“Who’s Coming Next Week??” (The Beginning, Part 2)

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One of the upsides of the fairly debilitating nature of my condition, particularly in the early weeks, was that it gave a very valid “excuse” to have various members of our out-of-town family visit!  As I said at the end of my first post, my mother was able to come for the second week that I was “affected” (phew–that was a long time ago!  Back at the end of September/beginning of October….and here I am, still “affected”!), and it was extremely helpful to have her here.  I had stopped driving, at that point, even to Los Alamos (15-20 minute drive).  Had I ever not driven for close to two weeks straight, since I’d had my driver’s license??  I think only when I was living overseas as an exchange student in Brazil and as a college student for a semester in Mexico!  It was a crazy thing to not trust myself driving…. It wasn’t that I was afraid I would fall asleep at the wheel–the fatigue didn’t necessarily make me sleepy–but I didn’t trust that I wouldn’t need to “close my eyes” in the time that it took me to drive up there.  I was also not at my sharpest level of mental functioning!  I told Dr. Church, in fact, at an appointment with him that week that it felt like everything in me was just “suppressed“–not just my energy level, but also my thinking, my reacting, even my speaking.  My mom kept saying to me, “What did you say, Deb?  I can’t really hear you…”  And she asked me at one point, “I’ve noticed you keep closing your eyes….What’s that about?  Is it a light sensitivity thing?”  It wasn’t.  I just didn’t have the energy to keep my eyes open!  I would sit on the couch, or in the car, or wherever I was, and I could talk with whoever was talking with me…but I often just felt the need to put my head back and close my eyes….  Kind of a strange thing–for me and for the people around me…. Another manifestation of this sense of things being “suppressed” became evident each time I tried to go for even a short walk with anyone.  I used to walk with my walking buddy and good friend Susan four or five mornings a week, and we would walk at a pretty good clip, covering our three-mile route in less than an hour.  And sometimes, if either one of us was feeling particularly “worked-up” about something, we’d do it even more quickly than that!  🙂  But in my “suppressed” state, I was only walking about 1/2 mile at a time, max!…and that half mile was taking me 20-30 minutes!  It used to be that, when I was walking quickly, my kids couldn’t keep up with me without kind of running alongside of me…. Now, when they were just walking along, it was me who was saying, “Hey, slow down, please!  I can’t keep up!”  Again–crazy….

One of the things Dr. Church asked me during my appointment with him that week was if I thought I might be depressed.  I told him no, I didn’t think so.  He asked if there was anything I was feeling guilty about, that could have brought this on.  I couldn’t think of anything….  I asked, “Are you saying there’s no physical reason for all of these things I’m experiencing??”  And even though I am a firm believer in the value of counseling and an advocate for self-awareness and reflection on one’s life, and even though I had been seeing a counselor for the past year, I will admit that initially I was horrified, and unnerved, and embarrassed at his unspoken suggestion that all of this had been brought on by some sort of emotional unrest in me, some sort of mental un-well-ness or un-ease…some sort, possibly, of mental dis-ease…….   It is completely acceptable to be physically ill in our society, unwell in our bodies…. Not so much, still, with mental illness, with being unwell in our minds and/or souls.  That’s not what was happening to me!…was it??  He replied, “Let’s wait and see what the blood tests show, and the stomach x-ray, and we’ll go from there.”

It was such a sudden onset of symptoms that that didn’t seem likely, although I certainly have experienced moments of feeling depressed by it all in these last 4+ months.  But for now, back to my mom’s visit.  She was a trooper!  Not only did she assume full responsibility, for the most part, for getting the kids out the door to school in the morning and helping them with homework, as needed, after school, she also did all the cooking, some cleaning, and lots of chauffeuring!!  Mostly of me!  To multiple doctor’s appointments, just in the week she was here!  And all of this with a smile on her face…in spite of whatever worry and concern she was experiencing herself about what might be going on with me.  It was all such a mystery.  I was so tired, so lacking in energy!  So unlike myself….or at least my “former” self…the me that we all (including me!) knew and loved…and kept assuming would be back….sooner rather than later!

Toward the end of her week with us, we talked about the fact that my sister, who also lives in upstate NY, had said she might be able to come out the following week, if I still needed some help.  “I’d like to think that I’ll be feeling better by next week [yes, I really continued to think that!  Each week!!], but I really don’t know…. It sure would nice to know she was coming….”  So she and I talked on the phone, and she said, yes, she could come.  So that Friday evening my mom left, undoubtedly feeling like she had been of much help and hopefully feeling like that help had been much appreciated!…and on Monday, my sister arrived!  Chris, the kids, and I managed to get through another few days by ourselves, with a couple more meals from some of our wonderful local friends, and we counted our blessings that another member of our extended family was willing to come and provide some much-needed live-in help!  Because it turned out, of course, that I was not feeling much better by that next week!  And my sister’s visit turned out to be not one of pure fun and relaxation!  It was wonderful, for sure, but we worked her hard!  🙂  She didn’t have to spend quite as much time in the car with me as my mom had the week before, so she spent her time instead in the kitchen–not only did she cook meals for us while she was there, but she cooked meals for us to eat after she’d gone home!  With her keen powers of observation, Sheryl had realized soon after she arrived that my best hours were not between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 PM!  [although let’s be honest–are those ever any mom’s “best hours”??  🙂  They were probably never my best hours, but I used to be able to at least cook supper for our family fairly consistently!  🙂  ]  So she did what she could to try to prepare us to be a little more self-sufficient the following week.  Surely, we all continued to think, by then I’ll at least be feeling well enough that I could heat up a frozen casserole for our supper….right??….

Now my sister Sheryl is a mover and a shaker.  She is not one to sit still.  Not if she has anything to say about it, anyway, and even then, not for long!  And I think some of that rubbed off on me while she was here.  Or at least I wanted it to…. I really wanted to believe that I was getting better.  So one morning while she was here, we decided to go for a walk after the kids got on the school bus.  And we did.  We walked, and we talked, and we walked some more, and we talked some more…and a couple of times, Sheryl said, “Umm, should we turn around now?”  And I’d say, “Nah!  Let’s keep going!  I feel fine!”  And I really did.  I was enjoying our conversation, I felt good about the somewhat quicker pace we were taking, and I wanted to keep going!  How could just walking be bad for me?  Turns out it was bad for me.  !!  We ended up walking the whole 3-mile route that Susan and I used to walk, and I felt all right when we got home.  Well, with the exception of my poor, atrophied leg muscles, which were shaking from the slight overexertion I had forced upon them!  Otherwise, though, I felt pretty good in body, mind, and spirit!  I had walked three miles!  I was making progress!… Until the next day, when I backslid horribly!!  I felt totally wiped out all day, had to spend more time than “usual” with my head back and my eyes closed, and almost fell asleep on a friend’s couch when Sheryl and I stopped by her house mid-morning!  Forcing myself to do more than I knew I should, by sheer will and brute force, in the hopes of winning some sort of victory of “mind over matter,” I was learning, was not a good idea.  Listening to my body, on the other hand–that seemed to be the key.  Listening to my body, and honoring with my mind what it was saying–that was what I needed to do.  Listening to my body, honoring that with my mind, and accepting that within my soul–that’s all I had to do.  Just that.  Seems easy enough, right?  …..Easier said than done…..and a lesson I would have to learn over and over again, over the next few months.

But wait–my sister was going to leave us on Saturday!  Yikes!  We were going to be on our own!!  Were we ready?  We had lots of food in the freezer, but could we manage all the rest on our own?  Surely we’d be all right…. The kids would be at school…Chris would be at work….Surely I could handle being by myself, surely we could handle being by ourselves from this point on…right??  It had already been three weeks of this.  Surely I’d be feeling better soon…right??  Then on Friday, the day before my sister would be leaving, the phone rang….and my worries were relieved.  “Who’s coming next week??” the kids asked when they got home from school that day, and I told them.  Stay tuned to find out who our next “angel-in-residence” was….  🙂

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