Hi friends! I’m back from my unannounced break. I’ve been keeping busy as usual, and writing, but needed to take a step back from posting for a few weeks. The intense schedule I had over the summer took a lot out of me. I think the combination of that plus some caregiving challenges added up and caused my anxiety to peak again. I am grateful to say that I’m on the other side of feeling such a way. In fact, the last several days I have felt better than I have in a while. It’s like a bubble that dramatically, yet unceremoniously bursts. Honestly, it feels like I have a runner’s high. I’m getting up earlier, am more readily motivated, being more present, and doing my best to nurture this full body elation as much as possible. By feeding myself selfcare in the way of hiking, meditation, cooking, reading, and working toward being less reactionary, I can feel the ground shift beneath me. I don’t want it to settle again. I much prefer it to continue moving me forward. I don’t doubt that that life will ebb and flow again, disrupting this wave of good vibes, but I want to consciously put in the work to be better prepared for the next hurdles.
Before Thanksgiving I shared a long winded update on Instagram regarding the evening when I hit a breaking point for my anxiety. I have decided to share it on the blog as well, so you will find it below. Please take care to note how I began this week’s introduction: I am better. Mom is being less consistently difficult, for now. And I am looking forward to slowing things down for the next few months and making a point to prioritize myself more often.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out via social media, text, phone, etc. to check in with me. The support I have from near and far is humbling and it provided comfort without me having to ask for it.
Without further ado, here is the less than poetic short essay from a few weeks back:
Mom and I aren’t great. The pandemic and her disease are slowly chipping away at her, which in turn chips away at me. There’s been a lot of bickering and yelling between us lately. I know it’s ridiculous to try and reason with the illogical notions of her disease. Sometimes I can’t help it.
I can’t stand her sassiness. The eye rolling, or turning her back to me when I’m conversing with (at) her, or talking shit under her breath. All of it can drive me mad. Yesterday while in the backyard she was picking up dog poop with her little trowel, which was fine. But at the exact moment I went to check on her I saw her bend down to use her hand and scoot some poop onto the trowel because she was having trouble fitting it all onto the insufficient tool. I asked her to stop what she was doing so she could go wash her hands. As usual, she denied ever touching the poop and then started getting an attitude when I followed her inside. She walked right past the bathroom and went into her room. I was worried she’d be touching all sorts of things along the way so I lost my patience and commanded that she get straight into the bathroom to wash her hands, thoroughly. And then the shit hit the fan. Pun intended.
Over the last week I’ve been noticing my anxiety and irritability climbing. I can feel it in my body, as if every inch of me is perpetually clenched. I hate it.
I called my dad several times, but by the time he picked up he was two towns away running errands and unable to collect Mom. I desperately needed space from her. After work my dad invited me over to dinner. I popped back home first and of course Mom didn’t remember why I was so angry.
It’s not one of my proudest moments, but I really laid into her. I vented all of my caregiving frustrations and then some. How tired I am of taking care of someone else and all of their problems. How I can’t stand her attitude and lack of gratitude/understanding as I work multiple jobs, take care of her every day, pay her bills, mind her dog, fix her house, etc. all while during a pandemic and fire evacuations and at the expense of living my own life. Part of me feels awful, yet part of me feels justified. Every day is about her in some form or another.
I think it’s bullshit that I have two siblings that don’t pitch in. At all. Or how only half of my mom’s siblings contact her, one of which has dementia herself. I hate how caregiving has turned me off from motherhood, has made me bitter and unpalatable to myself. I hate knowing that Mom may not be around, mentally or physically, to see me come out of this. Or to meet any (potential) grandchildren. Or to watch me fall in love again, whenever that may happen. Or just, to cheer me on for the small stuff.
Have I grown? Learned a lot? Become stronger? Yes, yes, and yes. But it still all feels like b.s. sometimes. And yes, I know that taking care of our elders is a beautiful honor, yada yada (often I truly believe that), but his experience is utterly dynamic on the spectrum of emotions. It’s not all good or all bad. It’s everything, all at once. I want to be a thousand miles from her and hold her forever, all within the same breath. It’s maddening. I hate this disease so fucking much.
Last night when I started laying into her about everything I’ve been feeling she started to walk away and retreat to her bedroom.
“See! This is exactly what I’m talking about!” I yelled after her. “Every time I try to have a conversation with you, you ignore me or get an attitude.”
Surprisingly she turned around and stood uncomfortably across the kitchen from me. For about ten minutes she accepted all of my anger for what it was, a desperation of ugliness. Me begging her to do the impossible: try harder, don’t succumb to the disease and its cruel implications. By the end of my venting I told her, “I’m on YOUR team. No one else is here. Not your other kids, not your own family. No one. It’s me. I know you have a really hard time remembering things. That’s okay. That’s why I’m here. But I will not stand for you being consistently rude and disrespectful. I’m trying my best to keep things together for us and I can’t do that if the person I’m doing it for is being an asshole all of the time.”
Are you cringing yet? I know I am. Again, reasoning with someone who has the capabilities and cognitive understanding of a very young child is the definition of stupidity. Do I feel great about making her feel bad enough that she was crying and saying how embarrassed and ashamed she is of herself? Of course not. That broke my heart. It made me feel despicable, dirty. But in that moment that was my truth. It was disgusting, but valid. Should I have taken it out on her? No. I’m a human. I fuck up. I make poor decisions. I’m emotionally reactive when I should be logical.
After I was done spewing my frustration Mom looked pitiful. She apologized over and over. Said she agrees with me. Lamented how ashamed she is. Said she’ll try harder. I told her I don’t care about all of that. I just need her to be on my team. I can handle the rest, although not always gracefully, but I can handle it. I just cannot stand her spitting on everything I’ve done and sacrificed for her. I don’t want to be telling her what to do all day every day, just as much as she doesn’t want to hear me directing her. But for her safety and well being I have to do it.
“I understand, Lauren.”
I melted just enough to walk over, hold her face between two palms, and say, “I love you too, okay? I love you very much. You just need to trust me. I’m here to help you. I’m your best option, even though things are really tough right now.”
Then I walked her over to the living room, had her sit on the couch, and gave her the personal pizza I had bought for her earlier while on the way home from work. No matter how much I lean into bad moments, I’m still her daughter. I still protect her. Even when I’m being an asshole myself.