When Rich stopped work in March 2013, he was freaked out about how he would spend his time. He does not like to sit around, but he really doesn’t have any solitary hobbies, except working out. So he started walking. He kind of reminds me of Forrest Gump when he walked across the country and never stopped, except Rich shaves every day. Rich started walking and it instantly became 12 – 15 miles per day. He says it is the only thing that gives him any measure of peace. It is a very small dose of peace, but he helps to keep him from “crawling out of his skin” or sobbing on the closet floor. Well, sometimes it helps with that. Sometimes it only helps while he is actually walking. As soon as he stops, the emotions often come crashing in on him.
From a therapeutic standpoint, walking is a bilateral movement that stimulates both sides of the brain. This type of movement, bilateral and repetitive in nature, is often very calming to the brain. There is another simple technique that can be used to calm anxiety. Cross your arms and tap that little hollow just above your collar bones. Repetitively tap lightly with the tips of your fingers. It should feel pleasant, not hard, obnoxious tapping. This is called the “butterfly tap” and it is simple to do and takes only a minute.
Rich walked into an activity that serves many purposes; it keeps him busy; uses bilateral movement to help calm his brain; it helps offset the compulsive eating with which he has been struggling; trains our dog, Harley, to be a perfect gentleman; and gives me a break from “the velcro man” when I’m home and not at work. It also gives him something to do when I am at work. Sometimes he freaks out, even days in advance, that he will be alone while I am working. Walking is good for Rich. Anything that helps keep him on some sort of even keel is good for all of us.
Rich stopped working in March 2013 because he could no longer hold his emotions steady enough to be in court for many hours at a time. He was amazingly strong for so long. There were days he was in horrid emotional pain, barely able to breathe through racking sobs, and he would pull himself together with a sheer force of will. He would don his business suit and haul himself to work. With a huge internal effort, Rich controlled his emotions and focused on “his kids.” I told him he was a stud because his amazing internal control system was constantly being mobilized and it was exhausting for him.
Being at work, for a very long time as this illness progressed, was Rich’s best place. Even though it took huge amounts of internal energy to hold himself in place, he would focus and hold things together. He always put the children he represented before anything else, including his own emotional turmoil. An amazing attorney friend, Marc Barulich, would cover for Rich when we needed him to be there. I would call Marc sometimes and say, “I think you need to cover for Rich today, he can’t make it into court.” Rich would pull himself together and show up and Marc would stare at him trying to see any sign of what was going on just an hour before when I called him. Marc continually expressed amazement at Rich’s ability to focus and pull himself together because no one in the courtroom could tell anything was going on inside. At times Rich appeared super tired, but we all thought this was due to his sleep disorder. When he fell asleep in the back of the courtroom waiting for his cases to be called, we knew he was slipping. This actually happened three times before we took him off work.
Rich would hold himself together all day. It was truly a magnanimous effort of will. When he got home, he would go to bed about 6:00 pm and sleep for 10 – 12 hours. It took everything out of him to struggle through the day. It began to get obvious that this pattern was not going to hold forever. Rich began texting me from court, when he was waiting for his cases to be called. He’d say “I can’t do this anymore.” “I’m crawling out of my skin with anxiety.” “I feel like I’m going to start crying right here in court.” It was time to take him off work.
All of the financial struggles that occur when you lose one spouse’s income, especially the majority income earner, will have to wait for another blog entry. The horrendous amount of paperwork involved in applying for disability, only to receive a very small pittance of his former income, is almost debilitating to the person having to do it. That would be me. As I often feel inside, “the buck stops here.” If Rich can no longer do something, I must. It feels like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger with tons of debris being added to the mix. I have thought many times that this is how caregivers get so stressed. It isn’t just the concern, grief, loss and fear about what is happening to the person you love, it is about everything being put on the caregiver’s shoulders. I had a thought the other day that when Rich can’t go grocery shopping anymore, I’ll probably sit down in a corner and have a major melt down. That day is approaching.