On Being an Adult

When we get older, we find ourselves having to do things that normally we would not. Either we simply choose not to, or we think, “it’s not our responsibility so I do not have to do it.”

But being an adult means that sometimes you do things that you do not want to do. It isn’t that you do them because you have to. At the end of the day, nobody can truly force you into doing a thing that you don’t want to. It’s called freedom. However, there is a little thing called, “taking responsibility.”

Responsibility is something that comes with time, age, and especially with elderly parents. When the child becomes the adult, caring for the “new” child so-to-speak. Anyone in that position would understand what that means.

Most people know that I live with my mom and I take care of the old biddy (what? I say it to her face, too, lol). She turned 73 as of October last year. A few years ago she took a tumble in the bathtub, ruptured her kidneys, and from then on it was back and forth to the hospital/doctor nearly every day. She spent months in the hospital here, spent days in the emergency room there. She also learned she had Type 2 Diabetes during that time, which for her was frightening. The doctors didn’t think she’d make it when she came home and when she refused to go through the dialysis.

It was interesting to have a doctor tell me that I would be responsible for her death if I let her go home, when he was trying to manipulate me into giving him full legal responsibility for her, so that he could force her into dialysis. A surreal moment. And one more reason that my temper boils when dealing with doctors these days. Not all are bad of course, but I remember a far different type from when I was a kid.

Before I go on, I should sidenote and mention that despite my mom’s age, she is a very stubborn old lady. So half of the time, sometimes more, sometimes less, the woman can take care of herself. She hates feeling like a burden. At least this she tells me. I only consider someone a burden when they are trying not to be. Because then they seem to somehow MAKE more work for a person. Not sure how that works. But I want to make this clear so people don’t picture a wheelchair bound person.

There has never been one month since that time where she hasn’t gone back and forth to the doctor.

During that time my older brother was on the road most of the time, and when he was at home, he still did not help me out unless I practically screamed at him to (I am not someone who likes to yell and scream, trust me). I took care of the hospitals, the doctors, the house, the yard, myself, and the animals pretty much all on my own. I shouldered nearly everything, including things for him. Mostly the stress.

I suffer from stress-induced panic attacks, and anxiety attacks. At this point it has been a long time since one hit me as hard as they can. And long enough since one has hit at all, that I can’t remember when the last came on.

I started to suffer from them after the last time I was raped. When things get too bad, or too stressful, the anxiety begins, and the panic can creep in. The panic I get isn’t an outward panic that you can see. I don’t go crazy and run around screaming. I don’t grab you and make YOU freak out. You would never know I was going through one. It’s all internal and it’s a living nightmare for however long it lasts.

I took yoga back up to get control over myself, and began exercising more during that time to remove the stress from my body, which made a dramatic difference. Lately it has been creeping in at times, so I have been struggling behind-the-scenes with reminding myself to exercise, to take care of myself, and most of all . . . not to stress out over everything.

I know what you’re thinking. You do THAT much, and you don’t stress out? Nope. My life is a vacation with everything I do. Just because of how much I love to do it. More on that in another blog.

So on top of taking care of my mom and everything I had to during that time, I would have doctors and nurses demanding things of me that induced that panic feeling (the lack of control I had was the most difficult aspect that brought it on), and it was very difficult to constantly drive my mom back and forth to the doctor, go pick up medications, and deal with the hospitals and staff. The stress put upon me was getting unbearable to the point that something broke within me and I could no longer handle even watching hospital shows without starting to feel sweaty, nauseous, and thinking about the pain that the people were going through made the heart pound and I would grow terribly dizzy. Nearing the point of faintness.

I knew that dealing with chauffeuring my mom back and forth to the doctor, being around that atmosphere, and the stress of the situation was something I was no longer able to deal with. It wasn’t that I absolutely couldn’t as much as I knew it was better for me not to because I was no good to anyone if I ended up needing help for passing out. Which for me feels like I am admitting a weakness that will make people look down upon me. That is incredibly hard for me. It’s harder when my own family makes me feel as though I am weak for not being able to handle it, which is where that feeling has derived from for me. As far as they are concerned, I should be able to handle everything and then some. Then come out cool as a cucumber. If not? I’m weak.

That matters less to me now than it used to. Because I do 99% of duties around this house and I have come to realize that is something most do not. I do it not because I have a gun to my head. I do it because I chose to, and because I do enjoy it. My mom tries to help when she can, but now that she’s getting older, she forgets that she simply can’t handle certain things. I think, like me, she feels it a weakness. I tell her all the time, “It’s that you’re getting old. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just what IS.” Nothing wrong with accepting the way you are (mental note here, eh?), we all have limits.

For me, I have been raised to be the “responsible” one of the house. It exists. I was born with an old soul, which didn’t ever help the situation, and merely added to that feeling.

The biggest thing that’s always been ingrained within me was to take care of people, to help them, to love them, to give to them. It is something that makes me happy. It’s natural. Take care of people = happiness. Through age, and experiences, I have learned that I cannot take care of another if I don’t first take care of myself. That’s been hard to face, but I have grown much better at it. I am capable of saying “no,” politely while meaning it, and for the most part, I do not feel guilt over it. I know that it is no longer wrong to do so.

Nobody forced me into the position I am in. I simply stepped up. It wasn’t a hard decision. And for me, I was raised with the attitude that when your elderly parents age, it becomes your responsibility to take care of them. I was not raised with the mental attitude that some have, that says, “you don’t HAVE to take care of your parents. It is not YOUR responsibility.” But . . . it is. I can’t fathom otherwise.

It wasn’t their responsibility to take care of me, either. It wasn’t. Nobody forces a parent to take responsibility for their child. If they don’t want to, they won’t. Yet the decent ones do. Because it is the right thing to do. Because they know in their hearts that they are responsible for that child.

They choose to be an adult. And choose to act like one.

Many people know OF my stress, my life, but they don’t usually hear the behind the scenes like this. I’m not sure why I am going so deep, but well, here I am. I guess that I want to say to people, look, we are all human. We have struggles, we have stuff we deal with. That makes none of us less than another so why be afraid to be vulnerable? I am coming to term with this idea, haha.

Something that I do know is that nobody should have to do everything on their own. I chose last year that I would forgo certain external social activities to be here for my mom, and to build this career I believe in so much. Maybe that’s wrong to certain people, but to be honest, it’s me.

Being an adult means we make those choices, and we know the limits we have. My brother is a few years older than me. He’s nearly 40 years old and yet he still does not seem to understand this. I told him at the beginning of this year that his responsibility is to take our mother to her doctor appointments and deal with that side of things. I am responsible for everything else. The house, the meals, the animals, building my career, writing my books, the yard. I don’t ask anything else of him unless I absolutely need it.

I have made clear: this is not a negotiation. That is his responsibility. Period. I will not listen to his gripes, or my moms. They are just that way. Again, this is not a negotiation.

You should listen to the grumbling and mumbling I receive from both. I tell them straight out. I do not want to hear it. I will leave the room if I am forced to, and then they can grumble to themselves. Congratulations. Now they both see what I have had to deal with. <–Also I say.

Because let’s face it. If you are an adult. You act like one.

Being responsible isn’t forced upon us. It is a choice. Choosing to be responsible means understanding that you do have options. This isn’t about being controlled. Responsibility means making the right decision most of the time, even if it means you’ll face a lot of hardships in the process. It means thinking about something, and someone, besides yourself.

Being an adult sometimes means we make choices we don’t want to. Not because we have to.

Because we choose to.

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