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Is She Alive? Is She Safe?

We all worry. But do you ever get that feeling when your brain is running on 2 different tracks?

One track – the one on the surface - is the daily thinking/functioning part of your brain that lets you basically live your life. But the other track is a little deeper, a little vague, sort of like an elusive undercurrent that barely shows up on radar but still manages to send messages – for me, about my challenging elderly loved one (my mom!).

Maybe there’s research on the brain that relates to this, I don’t know. But it is amazing that I can go about my daily routine, distracted and even enjoying myself, with this undercurrent thought process going on. It is even more amazing to me when this occurs first thing in the morning.

I was only an average science student, so forgive me if I still can’t figure out how I can already be having thoughts about my elderly mother when I haven’t even actually registered being fully awake!!

Part of this has to do with my naturally controlling personality, which dictates that I assure myself that everything is going well with everybody. Including my mom.

If you’re like me and trying to oversee the care of an elderly loved one (without going crazy yourself!) sooner or later you are going to have to involve others in the process. There’s no 2 ways about it. No matter how devoted, determined, and disciplined you are, you simply cannot do it all, unless you plan on never sleeping, going to work, or living a life of your own.

So that’s what I have done. I have relinquished some control. But I have learned that just because you relinquish some control doesn’t mean the controlling thoughts stop. Thoughts like, What’s happening? What’s going on? What am I missing out on?

There’s a reason nanny cams, smartphone video calls, and text messaging were invented – for people like me who are “challenged” when it comes to turning over at least a little bit of control to others to oversee my mom’s care.

But I can report some victories! I have resisted the urge to install said nanny cams (do I really want the opportunity to “pop in” at any time to watch my mom eating or the helper vacuuming?). I have resisted the urge to do video calls (for almost the same reason). OK, so I DO text message the helpers with instructions, suggestions, and requests (but I am trying to send fewer of these – honest!).

My mantra that has helped make this transformation possible? Is she alive? Is she safe? It’s that simple. Once I assure myself of the answers to these 2 questions at the start of every day, I move on with MY day.

In fact, this mantra has motivated me to achieve my biggest victory yet! Sleeping through the night.

It wasn’t easy. That silly thought undercurrent I spoke of earlier used to move front and center as soon as I turned off the light and jumped into bed. In the dark I would look at my cell phone and ponder, how am I supposed to sleep? What if the phone rings at midnight or 2 a.m. or 4:15 a.m. with bad news? Because of course it would be bad news at midnight or 2 a.m. or 4:15 a.m.

This thought undercurrent would feed off itself, leading me to then turn on the bathroom light to banish those bad thoughts. Never mind that the light then was keeping me awake.

But with my simple mantra, no worries. Knowing that as of bedtime all is well, I now just…turn off the phone! And the light. I sleep reasonably well. And every morning when I wake up and check my phone and see no new activity, I have the answers to my questions. Is she alive? Is she safe?

Yes, I know I risk not knowing for several hours if a nighttime drama or some other bad news has occurred during the night. But when you’re releasing control, you’re also releasing fear. And trusting that things will play out the way they’re supposed to.

And they always do.

Do you have mantra you use for getting through a caregiving challenge? Let me know.

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