Monday, February 17, 2014

White Knuckled



Leaving you in the hospital was awful. I couldn’t stop thinking of you there in that room, all alone. I wanted to be there if you woke up so you felt less lonely, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be much comfort to you and that I was making things worse with my worrying. It nearly takes my breath away to think of you being scared or hurting. I can’t bear it.

I can’t believe I was ever annoyed by your “get up and go” personality. I will never again complain about your attempts to drag me out of bed and do work because I don’t ever want to take your health for granted again.

I am so glad you knew something was wrong and got yourself help. Thank god you listened to your hunch. I am so grateful you’re not the kind of person who tries to be a hero and “tough it out” instead of getting to a doctor before it’s too late.

I want you to know that I am working so hard on this phobia. I want to be helpful and supportive. I want to be a good caregiver to you. I will continue to work on this and get more help to be better at riding out my fear and maybe one day beating it. I want to do that so badly, for you.

I was searching through my computer, looking for a random poem I remember saving a long time ago and I found this. I don't remember writing it and it wasn't dated, but I have a feeling I wrote it the night Dave was admitted to the hospital and I went home to sleep, gather some comfort items for him and check on the cats. 

We lived 45 minutes from the hospital and driving home and then driving back didn't make sense. The real reason I didn't come back to the hospital, though, is that my fear of his illness being deadly was making me almost need to be hospitalized myself. 

Imagine a panic attack (if you haven't had one, you're so very lucky) and then imagine that you're having one all day, all night. That's how it felt. My legs would barely hold me up, I was shaking nonstop, I couldn't eat or sleep and I was irrational. 

I knew that I needed to save myself so I could be of service to my sick husband and I knew one more minute in the hospital would turn me into a psych patient (I'm not kidding about that part) but as soon as I left the hospital, the feeling of abandoning Dave there and escaping the hospital myself filled me with a new horror. I probably wrote this to relieve some of the horrible feelings I had building up inside that night as I tried to calm myself. 

I didn't make it through the night. As soon as I closed my eyes, around 2 am, the hospital called and told me to come back, Dave was in trouble. It was a downhill spiral of fear and pain after that. 

Seeing these words now, almost 3 years later, squeezes the air out of my lungs. It feels like some sort of cruel joke to hear myself (that old me) say things that hinted at the idea that Dave would survive long enough for me to work on my fears. I was trying so hard not to believe that he would die from this illness. Something in me, something deeper than my mind, was convinced he was dying. 

What the hell was that? Was that the voice of fear or was it the voice of knowing? 
I don't know. I'm guessing there's a possibility there was something in me that knew Dave wasn't going to make it. 

Sometimes we know things we can't know. Sometimes we feel things with parts of us we don't understand, that even science can't understand. 

I wish I'd had a chance to work on that phobia with him. Instead, my biggest fears came to be. This is rather damming when it comes to the trajectory of my phobia. Instead of seeing his illness through and riding out the panic, I feared that he'd die and he did. I never got to see the conclusion prove me wrong.

I know everyone dies. Even some in unnatural, out of order ways. I know that if I allow myself to love any another human being, that there is a chance he or she could die before me. I know that. I wish knowing that would bring me some peace, but it brings me a lot of fear. It brings me reality.

Reality isn't pretty. But it's what we have. It’s life. Life is death and death is life. There is no way around it. That reality makes the current moment more momentous and more meaningful. It also makes me scared. I’m scared. And I feel his loss so deeply when I read this journal entry. An ache that does not go away. It just hides until a moment like this, when words from the past bring it all back again. The terror, the loss, the pain. It hurts so much. But when I’m hurting, I’m also living. I’m here. I’m experiencing the messiness that is life. Fear is a part of it. So is love. And love is all that matters. The rest just comes along for the ride.

I’m on that ride. Sometimes I’m holding on, white knuckled. Sometimes I relax a little. But I’m here.


  1. My husband had unexpected complications from surgery that meant he stayed in the hospital for three months instead of 5 days. The hospital - with doctor "best of the best" was nearly two hours from our house. His plan, that I stay with friends who lived nearer the hospital who could get me in and out of the city was very smart, but as the days stretched to weeks and then to months I knew I needed breaks in order to survive (and to give my hosts a break too). After the first 10 days I went home on Friday night and back to the hospital on Monday morning. I did laundry, paid bills, updated the folks who were taking care of my dog, etc...and chanted over and over in my head - I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay.

    I was not at all okay, but needed to try to be - to make decisions I never expected to make, to cope with his needs and those of our friends and family and in looking back, to try to prepare myself for the growing possibility/liklihood of his death. I think I knew subconsciously that it was inevitable and that they were trying to keep him going in the hopes of a miracle...those hours on my own made it possible for me to survive my own 2 am call. I think too that he left when he did because he knew I was home where he liked to think I was safe and happy.

    I white knucked the first six months hanging on for dear life. The next six I barely loosened them, but did and didn't explode. Three years later, I still hold on pretty tight (but I always did without him by my side), but sometimes lift my hands in the air like I'm on the roller coaster and I've survived that too.

  2. Holding on tight, too, mostly. Those days of back and forth to the hospital bring me to tears, even now, 4 years later. One day, hopeful, the next not so much. He worked so hard to not die there, wanted to be home...and so he was. Which was another challenge for me, day to day care taker while holding it all together. I keep repeating "love is all that matters", and hold on even tighter. It's like a never ending bad ride at the amusement park, I no longer want to be on it.