Sitting in CCU gives you plenty of time to think. It’s odd, the last time I had this much time to think was a year and a half ago when my husband had his open heart surgery. There are huge differences between then and now though.
The heart surgery, though major and invasive, we understood from the beginning what we could expect. When an illness suddenly strikes your loved one (in all of its sneaky unpredictability) it leaves you in a strange state of confusion; wondering how something so insidious could have snuck up on us becoming so virulent this quickly? It made me question myself, something I hardly need to be doing.
Sometimes things are not as you imagined them to be. It doesn’t make it your fault because of anything you did or did not do, see or notice the nuance of. Everything is new...at least to me.
It’s far too easy to blame yourself, ”I should have known that tiny cough...I should have known his fever was....” . Should haves. What a complete waste of time if you think about it, at least more than the initial thought crossing your mind. I’m no doctor, but I got him to one quickly as I saw he was not improving. No fault, no self blame, I am human and so is he.
You don’t get fast and easy answers. What you get is a sore throat from breathing in oxygen, dry skin, an aversion to “ constant unfamiliar noises” (the clown horn sounds, alarms etc.), pains in places you never thought about, chair-butt, tight calves, a renewed appreciation for patience, so-so food, little time to tend to your pets or life have any time alone, the heartaches from the frustrations of realizing you can do absolutely nothing but wait. This is the worst part, sitting there day after day, holding his hand, trying to block out the whirr of mind snapshots which are not all that pleasant and keep replaying despite what you do.
I have discovered I am a thousand percent better helping others go through these situations than I am when it is me. I’m humbled into recognizing I am just one small person in the universe, one who needs to ask for help from others. Guess what? I have.
Oddly enough I have always been confident and secure in times of crisis. I know I am very strong. I got my father and our family through my mother’s death and the aftermath. I took charge. I got my husband’s mother through similar times with her husband. I took charge. The list goes on...but now it is me who needs to ask for help, and it is a strange feeling. I feel as though I am shrinking.
Whereas I would walk into a room and feel myself to be “large”, now I see myself differently, as a woman markedly smaller, completely vulnerable.
I caught a glimpse of myself in a glass door reflection... it was shocking to me. I saw a little girl, not the woman I am used to being where I stand up and take control.
It was confusing at first. It really got me to thinking how much of our “persona” is based on what our self-image is. I have always felt mine to be a good, strong one. I don’t let things get to me very much. I am calm in the midst of a storm. I also recognize if the “sunshine” inside of me is working, I’m good to go. I surround myself with positive people. I have little room or tolerence for negativity. Neither should anyone else. It eats away at your reasoning, your natural self-esteem. You begin to question your feelings. Chomp-chomp...not a good feeling to have your brain be eaten away from the inside out. Nope, not going to go there.
Last night I grabbed ahold of life again. I worked in my garden, I played with my dogs, I cooked for myself, and I spoke to the few people I want to speak with. I found my happiness, my womanhood again.
This morning when I called the hospital I got some more “good” news. Of course it is all relative, to the day or even hour before. I can only take and appreciate moments in time, and I’m discovering this is probably how we all need to take it. You can’t change what has happened, but you can make a difference in how today, or even the next hour will be.
I was shrinking in part because I let the feelings overwhelm me. Now I see I need to change, to take control again of the things I am able to. I put on a colorful sundress today, the bit of makeup I wear, and a little attention to things like his favorite perfume.
It’s Monday, a day of renewal and growth. Already I felt more “normal” even in the midst of the odd chaos around me. I have made peace with myself, and order of the world I can control.
When Lance sees me, he will not see the shrinking woman, nope...he will see his wife, the one he depends on to take care of him emotionally, to mind things while he is busy getting well. He will see the woman he chose to see him through this life, in sickness and in health. Sheila’s back and has no room for doubting. I am growing back into myself again. I can feel it, and feeling is a good thing.