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.