I asked the question last week about publishing the details of your personal life online: "How much information is too much information?" On the About Susan Raber Online page, I mention that my elderly-but-feisty mother lives with us. This became necessary because her health was such an issue that I was packing up the kids and driving to West Virginia every couple of months, sometimes staying for 2 weeks, and a couple of times for 2 months.
This was making family life and homeschooling chaos on toast. I finally suggested that she sell her house, and we find a house together here in Ohio. This was a hard question to ask. We had lived in WV all our lives, and for her, "all her life" was approaching 70 years. It is always difficult to leave friends and family, and more so when you are so settled in to one place.
But we made the transition, and found a house in Beavercreek, Ohio that fit our need for space and a separation between our space and hers. Then a miracle happened.
My mom started walking every day with the dog, doing yard work, hanging out with the kids, and eating better. She lost 45 pounds over the first 6 months, and stopped needing any of her medications. Her arthritis improved as well, so her mobility continued to increase.
Enter dementia. It's been absolutely heart-crushing to see this amazingly healthy 85 year old deteriorate mentally. Forgetful, confused, and cranky more often than not, her mental health diminishes as dementia cruelly takes her one a piece at a time.
For awhile, I tried to deal with it on my own, and I couldn't seem to do anything right. Then I contacted our local Agency on Aging, and received guidance and advice from people who understand this condition.
Now I know that she can no longer enter our reality, and to communicate effectively with her, I have to enter hers. I can't spend time explaining things in detail, because this actually makes it worse for her. I post signs around the house to remind her of what to do and what not to do- "Don't answer the door", "Let Susan filter the mail" and "Drink more water" are just a few. When she gets a bee in her bonnet about something, I can't take it personally. I smile and nod and change the subject.
Life is all about adapting. The kids have learned to stay focused on school, roll with the waves, and adopt the coping strategies that I've had to acquire. They've also been a huge help, hanging out in Grandma's room, playing games, chatting, doing puzzles, listening to Mom’s records. . .
The lesson I learned is that sometimes you have to let go of your hopes and expectations, and pride. I had to come to the realization that I needed help. I couldn’t and shouldn’t carry the load, because trying to carrying it alone wasn’t only not best for me, but it wasn’t best for my mom. I can react better to problems as they come up when there are others taking up some of the burden.
We know that burden bearing is something we should do, but being the one who has a burden to share- you have to reveal your vulnerabilities and express your inadequacies. We must allow ourselves to do this without feeling that we have failed, we should try harder, if just this one little circumstance would change, things could be different.
The answer to the initial question is that sometimes you do need to talk about your personal life, because the human experience is shared by all, and if our blogging goals involve helping people, then there may come a time when revealing our own struggles and pain are part of that endeavor.
So that is what the Raber family is experiencing at this point in time. We know we aren’t alone, and we are grateful for our faith, our friends, and our family who will see us through.