Sometime before she fully reached adulthood, she traded in her Dr. Pepper for a whiskey and Coke and sweet tea for a shot of whatever was being offered. She was lost in a whirlwind of emotions and the alcohol made her feel numb- a pleasant state of laughter and what she thought was happiness. The happiness later turned into numerous one night stands (well, sometimes she would go back to the same person), drunk driving, and breakdowns in bathrooms where she vomited and cried by the bathtub of a stranger. None of her questions about life were answered the way she wanted, so she drank more and more until she eventually did not know who she was. She went through the motions, either drunk, hungover, or trying to get through work until she could start the cycle all over again. The panic attacks were getting worse and more frequent, and she could say the same about her depression. The alcohol numbed these and the numerous boys made her feel wanted and beautiful. She felt whole. The problem was that when she woke at 4:36am, she was naked, dehydrated, had a migraine, and was next to someone that did not care about her deeper than what he saw- anxiety and negative emotions flooded her as she gathered her things, got in her car still a little drunk, and drove away.
I often find that it’s hard to know how to feel.
Sad? Mad? What is real?
Am I imagining things? Should I really be upset?
Surely I’m crazy.. surely I’m crazy..
Validate my feelings!
Tell me that my emotions are okay;
I know I’m crazy, but tell me that you’d feel the same way.
Tell me I’m not being illogical.
Tell me that everything will be okay.
Wipe away my tears, and please, tell me you’d feel the same way.
Imagine an old oak tree whose roots have found their way to the surface, creating a series of very intricate knots that surround the beauty they keep grounded. This tree sits alone in a park that no one seems to visit anymore. Her anxieties and depressed states are the roots in which keep her grounded. Outside, she has hair as bright as the sun, and eyes so deep that it is hard to make yourself look away; the passion she possesses flows from her to you. Everything about her is electric. Like that old tree, she radiates beauty that captivates every soul that crosses her path. Unlike the tree, you can not see the things in which hold her down-those terrible things are hidden away beneath the breathtaking body that she calls home. Throughout her life, those roots of hers keep growing, but in the end, only making her stronger. One day she stumbles across that old tree and can not help but to smile.
The sun was shining, so she closed her blinds as she swept her bangs from over her eyes; the brightness and glow was too much for her damaged soul to bear. An old and tattered floral chair, like the ones you see abandoned beside dumpsters, called itself home in the dimly lit corner of her room; she saw much beauty and history in things others only wanted out of their way. She also possessed a beauty that was often overlooked. By the chair sat a small table passed down from generations of people she would never know; old, dirty, and abused, the table beautifully held a caramel latte and an antique sea-foam green book. She adored things that others didn’t. In her over-sized sweater, her nervous hands picked at the threads as she imagined the outside world. Bright and happy, she thought, they just won’t understand; as always, she smiled shyly to herself, swept her silky hair behind her ear, and made that old chair home. Quietly sipping her coffee and taking in the dusty smell of her favorite book, she knew that things aren’t so bad after all.
A small step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction. I have to keep reminding myself of that, every day. I am enough. I don’t owe anyone anything. The only opinion that matters is my own. Loving myself is more than enough. Sleeping alone isn’t so bad. Always look at things from different perspectives. A day without talking is okay. Not knowing every single detail is perfectly acceptable. It’s okay to trust. It’s okay not to trust. Never apologize for sharing your feelings, even if they are irrational. Always be honest. Don’t apologize for being who you are; instead, learn to love who you are. Have control over your thoughts. Be playful. Accept that some people won’t like you. Worrying is normal. Accept that you won’t like some people. Your feelings are valid. If you care for someone, let them know. If you aren’t happy, then make yourself happy. Be open minded. Do things that make you happy on a daily basis. Saying no is okay; saying no without an explanation is okay. Know what your morals are, and don’t break them. Have hope. Never allow yourself to put in all the effort with nothing in return. Don’t be judgmental. Practice being compassionate. Expectations lead to disappointments; life is short and unpredictable, so avoid being disappointed. Be nice to people. Give yourself compliments. Know that nothing is concrete. If you are hurt, no one else can tell you that you aren’t. Find some sort of beauty in every one and every thing. Look to the past for advice. Say please and thank you. Mental illnesses aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Learn to listen to others and understand their feelings. Know that it’s okay to be depressed sometimes, as long as you pick yourself back up. Things can, and often do, change. Learn to communicate your feelings in a healthy way. Be faithful to yourself. Realize that everything isn’t as it seems. Don’t regret anything. Sometimes things fall apart, and that’s okay; pick yourself back up and try again. Know what triggers your anxiety. Treat life as if it is a magnificent journey. Know that arguments aren’t the end of the world. Sometimes, being selfish is necessary. Stop being so reliant on social media and text messaging. Know when to let go; know when to hold on. If you’re lonely, talk to God. Instagram likes shouldn’t give you a sense of self worth. Avoid going to sleep angry. Occasionally being lazy is alright. Have fun without spending money. Keep a journal throughout your lifetime. Use your talents. Yell when it’s necessary. Be charitable. Don’t put yourself down. Learn to truly laugh and find yourself being caught in a moment where you are overcome with happiness. Crying does not make you weak. Be selfless when you can. Don’t hold grudges. Smile. Have faith in something bigger than yourself. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Be environmentally friendly. Set goals for yourself that are attainable. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Only surround yourself with people who appreciate who you truly are and uplift you. Dress up for yourself. Be considerate. Enjoy nature. Create intimate and special relationships with as many people as you can. Talk to strangers; smile at strangers. Making someone else happy will make you happy in return. Most importantly, always be yourself. Spend each day learning who you are.
I once told a friend years ago that if there are two pieces of pizza left, I’ll take the smaller one. She said, “Misty, no one is going to get mad at you for taking the damn larger piece of pizza.” It’s okay to take the larger slice of pizza.
I’m at a crossroads between who I am and who I want to be; I see everything I want, and I also see everything that I’ve been molded to be. I like certain things from both of the roads; can I pick and choose? Can I take the best of both routes and make a new road? That is, if I’m even strong enough to abandon the road I know so well..the me that I’ve grown up knowing. My habits, fears, desires, obsessions, anxieties, dreams.. are those things concrete? At this point, am I able to change some of the strongest qualities about myself? I aspire to be happy, but maybe that isn’t a part of who I am. Sadness and exhaustion seem like a standard part of my personality. I’d like to have a loving, honest, and faithful marriage one day, but can I? Can I be faithful to someone for a lifetime? Can I love the same person endlessly? I want to be religious, but will a religion ever actually make sense to me? I want a career, but I struggle to finish school. I want to run away for a while, to someplace unknown to me, but I am chained; I am chained to where I’ve grown up. I need to love myself and be okay on my own, but I constantly cling to a romantic partner; if I don’t feel wanted, then I feel nothing except for incompleteness. I need my father, but he is gone; no matter how hard I cry, he isn’t coming back. I need to know that he can see me and hear me when I speak to him, but I can’t. I need to know I’ll see him again, but how can I know that? Faith isn’t enough when it comes to family. So, for now, I stand at this crossroads and take time to examine where I need to go.
Yesterday, my dad would barely open his eyes. He ate a little, as long as it was soft (pudding, applesauce, mashed potatoes). He drank quite a bit. His blood sugar stayed very low, so my mother and I gave him sugared soda to keep it up. He was clammy for most of the day and his body temperature felt cold to the touch. He had many hand tremors that would sometimes spread to his face. His hands stayed busy for a majority of the day: rubbing his face, scratching his head, touching his lips, feeling the blanket. Vocally, he wasn’t very responsive; he could muster out “yeah” or “no” most of the time when asked a question. My mom and I got a smile and a laugh out of him once when we were telling him how handsome he is. During the evening, he kept reaching his hand out like he saw someone standing at the foot of his bed; my mom and I asked him several times, “Who do you see? Who are you reaching for?” but he could never respond. All day, he seemed peaceful, but very busy at the same time. I believe there’s a lot going on in his mind that I can’t comprehend. From what I’ve read online and from talking to the hospice nurse, this is a time of transition for him; his soul is between his physical body and the afterlife. Maybe he’s seeing passed loved ones waiting for him on the other side, or maybe angels or messengers are talking to him about what’s happening. All that I know is, what he has in the physical world is no longer of much importance to him. As much as I want him to open his eyes and tell me that he loves me too, I’m afraid he will never be able to do that again.
Today, my dad hasn’t opened his eyes at all, nor will he eat or drink. He has woken a few times earlier in the day, but only for a brief moment. He is less responsive than yesterday. His nurse stopped by this morning to take a look at him; all of his vitals are good. She told us that if he doesn’t want to eat or drink, don’t force it. If he needs something, he will let us know. Usually when I go over to his bed to hug and kiss him, he will wake up and I can tell that he knows I’m there; a few moments previous to writing this, my presence no longer woke him up.
Dementia is a roller coaster of a disease; one day, someone can be alert and understand what’s going on around them, but that can quickly change. Every day, even every hour, can be different from the last. In my dad’s case, I don’t think he will have anymore good days. From the signs he is showing, his body is trying to shut down. This process is different for every person; sometimes it takes days, and sometimes it takes weeks. It’s important for my mother and I to stay with him so he knows he isn’t alone. It’s important for us to tell him we love him, even though he can’t respond. It’s important for me to thank him for being a wonderful father and letting him know how important he is to me. It’s important to me that he leaves this earth feeling as admired as a king.
If you find yourself taking care of someone who is ill and/or dying, these tips may help you:
If pills become too hard to swallow, don’t buy a plastic pill crusher because they are more trouble than they are worth. Order a mortar and pestle (I got mine off of Amazon for cheap with free shipping) and your pills will be completely in powder form.
If blood sugar is low and needs to be quickly brought up without food, a sugared cola with a couple tablespoons of simple syrup works wonderfully. Glucose tablets can also be crushed up and put in a sweet drink.
If the person who is sick will not open their mouth to eat or drink, try gently touching the straw or spoon to their lip so they can sense that something is there.
While taking care of someone who is ill, to avoid getting them anxious or upset, talk them through everything that you are doing; while changing their diaper, tell them every step as you are doing it. When feeding, always say “here’s a bite/drink” before putting the spoon or straw up to their mouth. Even if they can’t comprehend what you’re saying, a familiar voice may be comforting.
Never argue or debate. Never.
Try to avoid showing any negative emotions in your voice if at all possible, whether it be anger or sadness. Talk slowly and gently.
As blood flow slows down, a person is more likely to get cold; make sure you keep enough blankets around.
If something isn’t absolutely necessary, don’t do it. It puts more work on yourself and adds to their level of discomfort.
Don’t hesitate to call your hospice nurse, home health nurse, primary care doctor, on-call nurse line, etc. If you are every scared or have a question, that is what those people are there for. This is a scary time, but being informed can make it a lot less scary.