The anger ebbed and flowed. The first time it hit me, right after Rodger returned home from an extensive stay in the hospital, I thought I was losing my mind.
I’d just spent months watching his mental health deteriorate as unbeknownst to me he’d been “cheeking” the medication for his paranoid schizophrenia and spitting them into the toilet once he got out of my sight. His medication had been adjusted up and then down, brands were changed and consultations scheduled over and over again.
Then it happened. One sunny Sunday afternoon he lost his mind. Accusing me of trying to poison him; he ran down the street, moving at a pace that would normally be impossible for a man nearing 80 years old.
“She’s trying to kill me!” He insisted, shaking with fear whenever I got too close.
He spent eight weeks in the psychiatric ward that time. Discharged on a Friday afternoon he was back in the hospital Sunday evening. He had pneumonia. They had sent him home sick. After a week in ICU he was finally well enough to go into a medical ward. He’d also developed swallowing problems somewhere along the line. He had to have his food pureed and his drinks thickened. He refused to eat slowly and take small bites as the doctor ordered. As soon as his tray arrived he’d grab a spoon and start shoveling the food into his mouth as fast as he could and then he’d choke. So a nurse fed him each morning and I made sure I was there for lunch and supper. Three weeks later he was finally well enough to go home. Once there he seemed determined to start the dance all over again.
“I can take my medicine myself,” he declared almost immediately upon returning home.
The anger reared its ugly head for the first time as I contemplated the downward spiral that would inevitably ensue if he were allowed to have his way.
I tried to pretend it wasn’t there but each time he tried to convince me to give him his pills it grew stronger. I was royally ticked off that he would even try to manipulate me again. I knew he would again lie and insist he was taking his medication when he wasn’t. I was furious that he would subject me and his son to sleepless nights and hours of driving to and from the hospital to assure he received proper care. I resented that he seemed to think he was smarter than me.
There were moments when I had to walk away as soon as he entered the room. I didn’t even want to look at him. I was racked with guilt and questioned my basic humanity. How could I possibly be angry with this sick old man? The guilt was overwhelming at times. I prayed, I vented in the car when I went to the grocery store and cried a lot.
I finally got some relief when I admitted my feelings to my husband.
Mike assured me that it was normal to feel the way I did; that the job I’d taken on was harder than anyone could imagine and what I was feeling was normal. I had nothing to feel guilty about. He took a couple of days off from work and encouraged me to get out of the house.
“Go see a movie. Get a massage. Pamper yourself,” he whispered as I cried on his shoulder, relief mixing with the overwhelming sadness that I finally allowed to engulf me.
I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. I spent the entire time in the theater trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I passed on the massage. I don’t like strangers touching me. But I did go to the gym. An hour of aerobics helped ease the tension from my shoulders and neck. It felt good to sweat and push myself again. The next day I went for a run on the treadmill. It was there that it all came together for me.
I wasn’t just mad at him for trying to take control of his meds. I was mad at him for tricking us and causing so much trouble but I was really mad at him for not appreciating all I had done and all I had been through. While I was busy caring for him I’d lost my own mother to non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was gone and he was still here. She took all her treatments and she died. He refused to do what he was supposed to do and I got to nurse him back to health. It wasn’t fair. He should be fighting with all he had just as she did. If anyone should still be here it should be…
In that moment I heard a soft voice whisper… “It’s not up to you to decide who lives.” And then I heard a short and very special phrase that rings true no matter how often it’s repeated. “Let go and let God.”
I found myself nodding my head in agreement and moments later I began to feel better. I was able to go home refreshed and take care of Rodger again.
It’s not a cure-all. The anger and resentment still came back sometimes when he was acting out. And I’d even gone so far as to tell God he had better get busy as I’d let go a while ago and he didn’t seem to be doing anything to help at that time. But finally recognized it for what it is.
Rodger was doing the best he could with a mind that was failing in spite of all the love and care and medication he was getting. And I was doing the best I could in spite of all my weaknesses and doubts. And God? He was there running alongside me on the treadmill, reminding me to take care of myself too.
So this is my reminder to you. Take care of yourself as well as you take care of your loved one. Go to a movie, get a massage, pray, get some exercise, sing at the top of your lungs, sob in your best friends arms, whatever it takes – do it.
- World Mental Health Day: My experience in inpatient facilities/psychiatric hospitals (mm172001.wordpress.com)
- NHS mental health care in ‘crisis’ due to lack of beds, leading psychiatrist warn (independent.co.uk)
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