to make time to get there. It suddenly seemed so far away.
Everything in my home feels like such a big effort as does everything outside my home. Of course this isn't all the time every day, but right at this second the light at the end of the tunnel feels so far away.
But what does that light look like?
Actually, to be honest, I've been feeling the presence of that light lately, the possibility of a positive shift.
Here's where I finally began to snap out of whatever this foggy mental state was:
So for the last several months, my mom has had a negative bank account between -400$ and -500$ on a regular basis. I kept trying to find ways to trim our expenses. So often I would have to pay the caretaker 2 to 3 weeks late. It just kept feeling like something else kept popping up from the copay for the hospital stay, the ambulance ride, her neighbors paying for lawn upkeep, her long time friend doing her taxes for her, the steep copay for her prescription medicine, her regular bridge games, her need for daily newspapers, and the biggest expense, regular care. This was draining us.
But finally, after a year, I began to look closely at her bank account. Her regular automatic payments totaled over $1,100 per month with about $650 of that going to life insurances. The weekend I spent purging my room put the spirit of purging within me as I began purging her automatic payments starting with the life insurances surrendering all by 3. When those first checks arrived, for the first time in 6 months I could pay our bills on time as well as our caretaker.
Funny how fixing my finances gave me the energy I desired to begin taking care of myself again. The easy part is rolling out of bed onto my yoga mat and just stretching and then doing simple exercises like sit ups and push ups and such. I feel kind of good too putting on some of my favorite 70s and 80s music going at whatever pace I want to go.
But how did I start walking again?
I had to just go. I turned off the door alarm and sneaked out. And I walked and walked and it felt so good. It occurred to me that I feel guilty leaving my mom in the house on a nice Saturday morning. I felt guilty justifying leaving my mom behind because she's slow and wasn't dressed and would take well over an hour to get herself together. I knew if I didn't just go when it hit me, I wouldn't do it.
As it is now, I realize I have surrendered too much of myself. She has become the priority. But I am actively stopping that. I don't run every time she calls me any more. I don't jump up anymore. I have accepted that she will spend her weekends in front of the television. She likes it. I don't have a yard for her to sit in. She has begun leaving the apartment to visit a neighbor on another floor, but I have relaxed my anxiety about her leaving. I don't make it a priority to sit in her bedroom keeping her company like I used to. I would do this even when I had things to do pushing my own schedule later and later. She would whine and pout and literally throw a tantrum until I sat there. I can't do that anymore. I sit but not as long. I break it up.
Another source of guilt: Having a caretaker
One, because the expense is serious. Two, because sometimes I'm home and still have her scheduled to come take my mom away somewhere. Today she took my mom to get her nails done. There's this voice in me trying to get my attention in all of this and it's telling me I should feel guilty and ashamed. But then I keep thinking about the teensy bit of freedom it gives me especially when I'm home. I love being home when my mom leaves to go someplace. I love having the place to myself once again. I always want to get things done but so often I find myself falling asleep. It's just nice. And there is so much about this situation that drives me absolutely crazy especially things my mom does. For example, she gossips about me to her caretaker or to someone on the phone and I'm always right there. She forgets or doesn't make the connection or it's just that childlike absence of thinking things through. I'm there. And she's loudly speaking mean in the things about me in innocent clueless abandon. Then she will follow it up with something about God.
Another thing stealing away peace of mind...
The high dramatic act she puts on when she wants something for this pain. Oh sweet Jezus, that act pulls the devil out of me. She's an awful actress, so predictable, and it drives even her caretaker crazy. And so does it so often with such frequency that it's like a perpetual cry of wolf. The caretaker and I realized she makes it hard to tell when she's really sick.
Since I've begun this draft my mom has been taken back to the hospital, another UTI. And the good that has come out of that is now I do know a difference between when she is really sick and when she is sincerely ill and when she is being dramatic. There is, unfortunately, an overlap. And I will say this to that in the interest of my recovering my mental health as I take care of my mom (and senior pets), I will continue to allow help to be apart of my life. I accept that I need help through this and I am okay with paying for her. I accept that I am just that kind of person. And we have been making it work too.
We got sick two weekends ago. We both did. It began with N not being able to come to work because she was sick. So, I took my mom to bridge that day. I listened as one guy coughed and coughed and coughed. I didn't think anything of it at the time. He coughed all over the place too. Now I see the connection. That was a Friday afternoon.
By Friday evening at home, my mom coughed quite a bit spitting up a good amount of mucus each time. No lie, each time she did this in my presence, I would gag a little...ugh. Then I coughed and it grew deeper and mucus-y. Saturday we sat in a local travel agency office to get a document notarized. We sat there for 3 hours for a task that took them all of 65 seconds. It was a cold, damp day, and we sat there coughing and hacking. By the time we got home we were both coughing harder. Later that night, bile squished out the sides of her Depends, made its way to her clothes, hands and face, and I was vomiting pretty good. We never ate the same thing that weekend. So it wasn't food poisoning.
By Sunday my head throbbed continuously and I couldn't even hold down water. My mom was in some sort of weird drunken stupor smearing crap all over herself. [Side note: Over the counter pain meds take my mom way out of character. She behaves oddly almost drunk like and just weird.] Earlier that Friday, before we got sick, I had literally put clean sheets on her bed while she bathed before going to play bridge. By Sunday morning I would have to change her sheets and clothes 3 more times. I would have had to put her in the tub the same amount of time, and roughly hold her wrists to keep her from smearing crap all over the place.
By Monday, I had stopped vomitting and she had stopped squirting poo out of the sides of her adult diapers. Also by Monday, she had the nerve to get angry with me for, in the midst of the vomit and crap storm, not going to the bodega to buy her newspapers. I couldn't help but to think about parents of young children when the entire family all got sick at the same time. Parents who had to take care of the kids while simultaneously taking care of themselves without any help or acknowledgment at being sick. That weekend was hard as hell. And my 84 year old was clueless, period.
When I finally got around to washing her laundry, I put the clean clothes on her bed and asked her to fold her own clothes. I was actually kind of proud of myself for finally getting her to do some work, to contribute to some household chores. She folded the clothes then slept on them for two days. I figured I should tell her to put her clothes away, but I wasn't feeling 100% yet, and I just could not understand how she could not figure out to put the underwear, socks and night gowns on her shelves. (She doesn't have a drawer set here. I'm still moving her in even though it's been a year now. I finally ordered a dresser a few days ago. It should be here this weekend. Of course it will have to be assembled by yours truly.)
A few days later, when N finally came over (we were too sick to have my mom go anywhere before), my mom, in her little whiny 5 year old voice, begged N to put away her clean clothes since, as she told N, I didn't. I was pretty ugly grumpy. I wasn't feeling too nice. I interrupted my mom's pitiful act telling her to put her own clothes away. I mean her shelf was (is) all of 6 feet away from her bed. I told her to figure out where they belong since they clearly didn't belong on her bed. That's when I heard my mom mumble, "Go to hell," nice and clear.
Honestly, I was happy to hear her say that. That's because I officially had a reason to hide away, to stay locked away in my room.
After two weeks, we both still have remnants of that cough which means she has not had any of her favorite herb. I've kept it away from her. I figured it was stupid to put smoke in lungs that were still trying to empty out. She has been pissed. I didn't give a damn. After finally returning to work, I injured myself while there, so now for another week I added a throbbing injury to my crap, and had a pouty 84 year old driving me up a wall. She was back to putting on that act that drives me crazy. Where she puts on her I'm so sick, oh this pain, you just don't know how bad this pain is, it goes down my leg, you just don't know...oh woe woe woe. I hate that stuff, seriously.
So, as she did her best wounded animal walk to my bedroom, I slammed the door in her face, every time that wounded animal dragged its pathetic self towards my room. I was just growing tired of being the adult. I mean, dang-gone-it. She was coughing and hacking up globs of disgusting thick mucus, then begging for a smoke. There was no common sense in her anywhere. It was just overwhelming and lopsided. There was only one adult in every whiny argument. And I was pissed and mad as hell. In between all of this, when I showed up to work my coworker praised me for being such a good daughter taking care of my mom.
How did this make me feel? Like crap.
What does it look like to be this "good daughter"? It looks like being on the verge of losing it quite regularly. It looks like a grown middle aged woman locking herself in her bedroom like a 5 year old. It's me with the craziest wildest most wicked thoughts going through my head. Thoughts that embarrass the hell out of me. It's me ignoring my mom every time she called my name during those days...
You're such a good daughter.
What's crazy is how often phrases like that follow a day or week of craziness at home. At least I'm able to keep my mouth shut and just smile and lock my door (well, it doesn't actually lock so I have to get inventive to lock myself in).
I'm just writing to keep from losing it.