That’s not a complaint, or a cry for sympathy. It’s simply the way it is. It’s life. By being honest with myself about what’s coming, I stand a better chance of holding it together.
Yesterday I visited my father, who’s been in the hospital since having a stroke two weeks ago. As is the case with stroke patients, recovery is a long road with a lot of ups and downs.
This past weekend he sounded more lucid than he had in a long time. That was an up. The ups fill you with a lot more hope than you should have when the best thing to do is take things one day at a time. Such hope makes it all the more devastating when a down day comes.
Yesterday was a down day.
He was seeing and talking about things that weren’t there. He kept telling us he wanted to go to the Beth Israel where he needed to be, not really buying the reality that he was already there.
He kept reaching out to us to hand us his keys. Of course, he had no keys.
He kept telling me to take a folder from his hand and put it on the table next to him. I pretended to take the folder that wasn’t really there. Then I was pissed with myself for playing along. But when I’d tell him the truth — that the things he saw weren’t really there, he grew agitated. The IV bags full of various liquids above him became hazardous chemicals in his mind, and he started pulling at the chords.
In that scenario, the only thing you can feel is helpless.
Physically he seems OK. The blood pressure is up and down, but his breathing and heart rate appear good. For him, the big crisis is in the brain.
I’m used to mental illness. I have a lot of personal experience there. But this is different. This is something that was sparked by a stroke, whereas my issues were the much more gradual result of disjointed brain chemistry and rough experiences growing up.
That’s my territory, and from that perspective I can give a person advice until hell freezes over. But the thing with my father is out of my league.
When something is out of my league, I feel out of control. When you have OCD, control is something you desperately crave, especially when the going gets tough.
I’m not feeling the urge to give in to my addictions, which is usually what this state of mind leads to.
But I know it’s coming.
That’s the test in front of me.
Now that I’ve acknowledged it, I feel more ready to keep it all together.
I have my tools: An OA sponsor, a network of friends and family, a food plan that’ll keep me out of trouble as long as I cling tight to it, and my faith. Whatever happens, Jesus has my back.
I just have to remember that.
I also have to remember that, as Mister Roger’s mother once told him, in times of trauma always look for the helpers, because they are always there.
At the same time, I need to be one of the helpers, because others will need that from me.
I’m still trying to figure out the best way to be a helper.
I figure God will lead me in the right direction.