Mulling things over and over, ruminating about everything. Holding on to things I should not be locked onto, not obsessed with. This is how I cause damage to myself and my health; not just my mental health, but the health of all of me.
When I hyper-focus on something that I am already stressing about the amount of stress I often don’t even know is eating away at me, can cause me to collapse in on myself. Let me show you what I mean and my way of trying to deal with it.
My mom had back surgery last week. She’s in a lot of pain. She rates it an eight out of ten with ten being where you want to bang your head on the table until you’re unconscious. That’s a lot of pain to have when you’re taking your pain medication religiously.
My aunt, her sister, has been taking care of her since the surgery. She’s going home in a few days. Mom isn’t getting well. She’ll be okay soon, but right now, she’s hurting. I really don’t want her to be alone this soon. She’ll tell us she’s fine and maybe she will be. Right now, looking at how she’s doing, I’d rather someone hang out with her a little longer. I’m going to offer to stay with her for a few days until I’m sure she can survive alone. She’s going to keep arguing.
She’ll argue and tell us she’ll be fine. Sure, she could be fine. She could also fall and then what? Lay on the floor and call, “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!!” Yeah, that would work. She’s 80. I’d rather not chance it.
Can you see where my stress began? I started stressing when I realized that I might need to stay with her for a few days. Why? Because I’m me.
In the past, and also in the now, I talk. She has often asked me if they can give me a pill for it, a pill for talking a lot. I have Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. Sorry, I do talk a lot. What she doesn’t realize is that I can stop if the situation puts me into caretaker mode. I’m talking about how I seamlessly move into a part of me that is calm and gentle. I can be attentive and patient. I think the closest she’s ever seen me like that is being a mom to my kids, especially when they were younger. I’d like the chance to take care of her. If she’d let me.
The rumination began when she first told us she was going to have rotator cuff surgery and then push herself to the limit and do the back surgery before she was totally healed from the shoulder surgery. Why? She’s got a trip to Italy next year and she’s not going to miss it. This trip has been driving her since she and her sister (the same one) started planning it. When was that? I have no idea.
Having had several painful surgeries I know how important it can be to have someone around to get meals, water, and help to dress you dress if getting out of pajamas is something she might want to do. Showering. Make sure the pain pills and other medications are administered throughout the 24-hour day.
But, I know all she’ll think about is how much I stress her out. I have always stressed her out. Anxiety. It stresses me out knowing I cause my mom so much anxiety that she won’t let me take care of her.
I run every possible outcome through my head. Why can’t she just let me take care of her? Why won’t she trust me? Why is this relationship so hard!? It breaks my heart.
How am I dealing with it? I talk about it. Not with her. Heavens no. I talk about it with those people who protect me from myself and sometimes even from my own family. My two eldest kids and I share a home. They can step in if I ask them to. When this whole situation began we talked about it. We’ll talk about it again, perhaps every day. Hopefully, I’ll trust myself enough that I can actually with her about staying with her in a way that she won’t automatically say no without even considering my offer.
She’s going to refuse and that will add to my already very full bucket of worrying over her and knowing that even though she’s my mom she’ll refuse to let me help. Why? Because all she knows about me is all the past moments when I’ve been “bad” or “off my rocker” with sickness that isn’t my fault.
Family and stress are hard to deal with. I worry about my family, about my mom and my kids, every day. I worry about my mother-in-law. I worry about myself. I worry about you.
I’m sorry about you. And then I panic. And I don’t talk to you. And then I mull it over and over. I make notes and notes and notes. I carry something with me to write on everywhere I go, and I actually do write things down, things I’d like to share with you. And then I panic. I haven’t finished a different website I’ve been working on for over a… two years. (That’s so embarrassing.) I’m worried that you gave up and stopped reading long ago because conventional wisdom these days says you’ll read for 2.25 seconds and then click off. Also, I should have bullet points. How could I use bullet points when I’m telling you about my life and how, I’m sorry to admit this, I will never completely overcome my experiencing stress and even the anxiety that can spawn from it. That’s just the way it is.
I will fight to choose to fight back against my stress and find more ways to deal with it. I started writing this letter to you knowing I wasn’t going to be able to tell you how to get rid of stress. I believe that stress of one kind or another will always be with us. Sometimes stress is positive and necessary. Other times it can lead us down paths to places we’d rather not go.
And so here we are, near the end of this correspondence, and you may feel like this was a waste of time, I haven’t given you the magic bullet and told you a secret way to stop your stress. If I told you I knew how to do that if anyone tells you they know how to show you how to get rid of it, especially if you have to pay them for it, don’t believe them.
My concern for my mom is justified. My experiences in the past, and the stress associated with that, and this is THE KEY that I use to deal with this particularly stressful time, I focus on how much I love her. I forgive myself for the times I could have acted differently. I accept that she doesn’t see me beyond the agitation she believes I will always cause her. I love her enough to willingly expose myself to the pain that her dismissal of my expression of my love for her will cause me. And now I’m sad. Why do families have to be so hard to be in?
Honestly, when I say that this is my way of trying to deal with my rumination stress I mean just that: I try to deal with it. I’m human. We learn. We grow. We succeed. We fail. Sometimes we mix them together like a cocktail gone wrong. In the end, I try to slow down so I can acknowledge my stresses (I stress out all the time) and work to figure out what to do with them.
This is the key for me, this is how I deal with stress: I recognize that I’m experiencing more stress. I think it’s over. I accept that I’m feeling it. It’s okay. It’s normal. Yes, stress can be normal. I don’t have to always shovel everything in the “I have Bipolar and this is how I act because I’m sick” hole. Nope. Not today. Not today.
I despair. I’m terribly worried that I will fall short and be forced to let go of my desire to take care of my mom. It almost makes me feel sick.
But not today. Today I’m choosing to go along with life. Sometimes I have to do that. I have to accept that I can’t control anything, I can only do my best. I can realize that much of the stress I feel isn’t necessary. It really isn’t.
What’s next? Surely there must be more. Of course, there is. I use all the ways I deal with myself in every situation when things are hard. I go for a walk, I get annoyed with my dog Baily and then we play ball, I play a video game where I can break things or kill monsters without my dying. I do all the stuff and things that I know can help me have a healthier mind.
Meditate? Ew. Um, that’s a hard one for me. Living in the moment. Sure. We’ll leave that for another time.
“Stress monster, I’d like to say hello and wish you a good day. We’re going to have a fine time. And yes, I do see you and I’m not going to ignore you. We’re going to try to get along really well. Aren’t we?”
I love my mom so much. I’m choosing to face my stress and my fear. Right now, that’s what I’m choosing to do. That’s how I’m dealing with my stress. I hope this helps.
Best wishes my Internet friend. Make good choices.