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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Staying sane while being there for Janey

Janey has calmed down a bit from some of the hard times last week.  It seems like PMS played a role, and it's kind of good to know there might have been a reason---so often, we have no idea at all what is upsetting her.

My son Freddy is home this week, and we've been talking a lot.  He's a great guy to talk to!  One talk we had made me reflect on my life quite a bit.  He talked about how when he went to college last fall, it was hard thinking about our lives back home, thinking about how tough our lives can be.  My instinctive answer was "My life is fine!"  Of course, ask me that on a bad day with Janey or a day after no sleep, and I'll give you a different answer.  But I bounce back pretty quickly, and when others have said similar things to what Freddy said, about what a hard life I have, I've given them the same answer.  I'm not being a martyr when I say most of the time, my life is pretty good.

I've been thinking about what I do to stay sane when stress hits, and the last few years, with four hospitalizations for Janey, her increasingly self-injurious and sometimes aggressive behavior, two boys starting college, the challenge of her sometimes not great sleep...there has been some stress.  But out of necessity, I've figured out things to do that help.

If I were giving advice about stress relief, the main thing I'd say is to find something you can do EVERY day, do without leaving the house and something you can cram into whatever free moments you have.  It's fine to get relief from something like hiking or shopping for clothes or going to yoga classes or whatever, but if something involves leaving the house, finding childcare, spending money...many of us with kids like Janey are NOT going to be able to do that thing regularly.

I've got quite a few at home go-to hobbies.  I love words games.  I play a lot of Scrabble on Facebook, and a lot of single player word games on the iPad.  I have also gotten into SongPop recently (a name that tune type game).  I love photography, and I take a lot of bird pictures in my back yard, as well as flower pictures and pictures of Janey.  Gardening is another stress reliever.  I can sneak outside when Tony is watching Janey or when Janey is at school, and something about digging in the dirt and watching seedlings grow is simply amazingly relaxing.  And I read.  I read a very, very lot.  I have a huge list of books lined up to order from the library, and as soon as I get one batch, I order the next, in order to never be without a book!

All of the hobbies I have are low or no cost.  You do have to buy seeds and a camera to grow flowers or take pictures, but once you do that, there isn't a lot more to buy.  Word games are free, and library book reading is too.  And all of those hobbies can be done in a few minutes here and there, stopping when I need to stop.

I am probably lucky I am basically an introvert.  I don't mind spending a lot of time at home or in fairly solitary pursuits.  I socialize on Facebook or on the phone, mostly.  I do wonder sometimes if having Janey has made me even more of what I already was---a little bit of a loner.  But even being social can be, with some adjustments, something I can do within the restraints of life with Janey.  I have an internet full of people to talk with, if I don't mind the lack of face to face.  I can go to support groups, and do at times, where I can talk to people living lives similar to mine.  And I sometimes actually get away, for lunches with friends while Janey is at school, or as I did recently, for weekend getaways when Tony can watch Janey.

Sometimes, the best times are WITH Janey, when her mood allows.  At times, we put on music and dance to it, or order takeout and eat with glee all together, or go for long car rides to see the state, never getting out of the car but enjoying the scenery.  These are all things that Janey loves and we love too.

There are days when all of this is not enough---days where Janey screams all day and even 5 minutes to play Scrabble is not possible, where the garden goes to weed and the camera stays in the case and the books don't get read.  Those are tough days.  As the years go by, I realize that I need to keep myself sane.  If it comes down to grabbing a minute to do something I enjoy or getting that extra pile of dishes done, I often pick the enjoyment option.  Some people might be able to defer fun, but those of us with kids like Janey can't always count on being able to do that.  It is good for everyone, Janey included, if I am happy, and as time has gone by, I feel less guilty about doing what I need to do to be happy.  I hope all of you have found ways to enjoy the time you have to enjoy.

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