Prolonged anxiety is something new to me. In the past, like most people, I have suffered anxiousness at various times; pre exam nerves, driving test nerves, medical emergencies within the family nerves and let us not forget first date nerves!! We all encounter bouts of stress and anxiety at times of our lives.
However, now that I am caring for both of my parents, anxiety is something I live with daily. Dad has physical health issues; heart, chronic debilitating arthritis and oedema are the main attackers. Mom is so healthy it is untrue thank God but Mom’s issues are cognitive degeneration and sundowning. Both fall under the umbrella of dementia but do not receive a diagnosis of dementia because they are very different and don’t fit the usual symptoms.
Today, post World Mental Health Day, it is my own mental health that I am aware of. I know the real me is in there somewhere, frantically struggling to stay afloat and keep my sparkle alive but it is so easy to just get swamped, to fall into the blackness of the stress, anxiety, dare I say depression that comes with continuous care for loved ones whilst also trying to keep your own life afloat.
I now see the important of finding time for me, to do things that I like to do, to be me, to feel alive no matter what the anxiety is doing to me. Himself, worries for me, my friends worry for me. Yet I feel that I am acting in my usual scatty, day dreaming, mad ideas kind of way – of course they see “me”, the changes in my personality because I am worrying, because I don’t know when there will be a sudden mood swing to deal with, because I don’t know when Mom will decide she is not going to bed and I am awake all night with her. Everything can change in a second here at home and I am learning to adapt to the changes. To deal with doing tasks at perhaps what wouldn’t be considered the usual time for housework, for cooking, for logging into the day job – overnight, for studying whenever there is time. I take pleasure in half an hour of me time in a coffee shop. An evening out with himself, who has his own caring responsibilities, is very rare but when we get them, they are treasured. Both of us now feel our time together is precious and no longer take it for granted. We can easily go three to four weeks without seeing each other but we understand our commitments to home.
Understanding is very important, understanding of the people we care for, understanding of adapting our lives, understanding friends who accept that you may need to cancel plans at short notice.
My anxiety manifests as tightness in the chest, dizziness, slowness of speech and movement in extreme moments of stress. I find a walk in the fresh air helps whatever the weather. I have taken up running again, in all weathers and although I hate it when I start off, the sense of achievement for even ten minutes of running is amazing, I feel good, I am alone, I can make sense of my world.
As you know, I love my singing and I escape the real world when I start to sing. However my anxiety has affected my ability to remember lyrics and I quite often go wrong when I am singing a song…but I persevere, it is almost as if I am having a quiet war with my anxiety. I will overcome the memory issue and sing out the whole song without prompting. I have ambitions for my singing and I find these ambitions help to keep me strong, to have something to focus on outside of caring, a dream, a wish, a promise to myself.
Life changes, each day is a blessing and each day brings it’s own struggles, it’s own happiness and it’s own sparkle and whatever happens, we must try and keep our sparkle alive, even if it is more of a twinkle some days.
Thank you for reading my blog and sharing my thoughts.