Fear can be a debilitating entity. It can do strange things with your thinking, twisting it and contorting it into something that just isn’t true or real. Unfortunately the issues that fear attacks are real, real enough that fear is a natural go-to in coping with all that is going on.
Mom is failing. Ever so slowly, almost unseen – in fact, the nurse that visits every week seems to think that Mom is doing quite well. She is doing well but under the surface, seen only by those who know her best, little things are happening like she is not eating her beloved cookies after supper much any more. Those cookies were a MUST up until a week or so ago. She’s quieter. Often the TV is turned off and she is sitting silently in her sitting room with her eyes closed. She is sleeping more. She is struggling to get out of her chair. Little things but very big things in the whole scheme of things. I see them, I watch her struggle, I watch the changes happen. I know what they mean. And the fear creeps in ready to pounce on me and debilitate me.
Last weekend I went out to my friend’s farm for an afternoon break. She lives about a half hour from my home. I had been gone all morning attending church while a PSW looked after Mom. Then a good friend came and spent 2 hours in the afternoon with Mom. She was really only left alone for an hour and a half all day. For some reason, perhaps because I was farther away from home, I panicked out at my friend’s farm. I started to “shut down”, a term I use when I have extreme anxiety, a term I use to describe my autistic overload and anxiety when I can hardly move and speak. Thank goodness it started to happen as we were coming back into town. I was on my way home and I was able to abort an actual shutting down episode. The fear though, continued rearing it’s ugly head even though I saw that Mom was OK. Somehow something profound shifted in my psyche. Every since that afternoon I am now very afraid to leave Mom, or leave the house for that matter. Not a good thing. I worked 2 days this week at the public library doing 4 hours each day. The anxiety was sky high. I blamed it on my getting over my viral meningitis but I knew deep down that Mom was the root of my anxiety. Today at the library, I started to cry and had to retreat to the staff room. I thought I was never going to stop crying. I was going to lose my Mom. It was only a matter of time. And that time was ticking away, getting closer and closer all the while. I desperately wanted to go home just to be close to her. I am terrified something will happen to her while I am away and she is alone. I am feeling like I need to be with her every moment of the day. Do other caregivers go through this? I don’t know.
When my Dad was dying I vowed to not leave his bedside till after he had passed away. Several days went by. I slept in his room with mom there too and I only left the room for short quick bathroom breaks etc. After several days of this my doctor persuaded me to go home to take a quick shower and get a bite to eat and then come back. As I was in the shower, I heard the phone ring. My heart raced. I knew what that phone call was. As I ran to the phone and answered it, my worst nightmare came true. Dad died while I was away. Some say maybe he didn’t want me to see him die. I don’t know. I just know I want to be with Mom when she passes away.
So what to do with the fear that threatens to disrupt my life if it won’t let me leave the house? Everyone I talk to says I MUST FIGHT this fear. I cannot let it grab hold of me and take me captive. What will be will be. I cannot control everything around me and Mom. I have to let go and let God. Yes, I need to turn to my strong faith for the strength to fight this fear. It says in the bible that God did NOT give us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I need to take hold of the power I have through the authority of Jesus Christ and I need to hold onto the love that Jesus bestows on me and I need to rest in the fact that in christ I have a sound mind not a sick one. It takes work, it is a battle, it is a struggle of major proportions. But I have to do this. Otherwise I become no good to myself OR to my Mom. I cannot help her when I am sick with fear. I cannot help her when I am immobile with fear and anxiety. As a sole caregiver of my Mom she needs me to be healthy and able to look after her needs. That goes above everything else that I may be dealing with.
So when FEAR raises it ‘s ugly head, I will do what I can to trample it down to size. I know that fear is always going to be a companion when I am a caregiver to someone who is in palliative care. We are bed fellows but if it gets too close for comfort I will kick it out of the bed and cut it down to size – a size where I can use the fear to aid me instead of destroy me. Fear can be a good thing if it helps you prepare for the unexpected, or helps you plan the end, or helps you gear into action instead of hiding your head in the sand. I will raise my head high when fear raises it’s ugly head and I will look it straight in the face and tell it to take a long walk off a short bridge.
I hope you can see I am giving myself a pep talk here. You gotta do that as you go through this sort of thing. Caregiving has so many unknowns and twists an turns that fear is easy to turn to. We caregivers gotta rise above the fear and think of what our purpose is – to look after our loved one to the best of our ability. Fear can greatly interfere with this purpose. I sit here tonight writing and thinking and talking to myself that fear cannot interfere with what I so desperately want to do for my Mom. It is a moment by moment struggle. But I take on the challenge to make my Mom’s last days the very best they can be. FEAR BE GONE!