Taking good care of myself


Well, my spouse has done it again. We were supposed to leave for our vacation today around noon, and now they tell me that they’re not going to ready in time. They may — may — get up by 11:00.

That’s pretty disappointing. But then again, we are taking two cars, so I’m not going to be dragged down by their sluggishness. I have to come back home on Sunday night in order to be at the office from Monday through Wednesday. Wednesday night, I’ll head back out to the condo we’re renting, a few hours from home, and I’ll work remotely in the morning on Thursday and Friday, then take afternoons off.

I’m not sure why this “change in plans” surprises me so much. Maybe because my spouse is picking up another friend to join us for a few days, and that friend’s family is going out of their way to drop them off half-way. It seems incredibly unfair to everyone (except my spouse), that everyone’s schedules need to be re-jiggered to accommodate them. People have better things to do, than wait around to find out when they should leave the house.

If anything, it seems a bit sociopathic on my spouse’s part – like nothing matters except them and their own wishes and needs. Then again, they do have neurological issues, as well as some cognitive impairment and possible dementia, so they may not even realize that they’re being selfish. The whole neurological decline thing is a real drain, and if you forget what’s going on with them, it can be maddening. When they’re challenged, they get really angry right off the bat, possibly because they get scared at being caught unawares and not being able to think right away. They lash out and yell and threaten and cry and so forth. On the one hand, some people think they’re being manipulative, but I think it’s also a sign of cognitive decline. They really do get scared — and then they use their anger and blustering to stop me from saying or doing anything else… and that way they buy some time to catch up.

The thing is, once they get past their hemming and hawing and blow-harding, they re-orient themself to what’s happening, and then they calm down and can carry on a usual conversation.

The main thing for me is to not take things personally and get really upset when they start acting out. That happens all too often, and I forget that they’ve got cognitive issues. I take it personally and get so upset and bent out of shape — everything balloons in my mind, till the argument is not about what’s happening right in front of me, it’s about everything and anything that’s possibly related to my frustration at that point in time. My own brain goes haywire, too, so we feed off each other — and not in a good way.

Fortunately, I am getting better about checking in with myself and telling if I’m starting to get too wound up. Then I can back off — just walk away and cool off, and give us both a chance to simmer down. It’s just both our brains going haywire, and we both get scared. And we lash out. It gets to be a little much, to tell the truth, and some days I just despair about that downward cycle. But if I can step away and have some time to myself and get enough rest, that helps.

Taking care of myself really needs to be my top priority, in dealing with my spouse. When I get tired, my brain doesn’t work well, and of the two of us, I’ve always been the more functional — by a lot. I’ve been their caregiver, pretty much, for nearly the whole time we’ve been together. Their health has often been bad — especially their mental health, and after a serious neurological illness they had back in 2007. They’ve got a ton of history behind why they’re so mentally ill, and there’s plenty of reasons why they have the issues they do. Panic. Anxiety. Depression. Paranoia. Verbal aggression. A real roller coaster of emotions — with very little calm in the meantime.

Does it get old? Oh, you betcha. But they’re the love of my life, so you take the bad with the good.

And you take care of yourself.

So, this “vacation”, I need to be really clear about what I will and will not do. I need to not bend over backwards for them, just because they’re on vacation and think they should be treated like royalty. They’re not the only person who deserves a break, and I need to get some rest, too. In some ways, coming home from Monday to Wednesday is going to be a real relief for me. I’ll have the house to myself, I’ll be able to eat whatever I like — actually much healthier than how my spouse will eat. And I’ll be able to get to bed at decent times without that late-night drama they love to stir up.

So, it’s all going to work out for the best, I believe.

I just have to remember that my spouse is actually impaired in some significant ways, and I need to adjust and adapt and plan ahead.

And not get my hopes up for things that have never happened before, and will probably never happen, period. Like getting on the road at the pre-agreed time. Or having a low-key and very no-nonsense sort of trip.

The main thing is that I find a way to really enjoy myself, take care of myself, and actually get some rest. The condo where we’re staying has three floors, and I’ll be downstairs in a quiet, dark bedroom with couch and desk and its own bathroom, while my spouse will be up on the top floor. It works out well, and it leaves room for both of us to move at our own paces and have some freedom from each other. We’re both getting older and a lot more set in our ways — and a lot less willing to compromise.

More rigid? Yes. But also more discerning, and not so willing to give ground on things that really matter to us personally.

I think a lot of couples find this as they get older. They either split up, or they stick together and find a way to peacefully co-exist, whilst pursuing different interests that are all their own. I know I’m at that point in my life, and it’s not worth hassling over. It really isn’t.

So, I just need to take care of myself and have the vacation I want. Whatever my spouse does, is on them. No skin off my teeth. Not if I don’t let it.

Back from my 2-day reboot

Ahhhh… that’s more like it.

I just got up from a 2-hour Sunday afternoon nap, feeling like I’ve gotten the reset I’ve been needing.

My parents came to visit over the weekend, and we three really good days together. I took Friday off, and we hung out, roamed around my area, spent some time on Saturday with friends they’ve never met, who are more like extended family to my spouse and me, and made and ate good food.

I tend to really dread their visits, because there tends to be a lot of tension with my spouse, who doesn’t see eye to eye with them, politically or socially. This time there was some tension, but I spent a lot of time alone with my folks, while my spouse slept or did other things, so we didn’t have too much overlap.

And the times when there was tension, we managed to diffuse it pretty well.

Overall, I handled things pretty well. Both my spouse and my parents are very high maintenance, so I have to actively manage their activities. I have to manage my spouse, keep them relatively calm and not panicked, jump in and help them with different physical activities, and make sure they feel like they’re involved. And I have to manage my parents, because they have a tendency to pick up tools and start to cut and trim and “fix” things that don’t actually need fixing, which leaves more work for me to do later.

In the past, we’ve had a non-functioning bathroom faucet for several months, because my father decided to fix the drip without having a seat wrench.

Took me a few months to get the seat wrench — I kept forgetting to look for one — and then took me a little while to figure out how to properly use it and fix what my father broke. I felt pretty stupid wrangling with that simple tool, but there it is. What can I say? I’d never used a seat wrench before, let alone looked for one at the local hardware store.

My mother has a green thumb, and she loves to prune and dig and rearrange plantings, which is great, so long as she’s supervised. Once, she “went rogue” with a clipper and pretty much denuded one of my spouse’s favorite plants — one they’d been given for their birthday.

So much for the prized birthday present. That was a sore spot for months, because the plant in question was a centerpiece in our home and became a constant reminder of the havoc my mother can wreak, if left unattended with a clipping implement.

This time, I was “riding herd” on all three of them — parents and spouse — because my parents are starting to slip a little, mentally and physically, and my spouse has been increasingly unreasonable, hyper-sensitive and aggressive… and I didn’t feel like dealing with yet another Clash of the Titans, like we’ve had in prior years. In years gone by, they’ve practically come to blows.

And that blows.

But this time, we kept peace pretty well, and we left things on an up note, when all was said and done. My dad got to fix something that needed fixing. My mom got to plant some perennials we’ve been meaning to plant, and my spouse got to sleep almost as much as they wanted to, as well as spend some valuable time with our friends on Saturday.

Coming off the weekend, I’m feeling pretty good about the whole experience. My parents are utterly exhausting — they are go-go-go, non-stop, all the time. They’re like sharks. They never stop moving, and they can never sit still for longer than an hour. An hour is long for them. In the past, I’ve completely melted down with them, because of the constant activity, the constant movement, the frantic pace they keep up. It’s generally too much for me, and it sets off all my issues — irritability, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, sensitivity to touch, distractability, fatigue, anxiety… you name it, they set it off.

But this time I did well with them. I kept up. And when I felt like I was starting to wear thin, I stepped away for a little bit. I went to bed early. I took breaks from them all, now and then, and I was pretty good about watching what I was eating. I ate more than I should have, that’s for sure, but it was all healthy food, so that’s something.

Yes, that’s something.

At the end of it all, I’m feeling like I did a good job of handling myself and the challenges of the past three days. I had a lot of trepidation and anxiety about how I would handle things, because in the past things have been very tense, there have been a lot of fights and tension, and for days afterwards, my spouse would go on and on about the things that my parents did and said “to” them.

But we’re all slowing down, and none of us has the old intense edge we used to. My parents have pretty much “gotten” that they don’t have the answers to everything, and now their priority is on enjoying the time they have with the people they love. Their friends and peers are getting sick and dying. Members of our family are going through very hard times. And it’s like they finally got their heads screwed on straight with their priorities in life.

That’s a relief.

And my spouse has lost a lot of their hell-bent momentum, since they got really sick about seven years ago. They’ve also been declining, cognitively, so they’re less able to kick ass and take names like before.

Basically, everyone’s decline is working in my favor. I hate to say it, but it is.

And now, as I look back on the non-stop action of the past 2-1/2 days, I feel a great sense of relief and relaxation that my parents have returned home, and I can get back to my regular life.

Of course, “regular life” means going back to work to deal with all the bullsh*t at the office, the politics, the jockeying, and all the stupid-ass competition between co-workers (who should really be collaborating, except that they don’t seem mentally capable of doing that). Well, that’s tomorrow.

Right here, right now, I’m getting my act together, figuring things out, and pretty much settling into what’s left of my weekend. It’s been a good couple of days, it’s reset my priorities again, reminded me where I come from and where I want to be heading in my life, and it’s good.

It’s all good.





Another early morning, and life goes on

I woke up early again today – got about 6 hours of sleep, total, which is not great, but at least I slept at all. Funny – when I was back from my weekend road trip, I slept 8 hours straight, which was pretty amazing, but since I’ve been back… well, not so much.

That’s to be expected, I guess. I was very, very active, last weekend, and I didn’t get a ton of sleep. But now I’m less active, just dealing with the day-to-day, as well as additional irritations at work. So, that’s getting to me a little bit — waking me up and keeping me up, no matter how I try to get back to sleep.

That whole adrenaline business is a trip. My head gets going, and before you know it, my body is awake, and there’s no turning back. The melatonin that was working for me, the first few days, is not working anymore.

Oh, well. Whatever. I’ll just use the time to catch up with some things that are hanging over my head. I have a lot of things I have to do, which are nagging at me. I’m sure that’s not helping me at all. It’s just this constant stream of to-do items that never seems to give me a break. Plus, my spouse is going out of town on a business trip this weekend, so I need to help them get their act together. They’re seriously spinning… have been a basket case for weeks, now. It’s pretty much of a drain, especially because all that spinning is coming from inside their head, with them creating drama and conflict where none existed before, avoiding uncomfortable truths about difficult situations they are creating with others, spending so much time justifying things that could easily be faced and fixed… holy crap – the things we do to ourselves and others…

But this weekend, I will have some peace, and I’ll be able to move at my own pace, get some work done, and not be intermittently distracted by their need for constant stimulation. How the hell did I end up with such a needy person? I swear. … Oh, actually, I know how that happened — once upon a time, I needed to feel needed, so marrying a profoundly needy person was just the ticket to make me feel good about myself. Now, I’m older, more experienced (I won’t say “wiser”), and I’ve dealt with a lot of the things in my life that ran me ragged, so I don’t have that same need to be needed.

Funny how that happens.

My spouse, however, has not changed much. If anything, they’ve gotten more needy over the years. They haven’t been helped at all by two decades of mental health issues, as well as increasing physical issues, thanks to all those years of poor habits (no exercise, poor food choices, etc)  I’ve stayed positive and supportive over the years, and I continue to be — encouraging them to make healthy choices and handle things more pro-actively — just being as supportive as I can. Yet, for some reason, they don’t seem very interested in being positive and pro-active. Unless they’re around other people. With me, it’s all about being a drain and a drag, from what I can tell.

I’ve been sorely tempted to leave them, many times over the past several years. Their bad behavior, their abuse and neglect of self and others, their freeloading (if you want to call it what it is)… it all gets to be a little much, after a while. At the same time, though, that’s not all there is to them. Like anyone, they are a mixed bag. And I’ve reached the conclusion, many times over, that the pluses of staying with them far outweigh the minuses. So, I stay. Plus, I don’t want it on my conscience that I ditched them when they were declining — which they are. I’m looking at a lot of long years ahead, if they hang in there… slowly spiraling downwards, mental and physical capabilities decreasing, thanks to continued poor choices.

I wish I could see another path ahead — maybe there is one — but short of us becoming independently wealthy to pay for the level of care they need to get their physical and mental house in order, I don’t have much hope.

Funny, how much your health can depend on whether or not you can pay for it. To do more than survive (and keep your teeth), you’ve got to be pretty much made of money. Or know how to work the complicated, convoluted system.  I’m in neither camp.

I’ve become a bit philosophical about my situation — kind of watching it from a detached distance. They make all sorts of really bad decisions about the people they do business with, and how they interact with people. They’re a bit of a sociopath, actually, with a hefty dose of narcissism tossed in there for good measure. All they seem to know, sometimes, is their own pain — and how to assuage it. If that means they take advantage of others and use them and take-take-take, then so be it. At lest

I also never know, when my spouse drives somewhere, if they will come back alive, or if I’ll get a knock on the door with a couple of cops telling me my spouse was involved in an auto accident, and can I please come down to the morgue and identify the body. They’re not a great driver, and they have trouble seeing at night, and something about the way they drive infuriates other drivers, who have actually chased them down the road, threatening them — for reasons my spouse cannot fathom. They also love to talk on the cell phone when they’re driving, which is a pretty terrible habit for them to have, considering that they have trouble driving even without a cell phone glued to their ear.

I often feel sick to my stomach, when they go away, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I have to let that one go. It’s beyond my control. There’s no point in me making myself sick over them. I have to take care of myself. I have to keep my own act together, or we both go down.

It’s just part of getting older, I guess. Couples often experience one partner losing their capabilities before the other — this past weekend, when I was visiting a relative in a rest home, I saw a number of couples where one was visiting or taking care of the other. It happens. Mild cognitive impairment sets in. Issues come up. Accidents happen. But people hang in there. I saw spouses sitting with spouses who’d had strokes, as well as couples sitting together on park benches – one obviously doing better than the other. It happens.

And we deal with it as best we can. In the case where there’s an injury that heals over time, that’s one scenario. But in the case where there’s no substantial recovery imminent, and what lies ahead is basically a long, slow slide downhill…. that’s another. And that’s the scenario I’m looking at, right now. My spouse is declining. That much is clear to me. So I’d better brace myself for the coming storms.

It’s funny — I’ve been denying this decline for some time, now. I haven’t wanted to think the best, I’ve wanted to be supportive and hopeful and positive. But a few weeks ago, I just quit staving off the sneaking suspicion that I’m married to someone who’s just not going to get all that much better — and is probably going to get a lot worse, in the coming years. Who knows if it will be 5 or 10 or 20 or even 30 years? It could go on that long. Granted, I’d be living with the love of my life, so that’s a plus. Yet, after a certain point, do they stop being the love of my life and become someone different?

I don’t know the answer to that. I guess I’ll find out.

If they don’t kill me first, with the stress…

Assuming that I don’t go to an early grave from dealing with a crazy person, I’m starting to look at my different options. I have always been deeply opposed to rest homes — they depress the crap out of me, and I can’t stand the thought of just “dumping” someone there. At the same time, though, after seeing my relative in the home where they’re at, and realizing that they actually are receiving good care and are more engaged on a daily basis, than when they were living at home full-time, I’m of another mind. It might turn out to be a good idea to make arrangements for them to go to a home, if they get to be too much for me to handle, personally. It all depends on the home.

Then again, if we could simply develop better community connections and be more social and have more access to people — instead of living off in the woods in this house, miles from our nearest friends — that could be a better alternative. Of course, none of the changes would happen without money, and since we have almost none of that anyway, it’s premature to be talking about any of this.

Still and all, it’s a relief to be thinking it through up front. At least I’m not denying it anymore. If this change is going to happen — and it has already started — then I need to keep fit and stay strong and take action on my own behalf. There’s no sense in me losing my own quality of life, because of issues someone else refuses to face and deal with. When all is said and done, I’ve got to look out for myself and make sure I’m as fit and as healthy and as strong as I can be.

Speaking of which, I’m going to join a gym. There’s a special they’re advertising that ends at midnight tonight.



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