Friday, 16 March 2018

Why it's okay to fall apart

I think I'm having PTLD: post-traumatic Lyme disorder. Now that Rich is getting stronger and doesn't need my help as much anymore, I'm falling apart. I can keep it together at work, but as soon as I'm home, all I want to do is eat chocolate and watch one Grey's Anatomy episode after another. 
I have no energy, I could sleep all day long, and I'm permanently exhausted. 
Since I'm a healthcare professional (ha!), I have diagnosed myself: not only do I have PTLD, but I'm also currently in the 4th stage of grief/loss: depression. 

You've probably heard of the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 
It occurred to me that while I haven't lost anyone (thank you, thank you, thank you!), Rich and I both went through a traumatic event. 

If you exchange 'grief' with Lyme (or illness in general), the 5 stages are scarily accurate:

Stage 1: Denial
When Rich first started to complain of pain last September, I was sure it was nothing. "Typical man," I thought to myself. "The smallest little ache, and they make it sound like they're dying."
I joked with friends that he was "man-colding", making a big deal out of a bit of pain, and was generally either amused or annoyed, depending on the day. 
His lack of energy rarely amused me, though, and I was pretty fed up with him lying on the couch all the time. Which led straight to

Stage 2: Anger
In October, his lethargy got worse. Getting him off the couch required almost superhuman strength, and I've had it. There was being lazy, and there was Rich: lying on the couch like a flipped-over turtle, never moving, feebly reaching out for warm blankets and cool drinks. He would ask for canned peaches in a weak voice, whispering that "they are the only thing that make me feel better".
Saying that I was annoyed was putting it lightly: I was mad. After all, I was the one who had to go to work, take over more and more chores on the farm, cook and clean, and now I had to look after my husband? Because of some arthritis pain? Enough was enough!

Stage 3: Bargaining
November rolled around, and with it came real fear. My husband was deteriorating before my very eyes, and nobody knew what was wrong with him. He lost his appetite, and with it 20 pounds; he screamed in pain when he had to get up from bed to go to the bathroom; he would sometimes say stuff that made no sense. He lost all his strength. He lost his love for life, the very essence of him. The formerly strong and opinionated man I loved had gone. 
I was scared. What was wrong with him? I sent silent prayers to the heavens, promising that I would never be impatient again if we could just figure out what was wrong with him and get him relief. "I will never complain about the animals ever again, if he gets better."
"I will cook healthy and nutritious meals every day for the rest of my life if he's not in pain any more."
"I will never ask for anything ever again if we can heal him."

Stage 4: Depression
I skipped over the depression part whilst we were in the thick of his illness. There simply was no time. One of us needed to hold it together, and since he was so sick, I was it. 
I tried to be strong and hopeful. I researched as much as I could about his symptoms, desperately searching for an answer. When a blog reader mentioned Lyme Disease, and when the test came back positive on the day of the winter solstice, and when the sweetest sensation of all - hope - finally joined us in our desperation, I was too overcome with relief and gratitude to be depressed. 

Stage 5: Acceptance
In my incredibly sheltered and lucky life, my husband's illness has been the worst thing that has happened to me since The Bad Thing 18 years ago (the thing that inspired me to write my book).
Despite that, I'm so grateful that it's not worse. Lyme Disease sucks, yes - but it's so much better than about a million other things that could have happened to him/us.
His zest for life, his confidence, and his sunny smile are back - and with it, a renewed appreciation for the preciousness of life. Once again we are reminded that life can never be taken for granted, because it can be snatched away from us in an instant.
So yes, we may have a marriage of three - but my husband's mistress is losing her power.
We are stronger than her.   

These stages are not linear. 
With Rich being so strong that he has completely taken over the feeding of the animals (even the ones that require heavy lifting!), I have finally come apart. Not in a very bad way, not a complete unraveling - more like a fraying at the seams. 
And you know what? That's okay. 
Fighting a battle leaves scars, and going through a life-altering event will leave you - well, altered.
Or, as my mom puts it: "The most interesting people are the ones who have been knocked around and got through it."

So I will spend just a little bit more time sprawled on the couch like a flipped-over turtle, fraying at the seams.
All the most interesting people do.

xoxo Miriam 

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6 comments

  1. You’ve had so much happen in six months. I’m so sorry that you guys had had to go through this and I’m so grateful for you that Rich is feeling better. Is Lyme disease ever out of a person’s system forever? I know from your previous posts that it can take decades to rear it’s ugly head. I hope it leaves altogether with the right treatment!

    In the meantime, take care of yourself. You’re going to come through this stronger than ever.

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    1. If Lyme is caught and treated early, the antibiotics can destroy the bacteria completely and that person is considered cured. But for other patients who've had the bacteria inside of them for years or decades, things become more tricky. Borrelia bacteria are shape-shifting evil geniuses, and they have a few tricks up their sleeves: they can change from their usual corkscrew-shape into round spheres or something called biofilm, which is bad news for the patient, because the antibiotics can't destroy them in those shapes. Once the patient stops taking antibiotics, the bacteria change back into their corkscrew-bad selves and continue to wreak havoc.
      We have no idea what will happen once Rich stops taking his meds, and neither does his doctor; but since he was symptom-free for so long, we hope that he will continue to feel good, even if he's not completely Lyme-free.

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  2. Sending you virtual hugs!! Take the time to wallow and eat all the chocolate. You more than deserve it.

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    1. Even better than chocolate would be a slice (or two!) of your incredible guinness cake with chocolate whiskey ganache and baileys buttercream frosting ...;-)

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  3. The caretaker needs to be taken care of sometimes, too, and that's okay. Now that you are allowed to let up a bit, or a lot, in the caretaking department, you need to be easy on yourself and give yourself time to heal and get back to normal. Take all the time you need to recoup. Your body and spirit will thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Debbi! I never had to care for someone until now, and I have newfound respect and admiration for anyone who does it for long periods of time. It takes a lot out of you!
      I'm so grateful that my husband is so much stronger now, and gives me enough time for myself. Life gets easier and better every day, and I can feel my own strength slowly returning.
      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave such a lovely comment! Have a wonderful Sunday.

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