True confessions of an imperfect daughter.
Almost 3 years ago my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. At that time she went through an evaluation process and it was determined that she was probably 2 years into the disease. I had an “aha” moment and twinge of guilt. Not knowing what was going on with Mom I had become increasing frustrated with how self-centered she had become. I remember hanging up the phone in frustration one evening and telling Mike that my mom had become even more of a self-centered bitch than she already was.
You see, my relationship with my mom has not always been easy. I’m not going to try to analyze it in this blog post but suffice it to say she had issues, I had issues, families have issues. I believe our issues were pretty standard, with our own unique family dysfunctions. My mom has always been high-strung, nervous and cold; as her disease progressed those traits were magnified. To calm her nerves, give her a slight mental boost and soften her interactions with Dad her doctor decided to place her on her first dementia medication and a low dose anti-depressant.
What a difference! She got a boost in cognitive function and I had my mom back with the added benefit that she became more easy-going than I had ever known her to be. So here is the first part of my confession…I liked her better this way. The barbed comments, negativity and cold assessments were gone. Mom has always been sharp and quick-witted, with this change she became even funnier – no filter but also no back-handed digs. This is why I have repeatedly made the comment that my mom is gone and I am caring for someone else now.
My posts have been made during this period time. The challenges have been hard and Mom continues to decline but the relationship has been strong and easy. I’ve shared the honest truth of it here with you. But there has been another change since placing her in memory care and I know that to keep this blog real and relevant I had to confess the struggles to you, my readers.
Mom took the news of her move fairly well. We settled her in to her new apartment and all was calm. Within the first two days a change began to happen. I don’t know how to explain it, and I assume it may be common, but her mental wheels began to turn more than they have in a long time. I think being thrown into a new situation activated her “fight or flight” mechanism and she began initiating conversations again, being more aware of her surroundings and of those around her. This change also brought back frustration. She wants to know when she gets to go home. Who makes that decision? She knows she has not seen a doctor since being here so who is evaluating her? Then the issues become more personal…will she ever live with my dad again? Are other women flocking around him now that she is away? Will he move on without her? Are we dumping her? We have decided to be honest with her and answer her questions directly and with compassion. It is hard, she is sad but as we talk she thanks me for not lying to her. This tears at my heart…
Then it becomes even more personal. She is pushing my buttons; bring up past criticisms, opening old wounds, saying things that used to rile me up. I kept my emotions fairly well reined in, only popping off a sassy retort one time. Stuff it down, do what needs to be done, finish what I came to do and make sure she is settled before I leave. Done, done and done. Success.
I get in my car to head home and all those stuffed down emotions come bubbling out. I. Am. So. Angry. At her for making me feel things I haven’t felt in years. Angry at me for letting it get to me. Angry at her for ripping open old wounds. Angry at me…for gods sake she has a disease, surely what she was saying was not intentional, just a muddled up mind lashing out at the one who is near. Angry at her for…what? The past? The guilt? The shame? This interaction happened two days ago and I still don’t know. I still haven’t fully come to terms with it.
I have a therapist I see on occasion, I like to say I see her when I need to get my head screwed on straight. If you have never met with a counselor, priest, pastor…any impartial third-party, I highly recommend it. Talking things through with someone who has no skin in the game, whose sole focus is on you and your well-being, is extremely helpful. I am seeing her today. Thankfully this appointment was already scheduled – I knew I would need to get grounded after moving Mom and prior to Mike’s surgery. It is almost guaranteed that my outlook will change and I may wish I had waited until after my appointment to make this post. But I owe you all reality. I’ve promised the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, right now it is ugly. I’ll keep you updated as I work through this next phase. Being human is hard and the struggle is ongoing.
Some of you are already on this journey, some are farther along than me, some have just begun and some fear it is on the horizon. Let me tell you, it is a marathon. Learn all you can. The 36 Hour Day by Nancy Mace is a good place to start. It is a roadmap that helps set your expectations for what is to come. Your next step – get you a person; a therapist, clergyman or someone else who is not part of your inner circle. To get the most from your person be 100% honest with them. It hurts at times but if you only say what you think they want to hear, or share the version of yourself you want to be not who you are, you will not get the help you need.
Lastly, laugh when you can; cry when you must. Know that you are not alone.