Take Care of Yourself
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
My nephew noticed it's been a while since I posted. I told him that I think about writing all the time, but there's so much in my head, jumbled up and out of order that it becomes a lot to try to sort out. Therefore, I will just cherry-pick something out of that bird's nest of thoughts.
"Take care of yourself." "Be easy on yourself." "Be gentle to yourself."
These are things that have been said to me over the last year or so. It kind of annoyed me to hear that. What did that mean? What were they talking about? How do I do that? At the time, I didn't know what was expected of me. It sounded like they knew what I was supposed to do, but didn't tell me and I didn't ask, because I figured they wouldn't be able to tell me. In retrospect, I was doing some of those things to "take care of myself."
But I also wasn't doing other things I could have been doing. Even now there are probably things I should be doing but haven't thought of yet. At the moment, besides just living, I was doing the best I could with the exhaustion of stress, worry and grief.
Ian would tell me to learn about addiction and go to Nar-Anon meetings, which I eventually did. Sometimes I didn't go because I was tired of talking or hearing about addiction and Ian would say, "not fun, huh." I can only imagine how he felt when he was trying to get into recovery or live with his addiction. It's front and center in your brain 24/7. So, I went to Nar-Anon meetings off and on as I felt I wanted to go. I searched for podcasts on addiction and eventually found and listened to the podcast "Opioid Dad." Those meetings and podcasts allowed me to listen, talk and relate to other people and parents who were also living with a loved one's addiction.
Bill and I saw a therapist who specialized in family addiction. It helped to talk to someone with experience to know that we weren't off base with how we were handling things and to learn coping skills. After seeing her for a few months, we stopped going. I started with a different therapist a few months before Ian died. She had to transition with us from addiction to grief therapy. It was good that we had an established relationship with a therapist when grief therapy was needed.
Some things that I always did, I was able to continue to do for stress management. I continued to go on walks in the Lake Metroparks - a natural balm - with friends, with Austin or Ian or Kevin, whoever was around. I continued to practice yoga. I kept work, work. In my work life, there was only one person who knew what I was going through. Work was the one place wher addiction wasn't always on my mind.
I guess I was taking care of myself when Ian was alive. Grief changes everything. After Ian died, I stopped going to Nar-Anon (obviously, right? Although they encouraged me to return, I didn't want to be a reminder for those parents of what could happen). I searched for support groups for families who lost loved ones to overdose deaths but didn't really find any that was specific to just that. I stopped going on walks. I stopped practicing yoga. I stopped caring about what I ate. These are important things that after 6 months of not doing on a regular basis eventually caught up to me in physical and emotional ways.
I kept going to grief therapy until I didn't need to anymore. About a month after Ian died, we got our unofficial therapy puppy, Frankie. I started walking and practicing yoga regularly again. I painted my way through summer. Painted the sunroom, painted all of our bedroom furniture, painted Mason jars, and painted our bedroom lamps. While I painted I listened to the podcast, "Terrible, Thanks for Asking."
I recently started wearing a night guard when I sleep to help with the clenching of my jaw which was giving me headaches. I returned to the most amazing physical therapy place to help with my neck and shoulder issues which had built up because of my stress level. I will be going to a new support group that is starting this month for grief after an overdose death. A friend contacted me about holding a talent show to benefit Ian's scholarship, which we just announced.
This blog post is a rambling litany of things I did, am doing, and will do and of how I coped and didn't cope with a son who was battling addiction and then lost the battle. I hope that for those reading this and who have been searching for others to relate to, it makes you feel less alone and may give you thoughts on ways you can "take care of yourself."
Kelly's list of "take care of yourself" resources:
Nar-Anon Family Groups - https://www.nar-anon.org/
Opioid Dad - Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts
Terrible, Thanks for Asking - Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts
Hands on Physical Therapy - https://www.handsonptohio.com/
Healing the Heart: Grief After An Overdose Death - First Tuesday of the month, 6 PM · Hospice of the Western Reserve, East Campus, 34900 Chardon Road, Suite 105 Willoughby Hills, OH 44094 - RSVP
Yoga with Adriene - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SedzswEwpPw
It's Ok That You're not OK - Megan Devine - https://www.amazon.com/Its-That-Youre-Not-Understand/dp/1622039076
General Finishes Furniture Paint - Amazon.com
Just a Walk Home - https://justawalkhomekennel.net
~ Ian's mom
Originally posted November 3, 2019