Monday, March 04, 2013

Shifting Gears

Once again, I am shifting gears, with my life, and with my blog.

I have been blogging for almost 10 years (I checked, my first post was September 19, 2003), so it has been rather disconcerting to find myself out of the habit of blogging. But here's what I figured happened.

My blog was first a business blog, then a personal/business blog, then a personal/travel blog, then a mostly travel blog, then a personal blog, then a personal/caregiving blog, the latter when I moved to Sidney almost 3 years ago to live with my sweet mom, and ultimately become her caregiver. Largely comfortable with sharing openly in my blog, not really worrying about what what others thought, I found myself on somewhat sensitive ground when blogging out my caregiving experiences because, naturally, they involved sharing stuff about my mom. While I tried to always be respectful, and I do think the caregiving lessons learned were worth sharing with others, it wasn't so comfortable for other members of my family. I didn't even know some of them read it, so that was a nice learning, but I came to look at what I was sharing through their eyes, and could see how they might be sensitive about it. So I eased off, and fell out of the habit. Largely, I think, because I don't segment myself into these different lives.... if I am not blogging about what I am doing in one part of my life, an increasingly larger part of my life, caregiving mom, then there's little context for the rest. Or something like that....

So... an update on a few things, then back to blogging, as I shift gears here. And I am shifting gears.

Mom is doing well, all things considered. She moved into residential care in October, 5 months ago today, actually. There were certainly ups and downs in adjusting, but she seems to be settling in well now, and is happy. The spot where she is has a great music program, with live music several times a week, which really brings out her spark and personality. She also celebrated her 91st birthday last month, and we had a grand little party. Her dementia has worsened quite a bit in the last year, but she knows who I am and is very much on the ball in many ways. She can still walk, but largely gets around in a wheelchair - amazing how she has learned to propel herself around. She lights up when she sees me, or any of her kids or grandchildren, loves the staff (and they love her), and there is always a party around the corner where she is living. She's healthy otherwise, so I anticipate many visits for quite some time to come.

I can say, without a doubt, that putting my mom in residential care was the hardest thing I have ever done. All the while knowing it was the right thing, still it was emotional beyond belief. It's so sudden when the call comes. I have never cried so hard in my life, huge heaving sobs, rocking my soul. It broke my heart. Oh, how I cried. All while being strong for mom, and being there for her, helping her adjust. It was all for the good, and it was time, but how it broke me. I was running on empty and then I was sucked dry. I cried myself dry. Yet there were always more tears...

Caregiving takes a lot out of you, but there is joy in moments together, and satisfaction in helping someone stay in their home as long as possible. Between my sister and I there have been many years devoted to this mission (she did it before I did, then still played a major role), so when either of us is torn about wishing we could have kept mom at home longer, we remind ourselves about how much extra time mom was able to be in her home, and know that we did the best we could, and it made a difference.

I have no regrets about caregiving, but it drained me more than I could have believed. Towards the end (meaning the months while we were on a waiting list for mom to get into residential care), I was simply overwhelmed much of the time. I still managed to work half-time, but fortunately it's a gig that I do remotely, any time of the day or night, so I found enough time for that, and it was important mental stimulation for me. I had fun with mom, of course, and there were caregivers here most of the day (some truly amazing people), and yet it was still exhausting. The hardest thing was sleep, or lack thereof. It left me little energy to face the day, and manage things, without going a little nuts.

I found some journal entries I did on my Blackberry when I made my one only weekend away in a year, with live-in caregivers for mom. It took much arranging, but I made it to an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and stayed 2 nights in Vancouver. It was one of those things where it would have taken a week of rest to feel refreshed enough to enjoy the break. But I am still glad I did it. The notes I found were interesting. It seems I fell asleep a couple of times during a film in the art gallery, on buses...

In those entries, I also found a stretch of about a week where I noted every time I was woken up in the night (caregiving mom), how long it took me to get back to sleep, only to be awoken again, and again. Reading those now, it's no wonder I was in a fog, it was rare to ever get a decent stretch of sleep, and REM sleep would have been rare.

I share that because it's context for my own adjustment when mom went into residential care. I'm not sure I would have admitted it at the time, but I think I spent two months in bed. Yes, I was going in to visit mom often, but when I got home, I'd lie down to rest, and would sleep so deeply, that I wouldn't want to get up. It was easier to lie on my back in bed and work on my iPad than to be up and around the house, and the world. It's hard to describe, but it was a combination of deep fatigue, sleep deprivation, depression and just a tired soul, that needed rest, rest, rest. I'm still tired from the whole thing, and living a lot more normally (I get up now, lol).

It's looking back that I see changes in myself, many of them temporary, I'm sure.... but I stopped doodling somewhere along the way, stopped trying to sell my art, stopped reading, stopped writing, stopping taking pictures, stopped walking, stopped blogging, stopped reaching out to friends, stopped even dreaming (my passport ran out!), I just existed.

That sounds a little, 'woe is me', but I don't mean it to be. I chose to be here, and I have no regrets, but it was tough. There are many things I am sure I could have done that would have brought me better health, and helped me better, but anyone who has experienced depression will understand when I say it's not that easy.

I am willing to share the worst of how I was, how I felt, and how I coped (or didn't), because it might help someone. I'm not proud to say I spent 2 months in bed recovering, yet I also don't judge it. One thing I do have going for me is pretty good intuition, so I was able to trust that it wouldn't go on forever, and just let go. Let go and let the magic of healing begin.

These days I am doing waaaaay better. Still not doodling or reading (much), but I am creating space for them.

Work is good. I love my part-time gig with IHateTaxis, and am learning alot. I adore having work that takes me (virtually) around the world, love doing research, am enjoying learning about SEO, enjoy the social media, lots of diversity. I wish it were more, but it's a small operation, and that's the extent of the hours at the moment.

So I am looking for another gig. Maybe a part-time job, or maybe contract work. Lots of feelers out there, but still seeking that next opportunity or two. And, yes, I need the dough, so I'm being flexible. I have a fair hit from no to low-income the past few years to make up for.

I am also working on getting an online presence going again. Some some websites and such. Self-generated ventures of the type I used to dream up and make happen. It's neat to be doing that at a different point in my life, and with new technologies. Lot's a ideas in the hopper.

And getting back to aspects of my life that feed my soul, and new as well.

All 4 now, more soon.....
Image source: stock.xchange

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