Tuesday 04 | 11| 2017

Stress and Relationships: Moving Part 1

We are moving! Moving closer to family and to a home more suitable to the long term demands of Parkinson’s disease. It’s our 14th move. One might think that would make it easier, but it is still hard, and filled with stress. Took us 5 years to find the right home and when we first toured the place we fell in love with it almost instantly. That was quite unusual for us. This only added more stress; fearing the loss of the home to someone or some step in the process, so many steps in the process leading to closing. Then there is moving – moving belongings, moving employment, moving to a new community, and moving medical services. Add to this the selling of our previous home, all of those details and the goodbyes to a home loved, a community shared. Stress from so many directions there was overload daily, but the biggest worry was the moving of medical services. It was the main reason we liked the new home. Moving over medical care has some serious concerns. The VA divides its medical treatment into service areas,located around a major VA hospital. When I was first seeking disability services for Parkinson’s disease I had a provider in one VA hospital who refused to believe in the diagnosis and was almost libellous in his notes, and triggered trauma in his aggressive manner during office visits. With help (and it was not easy) I moved services to a different hospital, but now I am moving back to that same catchment area and with some not unfounded fears. What would happen if my new provider opened the old files and read this particular provider’s scathing comments? What kind of first impression would this new VA doctor have of me? How would that shape my treatment? In addition, I need specialized retinal eye treatment, and that treatment has to be moved (which has also not been easy). We will take every step possible, but this is just more stress added to the move. The stress of moving fills up both day and night, fills up the mind with details that need to be addressed, focuses our attention on that stress, only that stress. Our relationship takes a back seat to the needs of this stress. This happens most naturally, so naturally that we may not even know it happens. In the many years I have travelled with my partner we have taken turns “being there” for each other. This idea of being there means that you place your own needs aside for a brief period in order to attend to the needs of your partner. It is understood that s/he will return the favour as soon as time allows. Under normal life conditions this back and forth process of being there for each other is a week in and week out thing. But with moving it’s quite different. Moving doesn’t happen in a week, or two or more. This means that there is little room for this turn-taking being there compassionate process, because both of us are giving nearly all the resources we have available to the moving. The mind is overflowing with attention to details with no more room for anything but the cold wall of numbness. It is a wall which blocks out anything but the details of moving. Because we are consumed by the stress of moving, for months on end, our relationship takes a beating. But this is made worse by the physical stress of moving boxes and furniture and that fact this is all much harder with Parkinson’s. There is a special kind of fatigue that comes with Parkinson’s. Moving continually for 3 days pushed the body right into that, into exhaustion with nauseas and the actual physical inability to move another piece of furniture. This Parkinsonian fatigue is a kind of shut down, a way for the body to save the resources it needs for the basic functions to survive. This retreat into self-preservation happens under situations of high stress. The greater the retreat the harder it is to see the other’s perspective. Pushed even further and “I don’t give a damn about your problems” can easily enter the viewing frame. All that matters is personal survival, getting through this, and feeling better. My partner and I are fortunate because of education, because of a friendship forged in the binds of open communication and because of a similar childhood history of abusive dialog that led us to meeting like two rats on floating wood from the Titanic. We try hard to stay out of the anger mud pit where stress leads to insults spilling out into the space between us that is our loving friendship. The spilling out behavior, taking the stress from one situation and slapping it on another, happens so easily. It’s the “kick the dog” phenomena, yell at the wife after a hard day at the office. Moving is no different, and this was made even more difficult when we both became sick with the flu. That spilling out behavior was a growling dog behind the front door poised and ready every day of the move. All relationships are fragile, all susceptible to stress. Wisdom and love will help, but when the two people are alone, stuck in their stress overwhelmed ego spaces, they are not fully capable of protecting the sacred relationship space between them. When we are stress overwhelmed we tend to revert to the most well used relationship habits, our relationship stance. When really stressed, maybe you hold on to a numb place because you can’t tolerate feeling anymore, an old habit for protecting against abuse. But it is dangerous to the relationship in this non-abusive time of just moving. When really stressed, maybe you want to keep pushing to get it done, get it right without flaws, and all those around are pushed to keep pace. So you push too! This is also a form of habitual self-protection. A way of not feeling other things around because you are pushing hard while also thinking you are safe. But this too is dangerous in our simple time of moving to a new home. One can only push so hard and then the wall is met. Maybe then we yell, or drink, or eat, or crawl under the covers. We all have a strong tendency to fall into old behaviour patterns when the stress levels get high. Through experience, and many next day apologies, my mate and I developed a simple technique for addressing spilling out behaviour called “Don’t Talk - Take a Walk”. It’s straightforward. Zip the lip so nothing spills out and talk a walk so no actions spill out. Come back and interact when you have a cool head and can speak in a way which contributes to the situation at hand. If possible, take a moment to consider the other’s perspective on the situation. Take a brief walk in their shoes. There is no perfect step-by-step formula for handling the effects of stress on relationships. The only way past the negative problems of stress is through the doors of recognition and responsibility – assuming one has a mind quiet enough to walk through. The world bombards us with stress every day. Relationships are confusing in part because we have difficulty with the noise, the pace and the pressures of life. Relationships are confusing because we have difficulty communicating about the sacred aspects of the space between. Stress adds to the communication difficulties because we have a natural tendency to retreat inward, losing perspective of the other. Even though this move was difficult, it was also inspiring – a topic for the next blog.. .
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