Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm going to sound very whiny in this post, so if you're a critic of that tone or that tendency in me, go away.

I was talking to one of Us last night and saying there's not much "me" in my days lately. Everyone I know is in terrific emotional and/or physical pain and I've become the listener and, in some cases, adviser or advocate for my friends and family.

It may have started when my dog Roger moved away. That was also about the time my mother, who has chronic congestive heart failure, was rushed to the hospital for three days to treat fluid in her lungs. My blessed brother Jim handled that crisis and flew down the day she got out of the hospital and stayed long enough to get everybody settled and for my father to have the first symptoms of shingles.

They asked Jim if we could take turns going to see them for a few days every two - three months, so I'm going out for their birthdays in mid-October & for Christmas. Jim will get to do the spring cleaning.

It was also about the time I learned my former sponsee, whom you may remember from PFT as "Pam," whom I gave my fat clothes to, has been back and forth between the hospital and nursing home since early April after everything that could go wrong with a hip replacement went wrong: raging infections, two strokes, a breakdown in health care, severe depression. Her health care agent, the person who is in charge of making decisions when she can't and advocating when she can't (and she can't: she's on so much morphine and in so much pain, she can barely remember her own name, let alone remember to ask why she has shooting pains in her left foot), lives in Michigan and can only do so much from so far away.

It became quickly apparent that she needs someone at hand to chase down doctors, go over medical records, get physical therapy for her partially paralyzed left arm going. It also became quickly apparent that person was going to be me.

This means I have to tightly organize my days. Get and drop off dogs on time, bathe in mid-day, have food ready for dinner, be braced to race over to Cobble Hill to talk to people. & I've become a pretty disorganized person who seems also to be on call for other people's problems. If it's not time I spend for and on Pam, it is, therefore, guilt. Which is also exhausting.

Mix in one of those 90-minute apocalyptic phone conversations in which two people lay their cards on the table and leave rattled but as up-in-the-air as they were before, the observation that one of my dogs was peaky -- losing weight, lethargic, drooly -- taking her to the vet and finding out she does, in fact, have Lyme Disease (my first thoughts were reprehensible: 1. thank God that HUGE amount of money I signed on their credit card came up with something, 2. I'm proud of myself for noticing she wasn't well when there were no overt symptoms), and finding two women from my Missoula past through Facebook and touching on old feelings...

You have someone who has been severely depressed, in and out of sugar, incredibly, seemingly incurably tired.

I'm getting a cold now, which doesn't in the least surprise me except for the question of how I could get one with so little human contact. I may well have dug into my own system to find a little teeny weak virus to exploit for the purposes of shutting down further -- shutting down even on the pain that I have allowed myself to feel.

I talked about this last night and ended up in the sugar. Writing about it will either do the same or begin to shake off some of the load that's been so heavy I don't want to talk about it. We all know that depression and food are the Catch-22 of all Catch-22's. I know that I can shake out of my depression a lot faster by getting out of the food and that I cannot entirely shake it if I'm in the food.

So it's Day One. I can't take my germs to the nursing home (how convenient) and I discussed with one of Us last night how, when we're really depressed, brushing our teeth or taking a shower counts for a lot. I think I can brush my teeth today. I have written a blog, which seemed beyond me.

Now I need to learn how to build rooms for other people's pain and lock the doors on them until I need or must get into them.


Anonymous said...

((( hugs ))) Congrats on brushing your teeth and writing a blog, which reaches out and connects you with Us.

I know this was hard to write, and it was hard to see how much you're hurting. We only have so much energy and time and it's enormously stressful when there are real reasons to be pulled in many directions at once.

My guess is that your cold started with excess pollen and allergy things, as is true with most people I know. Get yourself as much rest as possible - pushing fluids, blah blah. You know the drill. For YOURSELF, not for Pam or the dogs or your parents. First we have to take care of ourselves, even if that means hanging on by fingernails to do it.

Unknown said...

You don't sound whiny but you seem like someone who is in desperate need of some support and self-care. The other people who have you on call should not only take backseat to Pam, they should take backseat to you too. Sorry if that sounds advicey, but you can't manage everyone else at the expense of your own self, or you won't be there for anyone when they really need you.

Love you, hope that you find some time for you this week.

Anonymous said...

You don't sound whiny to me, you sound incredibly depleted.

When I lived in another state, I became a member of the Emergency Response Team in case of hurricanes, etc. We were taught that our first (and sometimes only) obligation is to ourselves. Then, if we have resources left over AND we want to give them, we can give to those nearest to us, then if we still have resources left over AND we want to give them, to all others. Resources include physical, mental and emotional health in addition to supplies and medical assistance.

I don't know if this happens to you, but sometimes I put myself in a box where if I fulfill others' needs I feel crashed out and resentful but if I don't I feel guilty. Why are those the only two choices?

For me, there is something so valuable in seeing the connection between ignoring myself and then soothing the pain of being ignored by eating. It feels like a cycle I go through a lot.

Chronic illness is helping me to break free of all that -- I just don't have the resources to help much anymore and if I don't focus on my own needs I will become dangereously ill.

I hope that the combination of beginning abstinence again and your cold will help you to take a step back on behalf of yourself.

It sounds corny to say, but you deserve to be taken care of by you more than anyone else.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful you brushed your teeth - I say a small prayer of celebration for you! I know what a victory brushed teeth or hair can be...
Take care

Bea said...

Set prioities. One of the most awful classes I took in nursing school was (simulation) triage. Triage is about deciding who you are going to help knowing full well that the ones you do not help will die. Was an agonizing class for me. I tried to help everybody. In trying to help everybody I did not effectively help anybody, and they all died. I flunked the class.

Life is like an oxygen mask demo on an airplane. If we don't take care (sleep, good food, relaxation, exercise, spiritual practice, fun) of ourselves FIRST then we are not able to really take care of anyone else.

The above philosophy goes against every scrap of Christian teaching (as I have understood them) ever taught to me. It also goes against the my compassionate heart. But I believe it is accurate.

Just a word in your ear Dear Heart, at this moment you may not be able to offer the kind of care you desire for your Mom, Dad, dogs and Pam.

I guess if I were in your shoes I would ask God to make evident to me the loved one whom I was currently the most capable of helping, and how to help. And I would start there. hugs

Vickie said...

brushing one's teeth and taking a shower AND REMEMBER THE EAR-RINGS!!!

Lori G. said...

I'm coming late to the blog but you do sound depleted and I agree with what Bea said.

This may sound strange but since you met Pam through the Rooms, is it possible for some other people to help you manage her care? (Note, I'm saying help you -- not to put Pam in their hands. I think you would be a great advocate for her.)

Also, many hospitals have a social worker/advocate but I also know from experience, these people may be overworked to the bones too. But they may be able to help you with resources.

You sound tired and worn out. As annoying as it is to be around someone who is quite capable of compartmentalizing things at times, I do see that it's not necessarily a bad thing either. Take care of yourself and Miss Daisy.


Cindy said...

I love Bea's oxegen mask analogy!! It is so true. I could relate to this post. It reminded me of me this past winter and spring. I wound up very sick, too. When I am depressed my hair seems like a giant hurdle to overcome in the morning or whatever time of day I decide I have to leave the house. If I can just get my hair untangled I feel I can get through the rest of the next few hours of the day. It's like the teeth brushing, etc. it seems like an amazing accomplishment. Hope you get rested and feel better soon!!

Helen said...

I often notice that I get sick when I've been just completely POOPED in every way (physically, emotionally, spiritually)...I truly believe our systems are more weak then...and our systems need a break so we get sick. This has happened to me the last week and I did manage to just LIE DOWN for a day or two. My throat thing hasn't gone away yet, so I'm thinking I need more REST. You do too...hope you are taking this chance to get it!

Annimal said...

When I get in your state of mind I remind myself that the world will continue to revolve long after I'm gone. Each person is on this earth for a reason and to follow their own path. I'm no good to anyone if I'm not healthy and taking care of myself. Codependency is feeling self-worth from the perception of another's need of you. One can get very, very tired taking care of the world. and guilt is very wearing as well. Let it go. Your parents want you in their lives, of course, but does that work for you? Sometimes the toughest love we need to practice is guarding our own lives and being able to live with our decisions.

Caffeinated said...

The other folks here have already said everything I'd say, so I'll just say I wish I could give you a hug, or at least sit down and share a cup of tea and a smile with you.