My Mom has been in the hospital for the last five days. She has a good friend who has done the heavy lifting of staying overnight with her in the ER and in her room once assigned. She is home now.
I have been going to the hospital several hours a day with my husband to visit her. Anywhere from 4 to 7 hours or more. I have been able to sleep at home and largely keep my health maintenance routine in tact.
I am wondering how those with a mental health diagnosis manage when their elderly mother or father is ill. It would have been extremely difficult for me to spend the night in the hospital one night much less five. I am very grateful to my Mom’s friend that he stepped up to be her care provider at this juncture.
Does anybody else have stories of having to manage through your own illness while taking care of someone else like an aging parent or a sibling?
I do not know if the experience is similar for other people with a serious mental health diagnosis, but I find myself to be very anxious and irritated when I am not in my regular routine. If I am able to function at a 9 or a 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10) while I am home, I am able to function at a 5 or a 6 when I am out of town and out of my routine. And that is just for domestic travel and travel to a familiar spot. If I have to travel to someplace new or abroad I would have to rate myself even lower due to the adjustment and/or the jet lag and jet lag recovery. As an aside, I have discovered that melatonin does help tremendously with jet lag.
What does it mean to be so tied to a routine? Doing things like taking meds, going to bed, waking up, taking morning meds and taking noon meds are all things that function pretty much on their own when I am at home. I am more or less on auto-pilot with these activities. When I am out of town, I have to create this structure that punctuates my day at several intervals. Things go wrong or even slightly wrong and I have upset the apple cart. Everything starts to tumble and there I am trying to pick up all the apples. Little things like eating dinner at 8:00pm instead of 6:00pm gets my evening off to a rocky start. Things like placing my meds in a different location than I am used to can be a form of stress as well. Sleeping in a strange bed can also be a pain. Having to get somewhere early in the morning is also a challenge as my day starts around 8:00 or 9:00am at home.
I have often thought that because of my bipolar illness I have damaged my hippocampus in some way due to all the trauma over the years of accelerated and then slowed thought processes. So there may be a real medical explanation for all this routine dependency. As I understand things, the hippocampus helps orient you through time and space and helps you keep pace with your general well-being. Getting to a new location that used to be a breeze now with hippocampus damage may seem a daunting task. I have trouble with spatial sense of direction which is one of those skills you need when you are traveling in a new or relatively new spot. This was not the case when I was in my twenties and thirties. This is also one of those problems that is self-fulfilling. The more I tell myself how difficult it is to get somewhere new, the harder it becomes.
So much for loving to travel. I much prefer to be at home in my own routine however boring that may sound. What about you? Do you find that routine is a critical element of your functioning or can you pretty much establish your day and night in a new place without much thought or effort?
Some days my anxiety gets the best of me. I have to forgive myself for this and strive again to do better in the future.
I have been journaling my walking and my anxiety levels and it does appear anxiety is worse if I don’t get a walk in. Which comes first the chicken or the egg – I am not sure. Do I feel more anxiety because I have not been on a walk? Or do I not go on a walk because I am feeling anxious?
In any case, the addition of walks to my daily routine is favorable and appears in general to have favorable outcomes – with today being an exception.
Today though I could not let go of my anxiety about my daughter’s wellbeing. This comes at a time when my mother is going in for cataract surgery and I can’t be there because it involves driving across town at 5:00am when my evening meds are still strong in my system. I have had to say no to my ability to pick up my Mom at 5:30am to drive her to the hospital at 6:00am.
This makes me feel guilty that I cannot care for my Mom. It makes me aware of my own limitations in terms of being able to get outside of my regular routine. I am good with routine – horrible without it. I know I am taking care of my health and safety and the safety of others, but I still feel inadequate about it.
To boot, the anxiety about my Mom seems to overflow into anxiety about my daughter and vice versa. I guess you could call this poor boundaries setting at the moment. Realizing they’re not there or not strong — the boundaries — makes me feel even more inadequate.
All in all, I feel like chucking this up to a bad day. Tomorrow will be better I hope and maybe I will go on a longer walk rather than just a short one.