Some days, no matter how much you know you are blessed and fortunate in your life, some days you can't shake sadness. When this began happening to me I would shake it off and keep going because what other choice did I have? I might lay awake all night wondering and worrying and dreading getting up because the excited happy me would be ready to take on the day, attack all that needed to be done, find joy and zen and peace in my barn surrounded by my sheep for a few moments or even a few hours as I mucked and cleaned and raked, but then the darkness would overcome me because of what was going on around me. I'd say to myself as I sometimes just randomly cried and felt like I was trying to crawl out of a deep hole, "stop it, you can do this, you're strong and stubborn." But I couldn't. And it began to consume me.
When I moved away from home at a young age I missed my mom. She was my best friend. Though I loved my independence, I would feel very jealous when the girls I worked with would say they were going to have lunch with their moms. We never lived close to eachother as my children were born. So to see her it was 3 hour trips back and forth to the island.
I never realized until I was older that my mother had anxiety. She might come stay with me for a night. But she quickly made her way home the next day. Never enough time together in my eyes but I'd take what I could get.
And then the beginning of a true loss began. While walking around the shore, as she had done a million times, a rock shifted and she fell, hitting her head square in the front, knocking herself out, breaking her wrist, and leaving a deep gash in her scalp. It was as we say in Maine, a freak accident. She managed to get to a house to call for help but the care she received from the hospital was incompetent.
Strange things began to happen. Mom was becoming someone different. Simple tasks became difficult. Lost items. Lost moments. Things not making sense. Panic. Anxiety. Fear.
Many of the changes were not shared with me as I lived three hours away. I guess when you see t everyday it’s not strange. But I noticed missing words and repeated sentences when we talked on the phone. A quick trip to visit revealed the speed in which the changes had happened as she and I baked cookies for my kids. Her confusion about how to line up dough on a pan, the placement of her dishes and ingredients. The panic I would see in her face when I would show her was devastating. Alzheimer’s? Stroke? Traumatic Brain Injury? No one could give me answers. The fight and struggle for competent care and help for my mother from a distance while I was raising my own three children began to take its toll on me. Another visit home. Another discussion with a doctor. Another 3&1-2 hour drive rearranging the days so the kids were cared for and the Farm was cared for and my work was put on hold left me drained. One doctor told me in his own “bedside-mannerless” way to let her go. “She had no quality of life.” Imagine. I arranged for her to see a neurologist in my area and with help from my aunt we got her there. But there was no follow up when she returned to the island. Frustrating to say the least. Anger, sadness, hopelessness, overwhelming exhaustion all enveloped me like a dark heavy cloud. And then the scary part. I could not remember things. And i would panic, cry, scream and yell when I was alone. What was happening to me?? I couldn’t breathe.
Paperwork consumed my days. Paperwork and phone calls and trying to get answers. Piles of papers began to pile up on the left side of my desk. In the middle of it all my son was graduating from high school and the financial aid paperwork piled up on the right side on my desk. My ram had died the year before so I decided to put my lambing on hold. My business was growing, my children needed me, my mother needed me ... if I could have just cloned myself I would have. But instead I began to feel crushed. Guilt. Was I doing enough? Why couldn’t I keep up? My daily runs stopped. My chest hurt. My head hurt. I felt joy slip away from me. I felt myself struggling to simply breathe and not jump when the phone wrang. And then ... I became so tired of my life that I felt hopeless. I stopped crying. I had no feelings.
We are taught to be strong. No one goes through life without loss. But do we as mothers, daughters, givers, caretakers, do we allow ourselves time to grieve? And this is key to my story ... I didn’t. I had to be strong for everyone and no one was strong for me. It wasn’t my children’s job to be strong for me or even know I was struggling with so much. I hid it from them and I hid it well but others knew and I felt they dismissed it. Like it was just one more thing the all powerful Kelly could deal with. Not so. The sadness and feeling of being alone was like being crushed between two slabs of wood. People would call me and tell me I had to do something about my mother. I knew and I was trying from a distance. When I’d think about all that had to be done in one day I would gasp for breath. I worked all day, home, alone, except for my animals who I felt I could never get enough time with anymore. They were never neglected, but sitting in the peacefulness of the barn surrounded by my beautiful sheep who brought me so much joy slipped away. Time to clean the barn, time to get hay stressed me out, no time with them made me sad and angry. Was I keeping up with my younger two children? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
There is more to this story. More personal parts of the struggle. But in the end I have ended up in an unexpected place. A good place. My mom still lives at home and has a wonderful caretaker and is doing as well as can be expected. She isn’t my mother anymore and I feel robbed of that part of my life that I had looked so forward to. But I have accepted it and I have grieved. And I still grieve and I allow it and it’s okay. And I made some big changes. Nothing turned out as I expected but when does life ever follow the script?
Recently I read something. If you make room for good to enter your life it will. I always knew this, I always thought I had made room for goodness but darkness snuck in and I wasn’t able to fight it off.
I tell my story in hopes that it might help someone else. I made the big mistake of not asking for help and not taking care of myself and it took a powerful toll on me. I also did not have the support that I should have had from the right people. But I had one friend who made sure when I crashed that I was able to pick myself up and be ok.
I have opened the door and welcomed back in light and goodness. I didn’t realize that it had closed. Some days I am on edge because I know this is not over. No one ever gets better from Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel illness. I attended a film and discussion at a local hospital and was able to talk with others. And we freely cried. We grieved for our losses and it made me a part of something I would never choose to be a part of. But I had a “family” in them.
Please know that I am okay with my choices. It is unfair to try and guilt yourself and feel you didn’t do enough. I have learned that you can’t change people and you can’t control you’re destiny. But you don’t have to allow others to make you feel your not doing enough when all of your energy and your spirit are drained. You have to allow loss and reality and you have to care for yourself. Happiness is what we all strive for. Sometimes I wonder why others could not see how I struggled. How lucky I was to be self employed and able to drop everything to care for things when I was needed. Why they chose to make it harder for me I will never understand. But I allowed it.
I miss my Farm. I will say it because what I built and was so proud of, a creative girl from an island who stopped the day to just gaze at the clouds and marvel in their beauty, a girl who had no clue what she wanted to be let creativity and love guide her. And it took me on an incredible journey. I miss the serenity and the happiness and the silliness the animals gave me. Every day with them was a gift. But I am happy and beyond grateful for what I learned from the experience. I have spent the past 18 years learning and meeting people and at has prepared me for this next journey. I am grateful. I will always be grateful.