I’m 44, and my mother’s driving me crazy.
It’s been hard enough to be a single parent overseeing at-home schooling of two children.
But being responsible for a frightened but physically-healthy senior who calls almost every hour, is wearing me down. I fear getting ill from the stress.
My mother lives in an apartment with her younger sister who has mental health issues. I drop off groceries for them every week.
My two brothers both claim they can’t be involved because they’re working and can’t risk bringing COVID-19 home, risking their wives and children.
What about MY children? I don’t really mind the shopping - I have to do it anyway, for me - and my brothers help our mother with her rent.
It’s the constant calls that get to me. My mother hears on the radio about the deaths of old people in homes for seniors and the disabled, and phones me crying, repeatedly.
No matter how much I reassure her that we’ll all take care of her and my aunt, she calls back. If I begin to sound annoyed, she screams with fear.
Other times, she’ll phone to say she doesn’t want me to shop for her any more, she can take care of herself. She’ll go to a local grocery chain store on her own.
I panic, because I know she has no masks, no gloves, and wouldn’t wear them if she did (she told me so).
That starts a new argument and finally my older child got on the phone and tells Grandma that it’s not safe for her to shop unless she’s protected with mask and gloves, stands in a lineup outside the store and waits her turn to get in.
My child cried, and Grandma said she’ll let me do the shopping.
I can’t take this much longer.
It’s no surprise that your mother needs help dealing with her fears and you need help handling stress overload.
Mental health needs are common during this pandemic because we’re dealing with profound changes in our daily routines, along with uncertainty about how long the coronavirus risk will last.
Some stress-relief, however, comes from getting physical exercise, which, though more difficult during a lockdown, isn’t impossible.
For yourself, an online workout session with your two children, can stretch muscles tensed from sitting and working with a computer, and can also provide a fun break from schoolwork and family tensions.
If your mother and your aunt used to walk outside before the lockdown, then spring weather and any official relaxation of stay-home rules, should urge them - with your encouragement - to spend a half-hour outside, still socially distant by two metres from others, in the open air (not inside stores).
Also, call a group meeting online with your brothers and inform them of the need beyond what each of you has been doing, to start discussing better ways to “look after” your mother and your aunt.
She needs reassurance of everyone’s interest and caring for her, not just yours. A daily phone call from each part of her family would go a long way. When the virus threat is substantially weakened, taking a walk with her will help even more.
However, do NOT hesitate to seek immediate mental health help for her and yourself if heavy stress persists.
In Ontario, the toll-free Helpline is 1-866-531-2600. You can access a live web chat, or email. Other locales also have helplines for mental health resources.
Reader’s Commentary Another perspective to what we’ve been living:
“I’ve come to fully appreciate every person whose work means we have access to food, medical care, child care, cheque deposits, garbage pickup, transportation, everyday goods.
“I’m grateful for people who show kindness to their neighbours, leave positive messages in parks, driveways, windows.
“I’m appreciative of those who stay home or wear masks to keep themselves and others safe, who support charitable organizations through volunteering or donations.
“When we worked full-time, we were busy with demanding jobs, chores, running from one after-school activity to another.
“Now I see families taking their children out for walks and bike rides, playing with their kids when outdoors.
“These are difficult and unusual times. We must believe there’ll be better times ahead, that the sacrifices we’re still making mean that lives are saved, and that there’s still much goodness and kindness in people.
“Hopefully we’ll return to a kinder, fairer society.”
Tip of the day:
Combat heavy stress: Exercise, walk outside if safe/possible, seek mental health help.