(Note: this blog post is a bit of a stream of consciousness post; more like a diary entry –or LiveJournal, if you’re my age– so I’m not creating this for beauty….there may not be photos or a ton of editing and I apologize for spelling/grammar errors, but this is how I needed this post to be.)
Stephanie!! Where have you been?
…Oh….wouldn’t you like to know…..
Life got….interesting….quickly….and not in a good or fun way.
Short version: My mother was diagnosed with pneumonia in the middle of August and was in the hospital for approximately 7 weeks; during this time my brother (who has Down syndrome) stayed with Devon and I at our house.
It wasn’t. At all.
In fact; it’s still not.
We can start with the fact that my mother and I haven’t spoken, seen each other, communicated in any way, etc in over 2 years. If you’ve been here awhile, you already knew that, if you’re newer, you could probably assume that there is a really long story there.
And you’d be right. And there’s really no point to get into at this moment; just know it was enough for us to not speak.
So after over 2 years of no contact with my immediate family, I get a call from one of my brother’s social workers (he’s had them for years) that they found my mother at home and unresponsive so she was taken to the hospital and that someone is going to have to take care of my brother immediately.
I have Devon take my brother to our house while I go to the hospital to figure things out. Maryland has calmed some Covid precautions and they did allow someone back in the ER, so I was able to back and talk to the doctors and try to see what was happening. The unfortunate is; they had no idea what was happening. It was a few days before we had the pneumonia diagnosis so we didn’t fully know what we were dealing with or any kind of treatment, how long it would be, etc.
There was also a fall she’d had, likely when she was found unresponsive; no one is entirely sure when that happened, so there was going to be a rehab stay, as well.
It wound up being almost two full months of her in the hospital and in rehab.
During that time, my brother was with us in our house.
Now, to know Devon and I is to know we are very introverted and don’t necessarily acclimate well to change. So having a new person in our home for an undisclosed period of time was an adjustment. For all of us, and difficult for all of us, for different reasons.
My mother and my brother are very co-dependent; it’s not healthy, but at this point in my life I say — it is what it is. I can’t do anything about it, they won’t change it. So….there we are. So, for him to be away from her with no indication of her coming home and him not knowing if she’s okay, is stressful for him.
Devon suddenly having his brother–in-law that he has to help take care of (because my brother isn’t very independent) is a lot, especially when you consider that he came to live with us, literally, the week that Devon and I went back to work for the new school year. So we’re in the thick of not only starting a new school year, but starting a new school year totally online with new protocols everywhere, and also a new person in our homes that we need 24/7 care for.
For me; I forgot how much care my brother needs, which was a large adjustment. On top of that, suddenly I’m the decision-maker of everything related to my mother…and also back to work full-time and learning all the new things that comes with distance learning and having to make decisions about two people that hadn’t been in my life for a really long time.
And I literally felt exhausted. Physically, emotionally, mentally…exhausted.
All of this was so much, so fast and for the first two weeks; I genuinely felt like I was drowning. And I couldn’t see an end to any of this, which made it harder. Pneumonia is one of those tricky things where if it’s mild it can be cured easily, if it’s more complex it can take awhile. And it turned out my mother’s was more complex, so it was going to take awhile.
For the foreseeable future; everything was on me. And, I absolutely hated it. No matter what I did I felt like I never had a moment to just stop and sit or to even gather my thoughts. Every moment was either spent working, taking care of an adult that was in my home, cleaning, etc. Sometimes you just need a minute to breathe and I rarely felt like I got that.
It was getting to a point for me that I was taking like 6-7 hours on Saturday to go “grocery shopping” just so I could get out of my house and not deal with everything that was happening in it. Because not only was it my home, but it was my office, Devon’s office, and a kind of makeshift care center at times when my brother’s day-program aide was here (every day, so not only was there one additional person in my house, but there was 2, one of which I barely knew).
So I took my time going to the grocery store. I’d go walk around Target, I’d walk around Home Goods or Ulta. Anything to get me out of the house longer and to give me that brief sense of normalcy.
I didn’t tell Devon, explicitly, but he figured it out pretty quickly. He’s like, around the second time you did it, I was going to text you and make sure you were okay, but at the same time, you needed that time away and to yourself to make it through all of this and I didn’t want to disturb that.
I still managed to have a few days where I just completely broke down in exhaustion and frustration.
The theme with me and my family, at the end of the day, is that no matter what I do, it never seems like enough for them. Every time I do something, I either hear “I didn’t want it done like that” or “well now I need you to….” Even in all of this, it’s all I heard from both of them.
It’s hopelessly exhausting.
And it’s been almost two months of utter exhaustion and frustration.
When the rehab facility called a week or so ago and said that my mother was being released to go home; it was probably the best day I’d had in months because I could finally see the end of all of this in front of me. I spent two months not being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel and I was finally getting that.
Devon said it was literally like an entire weight was lifted off of me and my entire demeanor changed after that phone call.
My mother was released on Friday and has been home…..but still the cycle of “nothing I do is enough” remains.
This cycle is a huge reason why we stopped speaking a few years ago. It’s so stressful and exhausting and I can’t live my life in this.
Now she calls me a million times per day because something doesn’t work or she doesn’t like something. I live almost an hour away; I can’t fix everything.
She doesn’t want to live on her own anymore, she doesn’t want to do certain things and she wants things to be done now. Nothing in life is immediate and that’s not okay to her, so she calls me everyday to tell me that she wants to move somewhere else. Like I don’t already know.
And I respect that. And I’m doing what I can along with doing everything else that my life entails.
But again, it’s not enough.
And Monday night I broke down again because I can’t keep doing this.
My poor, sweet husband is just listening to me cry and ramble for almost an hour. Eventually I just said to him, as I was calming down; “you know you can speak”.
He responds; “yeah…I’m just waiting for my wife to come back…it sounds like she’s almost back.”
Devon has been the most supportive spouse/partner/husband I could have ever asked for through all of this.
He’s never been a fan of my family because of how they treat me. So to have one of them suddenly living in his home and having more responsibility on him to take care of them as well, he was great.
Friday night, when they went home, we were up late talking and he said “I need to apologize to you.”
And I jokingly looked amazed because to know Devon is to know he doesn’t apologize often for anything.
He’s like, “wait…I’m being serious”.
And he goes on to say that having my brother here was eye-opening for him because while he’s seen me with my family, he’s never seen me live with my family and that it was basically worse than he would have ever thought it could be.
From seeing that he realized why I am the way I am when it comes to my family — I’m very reserved and standoffish and when I have to interact it’s bare minimum at best. He knows all of my family history and issues and even with that my demeanor around them, he sometimes thought, was still a little…harsh.
But now that he lived it, he actually said “these people are traumatic to you, your response to them is literally you protecting yourself against them every single moment they are in your general area, and I hate that your body goes into a fight or flight response every time one of them is near you.”
And it’s true. I’ve done that for so many years.
They take all of my energy out of me; every time I have to be around them. Even today; they’re still doing that. And I hate it.
Devon pointed out Monday night, after he finally started talking, that the previous few days was the first time in a long time that he felt like I actually acted like myself.
“I’ve missed my wife, you were here, physically, but it’s like the woman I know and love had been gone for a really long time and I didn’t know I could miss you as much as I did”.
Hell, I’ve missed her, too.
Our relationship is really the only good thing to come out of this. Since being home so much and Devon and I really only interacting with each other for so long we were…I don’t want to call it a “rut” but that’s the best way to describe it. We were fine, nothing was wrong, but Devon and I have a tendency to settle into the “friend” part of our marriage more easily sometimes than the “romantic” part, and that’s kind of where we’d been for a while.
But, I think we also have a different appreciation of each other after all of this that wasn’t as deep before. He was always a good husband, but the amount of support he’s given over the past couple of months is above and beyond, IMO.
So, that’s where I’ve been….going through the motions a lot of the time; trying to keep my head above water, and just find a way to make it to the end of whatever this all is.
And this is not a reconciliation for my mother and I. I can’t do it. I’ll do what I need to, but I can’t do more than that. There’s a lifetime of hurt there and I can’t be part of it anymore. My sanity and health mean more to me than that. And I can’t put the family Devon and I are trying to build (more on that in a different post – this one is long enough) through that; it isn’t fair to them.
I’m here…mostly. If you read all the way through you deserve a GF cookie or something…or a piece of chocolate. Chocolate is better.