Oct 29, 2012

My Last Really Bad Day

There are times that I want to pull out my hair, times I want to run, times that I feel selfish, and times that I hate myself for feeling all those things.

By M.L.Swift

My Last Really Bad Day
M. L. Swift
It was a balmy Thursday afternoon in 2010, and I was at my breaking point. Perhaps it was due to the heat, remaining near 90° at what I thought was too late in the year, even for the Florida panhandle, or perhaps it was the feeling of frustration and solitude in all this.

Living in a rural area, it was difficult finding support or even true understanding for what I was experiencing.

Staring incredulously at my mother and biting my tongue for the millionth time, I went into the study and out of sheer desperation, googled “Alzheimer’s.”

It was then that I was introduced to Alzheimer’s World.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver, Are You a Hamster? was the article written by Bob DeMarco that began to cause a change in my perspective and in my life. I had been on that hamster wheel for four years, progressively running faster and faster, and as Bob put it, “getting nowhere.”

Over the next two years, I’d quietly come and gather helpful ways to cope, gleaned from the articles in The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, and used the information and website as a virtual support group.

I am a writer and full time caregiver for my mother, Mary, who has been living with me for the past six years. She was clinically diagnosed in late 2005 – although I suspect the beginnings of the disease were earlier than that – but it was then that I noticed and encouraged her to go to the doctor. She had simply been too forgetful.

The way things worked, I was able to move her in with me the following year, much to the dismay of her stubborn pride. It’s been an adventure – one I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars.

But I’m not a saint. I am human and have emotions and feelings. Three years ago, my sister moved in to help, yet Mom still turns to me for all the answers, all the time. There are times that I want to pull out my hair, times I want to run, times that I feel selfish, and times that I hate myself for feeling all those things. I do, after all, realize that it’s the disease, however, I still feel.

Instead of acting on those feelings though, I write about them, releasing them on paper in a creative, constructive manner. This particular story happened one Sunday morning when I awoke at 4:00 to carve out some much-needed time at the gym. It fell through and I was irritated – I couldn’t get up any earlier – yet I let it go, enjoyed coffee and conversation with Mom, and penned this later while she watched her news.

I wrote it in third person to separate myself from the feelings and put any selfish thoughts on the character. It’s him, not me. I’ve allowed myself to experience those emotions through this medium, let them go, and it works. When reading, he could be any of us; instead of the gym, your own missed opportunity.

Full-time caregiving is hard. I encourage all of you to explore your creative sides when faced with its many, constant struggles.

If you paint, fill the canvas with the sky-blue hues of happiness, or the reds and blacks of anger when you’re temper is tried.

Music? Sing a song of elation. Bang a fervent beat on your drum! Craft. Journal. Act. Whatever your hobby, use it to vent your joys and frustrations creatively, and bring beauty and light into this world that’s too often filled with darkness.

What is your creative outlet? I’d love to read your comments of how you express yourself to “get it out.”

M.L. Swift is an aspiring writer of Young Adult fiction and an Alzheimer’s caregiver. His blog, Treading Water in the Goldfish Bowl, is designed for writers, with reflections of his life caring for his mother. M.L. resides in Crawfordville, FL.

Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room