Saturday, April 17, 2010

Processing Trauma

I could have lost my fiance this week.

He came down with "gas pain" on Sunday night, which came and went with varying severity over the next two days. Tuesday evening, while I was headed downtown, it suddenly blossomed into excruciating, guts-being-torn-out-with-a-hot-poker pain. He called me, I raced back home, located the nearest ER, fed the dog, loaded Q into the car, and off we went.

Pulse racing, chills, fever and cold sweats, barely able to move, panting and screaming from the pain, we got him into a bed, onto fluids and pain meds, and through a CAT scan that revealed the need for an emergency appendectomy. They admitted him around midnight, predicting surgery the next morning, and eventually sent me home for a meal and several fitful hours of sleep. Thank goodness for L-tryptophan and melatonin.

He had surgery the next day, which went well, though his appendix was gangrenous, and we spent the day managing his pain as he mostly slept. I went home again late that night, promising to return at 9 AM, fed the dog, fed myself, chilled for an hour and hit the sack. Again, thank goodness for enzymes.

Thursday was a bit better for him, though he'd had a rough night of pain and restlessness, but I was basically worthless. I was so tired I could barely function.

Lesson #1)
I should never have promised to return by 9 AM. He was relatively out of the woods, though still at risk for an abscess, and he honestly didn't need me there - he just wanted me there - and, having never been through this type of emergency before, I had not taken into account the toll it was taking on me. I was completely exhausted. He sent me home to take a nap, after which I returned, and kicked me out at a decent hour of the night.

Friday morning he'd fully turned the corner, and I returned to find him in good spirits. I, on the other hand, was an over-emotional, cranky, semi-petulant mess. "What's wrong with me?" I wondered. "It's too early to be PMS, so what's going on?" Finally, after speaking some of it out with Q, it hit me...

Lesson #2) I had never processed my fear and terror from the incident.
Oh my goodness, I was so scared! But I'm REALLY good in emergencies - I shove my emotional impact down so far and so fast that I barely even notice it's there. And that's what needs to happen -- it allows me to get things done in a fast and efficient manner, to be effective in the face of distress. It works... but only for so long. Once the situation has stabilized, I need to allow those feelings to arise and be experienced.

So I sat down on the bed next to Q and sobbed it all out. I could have lost him, and if I had, I would have sold my furniture, broken my lease, taken the animals and moved into my mom's house in Peoria, because I would NOT have been able to function. And that's scary for me, that I love someone so much that grief at the loss of them would functionally disable me.

Lesson #3) You NEVER know what that kind of loss is like until you face the possibility of it head on.
And the fact of the matter is that it could happen at any moment. ANY, for no reason and with no warning, and there may be nothing that you could do about it. I am so completely grateful for hospitals, and for their staff of experts who take such good care of strangers like us in our moments of greatest need. I thank the gods that Q knows how much I love him, and the other way around - had anything gone horribly wrong, there's nothing left unsaid between us. At the same time, we do not have wills, or estate trusts, or power of attorney to allow me to speak for his wishes in a crisis, and I don't even know what his wishes are, so that's a conversation for us to have.

I told Q that I didn't want him to be bothered with taking care of me when he should focus on taking care of himself. His response was that my breakdown could be an opportunity for him to provide for me, and give him a reason to get better faster. Hmmm... so...

Lesson #4) Allowing myself to be authentic and vulnerable could actually be of service to someone else? Imagine that!!

So we're home now, heading to bed again, in OUR bed with lots of snuggling on the menu. I feel that I've been seasoned somehow, that I've passed a trial, that I am wiser about the realm of loss and of strength... that there is a cost to the latter. I am keenly aware of what I have at stake, that I have something to lose in this world, and also something to deeply enjoy. So I'm gonna go do exactly that.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

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