Mental Health: Self Exploration; My Own Journey.
My sister died. December 29th, 2013. That would be less than 3 months ago, at the time I write this. I sent money to pay for her cremation, and a little bit of money for each of her children. I know the bill was paid for, but as to whether the children received the money, I don’t know, and I probably never will know. I never sent my condolences. I never sent flowers to the funeral. There was no funeral. There was a memorial service, and from what I understand, her ashes are to be scattered into the waters of Kentucky, sometime in the late spring, or summer.
She would have liked that.
People look at me in askance. I’m sure they want to ask. They don’t. I have certain friends who know more about my life than others, but for the most part, I really have no one to confide in. When I was 6 months old, I moved away from my place of birth and, pretty consistently for the rest of my growing years, I moved with my family to a completely new state, or even new country, approximately ever year and a half. I made no real long-term commitments, and the people who have retained a tenuous thread of contact with me know me only through spurts of long distance communication. So no one, really, knows my life, and I’m very aware that for the most part, when I talk about my life, people think that I am lying. That’s okay, because I’m sure I am. My perception of my life is my reality, but it doesn’t make it wholly true, does it?
So this is all from my perspective. After all, it has to be. My eyes are the only real windows I have to see through.
For me, my sister died… when was it? March? Of 2011.
My sister died when I had to put my mother into a nursing home. It wasn’t my sister’s fault; I did not have the emotional strength to take care of my mother long term, in fact, I was on the verge of a complete mental break down at the time. I’ve struggled with chronic emotional and mental issues all my life, but in 2004, I lost my job, and from that point to this, I have been struggling to do nothing by keep my head above water. It has been a serious struggle, because I’ve wanted nothing so much as to just quit treading water and sink into the dark abyss, breathing in sweet, salty lungfuls of water. Just to close my eyes and stop.
Some people say it’s much nicer on this side of the flower bed, but the “big dirt nap”, as one of my ex employers would call it, has always looked very inviting to me. You don’t have to struggle anymore. Once winter comes, just walk out into the snow, find a nice tree, and sit down and sing the song of your people until the cold numbs the fiery pain in your limbs and allows you to sleep. They say that’s actually a pleasant way to go, in the end.
I know lots of ways to go that would cause very little fuss or mess for the people I leave behind. It’s something I’ve contemplated; pretty much since the day I was able to think about things.
Anyway, it was not my sister’s fault that I had to put my mother in a home, but for me, this is when my sister died, and it was simply because she had offered to take over the care of my mother. I accepted. I hung up the phone and started crying immediately, because I knew what I was doing was wrong. This woman who had given me life, who had stood by me through thick and thin, the only person who was always there for me through every aspect of my life; I was snarling at her because she was no longer capable of remembering anything; not even where the bathroom was. My mother had betrayed me now, by getting old and going senile. She was my only confidant in the whole world who would listen to every ugly thing I had ever done and respond with reason, without judgment, and always with love. She is without a doubt one of the real angels of this earth, and people can sense that when they are around her, that she is truly pure of spirit and good of heart. My mom. She deserves to live in a comfortable home, with caring gentle hands around her, and a hot cup of tea, and a fireplace. She should have a creaky wooden rocking chair and a handmade afghan shawl wrapped warmly around her shoulders. Maybe even a cat in her lap. She deserves to be able to look out a window and watch song birds at a feeder, or to wander through a garden full of vegetables and flowers and enjoy the trickle of water from a brook. In my minds eye, I could see her getting that, living in the country. I started making plans on how to pack everything up, to take mom out to the country where she could stay with my sister.
To have even contemplated doing this is one of the biggest regrets of my life. It was a moment of weakness. In my denial, I could see her surrounded by loving family, being cared for by grand children. It was a quick way to fix everything; I was going to do it. I was seriously going to pack up my mother and send her away, to live with my sister. I actually stood up, crying, and started gathering her things together.
That decision lasted for perhaps 2 hours, if that. That’s when my husband asked me what I was doing. My husband, who is the only person who has ever spent more that 3 years with me in my whole life, was completely incredulous. He reminded me of my vow. He reminded me that I had already vowed, years and years ago, never to allow this to happen. I could see by the look on his face that he felt serious disgust and contempt for me. How could I even consider allowing such a thing to happen? She was my mother! I loved her!
He was right. I did love her, and I do love her. His words slapped the sense back into me, and I knew I absolutely could not allow this to happen. So I picked up the phone in shaking hands, my stomach rolling sickly, called my sister, and, weak person that I am, told her I was not letting mom move in with her. I blamed it all on my husband. He wouldn’t allow it.
You see why I think very little of myself? I don’t react well during confrontation. I don’t like people being mad at me. My sister and I had been playing this cat and mouse game of pretending; we said we did things for other reasons than the real ones. We’d been playing this game since the day I was able to speak. People call it being polite. You don’t want to go to the birthday party, you really don’t like those people, so you tell them you have other plans, even though you don’t. No one ever responds to a request with, no, I don’t want to help you move this weekend; you want too much from me and you never return the favor, you user. No. They can’t say that! They make excuses.
So I made excuses as to why she couldn’t come live with her, and she had nothing nice to say to me, and really nothing nice to say about my husband. We hung up on each other.
But I can’t just let that go; not me. I believe in honesty. A few people look down on my husband; he looks down on himself, and now here I was, adding more animosity to his plate. He had nothing to do with this. No one else had ANYTHING to do with this. This was just I, and my sister. Not even mom got to have a say in it, because at this point, she was senile. I looked at my husband resolutely and decided I wasn’t going to allow him to take the blame for me. He knew what I had told her, and he was fine with it. Just so long as old Cotton Top stayed safe with us.
So I picked up the phone again, and this time, I told her the truth. And it was here that my sister was officially dying, for me, because the breach between us became irrevocable. There were no more words, no more excuses, to gloss over the truth. Those words, those excuses, those lies, had allowed us to maintain an illusion of a loving sister relationship, which was something I desperately wanted my whole life. But on this day, I stripped them all away and laid bare the truth beneath, and it was too late, there was no way of ever repairing it, because it was beyond obvious to me that she had never, ever, wanted that relationship in the first place. After that, she wrote me a letter that nailed the coffin of our relationship firmly shut.
She called me occasionally after that. I never called her. Finally, she called and said to me, in tears, that I was the only family she had left, and she wanted me to be a part of her life. I told her, in tears, that I would like that. I told her I had wished for that my whole life. We told each other we loved each other.
I hung up the phone and never spoke to her again. She was dead.
Only when the rest of her whole family had turned their back on her did she beseech this of me. Only when I was the only family left to her, did she want me to be her sister. That was the final nail in the coffin, and I mourned. I mourned for months.
We put mom in the nursing home in March of 2011, because I couldn’t take care of her myself anymore. I was furious with her for abandoning me. I was scared to death I was following right in her footsteps. Every ache and pain she had, I had, in empathy for her. I was becoming a decrepit old woman myself; bitter and mean of spirit. I seriously hated me, but I couldn’t control my painful emotions and bad attitude on my own. I needed help, and I wasn’t going to get it. So I made another decision I hate and regret, and we put my mom in a nursing home, with no kind hands, no warm fire; no rocking chair. No cat. She sits parked in a wheel chair all day looking at the beige colored walls in the community room, where the nurse’s aides can keep an eye on her. She can’t go lay down whenever she wants, she can’t enjoy music and TV of her choice, she can’t sit with a warm cup of tea in her hands because she would dump it all over herself. She can’t even go to the bathroom when she needs to; she can only go when someone is available to take her. She constantly has urinary tract infections because of this.
Why don’t I move her to a place with better conditions? Because the nursing home she is in is truly excellent. They aren't her family, and no nursing home will ever be her family. The truth is, no strangers, no one else is going to love her the way her family should love her. And I can’t. This is the very best I can do for her. When I see her now, she sees the best side of me – I’m rested and able to radiate love and warmth and good will when I’m around her. Before, I was unable to do that. I was constantly exhausted. Besides having 2 kids and a job, my mother with her dementia was a full time job all by herself. She demanded I be in her sight at all times. She was willful and didn’t understand that she couldn’t do things on her own anymore.
I’ve watched people spend their entire lives caring for an elderly family member, not even able to leave the house for years, and when the family member dies, they themselves are already middle aged. They were never given the opportunity to really experience their own lives, trapped as they were by having to care for an incapacitated loved one. They become bitter and unpleasant to be around sometimes, but that is just the price they must pay. There is no choice; these people are your family, and you do what you have to do. That is why you have family. That is bond. That is love.
I can’t do it. I can’t do what I have to do. When push comes to shove, and you really, really need me to be there for you, I will not be. I will not. Were it I, and the laws were different, I would let my people go. I wouldn’t force them to continue when it’s so obvious that their time here on earth in this body is done. My people believe as people of old believed, when the elderly did, indeed, choose for themselves to walk out into the snow and sing the song of their people. They had dignity. They had respect. When I look at my mother today, my heart dies for her. Every time I see her. She deserves so much more than this unending dreary existence. Here, once again, you see why my opinion of myself is so low.
From March, 2011, to this day in time, only my mother’s sister and nieces and nephews from Canada have been to see her. Her sister lives in Canada. Her own daughter and grand children lived an hour and a half away. My sister wrote her a letter, but never once came to see her in all that time, even though she professed her love for her, and condemned me for making the choices I had made for our mother.
This is the introduction of my self-dissection; it’s where I choose to start. It begs the answers to many questions. Why? That’s the biggest question. I intend to answer them all as completely and as honestly as I can, because I have to, for my own sake. I am in stasis. I truly believe I no longer deserve to be here. I truly believe I am no longer capable of making decisions. Even this exercise is questionable; who am I hurting, by doing this? How is it going to backfire?
I would never kill myself; that would be the absolute ultimate in failure. But I cannot seem to move forward. Everything I do seems to have a bad after-effect. I am a catalyst; I try, with the best of intentions, to put things in motion; things that are good. The results never seem to end well. What’s the definition for the Anti-Christ? I have read that it is a person who is ordinary, easy to follow; a person who has the best of intentions, but walks about the earth, obliviously leaving havoc in their wake. Their actions will ultimately set in motion something truly terrible.
I am not a Christian person, but this description is often how I see myself. I don’t want to be that person and so I am paralyzed, doubting myself. I’m afraid to help others, because if I do, I will simply make the situation worse.
I can’t stay like this. I’ve wallowed around in stasis for two long. I have people who depend on me. So I’m going to write it out. And even that makes me question what it is I do. I don’t intend to make anyone else look bad; that’s one of my points – I never intend to bring negative things or bad feelings to people. I don’t intend to judge. We all do what we do. Yet it would seem I do this regardless. I leave it obliviously in my wake.
This is my story; this is how I view the world through my eyes. I want to see exactly how ugly I am in truth, without the tint of my lenses to obscure the facts. If my words here make you angry, don’t read them. If you choose to read them, consider what it is about them that makes you feel that way, but know this; these pages are for my own healing; they aren’t about you. If they help you, or interest you, please, feel free. But if they are causing you personal pain, once again, you do not have to continue reading.
On the other hand, my sins may be incredibly dull to you. I’m not an axe murderer, or a rapist. But I’m not comparing myself against anyone else. I’m comparing myself to me. I want to see what it is I really am. As I go, I don’t intend to pull any punches; I want to completely expose myself for what I really am.
I will stop here, for now; I will go to lunch with my husband, and spend time with my children and their grandmother. There will be time for me to write again, later.