I had a meltdown this week.  Allow me to give you some backstory.  Five or so years ago, we began caring for Bill’s dad, Ray. In that time, we have moved him 4 times, handled some very complicated legal matters, managed all his doctor and dental appointments (and the dog’s vet appointments), gotten his estate in order, and been there for his day to day needs.  All of this has been on the heels of doing the same for Louise for 3 years before she died.  Anyone who has taken care of an aging parent knows what I mean when I say, good days are taxing and bad days are utterly exhausting. The cumulative effect of the past several years has taken its toll.

In addition, the kind of stress we have been living under has effected Bill’s TBI brain negatively. When he is stressed his neuro fatigue increases.  What that means is he can be going through a day as normal, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, he cannot function.  The only way to reboot his brain is for him to sleep.  It doesn’t matter if there is a crisis going on around him or it is a normal day, he simply cannot process information.

Just before a shut down, he is in overdrive.  He talks faster and louder than usual.  He verbally processes everything with everyone. His brain is frantically trying to take in and comprehend the situation.  It requires a tremendous amount of mental energy to function in crisis mode, and to some degree, we have been in that mode for a several years now.

Our current situation is that Ray has been transported to the hospital by ambulance 3 times in the past month or so.  The first time, he pushed his panic button when his arm and hand started tingling.  The second time, a friend went to see him and he couldn’t speak.  His blood pressure spiked to 207/155 and the assisted living staff called the ambulance.  Those two visits to the hospital resulted in tons of tests, all of which came back normal. The conclusion is that he is having TIAs (mini strokes) which are affecting his brain function.

The third trip to the ER came while I was in Atlanta for work last weekend.  They called us at 1:00 am to say Ray had been outside walking his dog when he fell in the parking lot and hit his head on the concrete.  Thank God he didn’t break any bones, but his head was banged up enough to spend about a week in the hospital.  Again, confusion caused him to not realize it was midnight when he went outside.  Again, the tests showed nothing wrong.  Again, we were at a loss as to what to do.

I must say, I do not like hospital living.  Driving the 40 minutes each way, sitting in a room trying to work, while also feeding and caring for Ray is hard.  Trying to figure out what is the best thing for him is hard. Watching Bill try so hard to process it all is hard.  Being the information gatherer and processor is hard.  Doing all of this while trying to work full time, run my tutoring business, and co-care for my mom and dad is hard.

One day last week, Ray was delusional.  He was agitated.  He was being difficult. His behavior was all too familiar to me and it triggered some past trauma of mine from when Bill was injured all those years ago.  There came a moment when we were waiting for a nurse to get Ray up to go to the bathroom, and he said, “I can do this by myself. I don’t need you or the nurse.  Just leave me alone.”  My anger was instant.  All of the hours spent caring for him and he just blew it off. I realize, of course, he was confused and his brain wasn’t operating normally. Mine wasn’t either.

I didn’t explode, but I did get up and firmly say, “I am so glad you don’t need help.  I will be leaving now.”  I walked out and promptly began to weep.  I was just trying to get out of the building when it hit me how much I needed my mom.  Only my mom is now about 3 years old. I needed her to say, “People have no idea the difficulty of your day to day.”  I needed her to wrap me in a hug and say, “It will be okay.” With tears rolling down my face, we told the staff we were leaving and as we turned the corner towards the elevator, we heard the chair alarm go off as Ray tried to get up to get dressed and walk home.

aaron and hur

For the next 24 hours I was a basket case.  Any attempt to talk resulted in a flood of tears. I was literally at my end, but then the most amazing thing happened.  My Aaron and Hurs showed up.  If you don’t know the story in the Bible it is in Exodus 17.  There is a battle going on in the valley. Moses is standing on a hill overlooking the action with his hands lifted to God asking for the victory.  As the battle goes on, his arms tire but when he puts them down the Israelites begin to lose.  When he puts his arms back up, they begin to win.  Physically he cannot continue to hold them up and that is when his brother Aaron and friend Hur show up to lift his arms for him.  With their help, the battle is won.

The battle in front of me was being lost.  My arms were tired.  My whole being was tired.  I could not keep going, but then a friend encouraged me to hold on to my health even though I couldn’t control my circumstances.  Then some powerful women at my office gathered around me and prayed powerful prayers.  Then my sister turned her car around and pointed it towards the hospital. They showed up.  My Aarons and Hurs.  They held my arms up and they haven’t stopped.

My sister talked to the hospital, the case worker, and the assisted living staff.  She advocated for Ray and Bill, but she also advocated for ME.  She explained why they had to make it work to get him back to where he was or to memory care rather than our house. She told them how much effort it takes for Bill to function in stressful situations because of his hidden brain disability, and how I have to be there for him as well as Ray which means I need support.  She held my arms up.  She stood up for me…and then she took me to dinner.

Afterwards, we went for a hike around the lake. About half way around my legs were weak, and my fake knee didn’t work properly.  I took a pretty hard fall that knocked the breath out of me.  I laid there crying in the dirt and I said, “What else?  What else can go wrong?”  Almost immediately there was thunder overhead which brought laughter as we decided that wasn’t the best question for me to ask.  Melinda got me up, checked me for broken bones (thank God for family nurses! Can I get an amen?), and then got me walking again.  She literally pulled me up by my arms.   The two of us have learned, after walking our Aunt Betty to the gates of heaven and closing her estate, that we need each other.  We have learned, as we walk our mom and dad through their last years, that we have to hold one another up sometimes.  It has been a gift to know she has my back and I have hers.

I hope you have some Aaron and Hurs in your life.  It is so important to know that when you are at your end, they will show up.  They will stand up.  They will hold you up. So, if you have been wondering why I haven’t written much lately, now you know. As my sore body recovers from my fall, I am trying to rest as much as possible, but we are not done by a long shot.  Some of the hardest decisions we have to make are coming next week, which most likely mean moving a man who doesn’t want to move to memory care.  Pray we will have the stamina we need and that cooperation and understanding will prevail.  Your prayers hold my arms up and you will never know how much that means to me in this season.

19 thoughts on “Meltdown

  1. Dear Michelle, Read this piece with concern for you and your adorable men. But, knowing Abba’s unfailing love, I know His presence and manifold provisions for you and yours will always prevail. Yes, the Aarons and Hurs will continue to be the Father’s rainbow for us, in times of utter despair. Please take care of your heart and your body will get the message.

    I return to Uganda next weekend.

    Give Bill and Ray my warmest regards.

    Love you loads, you are a Warrior!!! So proud of you.

    Uche Sent from a mobile device


  2. Oh sweet friend, my heart aches for you. I am sitting here crying and praying that God will equip you and continue sending those to help support you. I wish I could send you a basket of warm cookies, a purring cat, a dog to snuggle, and a waterfall to sit near. Know that you are loved and supported. Thank you for sharing your journey. It helps us all.

  3. Michelle, you have been through the wringer. You have been a strength to everyone around you. I am thankful for your Aarons and Hurs. I wish I were local so I could help you. Know that you are loved, friend!!

  4. My dear Michelle. This post came as I was “in my nest” having my morning devotional. I am holding your arms up in thoughts, love and prayers. Oh that Bob and I were not dealing with health issues ourselves, we would be there in person. It is harder to see our children deal with serious issues than for us. It hurts so bad not to be able to be a substitute Mom in person and hold you as you sob. May you feel the presence of God holding you, comforting you at this time.
    Peace and hope to you,
    Mrs. V

  5. Beautifully written! And you are right, we have learned to “lean in” on each other to hold our arms up strong. Through continuous prayer and crying out to the Lord…. we have got this my sweet sister.

  6. My Dear Sweet Daughter,
    Wish you were geographically nearer to us so that a real hug would be possible but if it is possible to feel an ESP hug know that one is being sent. You have been heroic through the years in your efforts to confront and care in these difficult circumstances. You owe no apology nor should feel no weakness when human limitations are overwhelmed by demand. You are right to step back to renew your strength physically, emotionally and spiritually so that you are able to help those who need your presence. Your beautiful gift of writing verbally expressing your deeply felt distress is in a real sense a gift to those of us who love you. Know that we care and want to help in whatever way we can even in our age-limited capacity and that prayers will be whispered for you and those you love.

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