Now that Mother is in full time care in an Alzheimer's/dementia unit, I'm finding I have quite a bit of emotional, physical and intellectual snap back to deal with. Let me explain it this way, I am having to consciously reorient myself back in the world and in my own home, and that process has loosed quite a bit of emotional "stuff" that I thought I had put away, and some of it is just stuff that I had forgotten existed and now it's bubbling back into the flow. Physically, I thought I was having a heart attack, but it's just back muscle spasms, but they've been some big ones. Intellectually, I'm having to come to myself again, something I put away a long time ago in order to take care of her.
I used to scoff at people who stayed home all day to take care of an elderly relative. Shouldn't that be the most obvious of devotions, and how hard could it be to chase an old lady around anyway? Well, if she's your childhood abuser, it's hell pouring acid on your soul day and night. If you're a Christian, I heartily recommend getting the counseling to help you thru it, and I think you should do it if you can at all, or at least as much as you can muster, but it won't be a walk in the park and any advice that tells you "it will all be alright" is lying. It will be difficult at every turn, but there is no exemption from doing the love of Christ, and if you do it in devotion to Him, you will survive it.
To what purpose you survive it, I'm just not sure yet. When Mother came down here 14 years ago, she as much announced to me that she had come for me to take care of her until her death. She relished the thought of getting close, but it drove me in terror, and I do mean terror, to Biblical counseling. She was coming down from the North like a Valkyrie bent on conquest and my desire was to cut all ties and run to Florida where no one could find me. I would have lived in box under a bridge if it had meant peace of mind, but if you have bent your knee to Jesus as Lord and Master, then it isn't all about what you want. He gets a say.
Well, amongst the endless revelations required for counseling ("she did what... and you just took it... and go home and write out some examples of...", all crap counselors love and I LOATHE. I'm trying to forgive and FORGET, you idiots!), I did get enough nuggets of wisdom to get me thru each step with faith and faithfulness, to her and to Him alike.
I have no true regrets, I did what I could, I did far more than anyone else in my family did or would ever think to do in the next million years, and although I feel like I lost the last 14 years to locusts and how in the next million years can that time ever be redeemed, I am more firmly entrenched on my knees before my Lord than ever. So, I guess bloodied, old and still standing is still better than hiding under a bridge from God and Mother alike.
So now I am discovering all sorts of things on the other side of sacrificial devotion. One really bad one is that having come out of the dailiness of care taking, I'm nearly fearful of the reduced requirements of caring now. In other words, her daily needs are taken care of - and I don't want to go over there and get guilt tripped and watch her disintegrate any more. The trajectory up until moving her into care was always deeper and more daily. Now that I've got the daily farmed out, better medical care, and there isn't a thing I can do to make her any happier anymore, I just don't want to do it at all anymore. I understand that she's upset about it, but my soul doesn't want to deal with it.
It isn't that it's compassion burn out, it's that I've been borrowing from something else inside me to produce the compassion required for years, and going over there to be compassionate but firm yet again... ? Perhaps it's like the bank accounts. She's into me for thousands of dollars, and I have receipts that need to be reimbursed piled up on my desk and my desktop, but I haven't had the time and emotional strength to order all the accounts and write the checks. It's the same with my soul, I've just been giving out from whatever I could find at hand every day, every day, every day, for months and years on end. Now the accounts must be put back in order, separation between what is hers and what is mine must be made, and I must plan and purpose for my own future - and mine alone - while she must experience her new life for herself.
That sounds so horrible. But it's true. It's time for me to bind up my wounds, I can't fix her troubles any more.
To that end I've begun to read after my own interests again. The ADHD diagnosis last year was very helpful, so I thought it would be interesting to read about introversion, being an introvert, n'all. Found Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking via an online recommendation of a friend. Very educational, revelatory even, and good gouge for an extrovert with an introvert in their life that they just don't "get," simply because it will tell you why you're an extrovert and what that means. If you think introverts are rare, as it turns out they are 30-50% of the population, and that guy at work you think is an extrovert.... well, maybe not. Perhaps he's just coping with you!
From there I went to Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds and Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem . I haven't dealt with the psychological implications of Narcissistic Personality Disorder since I realised that Mother probably was NPD. The descriptions were just too accurate and horrific and I could not deal with her with that in front of me. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, it's a fantastic coping mechanism and I recommend its usage heartily and liberally. Your shrink won't, but good God Almighty, we've got sh*t to get thru, people, let's keep those feet moving one step at a time.
I'm up to Location 675 in the Kindle edition, a series of exercises about grieving the loss of your childhood, what it should have been and what it was. I was much struck with this one:
Exercise #3 - You're asked to write a eulogy for your ideal parent's funeral. Write about the feelings associated with the loss of your expectations, hopes, and wishes.*
This is all about a theoretical person, perhaps or necessarily someone entirely different from either of my actual parents. One of the biggest nuggets of wisdom I got from counseling was that God knew who my parents were and who I was before He ever put me into that family. My situation was never a mistake. It wasn't easy and it wasn't all goodness and light, but it wasn't a divine error either. Now I have the opportunity to talk to someone who would have, theoretically of course, raised me with all the wisdom and kindness that was absent in real life.
What would I say? What were my hopes and wishes, even expectations, that never could come true? Who would I have been? What would have been my path?
I don't know, but I'm going to think on it for a spell. Watch this space for that eulogy.
*Kimberlee Roth;Friedman, Freda B., Ph.D.. Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem (Kindle Locations 677-678). Kindle Edition.