(From the Community Caregiving Journal 3-word prompt Guest, Freeze, Protest.)
I have learned not to protest. I just listen to my partner rant.
She now ties her mitral valve prolapse in with her MS as a way of explaining why she has always felt tense and why yoga and meditation have not worked for her. It boils down to…
Her explanation: Her mitral valve prolapse means her heart doesn’t pump blood to the brain well enough without the extra oompf from adrenalin — so she therefore needs to be tense and jittery. But not too jittery, because then she won’t be able to sleep.
She now thinks the doctors in 1982 did something to her heart so that it can try to get more blood to her brain because of her MS. I think. Her theories come so fast and furious that I’m not sure.
I just tell her, “I’m not a doctor.”
But I make her laugh by doing my imitation of Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years.” I pitch my voice to old-man gravelly and intone, “Adren‘lin!”
In “The Deadly Years,” members of the Enterprise crew undergo rapid aging, except for Ensign Chekov. This conversation between Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy takes place about 40 minutes in.
KIRK: What about Chekov?
McCOY: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
KIRK: Bones, there has to be. There has to be. We beamed down together. We were on the surface together in the same spot. We were together all the time.
SPOCK: No, not all the time, Captain. He left us for a few moments.
KIRK: He left us? He left us. He went into the building. Spock, something happened.
SPOCK: Yes. Yes indeed, Captain. Doctor, you remember —
KIRK: He was scared. He saw the dead body. He ran out of the building and he was scared to death!
McCOY: Yes. Yes, now that — that could be. Right, scared. Heart beats faster. Breath gets short and has cold sweats. Adrenalin throes. Adrenal activity! Now hold on, hold on just a minute now. There’s something I read once. It was ancient history, just after the atomic age. Used for radiation sickness. Adren‘lin!
“Adrenalin” is now my partner’s buzzword of choice. Make her laugh? That releases adrenalin. Exercise? That releases adrenalin. She theorizes that all this release of adrenalin is good for her heart and thus good for her brain.
She now tries to figure out how to keep her adrenalin going without driving me nuts — which is very considerate of her.
We are also dealing with The Great Comet Debacle.
My partner wants Comet cleanser that says “Disinfectant” on the packaging. The ones we’ve seen in various stores say “Deodorizes” on the packaging.
She doesn’t want that.
She went online and ordered what she thought was “Disinfectant” Comet. Not one canister, but seven.
The ones that came said “Deodorizes” instead. My partner insists the canister picture she saw on the screen had said, “Disinfectant.” And in fact, that’s what I see when I do an image search.
She called the vendor — which sent us replacements.
The replacements said, “Deodorizes.”
My partner is convinced the vendor is out to cheat us. Especially since the bar code for the new “Deodorizes” canisters is different from that for the old “Disinfectant” canister we have.
I suspect the bar code change is due to the newer packaging. I plan to call the manufacturer and ask whether the formulation has changed. (Prestige Brands — my partner swears she had seen “Prestique” — pronounced press-TEEK — instead. She has her suspicions about that, too.)
Meanwhile, she has strewn the canisters around and some have been dinged, so we can’t return them. (She says maybe they were sent to us already dinged — another underhanded move by the vendor.) If she doesn’t want them, they’ll go to the thrift store that benefits a training center for developmentally disabled people — which I see as a way to make lemonade out of lemons. My partner is still burned up about not getting the Comet she wants.
Her paranoia seems to be ramped up a few notches lately. (Adren‘lin!)
These days I am not so concerned about being a guest in her world. I’m okay with standing outside and peeking in the window. Part of me still tries to puzzle her out. But for the most part I just freeze whatever I’m doing and let her talk. And when she asks me for my feedback I try to find the best possible dodge.
One of the members of the MS support group posted a link to this article, which posits a potential cause of MS. I forwarded the link to my partner.
She told me that she doesn’t want to see articles like that, because it’s “just another hand-wave.”
I have learned not to protest. I don’t want to add fuel to her fire. Even if I have my own point of view, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. For one thing, I’m pretty sure I won’t be heard, and I imagine our conversation going something like this:
That’s on a good day. On other days she protests against what I say, and/or when I say it. So I do a quick correction and fall silent again.
I also imagine that engaging in certain conversations when she rants is like trying to deal with a toddler throwing a tantrum.
The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn’t easy for parents or caregivers to do.
So says this article on temper tantrums.
“When I’m advising people about anger, I say, ‘There’s an anger trap,”‘ [study co-author Michael] Potegal said.
Even asking questions can prolong the anger — and the tantrum.
That’s what parents Noemi and David Doudna of Sunnyvale, Calif., found. Their daughter Katrina once had a meltdown at dinnertime because she wanted to sit at one corner of the dining table. Problem was, the table didn’t have any corners – it was round. When David Doudna asked Katrina where she wanted to sit, the tantrum only intensified.
When my partner engages in her rants and theories, I imagine her searching for a corner seat at a round table. There’s nothing, really, that I can do. And the less that I do, the less that I say, the better.
Like her theory about the man who rang our doorbell earlier in the week, who wanted to know if the house was for sale. (The house across the street from us is a rental.) My partner theorized that he had smelled the toluene from the clear nail polish she had dabbed in our bathroom sink to seal the rust spots I had painted over. She further theorized that he thought the chemical smell came from some illicit activity and he wants to find a way to possess our house.
She insisted that we have this talk as far away from windows or doors as possible, so that no one would overhear us. She also thought the guy was casing the joint and insisted that we let no one who comes to our door be able to see inside the house.
I suspect the guy asked if the house was for sale because my partner has all the windows covered up — not to mention that we have to move the blanket she’s set up against the front door before we can open it. The place looks hermetically sealed.
As my partner deals with her adren‘lin I freeze myself for a little while, so that I can let my own adrenalin drain away. I take slow, deep breaths. I close my eyes. I let myself float above her rant. I become neutral and neutered — a guest in some in-between world that is neither hers nor mine, but an escape from both.
I try to let our conversation go something like this:
I believe it helps us during the conversations we engage in the rest of the time.
Meanwhile, my partner has gotten a new prescription for Synthroid — the 50-microgram pill, which doesn’t have the Aluminum Lake coating she doesn’t want. However, she has decided she doesn’t want to take Synthroid anyway. That’s as of… (checks watch).
On Thursday I took my camera, my thermos of coffee, my e-reader, and a comfy folding chair, and I spent an hour of bliss on our front porch, reading Darwin. I took a few moments to photograph our Loropetalum, which are in bloom.
The day’s high was in the low 70s, far from the freeze up north. For a while I could feel like Darwin’s guest in Patagonia. Eventually the sun dropped low and the porch grew chilly — I felt my body protest that it was time to go back inside. Ten years in Florida have certainly thinned my blood.
I don’t mind the trade-off when it gives me Loropetalum blossoms in January.