Monday, January 24, 2011

Mothers and Pain

Richard and I have been visiting my mother in her assisted living community where she decided to move to six months after my father died.

The closer I am to her, physically and emotionally, the shorter is the fuse that leads to my pain. Propinquity = pain.

I have always been her reservoir, the pool into which her more sinister emotions drain. I am also her mirror -- having to reflect back to her what an excellent mother she is. Without the reservoir and the mirror, she tends to crumble and become either immobilized by inertia or explosive with rage.

I understand these dynamics. I try to hover above them, even as I act the part of good daughter. That distance, between the self I play and the self I am, becomes the fire that ignites the fuse that leads to my pain.

She is in pain, herself. She is also at a time of life when she is losing control over what used to be her privileges -- driving, taking medication, smoking. So now she experiences everything as a control issue -- our encouraging her to drink more than 4 ounces of fluid a day, to get out of bed at least by 3:00pm, to not screech at service people who are not giving her what she wants when she wants it. Her pain has also become her instrument for coercing others into giving her some control back. She throws her pain on the receptionist's counter at the doctor's office to have her appointment bumped ahead of others who are waiting. Her pain invites her to sleep until noon and take three naps during the day. Her pain gets her all the medication she wants, which along with Ensure, is her main sustenance.

What I am writing about her may come across as harsh. I don't mean it to be. I mean it to be a pretty accurate representation. And I no longer feel harsh as I describe her in this way. I feel great sadness and compassion. I appreciate that she is who she is, that we have an umbilical connection, that I react as I do and then need some time to recover.

Luckily Richard was with me on this visit. He was my anchor point and at times my protector. Looking at him while holding her hand helped me appreciate that I have a love she has never known, and am very grateful for that.

Now, back home, Richard and I once again accompany each other. And once again, he offers me sweet, real empathy as I do what I do to get my pain level back down. It really does make things better. It allows me to leave her in her life and cherish that mine is very different, better - and that's OK.

In what situations does your partner serve as your anchor point?


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

My spouse of 25 years supports me in every conceivable way in our life. He cautions me when I get overly enthusiastic with physical stuff; when my pain recedes I forget that what I do will reflect in how I feel “tomorrow”. He encourages me to get up and walk to keep from gaining weight as I reach my mid-fifties. The shopping, cooking, kitchen chores, laundry, errand running--all has been taken over ,cheerfully, by him to relieve me of the burden on top of the chronic pain I battle daily. He’s a keeper like your Richard. Let’s love ‘em hard and well.

Sheila J Smith said...

I am now in my 4th year of suffering with RSD pain. I have no family in my state. My husband started out somewhat supportive & helpful. Now he sees me as a setback to the things he wants to do. He has told me that he doesn't drag race, go to metal concerts, and other things he enjoys b/c I make him feel guilty for enjoying his life. I have one daughter that is away at college. Only one close friend. Basically I don't have a support system. Spousal support is the most important thing one can have when trying to overcome the pain of this illness. What do you do when you don't have it? We are only days away from our 24yr anniversary & Im feeling like its time to let go. I don't want this feeling of being the cause of his misery and him the cause of mine. Any advice on how to make it thru a divorce when your so weak and beat down? We would have to stay in the same house until the market is better for selling the home.