Thursday, May 19, 2011

Suck it up?

Maybe my present moment is captured by this post, which I wrote to my transplant e-list in response to a woman who is being overwhelmed by caregiver duties.  That strikes right home for me, as you will see.  This is a value of our own hard times, mistakes, and failures - they are a chance for us to develop empathy for others who are going through the same thing.

Hi Lorene -
Yes, I have problems too.  A torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, some pain in my right; back pain, a returned pain in my L hip, swelling and pain below my R ankle - it seems all of these are tendon problems.  So I am wondering about the 1000 mg of steroids I had at my surgery, and then the misprescribed Cipro 2 months later - both can cause weakness in tendons.

A lumbar MRI coming up next Tuesday evening.  Maybe the back pain is not
only scoliosis, but also bone deterioration, not surprising in one with kidney failure.  Meanwhile, Vicodin increased to 4 a day, and some odd but not unprecedented moodswings.  Anyway, I got a big new moist heat pad, and I am sleeping well, I'll say that.

I do believe in accepting life, in trying to have equanimity.  But
Lorene, sometimes it is hard.  You must watch your BP.  (Me too.)  When I was chief caregiver for my mother, and my daughter had just given birth and really needed help, I got so stressed I totaled my car and ended up stuck at home with a driving phobia for a while.  It was not much of a relief . . . Not driving again now, because I am so afraid of overstressing the right shoulder.  Sometimes it all piles up on you, I know.  I just wanted you to know that I will never criticize you for finding it overwhelming. 
Some days it is.

I responded partly because the men on the list tend to tell us to "suck it up."  Their way is to encourage people by telling how they can hogtie calves with two torn rotator cuffs, run marathons, and how a transplant is a wonderful chance at life compared to people born without legs or arms. Okay, one of those is an exaggeration, but not by much.

If we see masculinity/femininity as poles on either end of a spectrum, "Suck it up" is at the masculine end. It means override your feelings and do what you have to.  It is not the wrong thing to do, if that's what you have to do, for example, get up yet again and feed the baby.  But in my life I have often believed there were many, many things I had to do.  Just yesterday I was feeling unaccountably very tired, but had a PT appointment in the early afternoon, and thought I shouldn't cancel it.  So I went, hoping I would perk up.  I didn't.  I couldn't do the shoulder work, and had to end the session early.  In my opinion, it was a waste of time, and probably discouraging to the therapist.

Often you need to hear your feelings of overwhelm.  Often we need to back away and find some other direction on something that keeps on being overwhelming.  For instance, you just have to get some respite care, maybe, so you can take a good nap and catch up a bit on your sleep.  My experience with my mother (who died almost ten years ago) taught me not to keep doing something that is leaving me drained and depressed. I had to turn my mother's caregiving over to other family members.  Running my pretty little Acura into a new GMC Jimmy could have gotten me killed.  In fact, could have had something to do with my current back problems, now that I think of it.  I didn't see a doctor then - just went home and cried for days. Suck it up too hard on something too difficult, and you will total your car.

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