Sunday 19 November 2023

Finding My Way

I feel rusty trying to write a post after being fairly absent in Blogland for a while.

When life is overwhelming, it's hard for me to write for public consumption.

It feels like I'm either being too open for my comfort, or too whiny, or, at the other extreme, omitting things that really affect me and I'd really like to talk about.

So I just don't post, for the most part.

But it feels like life is easing a bit lately. Here's why.

The things dragging me down were, in a nutshell, the care of my mom who has dementia, and grief.

For my own sanity, I had to stop taking Mom out so much. I already visit once a day to take her pills to her, so I reduced other outings with her to twice a week. It took a while to feel the benefits, but I am noticing I am less tense now. Also, I count appointments as outings, which may or may not be fair to Mom, but it is the only way I can cope. And if I can't cope, Mom will suffer anyway. I also signed up for Mom to go to an Adult Day Program for dementia patients. We went for a trial run, and she enjoyed it so much, it made me cry. We are waiting for a spot to open up now so she can go several times a week.

I also started going to Alzheimer Support Group for caregivers once a month, which has been helpful far beyond my hopes and expectations. I had hoped to find someone in a similar situation to me so I could get some tips on dealing with my mom's particular situation. That didn't happen, but I received so much more. It is a chance to talk about my feelings, but it's also a chance to hear about other folks' struggles and gets me out of my own head. It's also a chance to socialize, as weird as that sounds. Because I'm introverted, I don't go out much socially, but I still enjoy people in small doses, and this group is one way I can do that.

As for the grief, I'm not sure if I've posted about this before or not, but I lost three people important to me within one year. One of those people was, as you know, my husband, which was a major loss as you can imagine. I felt I was just starting to cope with those losses when we had the hurricane last fall. The stress of the storm itself, which I thought of at the time as hair-raising, actually resulted in me losing a huge amount of hair, which is rather funny in a dark way. I'm lucky to have thick hair so it's not a problem, but I lost so much (at least one quarter) over an extended time (six months), I ended up having some medical tests to be sure nothing else was going on. Thankfully, the hair fall stopped shortly after the tests were complete (of course). The other fallout (see what I did there) of the hurricane was what followed the storm: caring for Mom in my home for a week and a half, while trying to clean up and make major decisions related to damage. A week and a half doesn't sound like much but it was incredibly stressful as she was agitated and restless and talked non-stop, easily understood because she wasn't in her usual environment, but hard to manage. The insurance wasn't settled until months later, and then I still had to arrange to have the repairs done, a difficult process when so many folks here needed the same resources. All without having my husband to share in the decisions. I did have help from my brother and son, which I'm so grateful for, but the stress was constant and unrelenting.

I find that I still need to do something to cope with my losses, so I've signed up for grief counselling by telephone. I would like to be able to recall the good memories, not just those of the period when my husband was sick and dying, and not just of the shock and sadness of the other losses.

In the meantime, my son and I decided that he would move into half of my large house, as I was rattling around like a BB pellet in a tin can and he was looking for a way to move back to this area and reduce expenses. That was a very positive decision and is helping my mental health immensely, but on the flip side, it brought more work and decisions as I had to downsize my belongings and make some hard decisions about emotionally-charged items. He is finally moved in now, and I need to go through everything I put aside the first time around and make more decisions.

All along, my two older cats' health has been a concern as well. Meredith cat was given a few months to live. . . about fourteen months ago. I don't think her diagnosis was correct, but she definitely has something going on. She was diagnosed with cancer in the vicinity of her heart, which appeared on the x-ray as a mass pressing her heart out and upwards. I think she has something wrong in her intestinal tract, however. She has been having bouts of vomiting and lack of appetite. In between, she is feisty as ever, but she is getting thin and I hate to see her feeling unwell so much. Lucy cat has had sneezing and oral odour for a while, and finally - finally! - had dental work done last week. Her teeth were in bad shape, which makes me feel horrible that she was suffering even more than I thought she might be.

So it's been a time here, as they say. I am hoping to get Meredith in for another vet visit soon, and then hopefully things will gradually return to some kind of quiet normal.

Life's a beach, as my husband used to say. (Of course, he meant something else, not exactly "beach". lol)

But I feel less like I'm drowning now. Hopefully I'll be around more.

Thanks for reading. To celebrate getting to the end, here are a couple of memes that make me smile. I hope they make you smile too.

But things are improving!

I hope that if you are having an unusual amount of stress, you too are finding your way, or will do so soon. Just keep swimming.

Have a good week, my people.


Elephant's Child said...

I am beyond glad that there are finally glimmers of hope at the end of your long and dark tunnel. And thank you for the funnies. Huge hugs, sister across the seas.

Elephant's Child said...

PS: I hope your mama gets in to that program SOON.

jabblog said...

It is so good to hear that your situation is improving. How lovely to have your son living with you. it's helpful for both of you. Fingers crossed that a place comes up for your mother soon. Keep well.

jenny_o said...

Elephant's Child: Thank you, sister of my heart - thank you, for your unfailing support through everything. And I hope to hear next week when Mom can start going regularly to the day program. She needs to be with other people, and I can't be the only "people" in her life.

kylie said...

What a lot you've endured! How well you've done to keep going.
I really really hope the tough decisions you've made pay off in much better times. And I hope the universe stops throwing "stuff" at you

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Thanks for sharing all of this Jenny. The mere act of articulating the sources of stress must in itself assist restoration. I hope you have a good week.

Mike said...

I ALWAYS fail the accordion test.

DB Stewart said...

So glad you're taking care of yourself, and that you finally can.

jenny_o said...

jabblog: Thank you, and yes, it's so nice to have someone to talk to daily who does not have dementia. Last winter I went for weeks at a time only seeing my mother. I felt like my own brain cells were dying. It's much better now.

kylie: All we can do is keep going, isn't it? I feel like I should have been able to handle it better, but I know I did the best I could at the time, and that has to be good enough. I do hope the future with Mom will be less bumpy. I've learned to make boundaries and to turn off my guilt. Or at least not listen to it so much :) Guilt was making me do more than I could handle. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

Mr. Pudding: Talking about it helps some, but I found the best thing was when I decided where my limits were, and was able to enforce them with less guilt. Not saying I did everything right; I made some regrettable mistakes, but I tried to learn from them. Thank you for the good wishes.

Mike: Me, too - almost every time I read the dang thing I see it as "according"!

DB Stewart: Thank you; it took some time, and energy I felt I didn't have, but things are improving.

dinthebeast said...

I am so damn happy that your mom wants into the day program. It can be hard to accept that you need professional help, but Jenny, those professionals are really good at what they do. Sometimes when I'm working on a new exercise regimen, I really miss my physical therapists. But then I just ask myself, "What would Edmer have me do here, and why?" It doesn't always work, but sometimes it helps a lot.
I know what it feels like to have to get up off of old possessions. After moving out of our warehouse space, we put most of our belongings into a storage. When we got them back out of the storage three years later, I had to go through mine and get rid of most of them. We were still in the East Bay at the time, and any kind of space at all there is very expensive, so having lived without all of that stuff for years already, I was just ruthless: "These five crates of "decorations"? If I look at each one, I'll want to keep it, just like I did when I originally got it, but the truth is right now I can't afford it, so all five crates go into the salvage area where maybe someone else might need them, or else they will just be thrown away."
I pared down our possessions to where they would fit in a 3X8 locker, and from there they moved with us to Richmond for three years, and then to Rohnert Park for a few months, and from there they went into another storage where we actually lost them all. So all of that effort from the first move was futile, and for me, who walks with a quad-cane, it was indeed a lot of effort.
The only thing I miss at all is some of my music equipment, but even that was all way too big and many decades old. My possessions now fit into the car when we move, which will be in a couple of months.
It was really good to hear from you again, and I am really glad you are making some progress on your living situation. And any progress in that area sure feels good, doesn't it? Small and simple are sometimes the best kind of advances.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Diane Henders said...

I'm so glad to hear things are finally looking up for you! What a series of ordeals you've been through. Wishing you many joys, both small and large, as you climb back into the light. :-)

messymimi said...

"Nope" is right. I am glad you are doing positive things to help and hope your mom gets into that group on a regular basis soon.

Joanne Noragon said...

Accordion to most studies, you are on the right tract. So glad you have mom in an Alzheimer's program and that your son has moved back in with you, no matter if it's only for a short time. Putting so much stress behind you, in the past is good, too. Especially settling up from the hurricane. Looking forward to hearing from you more often.

Susan said...

I'm actually crying with relief for you. Oh my you have been busy, I am in awe at how much you have got sorted. So proud of you over setting limits with your mother and sticking to them. I hope you look in the mirror and say-you rock, baby. I started reading you just before your husband was diagnosed. At our age we are all going through something and your honest account has been helpful in so many ways. Take care and rock on.

Red said...

You are doing the right things to get your life back in order. Being with support groups can be a huge help.

Marie Smith said...

The program for your mother sounds wonderful. So many positive changes, Jenny. Great progress.

Andrew said...

Thank you for the update on your life, which is sounding better and more positive. It must be so much harder to make decisions without your sounding board, your husband, to bounce off. Everyone needs someone to tell them they are being silly for worrying or to knock a bad idea on the head.

I am going to have to try this inserting musical instrument into a sentence.

River said...

I am very glad that you and your mum have found good and helpful support groups and you have plenty of online friends here too. Loved all the funnies.

gz said...

Thankyou for writing. Sharing a burden.
Recoup, regain, rebuild. I hope your son will help too

Steve Reed said...

I'm so glad things are looking up for you. You have had more than your share of tragedy and stress during the past year, so it's about time! I am SO GLAD you're getting your mom into a day care program. That's better for her and better for you. A huge step in the right direction. Having your son around will no doubt be a boost as well, as long as your house has enough space that you can each have some privacy.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

It is good to hear from you, and even better that it is on a carefully positive note. Thanks for taking your tme to write. I so hope things will calm down and smooth out for you now. I for one think of you often and look for news.
As for me, I have discovered that I ned my joy back - now to the business of finding out ho to do this ... it's a long-standing problem, and I might just - encouraged by your blogging - write a post about it.

jenny_o said...

Doug: I appreciate your support, my friend. You're right, so often progress is a series of small steps but taken all together they make a difference. I'm so impressed by the amount you have reduced your belongings, and I always like to hear about how other people have decluttered, because it is such a hard process for me, for two reasons, emotional and not knowing where to get rid of stuff. I've taken most of my donations to Value Village; I don't know what I'd have done without them. Will you need to move in the middle of winter? That's always fun :)

Diane: Thank you for the good wishes. I am hoping for bland and boring for the next few years at least :)

Mimi: I feel like a wimp at times but when I look back over the past three years I can see why I feel stressed. But I try to remember how many people are dealing with worse. I'll be glad when Mom gets into the program; she really needs the social contact.

Joanne: Thanks, my friend. You've had more than your share of stress the last few years too, and your attitude inspires me.

Susan: Thank you; I feel like I have my very own cheerleaders here, like you! One reason I decided to write about the hard parts of the past three years is in case it helps someone else. I know I have gained knowledge and insight from other bloggers' writing about difficult situations, and hopefully someday someone might get something from my posts.

Red: For so long I only had the energy to get through each day. I was at the end of my rope when I joined the support group, but it has helped enormously.

Marie: The program is going to be so good for my mother. And that will help me, too.

Andrew: Not having a partner to share everything with is indeed hard, maybe the hardest thing for me. I do feel like I'm in a somewhat better situation now, and I've probably grown as a person but I don't recommend it. Let me know how you get on with the musical instrument project - maybe keep banjo, ukelele, and trombone in mind when you're trying it out :) (I haven't been able to come up with a single instrument that works so that was a facetious comment)

River: I value my online friends highly. That's a support group all by itself!

gz: Thanks for being part of the receptive audience - I feel lucky to have so many here who read and support me.

Steve: I think the program will be very good for Mom, and therefore for me too. I hope so anyway. Setting limits on what I can reasonably do for her also helps me cope. Son and I get along well and the house is big, and it's working well so far! The biggest issue may be our cats - he has two, and I have two who can't be together, and all of them are going from having a whole house to having much less room.

Charlotte: I do think about whether a post might help others as well as myself when I write. I have learned so much from others by reading their experiences, and that fact can give me the push to share what I'm feeling, too, and what I'm doing to cope - normalizing support groups and counselling, for instance. I hope you find ways to get your joy back, my friend. Life is too short; we need to try to figure out ways to look after our individual good selves.

baili said...

my beautiful friend Jenny i am glad to read post i waited for long from you !

thank you for sharing your heart and i want to add please don't hide ,just share as most of the times it helps in healing quickly .
i once previously shared about my sister's unfair behavior which i restrained for all my blogging years but when i shared it openly it was nice to have kind words form blogging friends and i felt bit relived and i i know how long i waited for such feeling as it is not easy to share how one of your own loved is hurting you for only being what you are .

it was nice to read how things with your mom are progressing slowly and i think it will be pleasant for you to have help from other supports as well instead being all on you .
i think even without your words i can realize how intense and sorrowful was previous year for you .
but as expected you stood tall and firm and took solid steps to resolve all the issues and now here we are to listen from you that you are feeling better by the grace of good kind God! A divine energy encompassing us and sensing us quietly ,leading us towards what we actually aim for .
i am beyond happy for you my dear friend!
keep your spirit high as always ,
you are never alone ,Nature is with you ,all you have to look for her and she will not just heal you but show you way to make the healing process quicker :)
think of you with hear full of best wishes and prays!

Mr. Shife said...

I am so glad to hear this, jenny_o. You need it, deserve it and keep on swimming.

37paddington said...

I completely understand how hard it is to write when things feel overwhelming. Caring for your mom, navigating her dementia, is certainly stressful, especially when you are still dealing with your own well of grief. I am glad you will get some counseling around it, and I'm thrilled for you that your son has moved in. Getting rid of stuff will be a relief in the end, my advice is to be as unsentimental as possible about releasing stuff, other than the stuff that is imbued with the comfort of your husband's essence of course. I do think have a beloved around, your son, is going to be enormously helpful to your day to day mood. Sending love to you, birthday mate.

jenny_o said...

baili: Your kind words always warm my heart, my friend. I know what you mean about being reluctant to share but being glad afterward to have done so. Our online friends are so supportive and it's helpful to our healing, as you said. Thank you for your good wishes and know I wish you the same!

Mr. Shife: Thanks, dude :) I appreciate your support.

37p: Thank you. I hope I never get to that bleak place I was in, ever again. I know there are no guarantees but I feel like I am seeing some light now.

baili said...

Lots and lots of love and best wishes for you my dear friend ❤

Cherie said...

You've had the most awful time but I'm so pleased to hear that things are looking up at last. You are strong and brave Jenny and I admire your strength. Have a wonderful Christmas. Xx

baili said...

Merry Christmas to you and loved ones dear Jenny!!!!!!!!!!!
thinking of you heart full of best wishes and prays!
health peace and joy each day!

Mr. Shife said...

Happy New Year, jenny_o!!

Susan said...

Wishing you contentment in the year ahead.

jenny_o said...

baili, Mr. Shife, 37paddington, Cherie, & Susan:

Thank you for your kind comments and my apologies for not replying earlier. My mind has been elsewhere for a long time but I do appreciate you stopping by. I read all comments!