I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HAPPINESS

Just curious, show of hands, how many of you are still battling demons dealt to you in childhood? I’m guessing it is all of us, or most of us. Or maybe you’re just in denial that a phrase repeated to you from a young age is still a problem for you, even after nearly 30 years of therapy? That’s me. Every time I think I have that toxic message kicked to the curb it pops the fuck back up in my life. And nothing pisses me off more than the fact that my parents are still fucking with me beyond the grave.

I still remember the relief when my mom died that I would no longer feel responsible for her. Ha what a fucking joke…. I felt just as fucking responsible for everything that came after. I felt responsible for all of her belongings and having them dispersed in the way she would have wanted. I felt responsible for all the in-fighting with my siblings even though I begged them to step up and just act like big brothers for once. I felt responsible for being the one to sign the DNR and for being the one to officially make the decision not to prolong her life. I felt responsible for keeping up her graveside even though I have only visited it a handful of times in the 9 years since she died (I suppose this is my one victory, that I stopped going and I stopped sending flowers after just a few years). And now I feel fucking responsible for the way my family of origin has broken apart. That I didn’t do enough to hold it together. That it must all be my fault. And I know, that if she saw my life now, I’d be the biggest disappointment ever. Nothing I did was ever good enough. Even though she told me it was, it didn’t matter. The fact that she told me repeatedly as an adult that it wasn’t my job to make her happy could not erase the damage done to my 5 year old mind.

Because this is what happened. My mom was hospitalized in the early 1980s for depression. I was probably about 4 or 5 years old. And the refrain around our house at this time was, “don’t upset mom.” And this refrain was repeated over and over again, especially a few years later when I would catch my dad smoking (he swore he quit after his lung collapsed). I was told that he only smoked when he was upset. So now it was my fucking job to prevent my mom from attempting suicide and prevent my father from having his lung collapse by being a good girl. Because that’s just what every child needs is the weight of the world thrust upon them.

This is one of the main reasons I don’t want kids. Not just the inevitability that people fuck up their kids with even the purest of intentions and that I feared I would do the same….but the fucking idea that it would actually be my legitimate job to keep someone happy and safe and healthy and sane. I already did that. My mom would have told you, if she were here, that I still did what I wanted. That I didn’t change that much of my life for her. And there is some truth to that. I still rebelled, I just hid it really well. But what mattered and still matters is what that message does to a person, to a child, inside their mind. What matters is that anytime someone else is hurting that I internalize it and blame myself. And I shut down. Because it’s better to be silent and not rock the boat, because if you upset someone they could die. It doesn’t matter how fucking ridiculous that statement looks or sounds when I see it or hear it. I can’t fucking erase the message. It’s like it’s coded in my DNA now. So now I avoid conflict, because at least I’m not actively saying or doing the wrong thing.

And the kicker is, what I just learned in therapy a few weeks ago, is that not only do I think people can’t handle their own emotions or problems, but I don’t think I can either. So not only do I now avoid everyone else’s issues now I just avoid my own feelings, because feelings are scary things.

So I’ve been working on it the past few years. I stopped being the one to initiate contact with my family members. I stopped trying to coordinate ever fucking family get together. I stopped trying to save the family. And I’m finally starting to finally realize that I don’t have to even pretend that we are the family that we were 10-15 years ago, much less a year ago. I am finally realizing that my family of origin really doesn’t need me. I don’t need to keep trying to save something that has simply evolved. I can’t prevent my brother from getting divorced. I can’t make his kids talk to me. I can’t make my other brother and his family be any less crazy. What I can do is redefine family. What I can do is make my own traditions. What I can do is to continue to maintain my boundaries, and my sanity, even if that is hurtful to others….because I am not responsible for someone else’s happiness, and I never have been.

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Brother-in-law

I get this random text from my BIL today.  It’s a photo captioned, “game night.”  The photo shows brand new foosball and air hockey tables in a recently remodeled and spotless room.  I ask, “WTF?! Is this your house?”  He replies, “Yeah, I just got the tables this weekend.”  I respond with a gif of Napoleon Dynamite’s brother Kip saying “yes” and pumping his fist in celebration.  What I really wanted to do was say, “Hey, you know what kind of game we played last night?  We played the game where our entire evening was taken over because your mother shit herself on the way to the bathroom.  It involved cutting off (much to your mother’s dismay) her “favorite pair of underwear,” going through 4 sets of latex gloves, numerous paper towels, wipes and a lot of toilet paper, and then realizing the only solution was to get her in the shower and house her off.  But yeah, you go on and gloat about your new fucking toys in your new fucking house in your pretty little life where you get to do what you want when you want.”

That fucker.  Can you believe this guy? I can’t get the guy to come over once a month to visit or take care of his mom and he sends me a photo to show off how fun and carefree his life is.  This asshole bought a truck about 2 years ago that was so high off the ground it took  transporting my MIL off the table.  I guess it didn’t matter, because he eventually sold the truck to save money for his new house and bought a sedan but we still can’t talk him into giving his mom a ride to a party next weekend.  My hubby even told him on the phone that he is asking him for help because it’s too much for us and basically told him that he needs to step up, and BIL still wouldn’t commit.  I haven’t even gotten into the house, which BIL claims was such a great deal he couldn’t pass it up.  The fucking house is a split level.  We immediately knew that MIL wouldn’t be able to spend much time there because of the stairs.  She visited once and my BIL said she shouldn’t even come over again because it’s too dangerous to try to help her up and down the stairs. 

Not too long ago, probably when my husband was telling BIL that he needed to step up, BIL started asking if it was time to put MIL in a nursing home.  Now, we’ve been having more of these conversations recently, so it wasn’t necessarily out of line, (The answer to this question is, “No, not yet.”), but BIL’s response to the answer WAS out of line.  This asshole had the nerve to tell my husband that when she does go to a nursing home he’d better pick a place that is more convenient for him because our house is too far away.  At first I thought, “Oh, well let’s pick a place in his town and she can become his responsibility then.”  But then my hubby said, “Fuck that.  He never considered how his choices (i.e. his truck and house) would effect us, why should we consider what he wants? His behavior isn’t suddenly going to change because she’s 10 minutes away versus 40 minutes.  Even if we picked a place half way between it’s ultimately just going to make my life more difficult, and I’m done with that.”  

So there it is folks, family continues to disappoint.  I’m almost more done with our so-called “support system” than I am with my MIL.  

People are a constant disappointment

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I have an in-home daycare. I advertise myself as being flexible, but this means sometimes I get taken advantage of (JFC when did I start ending all of my sentences with prepositions?). I come from a feminist perspective where I try to support mothers in all of their decisions, whether I agree with them or not (obviously unless they endanger the child). As a former social worker I am well aware of psychosocial stressors the families might be facing and how that impacts the children’s care. I’m really good at my job, most of the time, and I think I provide a really unique perspective that supports families in a way that traditional day care does not. That all being said, I’m getting real sick of these fuckers cancelling days on me, but then when I ask for a day off or an early pick up so I can go to the fucking doctor it’s suddenly fucking impossible for them to take time off (and in today’s instance, I asked for a pick up an hour ahead of the typical schedule and provided them with at least a 2 week notice).

This is the story of my fucking life. I give and give and give willingly to others but when I ask for something in return I get nothing. I hate to sound like some fucking martyr, but I’m sick of this pattern. I’m so fucking burnt out with this job that I loved. And even though we have a lot more help with my MIL these days, I’m so burnt out being a caregiver. I can’t stop fantasizing about her moving out to a nursing home.

This week my MIL had another surprise guest. But it wasn’t a surprise to her, just me. I’ve told family and friends to please contact me as a courtesy about visits, but they don’t give a fuck. Everyone just does whatever the fuck they want. Well maybe it’s time I start doing whatever the fuck I want too. Being thoughtful and compassionate towards everyone and it’s gotten me nowhere. So, everyone can just fuck off.

I live with a fucking idiot

My MIL has a caregiver 5 days a week now, and goes to daycare twice a week. You’d think she’d be occupied and not causing trouble, but she still manages to do stupid shit. Her main caregiver Z has been with us over a year now and I love her. In my mind Z is untouchable, even when she does something “wrong” I can’t blame her, because she tolerates MIL 3-5 days a week. Yesterday MIL asked me about cookie cutters and I assumed, like a normal and sane person, that she was making cookies. But nope, not MIL. Instead she made plastic “wind chimes” by melting plastic beads in the cookie cutters on a cookie sheet. Maybe this sounds like a cute idea, but WTAF?! Maybe tell me you are melting fucking plastic in my house, on my cookie sheet (without any foil lining it) and my cookie cutters! Thank fucking goodness she didn’t use any of my old cookie cutters I inherited from my mother. I just told MIL and Z that she can’t use any other cookie cutters- only the ones she already used (read ruined) and only that baking sheet. She asked if I could just wash the plastic off the cookie cutters – and this is how this blog post gets its title. A motherfucking idiot I tell you. Dumber than a bag of plastic beads.

I’m back

Ugh Facebook is driving me fucking crazy and I keep wanting to tell people what I really think and then realize it’s not the time or the place….so I’m back. And I’m here to process and vent. And I just published 3 old drafts without reading them, because, fuck it.

Enter, mama bear (this is from summer 2015)

I’ve written so infrequently in the past year that it’s hard to know where to start.  So let’s do it chronologically!

My MIL had total knee replacement surgery on her right knee in early July.  We actually had the house to ourselves for that entire month! It was not all fun and games though. Her first day at the hospital went great, but it was a Friday, and the care over the weekend was less than mediocre.  The hospital staff seemed totally unprepared to deal with a heavier-set woman with Parkinson’s.  It seemed that they deemed her too much work and made her use a bedpan instead of getting her up to use a commode. This infuriated us on so many levels.  First of all, the day of her surgery they had her get up and walk to the bathroom- yes it took extra help, but it was important to her recovery.  Second of all, this hospital has it in their mission statement to respect the dignity of the person (I know this because I used to work for this hospital system).  How forcing a normally ambulatory person to use a bedpan instead of taking the time and resources to get them to the bathroom (or at the very least a commode) is promoting dignity is beyond me.  And although MIL is a complete pain in the ass at home, she is a meek and passive patient, completely unable to advocate for herself.  And finally, if you are unaware of how hospitals are staffed, it’s based not only the census of the hospital but on clinical need.  Her doctors and nurses should have insisted that the hospital provided an extra staff person for MIL so that she would have been getting out of bed during her stay there.  Care over the weekends should not be much different than care during the week.  So instead of us having a quiet and relaxing weekend will she was supposedly was getting 24/hour care, we were anxious and concerned.  Hubby decided to spend the day there all of Sundayso that he could advocate for her, and then needed up taking more time off that week to make sure things were going smoothly.  The entire thing pissed me off and resulted in me becoming like a mama bear.

I have to tell you, it was a total mind fuck to go from being annoyed and homicidal towards this woman and suddenly having an outpouring of empathy and compassion and a desire to protect her.  So when she got transferred to a rehab facility mama bear was in full swing.  Things at rehab generally went pretty well.  One minor irritant was that MIL developed some incontinence problems (possibly related to them keeping the catheter in her for too long.) coupled with requiring assistance to get into the bathroom.  MIL really fought the staff on wearing a diaper, even though it was meant only to make cleaning up after an accident easier.  So this meant I had to come and pick up her fucking laundry every couple of days because she was pissing herself 3 times a day.  Eventually the staff demanded that she wear a diaper and a hospital gown until the problem subsided.  I felt both bad for her and resentful that she couldn’t follow their simple instructions to begin with so that I could get a fucking break from her. Ugh.  (Side note- this issue is fully resolved now, she is fully continent.)

Our major problem with the rehab facility was the social worker.  I promise you, I tried.  I really tried not to be “that person.”  When I was a social worker we used to dread working with family members that were in the field.  But she was terrible.  Usually in a hospital setting a social worker communicates with people family, keeps everyone on thetreatment team on the same page, and coordinates discharge plans. I don’t know what this fucking lady’s job or role was, because she never told me.  And that is the first thing you should do when you call the family.  Everytime I talked to her I got attitude, she acted like she didn’t want to talk to me, and when I tried to educate her on my MIL’s cognitive issues she seemed to have no interest in the information.  I tried to explain that MIL has impaired memory and that it would be best to discuss treatment and aftercare with my husband and I as she doesn’t really make decisions on her own.  I tried to explain that MIL is a poor historian and provides inaccurate information and that her judgement is very impaired.  It all seemed to fall on deaf ears. Eventually the social worker started talking about MIL not being able to be left on her own, but would not give me any clear information on what that meant.  And then they started talking about discharging her, and we couldn’t fathom how she could be discharged if she needed 24-hour care.  It was confusing even with my own clinical background.   We ended up having the scramble to set up an in home caregiver.  I think we realized after the fact that the staff at the rehab facility had no idea what MIL’s baseline was, despite our multiple attempts to give them that information- and this resulted in them thinking she was worse off than she actually was.  I had actually been starting to panic and worry that MIL was really in bad shape, but by the time we got her home I realized she was actually doing pretty well.

Once at home we had MIL all set up with in home care- a visiting nurse, physical therapists, and a  caregiver.  One of our main concerns was obviously fall prevention – mostly because she was put on a blood thinner post-op.  We had to do a lot of educating her on the importance of someone being with her (literally with in arms length) in case she lost her balance (something that happened regularly before surgery).  She didn’t require overnight care but we instructed her to call or text us to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.  Of course she refused to listen.  I still can’t believe she never fell.  I don’t generally believe in miracles, but this really was one.   MIL balked at the cost of the private caregivers.  We told her if she fell and hurt her knee that Medicare wouldn’t pay for a new one (since she clearly had no fear of bleeding out in the bathroom overnight we decided to use her cheapness against Germany).

I never finished this post but publishing it anyway!

Easter (2016)

I’ve been really trying to be a better person. And generally, it’s working.  I’ve been more patient and more compassionate.  My Hulk-like rage has disapated, which explains why I haven’t been blogging at all.  MIL continues to annoy and irritate me, and I continue to work through it knowing that she really can’t help it.  I’m awaiting the results of neuropsychology testing that will tell us the degree of cognitive impairment.  I am eager to have my suspicions confirmed that she has developed Parkinson’s dementia and that her impulsivity (of both behavior and speech), poor judgement, confusion and forgetfulness are manifestations of this disease. And once it has been named and documented that it will be clear that she needs more than hubby and I can provide.  Not that I anticipate that she will be placed in a nursing home; I know she will remain with us for years to come.  Instead, I await a professional recommendation that she needs to hire a caregiver.  I await word that we have done enough, and that we can’t be expected to take on more than what we have already done.  And I need this, because, as usual, MIL and her family continue to have unrealistic expectations of what we should be doing.  I’ve stopped asking for help.  It’s as pointless as asking MIL to change her behavior.  All it does is waste more time and energy on things that clearly will never change.

This brings us to Easter. Usually my husband’s uncle and aunt host a potluck at their house.  This was the initial plan.  I was already pissed that they had to use Facebook to invite everyone instead of an email.  Literally everyday for several weeks the MIL would ask me “how do I get to the Easter message again?” For the love of all that is holy, why does no one listen to me when I tell them MIL cannot use technology and that it creates more work for us!? Then, there was the sign up for dishes.  Those other motherfuckers decided to pick the vegetable tray and salad to prepare- the two simplest dishes! Instead they requested a “pretzel salad” whatever the fuck that is.  Of course, it turns out to besomethings my MIL made in the past.  So then she spent the next week obsessing about the damn pretzel salad and finding the recipe.  No one understands.  I can’t find the words to explain how my MIL obsessions affect my daily life.  Just imagine that my MIL is a toddler obsessed with finding a toy and extrapolate from there.  So she finally finds the recipe and it of course calls for things we don’t have on hand, and it sounds like a somewhat complicated recipe for someone who has a difficult time following directions. Great. Just fucking great. Not only do I need to do the shopping for both of our recipes, but I’m probably going to have to help her make hers.  And in the meantime MIL has decided to make some dumbass dessert even though the family said “no desserts.”

So imagine my excitement when on the Monday before Easter the family announces that they want to eat out instead! I see this a major win (although I had started looking forward to passive-aggressively punishing the family by making a food they don’t like as my veggie side dish).  My other thought is that I won’t have to fix a plate for MIL as usual, and that this will be a short lived celebration.  But I was all wrong.  There was no winning Easter for me.

My MIL makes every car ride painful. She tries to sing along to every song on the radio, and it just bothers us.  This time she preferred to focus on how it looked like hubby was driving the wrong way, even though we have driven the same way several times a year for the past 3 1/2 years she has lived with us.  And then she focused on not understanding how her new phone works (which is a flip phone very similar to her last one).  And despite being told that I can’t hear her from the back seat and hubby needs to focus on driving she drones on and on. We finally make it there, and despite reservations need to wait a good 30 minutes to be seated.

So we make it our seats, which are basically two tables parallel to each other. The kids in the group sit down first at one table, and my MIL sits at the other.  I immediately go for the kids table, thinking that my MIL’s nieces and nephews are going to sit next to her,  but no.  They all go for the kids table as well.  The youngest kid in the group is fucking 6-years-old and none of them require mommy and daddy sitting next to them,  but what the fuck do I know. I actually stood there glaring and said, “so nobody is going to sit next to aunt J?” And the only response I got was my husband motioning me to sit down at the table with MIL, telling me with his pleading eyes not to cause a scene. So I sat, and I bit my tongue (and as my mom used to say, I’ve been biting my tongue so much I’m surprised it’s not a bloody stump.).  And of course it’s a buffet, and no one makes any attempts to help MIL.  So instead of a few hours off from caregiving, hubby and I are back to catering to MIL and bringing her whatever she would like.  And we can’t even be mad at her.

I just want to know what the fuck is wrong with people? I’m sick and tired of being the compassionate on  ready to help whomever when everyone else sits by focused on themselves.  Whether it’s my brother-in-law telling me how he has to go workout to deal with his stress, and I remind him I barely get time to myself, much less to go to the gym .  Or if an in-law cousin talking about how she doesn’t have time to help because she has her own side business baking (not a financial necessity but a hobby)…….like I’m supposed to feel bad that she is so “busy.”  Must’ be nice to have the time and energy to pursue hobbies.  Fuck them all.  I’m so done with this family.