Caring for Momma
Two life-changing events all within a year of each other.
My mother aka Momma had a series of 12 strokes.
And between her husband and I, we were her primary caregivers.
During the first set of strokes, Momma was able to bounce back fairly quickly. She technically had TIAs or mini-strokes as she called them. They don’t last as long and you can bounce back pretty quickly with rest and proper treatment.
Momma was back to work in no time.
Or so we thought.
The next set of strokes (they came in sets of threes), changed the game.
Momma’s mobility was affected. I took her to physical therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. I cooked for her, took her grocery shopping, and helped tidy up her place.
If you knew my Momma, you know she was used to being active. She was active in church and ministry. She was a mentor and always learning. And this slowdown frustrated her. She would often talk about getting back behind the wheel of her Toyota Forerunner.
The next set of strokes impacted Momma’s cognitive abilities. She struggled to remember things. She couldn’t always find her words. Her mobility was severely impaired. I watched the woman I knew to be unstoppable, forced to stop. And there were moments when she was angry.
All the while I was helping to care for her. Making sure she had her meds, getting her to the doctor, fussing at providers who would fry her fish, and going grocery shopping.
I watched the woman who still had so many plans and aspirations refuse to give up hope that she would one day drive again and regain her life.
It never happened.
The last set of strokes were game-changers.
Her body was weak and we knew it was only a matter of time.
I sincerely believe that the three months after those last set of strokes were for Momma so she could come to terms with her reality.
Chaos on the Homefront
After Momma passed, there were a new set of challenges to contend with.
And let’s just say that experience had me close Casa Alexander for good. Our family had always taken in people and given them respite. But this last experience? I promised myself and my guys…NEVER AGAIN.
I’ll kindly book folk a hotel for a few nights before I open up my home again.
Setting our home in order again took some doing and I’m not willing to compromise the peace we’ve cultivated.
The Aftermath and Recognizing PTS
Watching Momma go through her health challenges impacted me in ways I would have never thought. Momma was young by my account. If Nana transitioned at 92, Momma leaving here at 66 didn’t feel right. There was so much she still wanted to do.
So whenever I had a headache, whenever my body did something out of the ordinary, I panicked. I KNEW I was on the verge of something bad happening. Why? Because it happened to my Momma. I checked my blood pressure excessively. And any reading other than normal sent my blood pressure even higher.
My doctor told me, “Lisa, stop checking so often.”
I was convinced that I wouldn’t see all my hopes and dreams materialize because they hadn’t for Momma. I was her daughter after all. And all my relatives had health issues of some kind or the other. I was convinced that something was lurking just beneath the surface.
And that’s how post-traumatic stress manifested.
Just for the record, my doctor has given me an overall clean bill of health. Just a few things to tweak. Other than that, I’m a very healthy woman who is in the process of shutting down her baby manufacturing plant.
My labs are all clean. My doctors tell me I’m good.
And it took me a while to believe it.
I had to tell myself that my way of living is quite different from my Momma’s.
I was so consumed with premature death that I stopped enjoying the journey. Especially when I was entertaining chaos under my roof.
I had never heard anyone talk about the different ways stress can manifest after caring for a loved one. I didn’t know that being fixated on my own mortality was a stress response from watching Momma suffer.
Then I had to address my lack of trust.
You see that last experience had me building walls, forts, dams, and anything else to keep enemy invaders out.
Out of my home.
Out of my circle.
Everybody was suspect. Because if people close to you could cause this kind of damage, I wasn’t taking any chances.
It took so much to reclaim my space and recultivate the peace we once knew. Now, I’m not willing to jeopardize it. It was a process for our abode to regain its sanctuary status.
But that work had to happen internally before I could apply it to brick-and-mortar.
Post-traumatic stress or maybe it’s the lessons learned from that experience that fuels me to guard my space, my energy, and my peace with the skill of the most agile ninja.
Like you, I’d heard about post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But it’s another thing altogether to recognize it in your own life.
Because once you recognize it, you have to make the choice to submit to the healing process and actively participate in that process every day.
There is life after the trauma.
There is healing from the stress and sometimes that healing is ongoing. Not a one-and-done kind of thing. I’ve learned that there are layers to healing.
But I can tell you that doing the work is worth it.
You can absolutely free yourself (with the help of a good support team) and enjoy your journey.
Lisa N. Alexander is the author and founder of This Woman Knows and What Million-Dollar Brands Know. She is an award-winning filmmaker, director, producer, and writer and is the owner of PrettyWork Creative.
Such a revelatory read! PTS can “sneak up on you,” especially in instances where the trauma appears to be “second hand” (i.e., the result of something that happens to others, but you witnessed or experienced the effects). THANK YOU for shedding light on this very real experience!
Nykema, you are very welcome.