Don’t worry. This story has a good outcome. Not a perfect one, but that’s OK.
Last week was awful with the Alzheimer’s mom (AM), and it came to a head last Thursday, when she had a doctor appointment first thing in the morning. I got her up at 7 am, and from the moment she got out of bed until I left her at 10, it was non-stop questions. Full of apprehension and confusion, we endlessly reviewed where we were going, why she had to go, who she was seeing, the concept that there was nothing wrong with her, and if this doctor – the neurologist – wasn’t going to pay attention to her knee, she didn’t want to go.
I felt myself tensing up as I tried to cope with the morning routine: her breakfast and clothes, the cats, my clothes, my lunch and snack, tidying up, fielding questions, walking the dog. By the time we got in the car, I’d had enough. I stopped answering.
AM leaned over and yelled at me! And it continued in the doctor’s office, with the addition of ‘I’ve waited long enough.’ I stopped answering, and just kept on knitting.
The appointment was uneventful. On the way home, she started again, but this time in the past tense. I ran into the house, settled her in, and ran out to do one or two errands on the way to work.
As I settled into my car, I started crying, just a few minutes. And then, I started planning what I would eat – large bags of chips, cookies, pretzels, whatever. And then it hit me over the head: JANE, STOP THIS. YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH THIS.
Believe me, my hands were shaking a bit. I did the errands, none of which involved food, or anyplace that had food, thank goodness. I admitted I was upset and stressed. I understood why, and then forced myself to relax and breathe. Then, it was into the new tea shop for two very large teas – lemon spice and peppermint – with sweetener, no milk, and then to work.
I called one of my colleagues to tell him I was running a little late, and in response to his ‘how are you, is everything OK?’ I told him the truth: If one more thing happened, I was going to cry. And after we hung up, I started. Then sipped the tea. It tasted so RIGHT.
I wish I could tell you that the rest of the day went well, but it didn’t. Not that it was terrible, but I ate two cookies. Just two. Not a box or a large bag. Not a single chip.
When I was finally calm, the progression became obvious: inescapable stress, holding it in, needing to soothe myself, and being totally conscious of what was going on, even though it was painful. But when I realized that I’d managed to stay aware and to take care of myself in a very real way, I felt a bit of pride.
In the past, this whole process happened without my knowing anything about it. I felt numb, both physically and emotionally, and was complete unaware that I was eating. Not perfect yet, but getting there!