“Take a deep breath, Mom.” That’s what my son-in-law, Ryan said to me the other day. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. The afternoon had been chaotic. On my way back from my chiropractor, where I’ve been getting a series of treatments for a very painful neck, I got a call from my sweet mother, who was being taken to the hospital from her own doctor’s appointment, by ambulance. Her doctor was rightly concerned about her escalating symptoms, and she needed a higher level of care, and better diagnosis of what was going on with her heart.
When I received the call, I knew several things needed to be done. My dad, frail himself, would need someone to stay with him for the rest of the day and overnight. Gary can’t stay alone either. It’s a blur to me now, but I DO remember spending time with my dad, comforting and praying with him, being on the phone for a couple of hours trying to line up care for my dad, and Gary, and locating mom’s purse which did not make it to the hospital from the doctor’s office. Just like the recent earthquake, the accompanying adrenaline rush and problem solving began.
Stressful things happen to everyone. We try to manage the situation but it is hard to stay calm in the midst… Ryan was here, helping out with my dad, and Gary that night, when he wisely reminded me to be calm and relax. In recent weeks, my blood pressure has been acting up and I’ve been dealing with chronic headaches. I’ve written about this before, but caregivers must be careful to do what they can to stay healthy. The most common reasons I’ve heard for high blood pressure is stress and age. Sadly, there’s nothing I can do about my age, and not much I can do about the stresses of life either. It’s a fact of life that we are going to be assaulted from time to time with “troubles.”
I used to think Doctors were coping out when they blamed symptoms on "stress." Not anymore. When discussing my high blood pressure, my doctor brought up the burden of caring for Gary, and I said, "But I've been doing this for 8 years and never had any physical problems." She answered, "Yes, but you're 8 years older now."
Let me quickly interject that Mom is out of the hospital, and happily back home after a few days of testing and resting. She is so precious to me. I am grateful that God is keeping her great big loving heart going.
I don’t know for sure if my health issues ARE due to stress, but they certainly draw attention to my “full plate.” Doctors are telling me to manage stress, friends are really concerned and people I barely know are asking me if I’m feeling ok. (I must look tired or something.) So, I’ve been looking at how full my plate has been lately. What's on the plate? Increasing moments of sadness over Gary slipping away from me and the changes in his body. My dear parents relying on my advice and help. My artwork and the associated deadlines. The daily tasks of life. All while not feeling well. I am not trying to be a superhero. I’m just doing the “next thing” that needs to be done. Whether brushing Gary’s teeth, going for a MRI, shipping a greeting card order, or picking up a prescription for a loved one, we do what we need to. It’s our joy and privilege to help those we love, and keep things running smoothly. You know what this is like.
So we make changes if we can, and if we can’t we live with acceptance and flexibility For those of us who are Christians, we trust that God is with us in the midst and has a perfect plan with our lives which we don’t always understand. I want to live close to His side, abiding with him and drawing on His strength.
The apostle Paul had way more troubles than I do but this is encouraging.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; WE ARE AFFLICTED IN EVERY WAY, BUT NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
Practical stuff I'm doing:
SAY NO - Accept that I can’t do everything I want to especially when I don’t feel good. I had to cancel our monthly ladies bible study group that meets at my house, to be moved elsewhere. Even though I "could" have hosted them, I needed to rest.
SAY YES - to a change of pace. I’ve been sprucing up our little patio a little bit each week. It’s been a very nice diversion.
SLEEP - I’ve been trying go to bed earlier. Thankfully, Gary is a good sleeper, unlike many with Alzheimer’s so my sleep has been sweet lately.. “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.” Psalm 3:5
EAT HEALTHY - Juicing anti-inflammatory vegies. (Recently learned that stress causes inflammation.) I’ve been enjoying a spinach, carrot, apple, ginger combo. The ginger makes it zippy but I like it.
RELAX AND BREATHE - Trying something new…diffusing essential oils. Hoping they will help with the pain in my sinuses. Our room smells SO good now. (Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Lavender)
EXERCISE - Even a 20 minute walk is invigorating.
GO TO THE DOCTOR - I’m having different tests and treatments to get to the bottom of these headaches. So far, they are not abating, so will get a brain scan this week.
GET ALONE WITH GOD - I’m talking to Him more than usual, (especially in the night) and enjoying my time alone with His word in the mornings. Here's why...
“We were made for Him, we are meant for Him, we have a correspondence with Him, and we will never come to rest until, like that needle on the compass, we strike that northern point, and there we come to rest - nowhere else.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones