Feeling powerless over about everything in my life.
When I first heard of the Alzheimer’s Support Group I knew nothing about the program and I was feelilng powerless over my whole life. I wondered how this program was going to help me because mom had not been diagnosed with dementia. But we definitely had a problem and the problem wasn’t me. Lol.
I’d already done everything I could think of to take care of mom. I had given up my life. Given up my family and friends and didn’t go to any of the sports my grandchildren were involved in. Mom even got upset when a friend would call me on the phone and that eventually stopped also.
In the beginning I went to support meetings and they didn’t help. I ran out the door as soon as the meeting was over so mom wouldn’t feel alone. I didn’t even take time to just tell someone their story meant a lot to me. I gave my all to mom.
So, coming to the meetings, I was still skeptical how they’d help me. I thought if there was just one secret they could or would tell me that would stop the insanity of caring for an aging parent we’d live happily ever after. Well, here I am sharing the beginning of my journey towards sanity, starting as does any journey, with the 1st step.
The 1st step reads “Accept that I’m powerless over my aging parent I’m caring for and her declining health – my life will become unmanageable at times .”
I can really relate to the unmanageable part. If my life were manageable I wouldn’t have gone to those meetings in the first place. I wouldn’t be stressed out with my day. Powerless over my life? Heck, no! I was the adult daughter, who became the parent, so to speak. The one that Alzheimer’s had educated. I was in control! She was my aging mom and she should be thankful that she wasn’t in a nursing home.
I am powerless over the aging process and that’s why I need the 1st Step. I didn’t have the problem of being old, so I thought. Mom did. Why should I care what went on in the other people’s homes and that their life was out of control? This whole deal was about mom and about me.
I knew mom’s health was declining, but I didn’t know what was wrong with me. What happened to me? I knew I was angry, frustrated, hurt, depressed, mad and many other negative things, too many to mention. I’d put my children and grandchildren up on a back shelf and left them there. They didn’t need my constant attention, mom did.
I also put aside my support groups and my friends because I just didn’t have the time. I went to Silver Sneakers for exercise and my health. I gave that up also. And my friends felt like they were causing a strain on my life coming between mom and me and they seemed to disappear also. Mom needed my constant focus if she was to grow old with ease and enjoy her twilight years.
I didn’t want to admit that I was powerless over this caregiving journey.
Maybe saying those words would make everyone happy with me in the meeting room and if they were happy with me then maybe just maybe they’d tell me the secret of how they could laugh, joke and enjoy life even while caring for a loved one. So, I said the words. I tried to laugh with them and things seemed to get a little better.
But as time went on, it all hit the fan. I fell apart over and over and over. As a good daughter I just did what I thought I was suppose to do but when I was alone I bawled my eyes out and still do at times. I just had to do what was expected of me and what I thought God expected of me.
Unfortunately, mom keeps declining. Now she’s 100. I haven’t been able to attend the support meetings much at all and it sure shows. Well, that’s not all I’ve been thinking about. As I sit here many nights alone I wondered how I can pull this off. I don’t give my health any thought. I’m too busy making sure mom is taken care of and forgot I had health issues also.
Caring for mom and losing myself.
Now, I’ve never had the thought of hitting mom, or even putting her in a nursing home. I do sometimes wonder how much longer I can hang on but I just keep going. After falling apart one night recently and having my kids tell me that I have a lot of drama in my life a small voice spoke to me. And that voice had something to say that was very important.
It said the only thing anyone could have said to me that would make me stop and think. Very gently, lovingly, without any judgement or condemnation, the voice which I know was God asked me, “Donna, you keep going the way you’re going, what will happen to your relationship with your kids?”
I have always thought of myself a religious person but God’s quiet voice introduced me to spirituality. That’s when I knew that God was there for me and He hadn’t left me alone. That’s when I realized that if I honestly wanted relief I had to “stop talking and really start walking.”
I picked up the phone and called a friend of mine and I listened to what he had to say.
Then I called another friend from my support meeting and she validated what I’d just heard from my other friend, so I knew this was God helping me thru this. Now, I know I’m powerless for sure. That still small voice knew just what to say to stop my mind from playing tricks on me.
What the 1st Step has meant to me is I now know that if I’m meant to continue caring for mom alone till her death, will it still be hard? Yes. Does it upset me that I continue to care for mom alone? Yes. Will I let it eat me alive anymore? NO. Do I still feel I have to obsess about everything that happens here at home? No, not as much. I’m finally taking charge of my life, which I do have control over.
The only life I can control, MINE. Will it be hard and challenging? Yes. God didn’t give me this gift of caring for mom in order for me to run everyone else’s life. God didn’t bring me here to ruin my life or to punish me for past wrongs. He didn’t give me my life to waste on futile efforts. He gave me life in order to take charge of what I can…me.
The 1st Step has given me back a good relationship with myself.
It’s getting better with my kids. Mainly it’s given me a wonderful relationship with God, that I’ve never had before. It gave me many friends within the support groups. I’ve met many wonderful people just like me who are caring for an aging parent or loved one.
It gave me myself, with whom I’m getting more and more comfortable with. The First Step has taught me that other people have the right to make their own decisions, although I may not agree with, I must accept them to the best of my ability. This doesn’t mean I have to like those decisions and it doesn’t mean I can’t give my two cents once in a while. It means that my opinion is just my opinion.
A friend from the support group told me “Acceptance isn’t approval”. I must accept the fact that my mom is declining more with each passing day and I can’t stop it. I must accept the fact that other people don’t and won’t always be there to help me. The First Step is teaching me to finally allow myself to love everyone without judging and without feeling that I have to be judge, jury and executioner.
What can I do about this powerless stage of my life and mom’s life?
Nothing? I can continue to pray for mom and myself. I can continue to call people from the group and not have the guilt because I can’t go to the meetings in person. I’m learning to love mom in spite of everything I’ve gone thru in the last 16 years.
Does it still hurt? Yes, it does. Less now than before. I’ll more than likely still try to run things that aren’t mine to run. When I do, my life becomes unmanageable again and that’s when I’ll pick up that phone and call a support friend.
Here’s an analogy on being powerless over others and wanting to control other’s lives:
How silly it would be for a train engineer to try to run another train while running his own. And how much danger he’d be putting his own train, cargo and passengers in while doing so.
That’s what trying to run those other things or other people is like for me today. I may try for a while but I’ll soon realize how silly wasting time and how dangerous it is. Dangerous to myself, my family, my mom and others around me and I have to stop.
I can continue loving mom whether or not I can control the aging process and I’m powerless over all that a caregiver deals with. Now that I’ve accepted the 1st Step I feel that if I must admit that I’m powerless, which of course I am, then I can do no less than love this wonderful person who is powerless over the aging process. Because this and prayer are the only things, and definitely the best things I can do for mom and myself.