I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, slammed the shift into park and began to sob. The cries came from deep in my belly and slowly worked their way up to my tear-strewn face, emerging messily in a volcanic eruption of tears and snot. Yuck. No tissues in the car, of course. I tried to stop, but it wasn't happening. And I got loud. I noticed a few people looking at me but I didn't give a whip. Ahh ... the slow burn of emotions and the stress of caregiving.
I suppose my Wal-Mart sob-fest had been building up like the energy of a child who has been contained in a car seat for too long - it had to be released somehow. About three weeks prior to my parking lot breakdown, my back went out. (I haven't been out for fun or entertainment in ages; I hope my back had a good time.) Then my parents had moved in with me two weeks later. We all have breaking points and on that day, a week after the move, I guess I'd reached my meltdown moment for this year.
We'd been through the usual frustrations of moving - trying to find things in boxes (just finding the boxes was a major feat) and altering routines. When older parents move in, there are extra added caregiving dilemmas and worries though: safety issues, lack of sleep, and my Dad's dementia had, as expected, worsened since the move.
But on that day, without warning, the colitis my Mom had suffered from (which had been under control for many months) returned with a vengeance. While I dealt with it calmly with the help of our new live-in caregiver, Danielle, inside I was panicking. As I wrote back in October, Mom and I were so traumatized during her months of C diff (Clostridium difficile) and colitis that I had a knee-jerk emotional reaction of terror.
Why now?! How am I going to deal with this? The bathroom still isn't well set up for showering. What if this happens when she's in bed at night - it's so much harder to deal with it at night, while also handling the fallout from disturbing Dad's sleep patterns. Should we restart the medications? My mind got away from me.
As often happens when we reach an emotionally drained state, there is one more thing that pushes us over the edge. Music is often a trigger - it brings up memories and feelings that otherwise stay squelched. For me, a song on the radio was the straw that broke this camel's back. It was a song that made me think of my niece, whom we lost to suicide just nine months ago. The music unearthed the grief and I lost it, alone (aside from the strangers staring at me) in that parking lot.
The good news is that I felt much better once the sobs subsided. I bought wipes, tissues for the car ... and a box of Ho Hos. There are worse ways to work out the emotional drain, aren't there? Fortified and released from my turmoil, I forged ahead to run the marathon of caregiving and grief, cleansed by tears and renewed by chocolate.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia