I am having a bad day. I am going to whine about it. You are forewarned.
Technically speaking, this is day 2 of the “bad day”. On Monday, I decided for no apparent reason that it was time for a haircut. I don’t like haircuts, they give me anxiety. More specifically, making the appointment and going to the salon (and being IN the salon) gives me anxiety. The haircut is not that big a deal for me anymore…I know it will grow back. I know if it’s a bad cut, I’ll deal with it somehow. It’s just hair. I came to that conclusion when about 8 years ago I cut off 23″ of hair and sent it off to one of the organizations that makes wigs for children with cancer. It was the same way that time…I made the decision, I went, it was over with, I survived it and the ensuing days/months/years with short hair (for the first time in 30 years). Since then, the change from long(ish) hair to shorter hair doesn’t bother me. But having to call to make the appointment…and then survive the appointment, they are anxiety-making.
I am not good at small talk. People think I’m good at it, but I hate it. I spend days before trying to think of things to say and/or talk about. Then I feel like an idiot having the conversation. I don’t know the stylists, I don’t know their lives or their interests…I just feel dumb. In addition to that, I have anxiety over the hair washing station. I hate having my head resting on that thing because it hurts. I’ve heard of instances where people can have strokes from resting against those tubs (true? not true? does it matter to anxiety? nope). I also end up with muscle strain from being stretched to sit with my head on that tub thingy. Sometimes I wash my hair at home and go with wet hair so they don’t have to wash it again. But then I feel like the haircut isn’t as good because they didn’t see my hair ahead of time, dry, to see how it needs to be cut. I also feel judged when I’m sitting in the salon…just because I feel like it’s a frufru place. I feel out of place there.
Okay, so I called and made an appointment with the stylist I saw last time. She does an okay job and isn’t overly talkative. She looks like Pink! I’m just saying, she’s a bombshell. I’m always intimidated by her. But I wanted to get something fun done and she’s the queen of that kind of stuff (her instagram rocks). I found a color I wanted for my hair and brought it with me. She did the color job, cut my hair, then blew it out (without asking). I both love and hate having my hair blown out. I like it because it’s different and I can’t do it at home. I don’t like it because it doesn’t look like me and then I never know how my cut really is with my normal hair. I left the salon (after leaving a rully nice tip because that’s how I have to be) and came home. I wanted my hair to be reddish purple. Yes, I said it. My hair is normally brown. I used to dye it red all the time…oftentimes a very unnatural red because box color is hard, ya’ll. So I came home and I am looking at my hair and it’s reddish. But I see no purple. I had worked myself up to purple-ish hair and it’s just…red. Hub says he sees purplish, I don’t see it. I’m disappointed. I haven’t washed my hair yet so I have no idea if the cut is okay, but even if it isn’t…it just is what it is. And it’s shorter than I expected…as it always is.
So I’m home. And I’m trying to ignore my hair. And I talk to my mother, who only knows I went to get my hair cut. And she’s telling me that my brother (who lives with them) is upset about something he didn’t know about…because he has to know everything. Even when it has nothing to do with him. And I’m one of the people who knew about this…THING that has nothing to do with him. Part of it was my doing. So she asks me to tell him about it and I get mad. I tell him, then I tell him if he has questions he should ask her…which he doesn’t bother to do. He just wanted to be mad and make my mother feel badly. He’s really self-centered and doesn’t think about other people. He’s sure the world should revolve around him. His schedule, his knowledge, his life. It’s very difficult for me because although he’s older than I am, I often feel like I’m taking care of him. I often feel like everyone is catering to him, even though he’s entirely capable of being an adult.
So that was yesterday, and now it’s today. I go over to go with my parents’ to my mother’s lymphedema appointment and I tell my mother than I’m angry with my brother. She takes his side, tells me not to be angry. And I tell her I’m allowed to be angry. Then she tells me she likes the color of the pants she’s wearing. I bought her those pants so she’d have something with larger legs that would cover her lymphedema wraps. I picked out the color for her, I ordered the pants, I did it without asking because I knew it would be helpful. She said she liked the color of the pants but didn’t say thank you to me for taking care of it for her. She didn’t mention one word about my obviously reddish hair. She only told me not to be mad at my brother because “he can’t help it” if he is the way he is (she made him that way because she lets him get away with it) and told me she liked the color of her pants.
I helped her roll her wheelchair into the bathroom so she could go before we left for her appointment, then I sat down in their living room and texted Hub and said, “I feel unnoticed and unappreciated.” He wrote back that he was sorry, that he loved me, and that he liked my hair. I help my mother down the hall in her wheelchair and into the mudroom to get her coat on. We get in the car. There’s no conversation because I don’t initiate conversation. Normally I try to keep Mom occupied, but I didn’t today. We get to her appointment and the therapist starts talking about wrapping Mom’s legs at home. And I’m volunteered. Because my father has no patience. And who else is there? And in my head I’m already thinking of how often I’m going to need to unwrap and rewrap her. What weird hours of the day she’s going to want that done. The therapist tries to train me to wrap my mother’s legs–feet, calves, thighs–so she does one leg and I do one leg. My OCD gets to me, it takes me three times as long to wrap the leg I’m working on versus the therapist (I know, she’s been doing it for 14 years…but it’s my brain hating on me). We finish up and go back to the car. I’m silent on the way home, though I’m texting with another brother about some paperwork we’re trying to finish up for my parents. And we’re talking about the brother who lives with my parents and how frustrated I am.
We get home. I put together all the wraps from the last appointment to take home so I can wash them…because who else is going to? I ask Mom if I can get her anything and she says no. Then she says, “You got your hair cut?” I said yes. That was the end of the conversation. I put my coat on and came home to take care of my dogs and wash the wraps.
I feel like I’m unnoticed and I feel terrible for feeling this way. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I wouldn’t NOT do the things I’m doing. I wouldn’t not buy the clothes she needs, or try to buy the wheelchair cushion she needs (it’s too hard and it makes my back hurt–not thanks for thinking of it, but can we try finding something different…), or wash the wraps, or go to the appointments or buy the food or supervise the cleaning people or clip her toenails or cut her fingernails or make her soup the way she likes it or … or… or…
But I’m still a person. I still want to be seen as a person. Their daughter, their sister…not just the person who is doing all the things that no one else is doing. Not the person who had to learn how to read and decipher legalese to figure out their trust paperwork. Not the person who had to figure out how to deal with their bonds, or transferring their accounts into the trust…or how to move all her volunteer work to other volunteers. I’m still me. I’m still part of the family, I’m not just a personal assistant or representative or paid caregiver. I want to be acknowledged, I want to be noticed, I want to be appreciated for the things I’m trying to do to take care of things. No, I want to be noticed and appreciated, period.
I’m tired. I can’t take a break because there’s no one else to do these things. They won’t let me hire someone to help them. And honestly, even if they did, they’d probably want me to be there to supervise them, like with the cleaning people. I’m not able to do as much at my own home as I used to. Laundry falls behind. The dogs get left at home more and more…I don’t see Hub as much. The dishes stack up in the sink or sit in the dishwasher. Things that need to get done are not getting done at all. I feel lost, like I’m losing who I am. And I feel absolutely horrible about feeling that way because I love my parents and I want to do everything I can to help them. I didn’t know this would be so hard. I’m terrified because I know this is only going to get harder as Mom gets sicker. She’s lucid, though she has trouble hearing and remembering things right now. But in truth, this isn’t the mother I remember, even in the last couple of years that she’s been fighting with this. She’s unhappy. She’s moody. She’s short with her temper. She acts like a petulant child. She complains that no one does anything right. I know she’s sick. I know this is incredibly difficult for her. Which is all the more reason why I feel horrible for feeling the way I do.
I try really hard not to be short with her, and I try to do things the way she wants–generally asking specifically what she wants and encouraging her to tell me how she wants it done. She’ll tell me it’s fine, then complain when it isn’t done to her standards or satisfaction. As soon as I walk into the house she starts complaining…about my father, about something that happened or didn’t, about the doctor, the pills, the cleaning people, the phone calls, the crochet, the television…whatever is sitting on her mind. She doesn’t even say hello or ask how I am. She almost always asks about Hub–who we all claim is her favorite child–but she doesn’t often ask about me. That’s another reason why I feel like I’m invisible. If I limp because of my plantar fasciitis, she might see it and say “why are you walking like that” but that’ll be it. Most times she won’t even notice.
I know that’s my mother still in there. I don’t think she knows that I’m still in here.