There you are tooling along one day and bam! everything changes.
You find yourself in uncharted waters, unfamiliar terrain. You feel ill equipped and suddenly isolated. All you have at your disposal is the contents of your home and an escape hatch that you may or may not be able to open.
What happened? Grandma moved in because she has dementia. Husband had a big health event. Maybe one of your kids needed emergency surgery after an accident or illness. Or perhaps it was the dreaded cancer beast. And maybe it was someone just outside your inner circle…someone you see everyday at work; someone you have come to know and feel strangely affected by their absence and certainly powerless against the circumstances.
Whatever it was. How do you keep from losing your mind? It’s bad enough things are harder. Likely, more responsibilities are falling your way. Some of them can be put on the back burner and some of them can wait behind that list of projects you had anyway. So, what’s one more? And what’s one more season?
No one gets through these things while maintaining life as they knew it. That would mean you are so detached that you were spending all your energy staying in your comfort zone. (Which is a real feeling, but maybe not a healthy choice).
A person can only read so many books and join so many online social groups. The logical human side will assume autopilot. You will exercise less. You won’t get 8 hours of undisturbed slumber. If your charge is housebound, you will find you do less of the things you did before that make you presentable to the outside world. Your memory will slip. You might be angry at others. You could even push people away. Isolation is a step that jumps around in between the stages of grief. You remember: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Just shove a good dose of isolation in between. The difficult part is stepping through these stages sometimes on a daily basis – you have to come back to acceptance before you can start a new day. Every day, if necessary.
I don’t suppose there is a method for not losing your mind. When the body is weary, the mind is the next thing to go. The repetition of daily tasks is a good thing, in this case. Brush teeth, gather laundry, pour coffee, check mail, feed squirrels, gather trash, dispense meds and snacks. Boring, yes, but it’s part of the effort to keep the mind going. Meditation (or prayer), even though I will agree it takes some practice to get the hang of, really does work. It helps to quiet the mind and if all it does is drown out the irrational voices we hear…..then it’s worth it. I meditate for no more than a minute, otherwise I fall asleep. Exercise is critical. Caregiving and health crisis recovery takes it’s toil on the body….the joints get stiff from tension. Whatever moving you can do, do it. Self care is vital to your brain’s sense that it is welcome to inhabit your body – be pleasing to yourself, in the smallest ways and grant yourself some happiness in really tiny packages (chocolate? essential oil? music? Stay in touch with the things that bring you happiness. You may not be going to concerts or out for dinners. You might not even have purchased new clothes in a while. Just keep your wits about those things and be sure you have someone to share how things are going. Label your fears, they don’t always stick. Anything is possible. They may not be able to do anything about it, but they will keep you from losing your mind. The hope is to keep forward movement, no matter how slight. Keep your mind in reality and not give in to what you are afraid of or the disappointment that things have detoured.
Run through those stages and remember where isolation hides.
Every day, if necessary.