Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Triggering Tale

This will be a triggering post for me to write but we feel it's important to K's sanity (whatever amount she may have left) that we discuss this subject.  I'm going to write about death, or more specifically, the death of our mother. No, she is not dead. But she is old and her health is failing and therefore this is something that we fear we may have to deal with at some point in the (hopefully not too) near future.  First I need to tell you about my mom.  You can't possibly sympathize with me unless you know a bit about our mother.

Mom will be 83 years old in August.  She is the hardest working woman I've ever seen in my life.  She is always working, cleaning something, cooking, anything, just to keep busy. She helped my father build the house in which I now reside. She worked a factory job until she began having children. My sister is 20 years older than me, my brother 15 years older. Needless to say, I am the baby.  Mom had me at a very late stage in her life, and I often joke that she originally named me "Menopause".  So I've grown up with a mother who was the same age as my friends' grandmothers.  This was probably both a blessing AND a curse.  A blessing because she loved me as though I were a miracle baby, and indeed she has called me at times her "miracle child", I believe because when she got pregnant with me, the doctors told her it'd be a difficult pregnancy due to her age and that I might have problems when I was born.  Also because she's told me before that she was in labor with me for such a long period of time that she thought I'd never come out.  So I guess in those ways, I am her miracle.  A curse because she was old-fashioned and didn't understand my generation-especially me!-at all.  She tried to be strict with me yet I was spoiled rotten.  Mom was/is forever buying me gifts, everything from new clothes to expensive jewelry. I DO appreciate all these things, but they make me feel terribly guilty; I don't deserve them.

I'm not going to lie. I am ashamed of the way we treated our mom when we were younger.  We didn't treat her with the respect she deserves.  We yelled and argued and I would curse at her and steal her credit cards and sneak out or run away from home... I was a real brat, although at that time the doctor called it bipolar.  Seriously, of course, I was mentally ill, and all those terrible things I did and said had a lot to do with the fact that I was sick and not in therapy or on medication. I am one of those people who truly needs medication. I can't function as a regular person without meds. But I digress. My mother and I loved each other very much but were not what I would call close until I was about 30 years old.  I guess it just takes time for children to learn to appreciate their parents and all the sacrifices made on their behalf throughout life. So anyway, I suppose I was trying to atone for the sins of my youth and thus I began to do everything I could to help my mother and be a better daughter.  When my father became terminally ill, I moved in with my parents to help my mother take care of him; I was there for 2 years.  After my dad's death, I stayed with my mother for about 3 months, just so she wouldn't be alone.  She and my father had been married for 55 years, and she had never lived alone before.  So I stayed with her and we grieved my father's death together; I think it's the only thing that prevented me from ending up in a psychiatric hospital (I did not handle my dad's death well at all) Eventually the day came when I moved back to my own place, which was an hour north of my mother's much smaller city. I'd been living 2000 miles away in the Pacific Northwest before Daddy got sick, but I chose to stay in the South after he died, just to be near my mother.  It was good to have my own personal space again, but I did miss my mom.  Every morning, I made myself a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette on the balcony and called my mom, first thing.  I'm not sure who these calls meant more to, me or her.  But I couldn't start my day until I'd talked to Mom, and if she didn't hear from me by early-afternoon, she'd get worried and call me.  That is one thing I should tell you about my mother-she's a worrywart.  She is always and forever worried about me, I don't know if it's because I'm the baby of the family or if it's because of my mental illness or if it's just a maternal thing.  You might even say that she's always been over-protective of me, but she's gotten much more relaxed and better about it since she's gotten older.  She does still call me if I'm not home when I said I would be though.  All you really need to know is that Mom is the most loving and generous and thoughtful mother on the planet.  She would do anything for me, and has done more than I could ever list (or remember). 

Now we get to the part about her health. After my father died, Mom really went downhill.  She's been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count for congestive heart failure, emphysema, COPD, pneumonia, blood clots in both lungs....I could go on and on.  Let's just say that Mom has had a LOT of health problems over the years.  But she's a trooper, she's tough as nails, and she always pulls through, even when my sister and I thought she wouldn't make it.  Mom is a fighter.  I'm thankful for that, otherwise she wouldn't be with me today.  But things are not so good right now.  About 3 years ago, Mom's health deteriorated to the point where she could no longer live by herself.  And so I moved in with her. I am now my mother's caregiver.  I keep track of all her medication doses and doctor's appointments and basically just see to it that she's got everything she needs or wants.  I get up every morning and check on her and give her her medications and check her oxygen levels and maybe her blood sugar and help her get dressed for the day. She's currently recovering from a minor surgical procedure which requires me to clean, disinfect, and dress 2 wounds on her lower back. She contracted Shingles back in January and has been in a lot of pain for months now.  In the end she had to get an electrical nerve stimulator implanted in her back; hence the wounds I've been cleaning.  She's just starting to feel good again....but she has good days and bad days.  Recently, we had a bad day.  A very bad day.

It started out just fine. She was up and watching the news and reading her newspaper while drinking coffee...she said she'd slept well the night before and that she felt really good.  So I believed her; she gave me no reason to doubt her.  My husband left for work, and I went to the laptop to check emails and whatnot, and while I was sitting there, on the sofa, I happened to glance over at my mother, who was seated in the recliner next to the sofa.  She was sitting on the very edge of her chair, and was leaning forward,  I noticed she seemed to be out of breath and her eyes were closed. I immediately asked her if she was OK, and she shook her head no.  I sprang into action-asking all the typical heart attack questions, checking her blood oxygen levels, putting the oxygen mask on her, wiping her brow which seemed damp with sweat, getting her an ice pack for her sore back, and giving her something for pain.  She wanted to go lie down, so I helped her up and we slowly made our way back to her bedroom.  I put her to bed, arranging pillows and positioning ice packs before pulling the blankets up over her... and that's about the time she started to cry.

She whimpered at first, then it got worse and in the end she was sobbing.  She kept telling me how much she loved me and how she didn't want to leave me.  I tried to keep things light and told her she wasn't going anywhere but she cried harder and said yes, she was, and soon.  I put my arms around her and hugged her tight and told her she was going to be just fine.  She continued to cry, and it was then that she asked if she could have one of my Xanax to calm her down. I knew it was serious if she was asking me for anxiety medicine-she's afraid for its danger of addiction.  So I gave her .5 mg of Xanax and sat at her bedside waiting for it to kick in. It was time for her to take a breathing treatment, so while she was doing that, I ran off to my room and called my sister. I was more upset than I'd realized and when she asked what was wrong I began to cry.  Tried to explain to her that Mom was talking about dying and saying her goodbyes; my sister (who lives a thousand miles away) told me to call my aunt, she was a nurse, she'd be able to help.  And so I called my aunt, then went and sat at my mother's bedside to wait. I didn't mention to my mother that I'd talked to my aunt. It seemed to take forever for the Xanax to ward off Mom's tears, and then it was an eternity before my aunt arrived. But I left them alone and went back to my room. I was really freaked out.  I'm so superstitious that I thought perhaps Mom was having a premonition about her death and that really messed with my mind.  I convinced myself that she was about to die and a panic attack ensued.  I locked the bedroom door and waited for the anxiety pill I'd taken to kick in.  When I finally emerged from my room, I found that my aunt had decided to take Mom to see the pain-management doctor (a 45 minute drive).  So I helped Mom get dressed and gathered up her portable oxygen tank and medications and ice pack and pillow, and I put her in my aunt's car.  As I was fastening her seat belt, she told me again how much she loved me, and again the tears began to flow down her cheeks.  I had to get out of there. When they drove away I ran inside the house and lost. My. Shit. 

I took a handful of pills.  I drank a beer. I smoked some pot.  I was just trying to hold on until my husband got home from work.  I don't really remember much after that.  What I know about the rest of the day and night is only what my husband told me happened and also what I found written in my journal and my blog the next day.  This is where things get interesting, and I think it's necessary to put the rest of the story into a second blog post.  This one is already far too long.  I hope you'll take the time to read part 2 as well; it's infinitely more entertaining than this post.  Preview: K switches into a new K for 24 hours...

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