Gaining perspective from someone not attached to my mother’s illness is going well. So far the following has been helpful:
- Self-care isn’t defined by the sort of activity one engages in, but by how it makes you feel. So, while a massage or pedicure would certainly make me feel good, making choices like getting to my PO box twice a week, handling mom’s mail only once a week, and spending a little time each day on our house qualify as self-care, because these choices/activities help me feel both in control and good. Working in the garden also qualifies! 💐
- I am a very direct person, and raised my children to be the same. Actually, my kids are more direct than I am. This is why it’s so hard to go along with my mom’s confabulations and attempts at manipulation. As a direct person, gentle deception feels wrong when we get to certain conversational points (driving, mom telling me her doc says she can go home etc). Not only does it feel like lying outright, it feels like I’d be encouraging her, leading her on only to get to a place where I’d have to say, “uh, no mom, I’m not taking you back to the Island.” It actually scares me to roll along with mom when she gets it into her head that she can go home, and so I tell her she’s wrong, and everything goes to shit. Next time she announces this to me, I have a different tactic: Disarm her. Ask for the transcript, letter, etc… that’s giving her permission to leave, because I’m ‘interested.’ She may still fly into a rage, but at least I’m not telling her she’s wrong.
- As an adjunct to the above, when things do go sideways with mom, work on my own stress responses, because mom will not remember what happened. As a matter of fact, what mom does remember, is how she feels about an interaction, rather than the details.
- Concentrate on what makes mom feel good. Even if I end up in a place where I am conversationally uncomfortable, again, mom won’t remember what we talked about, only how she feels.