Ch.59 Ron Becomes Anxious and Irritable

Ch.59 Ron Becomes Anxious and Irritable

Summer, 2020

          Lately I’ve been anxious and irritable. I’ll talk about my irritability later in this essay, but for now let me focus on my anxiety.

          Fortunately, I attended a virtual support group for caregivers last night that helped me better understand what’s going on. Every care partner there was stressed to some extent. We soon came up with a common denominator for our tension: the sense that, unpredictably, something bad could happen at any moment. The “bad” thing might be one’s partner falling down, or that person suddenly saying something negative and mean when you thought all was well, or perhaps he/she becoming confused, depressed, or scared for no apparent reason, or in even more difficult situations the individual with Lewy Body walking out the door and disappearing or driving away.  We care partners both witness and then must quickly respond to these new conditions.  

          People with Lewy Body experience rapid and unpredictable fluctuations of mood, cognition, physical condition, and behavior. It’s not their fault, of course. That’s just how Lewy Body affects those we love. But this unpredictability does have an effect. It’s easy to become tense, perhaps unconsciously, waiting for the next scene in this Lewy Body Improv theater. One predictable result for care partners, I believe, is chronic low-grade anxiety.

          Chronically anxious is a perfect description of myself over the last week. Jumpy. Suspicious (“What’s she going to say next? Is she angry with me? If so, why?”). Afraid to let down my guard. Tense. And irritable.

Twice now, I’ve suddenly become angry over something Pat said, some small but unexpected criticism. Both times, I’ve yelled and one time I slammed my fist down on a table. But why? Nothing seemed different than usual. And then I realized that something was different in our lives: Pat’s routine has changed and she’s staying up later. Instead of heading to bed at 8-9 p.m., Pat’s been staying awake until 10-11. I don’t know why she’s changed her pattern. I don’t know if it will last.    

So, here’s my problem. That couple hours at the end of the day has been my private time, my opportunity to relax, my time to let go of stress. Without it, my anxiety level has been building up. When Pat calls me during those night hours my internal reaction is more “Yeah, NOW what do you want?” than “How can I help, honey?”

Ok, now what? Pat, like anyone else, will go to bed when she wants to go to bed. I think I need to make sure I have a couple hours of personal time each day. Lately, most days I’ve gone off to paint after the nightly PBS news hour that ends at 7 pm our time. In addition, I could take a walk with our Collie Levi during the day. I could read. I don’t think it matters what I do so long as I do it on my own.

I’ve never thought of myself as a loner. But now, with us basically staying home all the time because of Covid-19, I must accept my need for private time. I hope Pat will understand that I’m not pushing her away.


Pat’s comments on Ron Becomes Anxious and Irritable

          I wasn’t aware that the things I said were so important to you. You haven’t told me so.

          Ron, you spend more time away from me than you realize, and I don’t usually see you coming back and saying “hi” in-between the things you are doing. Maybe there’s not as much difference between us as you think, meaning we both want to spend a lot of time with each other.

          I need alone time too. Sometimes I read a book or nap or go out in the yard. But if you wanted to come out there when I’m in the yard I would be fine with that too.