OK, so I know what some of you might be thinking after listening to the weather report tonight but the dreaded S word is NOT SNOW!!! Wish it was though, it would be a lot easier to handle than my S word. STRESS!! It’s actually got 3 S’s in it just to get the point across loud and clear!
STRESS – my main bugbear when it comes to being a caretaker of my elderly mom. Every part of my being is stressed. My body, my mind, my very soul.
My joints have started aching again after several years of very little pain. I feel sick most of the time. I have headaches nearly every day. I clench my teeth, grind my teeth and tap my teeth together making a clicking sound. I pace. My restless leg syndrome is in high gear making life miserable. I get every bug around it seems and they settle into my system for the long term just rearing their ugly head every couple of weeks or so after I think I am free of it. Perhaps the most persistent and deep symptom is the exhaustion that permeates every part of me and never leaves. It just gets worse or worser ( I know that is not a word but I’m going to take writer’s liberty here)- never better. It just seeps into me like a tea bag left in a mug of hot water for ages. It gets stronger and stronger. I sit down to read a book or drink my tea and wake up 2 hours later. For the life of me, I don’t even remember feeling sleepy. Noise bothers me more, going to the mall is too much sensory overload now. ( that’s a good thing – less spending I hope) Smells of all kinds are overpowering and too much light overwhelms me. People overwhelm me. The stress of having PSW’s coming and going and the nurse coming and constant assessments being redone on Mom just makes my head spin.
Emotionally, the stress of looking after mom is debilitating. It is eating away at me everyday and more and more of me is consumed by everything from remembering to give mom her pills to doing the laundry to changing appointments to even changing lightbulbs. Tonight I came home from work to find that the light in the bathroom was out – the one that Mom uses only. We leave the light on at night for Mom to see cause the hall light is too bright. I panicked and immediately wanted to crumple to the floor and cry and cry. Too much. Too much. After a couple of hours of thinking about it and knowing I had to do something about it before us going to bed, I went and looked in my stash of light bulbs, praying that the right kind would be there. IT WAS!! The bathroom light is now on and a major meltdown has been averted.
Sounds silly but that’s the effects of all the stress on me. I guess perhaps the most costly stress is the fear of losing Mom in the future sometime. I think I get used to the idea of losing her and am resigned to it and then some little thing like Mom having a bad day will put me into panic mode again. One of the things that all this stress has created is a compulsion for me to buy things – anything. I just want to buy, buy, buy. It’s like LOSS is an actual entity creeping towards me over a hill and I see it coming and I grab every THING I can buy, find, and gather them around me to protect me from the LOSS. Unfortunately, this has put me in a very precarious financial situation. But what do I do?? I can’t seem to stop. We as those with autism love our things and for me that is what I go to instead of people. I am stumped as to what to do and this causes just as much stress as the stress of losing Mom.
So there are layers and layers of stress all piling up on one another, weighing me down more and more till I feel I will be crushed under the weight.
And then….and then…. I noticed my cat today looking a lot thinner. I believe he has lost quite a bit of weight. And he is always licking himself and he goes and hides to sleep. And he cries when I go out and even if I go upstairs and he is still downstairs. MY CATS ARE STRESSED! Both of my cats are showing signs of being very stressed. What do I do about THAT? If something happens to one of my cats that will be the last straw. I can’t bear to lose one of them right now.
What am I doing to help with the stress?? Well, a number of things but they just seem to take the edge off for a short while just enough so I can still function each day. I take medication, I spend lots of time rocking in my easy chair or swinging in my hammock chair in my bedroom. I drink tea, I go out with my friends ( one at a time). I see my wonderful grief counselor, I talk to my psychiatrist, I sleep, I go for walks and do some photography, I cry, I scream, and most of all I rest in my great God who I know will see me through this despite all this stress. God has an S word too. His word is SUFFICIENT. In the bible it says, “My grace is SUFFICIENT for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I read this every day. It is my secret source of strength (SSS) and the ONLY way I get through each day. God is my ENOUGH when everything else is lacking. When my bank account is empty God is sufficient, when my energy tank is empty God is sufficient, and when my ability to handle the stress in my life is at empty God is sufficient. God didn’t say life would be easy but he said he would be there for us. God has given me the job of looking after my Mom so I have to believe he will give me what I need to do the job. He promises he will and I trust in that.