I am struggling to keep things together today. You are very insecure about your role in our future. At first when you expressed doubts and worrying that you’d loose me, I handled it. I told you what you meant to me and I backed up my words with actions. Actions like the life that I’ve been living since this started. My day revolves around you and your care and future. When it isn’t about you, then it’s about the children. I tell that I wouldn’t have it any other way. This life I am living is a life of choice. I choose it because I love you and want you in my life.
I thought that was enough. It wasn’t. By the end of the day, I got frustrated with you being stuck emotionally. I don’t know what to do to un-stick you.
You are angry with yourself. You can’t forgive yourself. Without forgiveness, there is no healing. Without healing you can’t love yourself. If you can’t love yourself, then you don’t feel worthy for my love or the children’s love.
I forgave you. I forgave you before you even told me about the cigarettes. I strongly suspected that you were a closet smoker during the first week of your stroke when I found the cigarettes. I forgave you by the second week.
Why are you so hard on yourself? You are worthy of forgiveness.
On Thursday, two doctors came to see you. They gave you a copy of two of the CT scans you had. The one that changed you future and saved your life and a follow-up one taken just before you were moved back to Truro. This Aug 31 CT showed the big blood clot expanding into the ventricles. The October CT showed the damaged area of your brain. The doctors who showed you the CT scans said that there was no identifiable reason for the stroke.
You did not cause this to happen. Yet you continue to feel that you deserved it.
“If you deserved it,” my logical brain said “Then what did the children and I do to deserve this because we are suffering too.” You had no answer. Why? Because there is no answer. No one deserves a tragic event in their life. Random things happen. You have to accept that God is not punishing you for smoking or anything else. God is nurturing not vengeful. God is trying to give you strength to heal and grow.
You made me a card in the recreational therapy. It has a little jewel glued to the cover. It opens oddly. It opens to the right. If you compared it to a conventional card, the front is on the back and the back is on the front. This is anything but a conventional card. You express poetic words of love for me. I am touched.
The children and you and I have lunch and are joined shortly after by Juanita and Wayne and Maddie and Farley. This afternoon, we babysat the children while Juanita and Wayne go off to see Avatar. The children are good, they play together fairly quietly. Tara and Quinn keep Maddie corralled in the room. Farley gets hungry and we fed him. I put him in your bed with you. He is nestled in your left armpit. He fell sleep contently. I point out that your left arm is still a nice pillow of a baby.
Anne and her Dad, Tony, came to visit. You haven’t seen Anne in a few years. You credit her with giving you the nudge to run. That was the nudge that propelled you into the streak. The three of you talk and you shared you secret about smoking but only after you probe her about her love life. “Are you engaged?” “When is the date?” Anne is a wonderful lady and you want her to find someone special to have in her life. She thinks that she has.
How can you be so supportive and caring about others when you can’t be supportive emotionally for yourself?
It’s laundry day today. A week’s worth of smelly clothes are taking on a new life form in your closet. I spend a good part of the day running back and forth to the laundry room. Luckily, the laundry facilities are on the fourth floor. The machines are large and have a timer on them to let you know how long the cycle will be. The problem is the units are not minutes. I don’t know what they are but they are not minutes. ‘45’ the machine says. When I came back in one hour, there was still a ‘1’ reading on the machine. I sit and wait for the ‘1’ to vanish. It does … 15 minutes later. The same time measure system seemed to apply to the drier.
Is this a subliminal message the rehab people give their patients?. ‘Healing time is not measurable. If you expect to be able to measure it – it will just frustrate you.’ If this is the intent, then it works. Sitting and watching a machine go around and around puts your mind in a hypnotic trance that allows you to think crazy things.
As I did your laundry, I met a lady doing hers. She was in a wheelchair which she self- propelled using her left foot. Her left arm was protected in a sling. She nimbly loaded her items into the washer and drier with her good right arm without a swear word. As I watch her, I realize that once again, I am enabling your disability. You should be doing your own laundry. Then maybe you would get the washing machine subliminal message.
On the way back from the laundry room, I noticed a plague on the wall by the elevators. I had seen it before but I never took the time to read it. It is entitled ‘Coping’.
“Realize that your feelings are a common response to your experience.
Recognize that there is a natural human tendency to worry and focus on the negative. Learn to focus on your accomplishments, strengths and resources.
Think about the future you want and the best way to get there.
Be kind to yourself, allow yourself and others time to adjust.
Remain active. Try to find things you enjoy.
Try to find things you enjoy.
Make new friends and keep the old ones too.”
Adapted from Dr. Jeff Kreutzer at the Acquired Brain Injury Network. Toronto 2004.
It makes it sound easy ... Almost too easy. Maybe that is why is it so hard.
Fran and Mum arrive just before Juanita and Wayne get back from the movie. We order in pizza and Juanita Fran and I make a run to Timmy’s. While we do this you tell my Mum about the smoking. She thought you were joking. She didn’t really get it until I walked her out to the car later in the evening. I told her again. You are glad you told her. “The more people who know” you said “the more people whom I am accountable to.”
Janice, Edwin and Jessie (their youngest) stopped in on their way back from a Basketball tournament. Their two youngest daughters play on the team. “How did you do?” I asked. “We won!” said Jessie with a shy smile.
Janice tells me about the visit with you on Friday. They visited at a low spot. You tell them that you don’t want to be a burden. You are stuck on this thought. Janice tries to snap you out of your self-pity. “Just think what our lives would be if you had died.” When you start to go down another bad path. “What do I do if I need to get up in the middle of the night? Wake up Gwen? I can’t do anything.” She challenges you again. Stop thinking about what you can’t do and start thinking about what you can do.” You recognize these rebuttals as being familiar. You reply to Janice “Oh you are all taking the same course!”
Edwin and you talk. He is soaking up the humour that you are pouring out. “He should be a ‘Sit-down’ comic.” Edwin tells Janice after their visit with you on Friday.
Before I leave the circle of sorrow starts to spin again. Anger, can’t forgive, can’t love yourself, can’t heal, can’t grow. I can’t take it much longer. What can I do or say to help you through this? As I say this to myself, the words of the gentleman, who had a serious stroke 14 years ago and I met earlier this week, ring in my ear. ‘The journey must come from within. It’s a lonely journey.’
If you can’t get past this terrible circle of anger, then how are you ever going to heal from this? What can I use to nudge you into mental wellness? Tonight, when I Ieave you, we are both sad. You are sad because you are sorry. I am sad because you won’t stop saying you are sorry. How are you ever going to heal?
As I unpack the car for the night’s stay at Lenore’s, my necklace breaks, This is the heart necklace that Janice gave me in November. A glass heart with black swirls throughout it. She gave it to me because she felt it represented the complicated feelings that I had for you. I wore it every day since. It had broken before but I fixed it without giving it a second thought. Today when it broke, I wondered “Is this just another random event or a sign.’ I guess it depends on my mood. Tonight I worry that it’s a sign.