On Wednesday my nephew began to exhibit signs of a stroke. Decreased mobility on his right side, inability to remember things. I’ve been thinking about what I looked like that day and trying to reconcile.
You see, if you were my family, you saw a series of texts talking about how to do a FAST stroke assessment and how to present that information to the ER doctor. You saw a series of text messages to my niece telling her that she was loved and not alone and that she could manage this. It wasn’t much, but from 1,600 KM away, it’s what I would have wanted to hear.
My colleagues saw nothing more than a woman who apologized for checking her phone in meetings – I told them that I was keeping an eye on a bit of a family emergency, but not to worry.
And I don’t think anyone saw me. It feels overly dramatic, but it’s true. I got that first text saying it looked like Andy had a stroke and this cold hand grabbed my heart and lungs and started squeezing. I felt a bit unable to draw breath. Is this a bump in the road? Is this the start of the end? A nothing burger that will turn out to be a wasted day in the ER? I sat in a dim conference room for five minutes, listening to my meditation app and reminding myself to just breathe.
And then I emerged and was as I always am.
I worry. I feel like I am boring my friends, boring all of you, talking about this.
I could go and see a therapist, but there’s nothing really wrong. The truth is, my family is my world and a part of my world is dying. I do the self-care stuff – make sure I get enough sleep, eat reasonable food as much as I can, try and be gentle with myself.
Still, I think about seeing a therapist. Not because I need strategies to cope, but because I need a space, once every few weeks, where someone can listen to me and simply respond with “this sucks. I’m sorry. I’m listening. I don’t mind listening”.
Does that sound crazy?
You know what? It’s better to pay someone to listen to you and possibly offer advice than it is to feel like you are burdening others (although you’re not. You can tell, because the people who don’t want to listen to you will quietly disappear. Friends listen to your worries, no matter what they are.) In my non-expert opinion, you want something transactional because you’re stretched a little thin right now, and don’t have the reserves to offer support back to people who are supporting you. So, go see a therapist, and maybe she can also help you figure out that support is more of a bank than a barter system (i.e. it’s not a 1-for-1 exchange. Put a little in here and there, take a big withdrawl later. Put some more in when you have more. etc.)
Crazy? Are you kidding me? That’s the one of the most sane responses a person can have. Having a safe, trusted person to talk with about the big things (and this is very big) is foundational to taking care of yourself and of being strong enough to give care to your nephew and family.
You know, there is something very comforting about being able to talk to someone, to be heard. Somehow, just the talking out loud part, sometimes helps things fall into place. I’m not sure that what you’re going through can ever ‘fall into place’ though. I hope you know that all of us? We’re listening too.
Therapists are great. When you find the right one. This can be a bit more taxing, but is worth the effort.
It just helps get everything into a bit more order, and make it easier to deal with.
Go for it.
I’m a little late here, but I hope by now you’ve found someone good to help you through this difficult time. (Love the responses above!) And I hope your nephew is doing better. I know that, realistically, his time he has left here is limited, but I’m hoping for some peace & comfort when he gets near the end. (((hugs)))