Monday, September 9, 2019

Things I Feel Other Than Joy

Friend, come sit with me for a moment. Take a seat on my cushy brown couch while I share something personal. I don't like to talk about hard things, but sometimes hard things need to be discussed.

I love my family. I feel joy often. But, some days are a struggle. Parenting is a hard job. Throw a husband and a job into the mix, and there's no shortage of responsibilities that can be challenging.

I have been parenting my daughter Jaycee, who has special and medical needs, for 13 years. There have been a plethora of emotions to navigate during health crises and emergencies, as you can imagine. Aside from that, some days are hard because of the ramifications of Jaycee's Intellectual Disability/Developmental Disability.

Sure, there are hard days. However, I am grateful that my daughter is such a sweet and loving girl. She is quick to show affection with hugs and kisses. She loves spending time with me. It's a joy to be her mom. But, it would be dishonest to say that's always what I feel.

Stress, my constant companion
I have discovered that more often than not, I feel stress. When my daughter was a baby waiting for a heart surgery and taking several heart medications a day, I experienced a high level of stress for the first time in my life. Health issues have kept the stress going for years. Due to repeated situations that have brought stress, I tend to feel stress under the slightest strain now. My brain tends to go towards those thought patterns.

Sometimes, stress is brought on by behavioral issues. I get stressed when my daughter sits and refuses to move. This may occur because she is mad or because she doesn't want to do something. Her simple act of refusing to move is powerful, and I struggle to rectify it. It can be stressful, especially if she is refusing to go into a building for a necessary appointment.

Other times, stress is brought on by the anticipation of my daughter's behaviors. In 13 years, I have a pretty good idea of what triggers her behaviors. Changes in our routine, lack of sleep, and situations that are physically demanding may all result in a behavior from her. I find myself getting stressed before certain events or activities because I fear the behavior that I have convinced myself will come.

Stress is a constant companion when joy is not the main feeling.

Anxiety, the unwanted guest
Like stress, anxiety took root in my life from many medical emergencies and health issues. When I am anxious, my mind finds numerous reasons why I should be stressed, worried, or tense. Sometimes, the anxiety seems "reasonable." For example, if Jaycee starts to come down with a cold, it may seem natural for me to worry about her going into the hospital. After an illness, it takes weeks for my mind and body to calm down from everything that transpired. Other times, I am anxious when there's no apparent reason for it, much to my frustration.

The worst part about anxiety is the havoc it takes on my body. My muscles get tense and ache in pain. I find it impossible to relax. I may fidget and stay busy needlessly. I hate anxiety, yet it's a real feeling I have too often. I am working to rid myself of it, slowly but surely.

Anger- Is that allowed?
I must confess that anger is an emotion I feel at times. Most of the time, I am not angry at anyone in particular but simply the reality of our situation. I get angry that our money goes to medical bills. I feel mad when we can't do the things we want to do because of my daughter's medical or developmental limitations. I feel frustrated when my daughter won't listen. I get agitated when I have to call about the same insurance coverage problem multiple times. Anger also happens when I wait and wait (and wait) for a doctor's office to call me back with results of a test or a promised plan of care. Fortunately, my anger subsides fairly quickly, and I can think with a level head again.

This life can be lonely. There aren't many people that can relate to what I have been going through. There are families with Down syndrome for me to connect with, but few have had the medical problems we have faced. We are in a unique situation, and sometimes it can feel isolating. It's worse when Jaycee is sick or recovering from a sickness, because we are usually homebound for weeks. I may not have any real interactions with people for days at a time. Her care consumes my nights and days, and it causes me to feel like my world is only as big as our house. Loneliness isn't something I feel often, but it pops up during trying times.

Friend, are you still here sitting on the couch with me? Are you willing to hear these things that aren't so pleasant? I hope you don't think I'm sitting in the pit of despair. I'm a woman who is joyful often, but life brings circumstances that challenge that joy. I am fairly good at recognizing emotions that aren't helpful, and I'm trying to work through the harder stuff. Can you be there for me when I'm not the happiest person in the room? I hope you can be. I need that more than you may realize.

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