A year ago

I’ve hit a few milestones lately, and have thought about writing about them, but I have been slow about doing so, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s avoidance – of revisiting how I felt a year ago, when I was at a very low point. Though it sure is nice to be able to revisit it in thought and words all the while knowing I do not have to live it again.

Jan. 14 marked the one-year anniversary of this blog. The time surely does fly when one writes a blog. I read a lot of blogs and marvel at anniversaries of four, five or six years. Just how long have blogs been around? And what took me so long to start one?

I also have “graduated” from therapy. My last session was Jan. 19. I was anxious before the appointment because I wasn’t sure what I would talk about – which seemed like a sign to me that I was ready to stop. I had really resolved issues that led me to start therapy, and I felt that some of the worst of my pessimism, and negativity, seemed to be behind me. So my therapist and I agreed to end the session without setting a date for another. I of course can go back anytime. And who knows, as Mom gets sicker, I might need therapy more than ever. But for now, I feel that I can go on without it. I do sometimes have this tendency to think, with regard to Mom: All the hard work is done; I have no “excuse” for feeling low, or worried, or sad, or anxious, or whatever I might be feeling. My therapist reminded me that after five years of worrying about and taking care of Mom, it is perfectly normal for me to need time to, basically, recover from the long-term tension – she called it burnout or compassion fatigue. So I’ve graduated from therapy for now, but I haven’t yet managed to put every bit of worry and anxiety behind me.

Both the blog and therapy were associated with the difficult time I was having a year ago as Mom’s caregiver. I was suffering in a variety of ways, and it was as if I became aware of them all at once. I had a fair amount of work to do FOR Mom while she was still in assisted living, and the list of things to do seemed to be growing all the time. One cat had died in December, leaving Mom first horribly sad and then more confused than ever. Managing Christmas felt like nothing but a burden for me. Mom’s finances were running low. I knew lots of change was on the horizon with regard to her living situation, and that made me very anxious. And I felt so alone, and strangely almost neglected, and I didn’t even realize it. People would ask about Mom, and I would give the standard report: She is hanging in there. But I recall breaking down in tears while at lunch with friends, admitting I was devastated that people rarely asked me how I was doing.

That was a turning point – I needed outlets for those kinds of emotions. And I heard some interesting feedback about my needs: I needed to talk about them, to make them known. Because sometimes, a friend told me, with caregiving, people who aren’t doing it just don’t know what a caregiver endures. That made sense, and it was something I hadn’t considered, being so wrapped up in myself at the time. But I was also afraid to express my needs at first, for fear that I wouldn’t get what I was hoping for in return. And it was embarrassing to admit that one thing, a major thing, that I needed was for people to ask me how I was doing. It seemed so selfish. But it was important.

I am rich now in expressions of support for what I do for and with Mom. And I appreciate it so much. And the writing of the blog has functioned as additional therapy, as a way to process events and reflect on time I spend with Mom. And that has given me the chance to undergo a whole different kind of recovery. When Mom was first showing signs of illness, I was so angry, so full of resentment, so obsessed with my perception of her shortcomings as a mother – all because I could see that taking care of her was in my future. And all I could think about was how she didn’t do a very good job of taking care of me. At least, that was how I remembered it. And it’s true, we had some tough times.

And then we started the Alzheimer’s journey with frustration, as Mom was irritable (surely, she was terrified about what was happening but couldn’t say so), which made me irritable. It has only been through regular reflection on all of this, and writing it down, that I have developed a whole new appreciation of her as a mother and a person. And I have realized that forgiving her for the painful times is much more important, and ultimately better for me, than holding onto feelings of disappointment about my childhood that I held onto for quite a long time. The Mom I have now, with her hugs and kisses, and expressions of gratitude, and funny jokes, and peaceful demeanor, and pleasure in something as simple as clapping her hands or a cold glass of Coke – well, she is lots of fun, and she is an innocent victim of a terrible disease. But she is also the only mother I have. So why be mad at her? And how could I be mad at her? It just stopped making sense to be resentful. And now I am free to just love her instead.


10 comments so far

  1. plettahar on

    this is lovely, Emily, so glad you’ve had the chance to reflect and to receive some of the support you’ve needed as you’ve gone through this. I’m honored to have been able to see this and go on the journey (sort of) with you.

  2. Lauren on

    I’m always happy to hear someone feels they have been helped by therapy and able to move ahead w/ more strength and confidence. Your point about non-caregivers really not understanding what it’s all about hit home. My few weeks a year with my aunt are barely the tip of your iceberg…thanks for giving me some perspective.

  3. Emily on

    Julia – you have definitely been on the journey, and thank you!

    Lauren – it was a co-worker who made that point to me about non-caregivers not knowing but also not being bad people for not knowing. People can’t necessarily know if no one tells them. That was enlightening for me. And see, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of your visits to NY as putting you in a caregiver role. So now I have better perspective, too. One meaningful message from therapy was: it’s OK to be mad, or sad, and it’s OK to tell people what I need. Seems simple, but being told so is helpful.

  4. Sherri on

    A lot accomplished in a year…:-).

  5. Tom on

    This was extrordinarily moving. To watch someone go through such a dark time and emerge not only stronger but also more compasionate is very inspiring. I’m sure you are an inspiration to many and I’m proud to know you.

  6. Jenny on

    Wow, Em. You’re amazing. I am so inspired by your journey and your sharing of it. Now I’m all weepy 🙂

  7. patwhite67 on


    Your writing was beautiful to me and most appreciated. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about caregiving and about your relationship with your mom.

    I too went through times of resentment about the past when I felt less regarded by my mother. Being able to let it go and love her unconditionally now is so freeing. Pat

  8. momsbrain on

    Sherri – I have a hard time defining “a lot” because I know others who do so much more than I do – such as moms of four kids!! 🙂

    Tom – you are too kind. Thank you, and the feeling is mutual!

    Jenny – I finally got weepy tonight about this. Weird delayed reaction, and mild. Hard to know when the weeps are going to hit…

    Pat – It was good to see you tonight. Everything you say and do regarding your mom seems so loving to me; I’m glad you are feeling free in that way, too.

  9. Scott on

    I am a little behind in my Emily blog reading. I really look forward to your blogs. I have only met your mom once when I was a freshman in high school. I check out the pictures and when I read your blogs, I can picture your mother…it is neat. My grandmother had a hottie guy at the Karington on the Scioto many, many years ago. I recall going in there and seeing her, she walked up to me and said that he was her boss at the Ice Cream Parlor. The guy was one of the nurses there and he was so nice to her, he played along with it. Your blogs allow me to remember the great days that we had with her. Hugs to you and to your mom!

  10. momsbrain on

    Hi, Scott – thanks for the comment. I’m glad you have good memories of your grandmother, even after she was sick. There are definitely still good times to be had, despite the general crappiness of it all…

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