Facebook has been encouraging me to share “on this day” posts. Stuff I posted on May 13, 2014, or 2012. I’ve taken advantage of this feature a couple of times, noting how much different things are for us this May as opposed to last May.
I don’t feel a great sense of “relief” from visiting the sad, scared, and hysterically miserable me from May of 2014. My home situation is tremendously improved, but that’s because my mother-in-law is in a memory unit. And that’s not an entirely good feeling – I am more comfortable because I couldn’t take care of her anymore, if I ever was completely capable of taking care of her in the first place.
How do I feel? Generally speaking – stunned. I put on the cheerful mask for Facebook, but on occasion I have to crack and say, “You know what? I am still really struggling.”
I am still really struggling.
I put on thirty-five pounds in the 3 ½ years I was a primary caregiver. THIRTY-FIVE. And it’s been remarkably difficult to even get ten of those off, thanks (in part) to peri-menopause, but also because I acquired a lot of lousy eating habits that have proven hard to break. Make no mistake about the effects stress can have on every part of your body. I’ve got TMJ, digestive problems, headaches, and nervous tics that cause me to pick obsessively at my scalp. And I realize that all of this is nothing compared to what my mother-in-law is going through (especially when she was still more or less cognizant of the fact that she was losing her mind). I get that. But I think it’s important for me to speak up about what caregivers go through. We’re not always in the position to “buck up” and summon a little perspective, because we’re fucking exhausted. Mental illness, neurological disorders…these impact everyone in contact with the affected person in some way, and it’s necessary to point that out, and I think we should be able to without being made to feel ashamed or selfish.
So as all of this was happening, I kept moving the goal post ahead. I’ll deal with it once Mom’s in assisted living. I’ll deal with it once I get her apartment emptied and cleaned. I’ll deal with it once we’re moved upstairs and our friends are moved in downstairs.
And now I have to deal with it – the “comfort eating” and the lack of physical activity and the rewiring of my emotional circuitry so I’ll stop injuring myself. It’s not as if I don’t know how to rein in my various and sundry addictive behaviors. I just let myself fall back into some of them, because “at least I wasn’t drinking,” and – to be quite honest – at the time it HELPED, if only for a little bit. I wasn’t thinking long-term when I just wanted to get through another evening of trying to get my mother-in-law ready for bed. I was thinking, “Once I do this I’m going to sit in front of the television and eat cookies.”
I know, intellectually, that things are much better. But with nothing left to distract me, I have to face all the things I let happen to myself. And I will.
I have plans for this summer. I’m going to my cousin’s wedding. I’m presenting at a software conference in Orlando, and I hope to be able to see some of my friends from college. I’m playing at least one show with my B-52s tribute band. We’re going to Maine. We’re going to the Witch Museum. My niece is graduating from high school. I want to throw a big party. I want to do stuff with our yard. I want to feel as though all the shoes have stopped dropping, at least for a little while.