Four years of blogging

Today is my blogiversary. Four years. Oddly, that doesn’t seem like such a long time now that I am in my late 40s. But at the same time, it means the number of years of my life spent looking after Mom is adding up, and, considering how physically healthy she seems to be, will likely exceed 10. That’s plenty of time to be a caregiver, but it pales in comparison to some people I know – especially two older gentlemen I met in support group who have cared for wives with Alzheimer’s for 13 years and 16 years.

Four years would feel like a very long time if I had been miserable for the duration. Misery led me to begin the blog. It functioned as a journal for me to get difficult emotions off my chest. I began blogging and therapy at the same time, in fact, in January 2009, when I was at a very low point. Mom was in assisted living, so I knew she was safe. And that was an enormous relief. But she also needed me. For all sorts of things. I was her liaison to the rest of her shrinking world, it seemed – to cat food and litter, to clean underwear, to her neurology clinic appointments. Friends did visit her with regularity back then, and she had friends in assisted living. But from my perspective, Mom’s expressions of any kind of need always fell on me.

So while I struggled with both the workload and the conflicting emotions – I was sad to see her confused and losing her memory, but also wished the decline would accelerate so she would be unaware of her own problems – I also reflected through this blog on what it might be like for her. Seems to make sense, I’m sure. But I was so absorbed with my own experience that it took me some time to think of her as more than a needy patient who was becoming more childlike by the day. And in defense of caregivers, it’s pretty easy to become self-absorbed. Caregiving is difficult, and time-consuming, and frustrating, and heartbreaking, and often feels like a very lonely pursuit. But for Mom’s sake, and for my own, I’m so relieved that I was able to look at and consider the bigger life picture, thanks to the blog. I ended my own misery and was able to focus on what has become my No. 1 priority where Mom is concerned: her peace of mind.

This is not to say I consider myself the ideal caregiver. Not by a longshot. But I am not an angry or resentful caregiver, and that is significant progress. I didn’t want the job when Mom started showing signs of illness. I fixated on what I considered Mom’s misgivings as a mother as a way to justify my own lack of interest in taking care of her. Some time ago, though, without ceremony, I forgave Mom for the bad times in my childhood that I attributed to her, and I forgave myself for holding onto that anger for as long as I did. For some, it’s easy to stay stuck with the anger. I am so fortunate that blogging helped me get unstuck. It will be interesting to see what the next year has in store for me, and for Mom.

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10 comments so far

  1. Megan on

    Happy Anniversary, Emily!

  2. Jenniferjayhawk on

    Happy Anniversary Emily. You have an amazing blog and totally deserve the awards you have received!

  3. momsbrain on

    Thank you, Meg and Jennifer! Really appreciate it! Thanks for sticking with me.

  4. Liz Palika on

    Oh I so understand what you’re saying. In helping to take care of my ailing mother in law I have had to forgive and try to forget the past. She did not come to our wedding when I married her son; nor was she welcoming to me when we first visited. In fact, she gave me the ‘guests smell like dead fish’ lecture. And she disappeared from our lives for 30 years. Thirty years; she hurt her son so badly when that happened.

    But now she has outlived three husbands and three of her kids, including my husband.

    I look upon this as a means of learning one of life’s lessons; to forgive and as much as possible, forget or at least set aside those hurts. And I believe I have.

    But it is not always easy.

    {{{Hugs}}}}

  5. momsbrain on

    Oh, Liz, hugs right back to you! Thirty years! That is incredible. I commend you for forgiving. It’s not always as easy to forget, though I have found that not fixating on thoughts about my childhood makes those memories much more distant. She is VERY lucky you are helping her now. At least in my mom’s case I can relate to her more as I get older, and feel much more sympathetic to her struggles as a single mother. But I think it would be hard to relate at all to 30 years of neglect of one’s son and daughter-in-law…! I’ve always been able to tell on FB that you are a good person, but I didn’t realize just HOW good you are. 🙂

  6. becky honeywell on

    HI Emily. I, too, so understand what you’re going through. My mom is slowly fading – only been in assisted living for 5 months. Diagnosed last summer. However, she’s been ill for some time – I’m sure my dad was covering for her when he was alive. I always would mention it to me, but I brushed it off as my dad just being hard on her. He died four years ago.

    Your blog helps me to feel normal. This is has been so hard. And I, too, am the person my mom reaches out to whenever she needs help – transportation, doctors, groceries, etc. She doesn’t really have friends in her “community”, she’s always been an introvert. I find ways to give her whatever she needs but I must admit sometimes I am quite resentful. Just depends on the day.

    So, all this is to say first, happy blogiversary. I know your writing helps you – but trust me, it helps lots of others. Thanks for your honesty and candor. I look forward to your posts – they are like my therapy.

  7. momsbrain on

    Thanks so much, Becky. And you are not alone, at all. I think my emotions are not all that unusual, even if they sometimes have felt “wrong.” And I believed when I started this blog that I should be as honest as I could be – for myself, true, but because I did have a hope that other caregivers might read this and realize what they feel is “normal” in this context. I’m sorry you’ve lost your dad and are feeling the burden of being the one your mom needs. It is very hard to feel responsible for a parent’s happiness and safety when you have no real control over what her brain might be doing to her. Thank you for reading and commenting; I hope caring for your mother become a bit easier with time.
    Take care,
    Emily

  8. sharon thomson on

    i can so relate to the feelings you shared. thanks for being so honest. i’ve been caring for my Mom who has dementia and Parkinsons. she lives with me and my husband. moved in with us in May ’10.
    im wondering if i should start blogging. it might help me process. i feel like i’m wearing my friends out talking about stuff. they’re all so busy and mostly can’t relate. it’s kind of lonely.

  9. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sharon-Thank you for visiting and commenting. I commend you for having you mom live with you. That just can’t be easy, and I can imagine how much you need people to talk to to help you manage the stress. And I COMPLETELY agree that it can feel like a very lonely time. I have definitely benefited from blogging, but of course it’s just another thing to do! I’m glad you have friends to lend an ear, but I also know what you mean, that they can’t relate. It’s hard to convey just how stressful it can be to observe a loved one with these diseases.

  10. sharon thomson on

    thanks Emily for writing such a thoughtful response. I had a blog several years ago. I enjoyed writing it and a lot of my friends and family seemed to enjoy it too. But I sort of lost focus and burnt out or something. I wish now i had just pushed past that and kept at it. I wonder if i should resuscitate it. Or maybe a totally new one that i don’t tell any of my family or friends about so i could say anything to let off steam might be more helpful. How do you manage the tension between wanting to be honest and not wanting to alienate your friends and family?


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