I’ve debated about this post since last week but I have decided, on principle, that there is no reason valid enough to willingly isolate myself when I am struggling or fearful. And today is a big day for me.
I spoke last week about the fear of being a “downer” when we are having trials. Whether physical, emotional, mental. Or opening ourselves to surface judgment by anyone not walking in our shoes. And doing so every single day. But, there is also strength in sharing our stories. For us and for others. And there is dignity in owning our story. Our responsibility is not to worry what will be done with it. Our responsibility is to survive for our loved ones.
I am a teacher. My heart and my soul. And I will always be. I had to give up occupying physical space in my classroom in November. But my footprint there remains. I recieve messages from my kids and colleagues over several states every single day. Messages for projects, input, ideas and encouragement. That was my home. And that will be my home again. One day it will. Because that was the life path I chose long ago.
I am a father and grandfather. My heart and my soul. And I will always be. I lost much else of what makes me who I am in November. Some I will regain in time, and some I will never. I can not allow myself to feel ashamed. The four children, now, that I consider “my own” have formed an efficient, self-sustaining machine around me while I heal. I am merely the glue. I remain stolid in that until I am well.
In a matter of minutes, my career, health, independence and physical ability were taken from me. While I don’t feel it is my job to convince anyone of the devastation of that hardship, it is my reality and I, alone, am the one who has to reconcile with it. And my family are the only ones who need to accept the effects or outcome.
In the aftershock of being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I had a heart attack and painful bypass graft in November. My heart stopped twice before I could stabilize into the sterility of a third facility while my insurance was running it’s course and reality was settling in. An infection of my leg incision later led to fluid build up around my heart which is particularly dangerous and scary as a cardiac patient, and something I will continue to manage every day along with my aneurysm.
Since returning home, I have been subjected to embarrassing regular in-home nurse visits and occupational therapy, in part, to manage my tremor which had been controlled previously for almost three years. I can allow myself to feel humiliated, or I can look at it as an obstacle I’m looking forward to overcoming. Because I will.
I am nauseous much of my waking day. To where a chauffered and supervised grocery trip can take me over two hours. During which time I am thinking of nothing but getting home so I don’t get sick in public. I am dizzy often. To where I can not drive, lose vision, regularly miss dinner with my family, and need to lean in to walls while standing. During which time I am thinking of nothing but laying down so no one has to pick me up. I need oxygen more on some days than others. During which time I am thinking of nothing but where I can go because I won’t do it in front of anyone. I have given my entire life plan over to constant medical management as an on-call staff of many help me figure out what best for me, and what is not.
To control the debilitatating post-surgical pain, I was placed on Morphine. A blessing and a curse. Apart from initial issues with hallucination, sleeping around the clock and feeling a loss of purpose in my family, it has led to a stomach bleed that requires ongoing antibiotics that make me so ill I can’t speak. I did not choose to live this way or to step away from my career or be left seeking purpose as the former head of household. I did not choose to be at the mercy of this illness.
More recently, and the trigger for initiating care today, I have been losing word finding ability, thought clarity and lucidity. Instead of allowing this to send me into an emotional tailspin, I have decided to seek care. My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s and I would be lying if I said this was not a terrifying concern for me. I have also made no secret of my struggle with alcoholism throughout 2016. I have never touched a drug in my life but I cared for an addict for years, and that is not a burden or heartbreak I am willing to place on my family, friends or myself. So I am choosing to take control of it as a first step to regain control of my life before I cannot. This cycle can very easily turn into a grip of depression for me which has been the main demon I fight in the past.
In all honesty, a wake up call came when I first went on duty as daytime caretaker for my grandson and could not dose for pain until the night. I felt it. And I fell out of function and was ill until I had it. It was a feeling I learned to recognize long ago and it scared the shit out of me to experience it again at any level for any reason.
Because of my cardiac issues, I am going to have a full medically monitored withdrawal and detoxification process of this drug from my system. I’m nervous of the effects that will take place and scared of the pain and sickness that are yet to come. But I am looking forward to exploring more holistic approaches, physical therapies and stress management with my doctors and therapists. I need to be well aware of a stripped down, baseline level of pain and symptomology post-surgery and I haven’t been able to do that as of yet…so, that is something else to look forward to when this is done. And I will go from there.
Everett’s fat little face is what’s keeping me going and he will be well cared for by his grandma, his surrogate aunt and uncle and their toddler, Cora (and probably some cats). I’m hoping he will have a great experience interacting in a new environment with another “baby” while I am bettering myself for him and my family. His and my quiet days together are what’s brought me this far and I will do just about anything to continue on. And be my best for him. Not eventual memories of a sick granddad who couldn’t play with him out of his armchair.
I’m going to leave it there for now, pay some bills, regroup and finish packing my junk. I’m excited for today. I’m scared shitless. I’m proud. I’m exhausted. I’m overcome with both hope and sadness. I’m ready.
Be well, friends. Talk to you soon!