Writing has always come easy to me. It’s been a way to get my feelings out
and move on. Lately I have been frozen, not able to articulate much of
If you’ve followed my journey and the trials of living with someone with
memory loss, then you’ve known the struggles. It was probably obvious to
everyone but me I wasn’t handling it well. I was plowing through. Reacting,
After my husband went into memory care in late November, it was followed by
both of us getting Covid, and for ten days we were both sequestered in our
separate apartments. It gave me some respite, but it wasn’t enough. I thought I
was fine, but I was pretending.
In the middle of January, I had to move out of the senior living community
where my husband was in the memory care section. It meant more packing. It felt
like all I had done during the past eight months was pack. The move went smoothly,
and I now live in a small, peaceful, cute apartment with others my age. My body
did not react well to the peace or the change. As long as things were chaotic,
I could seem to hold it together, but my mind didn’t know what to do with the
I hadn’t been eating well in a long time. I wasn’t hungry and my throat,
chest and stomach tightened when I thought of eating. The one thing I had going
for me was that I slept soundly at night until about a week after I moved.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a tight chest, feeling like I
needed to burp but couldn’t, and experiencing wanting to jump out of my skin.
Crying all the time was easy. I finally realized I needed help. I couldn’t go
on pretending I was alright, though I was probably the only one that thought
that. My daughter took me to the ER. No, I wasn’t having a heart attack; I was
having a panic attack and severe acid reflux. Basically, I was having a
For the past twenty years, I had been on anxiety medication and medication
for my stomach, but those medications were stopped in October. I foolishly
thought I could do without it during the most stressful period of my life.
Because of my up and down anxiety about our situation, I alienated some of
my family. They couldn’t deal with our drama and if you know me, in good times
I am a dramatic person, so multiply that when I am depressed and anxious.
Knowing this only added to my anxiety and depression. And yet, though I knew
those facts, I didn’t seek help. There was no time in the drama of my life to
do that for me.
The silence of being in a new place after my diagnosis in the ER was a
blessing. My doctor said I was exhausted. I needed rest. Some days I would just
sit on my bed, close my eyes, listen to the silence and breathe. It was all I
could do. The thought of making myself food or paying a bill, doing any cleaning,
and even going downstairs to get the mail was too much. I felt frozen.
After the first week on medication, I was slightly better, although the meds
were messing with my stomach, so I decided I needed to try to do something. My
anxiety and stomach were still yelling at me. I would tell myself: “At 1:00 I’m
going to clean the bathroom.” I’d clean the bathroom and go right back to my
bed to breathe. At 2:00 I’d complete another small task. Surprisingly, I got
quite a bit done this way. Eventually I would have shorter intervals.
Little by little and another change of medication so my stomach wasn’t so
wonky, I am improving. I can go down to coffee, visit my husband and even make
it to Menards with a friend to find curtains for my window without shaking or
feeling I want to run and hide. I’m taking it slow.
For some reason we think we can do it all. Maybe it’s the media telling us
we can do it all. Maybe it’s our stubbornness that we don’t admit we need help
to navigate the hard times in life. It could be we listen to the voices that
have never walked in our shoes and don’t understand, making that known with
their words, and we hear those voices the loudest. It could also be we were
taught to show any weakness is shameful. Growing up in the 50s many times
parents would warn us when we were crying: “You want something to cry about?
I’ll give you something to cry about.” Tears were not accepted, especially for
As a result, many of us oldsters hide what is happening. Wisdom comes with
age and experiences. I absolutely was not the most understanding daughter with
my mom when my dad died. I was 20, newly married with a baby on the way and so
I didn’t understand what a loss it was to her. I was too mired in me. When she
got dementia, at first, I ignored it. I didn’t know how to deal with it.
Because of this I understand the younger generation not understanding our aging
Healing from mental health and physical problems is a journey. Each person’s
timeline is different and whatever they are feeling is real to them and
shouldn’t be compared to our own journey. We need to not judge mental health
issues and embrace supporting those we know whether we understand or not. When
you are in the midst of angst it’s hard to find your way to the resources
available and then navigate the muddy road of the process of organizations.
That’s where the support of friends and family comes in, finding the resources
and gently pointing us to better health while listening and being patient.
I again can laugh and see light in the future. Prayer and family and
friends, along with the medical community, are walking the steps with me. They
are proof angels still exist. I am sharing so those who feel hopeless know life
can be good again. I’m getting there. Find your angels. They are there if you
share your struggle. And you might find them where you least expect it. I did.
Julie, I was thinking along these lines today while on the paratransit today. A lady with severe issues struggling to get on the bus half grumbling to herself that she needed help, which was obvious, but kept struggling to do it on her own.
She’s in need. She’s on assistance but doesn’t use it. Mumbling the whole time she left. I reached over and put my hand on my spouse’s shoulder and whispered “thank you for being my caregiver”.