Friday, December 30, 2011

Functionality of Another Kind

For the past several weeks, I have been battling major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, as Al is working hard to regain motor function, I am losing day-to-day function due to my lack of ability to cope with the stress of my husband's limitations and excruciatingly slow recovery.

Since Thanksgiving break, I have been using one brain cell to process everything in my life. There is not a single spare brain cell available to multi-task. My poor brain cells are all lying down, panting and gasping as if they've just been through all of basic training in one day. I have been unable to drive without absolute silence in the car, and I've had several close calls on the road. I often sit at my desk with a blank stare and struggle to figure out what it is that I'm supposed to do next. At home, I'm a complete loss - as laundry, dishes, cooking, decorating and child-rearing all need to get done, none of them have gotten done well. Although, many people have commented, "You got your house decorated for Christmas," or "It looks so nice!" And I think, "Yeah, how did that happen?" I honestly can't remember doing all of it, but one explanation is that I chose to do what was enjoyable over the everyday grind. I have had many, many, many, many (Ok, too many to count), unpleasant moments with my children, either over-reacting at their backtalk, or screaming because they won't help me with chores. In any case, there's a 2-sided battle being waged - the young'uns' challenging behavior against the one brain cell I have left with which to process any kind of appropriate reaction.

Most days between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, I have driven to work, sobbing at the wheel. I feel as if I just. can't. do. it. any. more. I have been certain, each day, that this would be the day I would get fired because I would simply slip into a catatonic state and not respond to anyone or anything in the office ever again. I would crawl in from work, plop down on my favorite chair and hope that dinner magically appear, which it often did because my husband would order online the Papa John's pizza guy would show up 45 minutes later with dinner. I started to become very fond of the Papa John's pizza guy.

The only reason I can write this now is that I've had a little time off from work and "some" down time at home (as much down time as you can have with 4 kids on Christmas vacation!) Until now, I've been too far down into the dark to reach up and even touch the light. I can't write when I'm like that, because the tears get in my way. Don't get me wrong, I still have many moments like that, and I'm still not sure how I'm going to fare at work when my brain is still distressed. But right now I'm having a good moment, so I'm sharing before that moment goes away.

I often assess my life and wonder, "why is this so hard for me? It's just busy-ness." So what, I go to work full-time, take my kids to and from work/school with me, do all the grocery shopping, all the Christmas shopping, most of the bill-paying, most of the errands, and most of the housework; the housework that I do manage to get my children to participate in is met with much resistance, which further taxes my brain cell.

Still, it's just "busy-ness". What is it that makes it so hard for me to face life?

Well, I've had a lot of time to think in my downest, darkest, most introspective moments.

I feel alone.

I have a husband and children who love me, many Christian friends who take care of me in many practical ways, a great place to work, and our financial needs are continually, miraculously, met. But I feel alone in bearing the burden placed on our family. I feel as if my husband isn't able to bear most of it yet. He is still not back to work, and he still has a lot of therapy to do before getting to a place where his functioning is almost back to normal - his arm is still paralyzed! And I wonder about his mind - does he really have all the mental functioning he used to have? Is he just slower in responding because he's tired and it's still difficult to talk sometimes? Will he have the mental ability to return to work and provide for our family? He doesn't have any better idea about how to deal with pre-teen rebellion than I do. (By the way, I've discussed these things with Al, and we are both grasping at answers to these questions, so I don't want you to think I'm talking behind his back.)

I have many fears about what the future will look like. I've said this before, but grief is a moving target for us. It's not as if we suffered one blow and now we have to grieve that incident and move on. It's a kind of continual as we recognize, even a year after the stroke, that recovery will take a long time. And some things may never be recovered. How do you grieve something if you don't know whether you've lost it for good?

Consider this a "reality" post. It's kind of a downer, but this is what we're dealing with. I do have a lot of hope for the future, and I intend to write more about Al's bionic sleeve and his new and more promising therapy. As I process the difficulties, then I can hopefully move forward with taking care of my family and finding more courage for the days to come.


  1. WOW! Powerful stuff, Jenny. What shines through even the darkest of paragraphs is your talent in arranging words into stunning visual's.

    Here is hoping that 2012 is a great year of recovery and good health, both mental and physical for your family...sadly, you're on your own with the teen angst that is sure to follow. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing so honestly and deeply, Jen. I do hope that you have found some meds that help. There are many choices out there. I had to try several before I found the right one for me. Some made me feel dull,deadened--no creative edge that I like in me. One made me frantic and quite crazy. Not for long, but still an awful experience. But I kept trying and did find one that helped. If you can possibly get exercise every day--walking, videos, classes at the Y or someplace cheap--make it a priority. I know you feel too tired and stressed and time-challenged, but really, exercise was a life saver for me. Scripture reading and memorizing (I know--haha) is a tremendous help, too. Joyce Meyer cd series (listen in the car?) "Battlefield for the Mind" is excellent, too. You are in my prayers. God BLESS your New Year.

  3. Just read your other posts regarding depression and see that you HAVE tried different meds. Good for you and your doc.

  4. I'm sorry that you are having such a hard time and that your burden is so heavy....but you are not alone. No one is. God is with you, you can do it, you will do it. Try to wake up every day with positive thoughts and gratitude. It might take a long time, but your husband will get better. Stay at it, stay opptomistic. I dont know about the teenage kids...not there yet. I hope your moment out of the fog helps you to see better. Best wishes.

  5. I stumbled past your blog today, and I'm strangely hopeful as I read your old post here. I'm in the midst of quite similar circumstances (just trade Al's stroke for a medical diagnosis that will be grueling and difficult to battle, unknown outcomes...). I feel like a brick is placed in my pack day after day. I'm starting a new teaching job in a few weeks, in a field I haven't taught in years, I have 2 small kids, zero family support, and a sick husband that needs critical surgery 18 hours away. You're showing me that I'm gonna be ok. I will figure this out. But angry? Sure. Overwhelmed? Absolutely. Scared? Mos' def.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read! I still have some days like the ones described above, but I have many days where I feel like we're coming out of the funk. My husband is still disabled and only now in the real process of going to work with the help of a state agency. I think that the passage of time has helped a lot - we've accepted a lot in terms of the way things are now. If you're in Michigan (specifically the Lansing area), I'd love to offer you some practical help. Otherwise, you have my prayers. :)