Thursday, June 09, 2005

losing it

Last night, in a lovely bar on the LES, I totally lost my shit at a dear friend. It was good that it happened, he understood why I was upset and hugged me and apologized, and we are so much the better for it. But it highlighted an issue that it would probably be worth mentioning here as well.

When I have major shit going down, I don't really talk about it, I just deal with it. The stuff I talk about during difficult times is the minor crap, because that's easier. Bachelor problems, Tom and Katie? Sooo much more fun to talk about than illness and death.

Now I know this doesn't make me unique. Lots of people cope/avoid like this. But lately, when I only tell my friends about the minor irritations, a few have been responding by giving advice or telling me what I "should have" done, instead of being comforting and supportive. Certainly they would never act like this about the big stuff, but what maybe none of us were aware of was that the minor stuff was standing in for the major. So when I whine that "my new shoes hurt my feet," it's because I'm not saying, "I'm afraid that my grandfather might die soon." And what I need is a "Poor dear" and a hug, not to be told that I should have bought more sensible shoes. When I want advice, I do ask for it, but sometimes I just want support and love.

Please let me make it perfectly clear that only a few people have been doing this, and I do know that they love me regardless. My friends are magnificent and so patient and giving with me (as in Monday's Perfection post); some of us were just having a miscommunication.

So, in the interest of better communication, here's a more complete update on all the shit that's been going down to date.

My grandfather is still in the hospital. He had a tracheotomy, because he'd been on the respirator for so long that not only was it irritating his mouth, but he was running the risk of permanently damaging his vocal cords and losing his speech. Now he seems to be doing better lung-wise, and they're trying to wean him from the resp. But now they've found gallstones, and they're trying to decide whether or not to remove his gallbladder. The question being: is it worth putting him through the trauma of another surgery, the third in a month, for gallstones?

Two things really worry me about this situation --

1. We keep getting these panicked reports from Chicago that this time it's the end, and then it's not. Which is emotionally draining, and also makes it hard for us to know how to react. What will happen when it really is the end? Will we be able to recognize it? Will we believe it?

and 2. the continual addition of problems to his roster, despite him then overcoming each one, is really making this feel like the end to me. First he went into the hospital for bronchitis, then it was pneumonia, then they thought they'd found a perforated colon and did emergency surgery, then they discovered that it wasn't his colon, it was a stomach ulcer, then they couldn't get him off the respirator, then they did the trache, now he's doing better with the resp but they found gallstones...what's next? How much more can he take? He is 90, after all.

In the meantime, my grandmother is all alone in their house with the nurses, and she's wasting away. Mum says that between Mother's Day (when we last saw her) and now, she looks like she's aged 10 more years. She just lies there, not talking, not walking, not even reading or watching TV. And I'm worried that in the midst of us trying to handle all these problems with my grandfather, she will just slip away and die while we're not looking.

Also, work has been nuts. My boss quit, which might mean I'll be getting a promotion, or I might have to quit myself, if working here without him becomes sucky. I really admired him, and he inspired me to stick it out here whenever I was frustrated because I felt like I could learn so much from him. With him gone, in the absence of a promotion, I don't know what my motivation will be. To add salt to the wound, the reason he left was because the major project I've been working on has been tearing the company apart. I know I'm doing a good job on it, and I know that everyone all the way to the top of management thinks so. But it's hard to accept that I'm struggling with something so incredibly hopeless that even my boss got sick of dealing with it and had to leave.

Then there's the car accident from back in April. I'm still dealing with the fallout from that, which continues to annoy. But on the importance scale, it falls squarely between death and Scientologists, and as such is still not worth talking about in either the serious or frivolous capacity.


The Irishman said...

Wow, I'm so sorry all that has been going on for you. I've been through way too much death in my family (incl. my father) where the best thing is a hug and a stiff drink. Although the hug is always better because you know they are there for you.

On a funnier note, I'm still the only person who has ever punched someone at a funeral for saying "I know how you feel". Still only the 2nd person I have ever hit in my life (first was a guy picking on my sister when I was 14)

Long story short... no advice, just hope you are doing ok :)

Maggie said...

Thanks, Irishman, I do appreciate it.

OMG, I hate when people say "I know how you feel"! I've had my share of wakes and funerals myself, from a friend dying when I was 12, to various relatives, and a friend's dad when we were 16. But when my (other) grandfather died when I was 27, I learned about how grief transforms you. Like love, it's something that you only have the vaguest idea of until you truly experience it for yourself. And it's ultimately personal. Not a soul could ever understand what I felt and what I went through when my grandfather died, because no one else was me or knew him the way that I did. And my father's grief at the loss of his father, and my grandmother's at the loss of her husband, were equally incomprehensible to me, because it was theirs.

One thing I did realize, however, is that there is a difference between people who have experienced grief, and those who haven't but want to be sympathetic. Grief is transforming, and there's like a club of people who have been through it. But you really can't blame those who have not; they're jsut trying to help.

Language can be dangerous stuff sometimes.