Thursday, 25 August 2016

Friday Thoughts, A Day Early

(I've been forgetting to hit Publish the last while, meaning my posts have been late. Today I meant to save my Friday post as a draft, and apparently hit Publish instead. I wasn't even sure I wanted to post this. Too late to retract it now, with several comforting comments from dear friends. Ah, well - full steam ahead :))

I've always been on the shy side, personality wise.

But when my dad had his stroke, I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone. Because I was involved with his treatment from the day he went to the hospital, and because his brain was affected by age and the stroke, my brain became the repository for all the bits and pieces of information that he would otherwise have stored in his head to deal with the health care system - everyone from caregivers to paramedics to nurses and doctors. I became familiar with his conditions, his medications, his prior treatments, his appointment dates and times, his specialists' names, his food preferences, his abilities, his Everything, as he travelled the path of life in his last eight years. He often introduced me to people as "my daughter, my right hand."

I found it hard to speak up: to ask for what he needed; to "bother" people for a blanket or help shifting him to a more comfortable position or giving him his puffer or finding missing clothing; to question a doctor's prescription or a nurse's behavior; to stand up to those who, for some reason I cannot fathom, had chosen to go into a helping profession without a basic level of empathy for vulnerable patients. But I did it, and it got a bit easier as the years went by.

Let me take a moment here to add that the great majority of the people Dad and I encountered were caring and capable, and if not capable, at least well-intentioned. I am so thankful to them. But there were a surprising number of the other kind, more than I ever would have expected, and my fervent wish for them is that they become a patient of an arrogant, loud, rough medical professional or caregiver some day. For many, many days on end. Years, even. Pah!

As I was saying.

I learned to speak up, for my dad's sake. But since his death, I feel like I've lost my voice again. I don't like to call people. Any people. I don't like to arrange things. I don't like to make appointments for myself. I don't like to go to appointments for myself.

I gave myself six months of cocooning time and forgiveness; it didn't seem enough. It's been over a year now; I'm getting worse. I put off going to physiotherapy for my hip for six weeks, telling myself that I just needed more exercise in general, I needed to do my old physio exercises, I needed to fill in for work vacations, I needed to clean the house ... I used similar reasons to put off calling the dentist to have an adjustment done to a crown that's been living in my mouth for over three months now.

There is a list on my cupboard of all the things I should do, and the list is getting longer, not shorter. Things are piling up, and I can't seem to Just Do Them. The calls are the worst part by far. What is it about picking up the phone and talking to people that has me so knotted up?

I don't have a clue.

I took a week off work to try to get my physio started. I have succeeded in that, at least.

May it be only the beginning. May I be on my way out of this fog. May I cease to dread talking on the phone. May I get over being so rattled that I forget to give medical personnel important information. May I stop looking like a deer in the headlights, as they say here, meaning frozen in place.

May I come out of my second childhood of painful shyness and, once and for all, grow up.

22 comments:

  1. I understand this so well, the inertia that results from not wanting to put ourselves out there. let's make a deal: we will each do one things from our to do lists every single day. if we choose to do more than one thing, so be it, but we must at least do ONE thing. if i know you are doing it, it will help me to do the same. Deal?

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    1. That's a good idea, Angella; thank you. I think it will help me push myself that extra bit I need. Counter-offer? How about one thing a day on Monday to Friday. Weekends off :) What do you say?

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  2. I would rather sit down and call and schedule my way through a list of appointments, then have to assemble any supporting documents, than stand up and give a speech. Maybe think of it as getting out of a speech.

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    1. Yes, I'll try that ... I don't like speeches, it's true, although I could assemble supporting documents 'til the cows come home and be fine with that :) Thanks, Joanne.

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  3. Heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring.
    While you were stepping out of your comfort zone caring for your father and assuring that he got the care he needed, you were I suspect, seriously neglecting yourself. Running on empty. After his death you had/have grief and loss to contend with, and life. I suspect you will find your way back, but don't berate yourself for the time it takes.
    Though perhaps I am saying this because the things you don't like to do, and find difficult are true here too. Sigh.

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    1. I hope you're right, EC. But I wonder if I'll always be this way about my own stuff. It was different with Dad - I could push myself to do it for him because I felt so protective of him.

      Maybe there's a mixture of reasons why I'm letting stuff go. *My* stuff is easy to let slide because I don't like medical/dental things in general. *Other* stuff might be sliding because I'm still in recovery mode.

      You've helped me to start thinking about it from a different angle. Thank you for that.

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  4. When we're very busy doing what we must --working, fighting fatigue and traffic, caring for those we love-- we're not always very kind to ourselves. Only recently, too long after other duties were completed and promises were kept, I learned the need to restore self-compassion is very important. Give yourself time.

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    1. Some people would say I have too much self-compassion. Maybe they're right. Or maybe most of the world doesn't have enough. I've always thought it's asking a lot of bereaved people to expect them back to work within days. On the other hand, distraction can be good, too. Goodness, I seem to be indecisive along with everything else.

      Thanks for your always kind words, Geo.

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  5. First, let me say again how much I admire you for the care you gave your father. I remember the doctor talking to Briana after my stroke and ascertaining that she was going to care for me. He told her that having that someone was literally a matter of life and death, and how sad he felt for the patients he saw who just didn't have anyone. I liked that doctor a lot, though I don't remember his name right now.
    I had a little epiphany while still in acute rehab and marveling at the team of professionals all focused on fixing me (I have never been that comfortable accepting help) that concerned something in one of my favorite books (one of the three Ishmael books by Daniel Quinn). The passage in the book was explaining how tribal economies work as opposed to money-based economies, where the basic personal cycle is make products in order to get products expressed as a circle with arrows denoting that each one led to the other, whereas the tribal model used the same diagram only the words were give support and get support. My little epiphany was that in order for that to work, someone has to be getting the support for the cycle to function, and at that point my needing the support was an essential part of what was happening. It made me feel like I belonged there, which really improved my attitude toward recovery. I still haven't quite figured out how to reliably apply that to myself in motivating me to do what I need to do. Thus I have managed to get most of what I need accomplished, but I have also managed to let my Medi-Cal and disability insurance lapse, requiring me to go back and re-apply for them twice. I guess when something is approaching crisis I just sort of grit my teeth and deal with it, but when things are at a more even keel I'm not quite as punctual.
    I also find that when facing down a deadline, I tend to go on a tear and try to get everything done one after the other, which is probably not the healthiest approach.
    I'm glad you finally made it to your PT. I'm a little in awe of what my physical therapists do every day. They rolled me in there on a gurney, and seven weeks later I walked out with a quad-cane. And they're in there doing that all the time.
    It can be hard to just dig up the number and punch it into the phone, but I'm glad I did pretty much every time, so where is the reluctance coming from?
    Anyway, good luck getting your approach worked out, and remember that everyone else has a hard time getting on track also, so don't be too hard on yourself.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Thank you, Doug. I'm glad you had Briana to help you through. I agree with that doctor; I got to see other stroke patients, also, and Dad did quite well mentally compared to those who had less support. You did a huge amount of work to walk after just seven weeks, and it wasn't just your physio people, it was your hard work and attitude.

      How's the driver's license issue coming along?

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    2. I still need to deal with the DMV about it, and before that I need to get our car working well enough to take the driving test with. Almost there, really, as we had major engine work done last week. I just have to wait to get paid again to take care of the incidentals that remain. Then, of course, I'll need to actually drive it again for a while to build up confidence for the test... So a couple of more weeks? It's close to the end of summer, and that was my goal, so maybe I'll make it by then. Thanks for asking.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    3. Hey Doug-I'm glad to hear the license is still on the horizon! Jenny, everyone procrastinates over something. You blog faithfully on a schedule no matter what, but you don't like talking on the phone-I get it. I'm in sales and I don't like talking on the phone. I do it for work, but by the time I get home, I don't even answer the phone. I can so totally relate to not wanting to bother people or ask them for help, too. Hang in there.

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  6. Hang in there, jenny_o. I was told by my therapist that it takes about a year before you come out of the fog after losing someone as important as a parent. Just take it one day at a time and keep moving forward. Take care of yourself.

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    1. Mr. S, thank you. It's good to have an idea of what is considered usual. Makes it feel like maybe I'm not malingering after all.

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  7. All good advice above. I would add that the more you take action on your list, the more calls you make, the more you'll understand that the world won't end and things will move forward. Action leads to more action. I'm not pressing you to act; I think you have to do it in your own time and your own way. But once you do, it will get easier, I suspect.

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    1. I think you're right. Just getting the physio call out of the way helped me make the dentist call; getting started is half the battle. Reminds me of Mary Poppins - well begun is half done. It's hard to remember than when I'm mired in the list.

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  8. I have no advice to give because I am exactly the same way. Taking care of my stuff is just...well, let's just say I don't want to do it! My Husby, on the other hand, is a pusher. In the best way. He pushes me to make that appointment and keep it. Even goes so far as to leave work to make sure I get there. I hate calling. I hate making appointments. I'd rather just sit in my room and write. He understands that as well. Do you want me to loan him to you? :)

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    1. A husband like that is much too precious to lend out - you might never get him back! (That's what always happens when I lend my best books, anyway :))

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