Sink or Swim

I’ve been away from the site for awhile. My mom has had some ups and downs over the past couple of months, including a recent hospital stay, which just about did us both in.

I’m having a hard time bouncing back from that. And her resistance to my help has worn me down in new ways. Oppression, depression, suppression and definitely no room for expression. It wears on you. It makes it hard to think. Hard to remember things. Hard to work. Hard to care.

Yesterday, I had this word picture in my head…

It’s getting dark. We’re in the ocean, I’m treading water and trying to get her to shore, but she’s not budging.

I can’t figure out if she’s just refusing to swim or if she’s forgotten how. Either way, the effort is dragging us both down. I’m exhausted, and I need her to help me help her. But she doesn’t.

Now and then we come to a place where we can touch bottom, or some rocks where we can rest. But then we’re back in the deep again and I have to keep paddling. For both of us.


6 thoughts on “Sink or Swim

  1. Trish

    Jan, It’s so good to hear from you but I’m so sorry about all this. Hospital stays are exhausting (for all involved) and it can take quite a while to bounce back from that. Add to that your mom not accepting your help and I can see why you have that word picture in your head. It sounds like you are at the end of your rope right now. Exhaustion makes that feeling much, much worse.

    Is your brother available to help or give you a break for a short while? I’d be happy to help you in any way. Maybe I can make some calls for you to find someone to help out for an hour or two?

    It’s awful to feel alone in the ocean with only the occasional ability to touch bottom. You are not alone because you have many, many people here giving you a lifeboat. Sending many hugs, Jan. Take care.

  2. Avatar of KathyKathy

    I’ve been there Jan,

    And it is exhausting.
    Just keep swimming, and breathing, it’s all we can do.
    Hopefully you can find someone or some place that can give you more than a moment to touch bottom and catch your breath.

  3. Avatar of ejourneysejourneys

    It’s good to see you here, Jan.
    I’ve been there, too. One of my partner’s former therapists had compared us to a pair of donkeys harnessed to an overloaded cart. The donkey that was me was trying to pull the cart forward. The donkey that was my partner just dug its hooves in the dirt.

    I’m glad that you can express yourself here — I think just being able to do that has saved me.

    I hope you can reach more resting places where you can catch your breath and where your exhaustion can ease. As Kathy said, sometimes all we can do is just keep breathing and paddling. *Hugs*

  4. Avatar of DeniseDenise

    Hi Jan–Both your words and your picture really show how this feels. How do you swim forward when another hangs on to your neck and pulls you back?

    Keep taking those strokes, Jan, one at a time. Rest as often as you need. You are so talented and have so many gifts that the world needs. Look up. :)

  5. Avatar of BobBob

    Hi Jan: I can relate to a lot to what you said. I’m about to share the darker side of my care-giving-caree relationship. First of all my wife blames me for “putting her in a nursing home” she told me last night, even though both a 24/7 live-in and I could no longer take care of her at home. She was never happy with the live-in, though the live-in tried her best. I offered to change live-ins and my wife said she didn’t want to change. She was jealous of the live-in but there was no basis in reality for it. My wife’s skin began to break down as she said she was only comfortable in an electric recliner and not in a hospital bed, hence the skin breakdown.. She did very little of the PT she was supposed to. She wanted me around her all the time. I felt like I was being strangled as I could not get anything done.

    All the above came after three months in the hospital having had two back surgeries. She had 4 back surgeries over the course of two years. The third surgery resulted in her getting an infection of the cerebral spinal fluid. In the fourth surgery the surgeon cleared the necrotic tissue from her back. He discovered the Cerebral spinal leakage and Staph infection. She was started on what would become 84 IV Vancomycin treatments over the course of 11/2 months. Following a one month sub-acute rehab stay where she seemed to be improving with her walking for periods of time with assistance, she was discharged home where the live-in and I took care of her from February 3rd until May 28th. I was working full-time at the time also as a therapist in a very busy and stressful outpatient behavioral health center. My wife demanded my attention constantly. We were living at her mom’s house which was in foreclosure. I was paying to maintain our house and my mother-laws who has been decesed since Mrch 30th, 2010. My wife did not want to move out of her mother’s house right across the street where we lived. When I told my wife on May 28th this year that I could no longer care for her at home because her needs were beyond what could be done at home and I was ready to collapse from extreme stress and burn-out, she took an over-dose of pills. She said she did it to spare me of seeing her suffer. Last night she told me she took them because I was putting her in a nursing home because she was angry, even though it was a heart-breaking decison for me.

    When she took the overdose, I subsequently had a “break-down”. I have Bipolar II disorder and I wound up with a very serious agitated depression. I went out on disability. I wound up using up all my FMLA time, PTO time, ESL time. My boss had no other alternative but to post my job as I had no more protected time left. I’m still on State Temporary Disability and applying for long-term disablity as I’m not ready to return to work.

    In the mean-time I had to work on getting things out of her mother’s house before the bank locked the doors. I had an estate sale. Even though her cousin and I removed most of the things she wanted to keep, she was still very angry for losing the house she had lived and known for 49 years. I listened empathically but that didn’t seem to matter.

    I cannot afford to live in our home and so our home will also go into foreclosure. She is angry about that also. I understand that too. Twenty-five years of blood, sweat and tears. It’s a tremendous loss for me too.

    In addition she badgers me to get a job with my former employer where there are no jobs that are suitable for me. She is trying get me to live back in our house and I just cannot possibly do that. Right now I’m staying with family as they are concerned about me. They are angry about what my wife is putting me through. One minute she is nice and the next she is stabbing me in the heart, like a Jekyll and Hyde. I feel abused mentally and emotionally and it is also taking a physical toll on me. She definitely knows what buttons to push with me. After her recently having been kinder, last night she put the dagger in and twisted it around. My sleep was very bad last night and I can’t afford not to get enough rest. I’ve done so much for her throughout our marriage, but it never seemed to be enough. As I look back and my family has been saying to me, she has been controlling me, manipulating me, and alienating me from them for years. They could see what I could not. Her cousin sees what she does and is supportive to me. It is just her cousin and me to care for her needs. However, her cousin is leaving for Florida soon for the winter and it will just be me.

    Next Wednesday is our 25th anniversay. She wants to renew our vows. I will not be able to do it. Her cousin interceded for me tonight in calling her and telling her that I am sick over what happened last night and will not be in touch with her for at.least the next couple of days ( with her cousin with me). Earleir today she told her cousin that our conversation was wonderful last night. I’m much too vulnerable and my emotions are very raw. So this is another aspect of the pain that I’m attempting to withstand along with all the endless responsibilites I face each day. Thank you for listening. Bob

  6. Marion Deutsche Cohen

    Hi, Bob. I’ve been through tough, ridiculous times too (and I’ve written about it, in two memoirs: Dirty Details: The Days and Nights of a Well Spouse and Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife). If you don’t mind, I have advice. Don’t visit. Or visit as seldom as you possibly can. You’re being abused so you don’t have to visit. I went through that. It wasn’t at all my ill spouse’s fault; the (subtle) dementia was caused by his being in the very-late stages of multiple sclerosis. And it possibly isn’t your wife’s fault, either. But, whether or not it’s anybody’s fault you still have to protect yourself. I say don’t visit, don’t have contact. She doesn’t care, anyway. She has her home, she’s being taken care of. You’re right not to renew your vows. Marriage is a two-way thing, and your is obviously over. I never actually divorced my husband, for two reasons (I didn’t want to hurt him any more than he’d already been hurt, and I was afraid he’d retaliate by causing further financial harm — since the dementia was subtle, he passed every “psych-eval” and was thus permitted complete control of his (meaning our) finances). So I didn’t actually divorce him, but I did end the marriage. I told him “the marriage is over”. Once he accused me of stealing his money (a common dementia symptom), I told him I would stop visiting, and I did. (I continued to be responsible for him, be the next of kin and so on, and I visited him during his last hospital stay, then was the last family member to see him before he died.) The marriage WAS over. As is yours. Again if you don’t mind, my advice is, move on. It will take awhile, as it took me, but as a result the last few decades of my life are going to be happy. (I’ve met a new love, and we’ve been married for almost ten years.) Move on. It seems that doctors, social workers, and other health care personell very seldom give us advice, or input. I believe they should. At least once they see how drained the well spouse is.
    Youve had enough. You’ve certainly done your share. ‘Way more than your share. Move on. Happiness can still be yours again. I wish it for you. — Marion


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