Saturday, May 2, 2015

The last scan and coasting

I woke at 5 a.m. after three hours of sleep and thought about running away to the Oregon Coast. Not forever; just a few days of sand, sea glass, and the cold surf. The thought still appeals to me at 9:43 a.m., after another three and a half hours of sleep I owe to Ativan, but I'm less likely now to make good on the impulse. How would that look? A wife, two weeks following her husband's stroke packing up and bailing to a remote sea shore? 

Last time I did something of this sort—and by this I mean resorting to drastic measures and a plane ticket in an attempt to find balance and peace—my parents flipped out, certain that I'd gone crazy and that they'd be left to care for my kids. It's funny how everyone else is allowed to grieve and grapple with strong emotions unless affixed with the diagnosis of a major mental illness. Then, if tragedy and trial crops up, you are expected to behave in a perfectly rational manner or those around you (who I might add aren't in the same position of excessive strain) panic that you might go off the deep end. Falling apart in crisis is only afforded to the mentally healthy. 


Like when my step-sister came to school in her senior year and told everyone her mother had died of cancer. It's true; her mother had cancer. But the woman was still laying in her bed, breathing without aide, brainwaves active. My step-sister has always received a pass for this episode because "no one can imagine how hard it is to lose a mother to cancer." Except that I did lose a parent, first to the effects of an astrocytoma and Traumatic Brain Injury, and eventually to death. But instead of being allowed to react at all, I was expected to behave as I was told by my mother and step-father. This included going along with their insistence that I not attend his funeral. I don't know when I'll be over that.

Two weeks ago I lost my best friend to ischemic stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury. For most of these fourteen days I've been everyone's champ, all-star, cheerleader, the girl with her shit together. I did what had to be done to get our family into a operational financial position. But yesterday, and maybe even stretching into the day prior, I started to get a sense of what this really means in my life. The big possibility that no one wants to talk about, but that I've already experienced as the daughter of a man with similar brain damage. 

My earliest memory of my father is the day he came home from the Veteran's Hospital after recovering from the first excision of his tumor. His flat affect, dull gaze, and monotone speech terrified me. I never stopped being frightened of him. He mostly slept. But there were flashes of impulse aggression and rage that punctuated his behavior. I learned to dodge blows, to bolt out of my starting blocks and keep running till I was fall enough away that I knew I was safe. And then, there were the mind games. He'd been an intelligent man, and cognitively reduced by brain disability made him clever and mean. My mother had every right to collapse under the strain of that marriage. And she stuck with it for 16 years before bringing false allegations of child sex abuse against him that she felt justified abandoning a disabled spouse. Trust me; she had plenty of reason to leave him years earlier.

As I've contemplated taking off, my impulse hasn't been motivated by fear of a repeat of the behavior my father exhibited. It's because, as friends and family stood around my husband's hospital bed the last fourteen days, he was right, we were all at the funeral for his brain. I'm assured by so many, who've never known life with TBI, that miracles happen, all will be well. And I've tried to assure them back that I'm adaptive. And really, who out there has had to deal with the repeat dramatic life shifts I have? This isn't self-pity. It's the mean part of me coming to call on credit due. 

Who's reading that can say they've suffered child abuse, or cold/inflexible parenting and the unreasonable marginalization of "family", or a major mental illness, or single-parented four kids for fourteen years around three ex-husbands who each degraded/abandoned/abused them before the most amazing spouse in the world miraculously popped out of the woodwork only to have a massive stroke after six and a half months of marriage?

I've watched the clamor of his friends and family suddenly eager to jump into his life. Where were you when he was lonely for the ten years after his first wife left him following an emotional breakdown? Where will you be in another two months when our lives are still in turmoil but the media hype has died down? Here? Reading this blog like so many other concerned voyeurs?

I am basically a single parent again, but now I have a step-daughter to support emotionally, and a completely dependent spouse. Tell me that I'm not supposed to feel overwhelming anger and grief. Sometimes I think God wants to beat the snot out of me. Except that no, everything does not happen for a reason. I simply seem to have a way of drawing the short straw every time chance has some crisis to deal out.

Who wouldn't need to run away? Who in their right mind wouldn't crumble? Whom of you could honestly say you'd do life any better than I have? Once again. I am tired of this life. Until Mr. PNU I hoped my remaining years on Earth would be brief. I'm beginning to hope that again. I am world weary, and I miss my best friend with a vicious despair. Do you think God will bring him back to me? Do you think God has ever answered my prayers the way I hope he will?

Except for Second Set of Wings I'm off the social media grid for a long while. I'm done with the distant TBI dog-and-pony spectacle. I still live at my house for those who'd like to come an sit with me and actually give me comfort. Otherwise, I'm done bringing my crisis to the central arena. 

1 comment:

  1. Not sure if this is helpful, but sending love and positive energy your way. You really are one of the most remarkable women I've ever met.