Last week my Dad wound up vacationing at our local veteran’s hospital for some issues keeping his blood pressure in check.
At first, I felt okay. Calm and rational about the reason he was there and effectiveness that the medical staff would be successful getting him back within normal blood pressure range.
But as his stay progressed and the diagnostic tests kept coming and going with no clear answers and the treatment strategies weren’t working…..I began to panic. My Type A, anxiety prone brain went into overdrive and I began to plan and navigate 20 different scenarios involving my Dad and his health issues. And, true to form, none of those mind fuck scenarios were optimistic.
It has always been very difficult for me to be a “glass half full” kind of girl. I was always more of a “waiting for the other shoe to drop” dooms dayer. Through a lot of self -work including therapy, I recognize that coping mechanism is a survival tool I implemented as a child. A tool used to help me feel prepared and in control of my out of control and dysfunctional childhood. But as we rational adults know- It’s a ruse! Control is the biggest crock of ruin your day immediately shit ever! This I know from expert level experience.
Anyhoo, back to last week. So here’s me wound up nice and tight, heart rate up, breath shallow, palms sweaty anytime I speak to or think about my Dad. “I can’t do this again right now!” I say to myself.
Light bulb moment- Fuck- I am being triggered. HARD.
You see about 1 1/2 years ago I received a phone call from the local Sheriff while out on a morning run. He matter of fact told me that my mother had gone into cardiac arrest, was unresponsive and was in transport to a local hospital and that I should waste no time in getting there.
I spent the next 3 days in a living hell of suspense and fear. The embodiment of a real live ball of tension, walking, talking, moving through decisions. Ultimately, diagnostics revealed that the pulmonary emboli and subsequent brain and system damage my mama endured would not have allowed her any quality of life. Machines were keeping her alive. I made the horribly difficult decision to remove life support and she almost immediately died.
That leaves me with one parent. One parent who has become Dad and Mom over the last year and a half. One parent whom I love dearly.
That leaves Baby Reinvention with one actively involved grandparent.
My Dad is the healthiest he has been in many years but he is by no means the image of optimal geriatric health.
I get panicked over the thought of losing him, of all of those looming gut wrenching decisions, of hearing my child howl like an injured animal when I break the truth.
I go right back to July 2017. Instantly I am back there.
Bawling on the side of the road.
In the ER with mom as she’s seizing and I see nothing behind her eyes. I am so terrified I shake and I cannot speak.
In ICU learning the extent of organ and brain damage. Hearing all the gruesome details of how mom’s body is failing her.
Trying to coax her to awaken. Playing a video of my daughter, her most favorite human in her ear.
Telling my mama it’s ok for her to let go and be with my brother. We will be ok. Stroking her hand and face.
Watching hospice remove the ventilator. Watching her beautiful peachy pink skin turn instantly blue- gray.
I am riddled with triggers. Triggers of variable intensity from the complexities of surviving life stuff. I now understand that it is okay and completely human to feel frightened and vulnerable. At least I am insightful enough at this point to recognize the triggers. I can aim to self soothe and calm in healthy ways (not that I always succeed, but that’s another blog post). Healthy coping for me includes talking to my husband, my tribe, journaling, running, crying, heading to the ocean, meditating or exercising.
Dad is out of the hospital. His medications were changed and the “bad weed” as we lovingly call him appears to be bouncing back.
I am ever vigilant but calm. Status quo for me.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share some of your coping mechanisms in comments. Let’s be trigger happy together!