Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grieving versus beating yourself up versus feeling sorry for yourself

These are 3 concepts that I am struggling with.  I am allowed to grieve.  I am not allowed to beat myself up.  That is not just defined as actually doing so, I am not allowed to question what has happened because of a tendency to blame myself if that happens.  I'm not allowed anywhere near that.  And feeling sorry for myself is what my so-called friends said about me.

I am not feeling sorry for myself.  That at least I know is wrong.  In a very short time I have lost so much and I don't think it would be normal for me to not have strong, sad feelings about this.  I've had losses people don't know about, like finding out that I physically can't have babies.  I knew I couldn't anyway, but that's a weird thing to learn.  I have not only lost the job I loved, the career I loved, I've lost what I chose to pour so much of myself into.  Basically I've lost my identity.  I don't think that "feeling sorry for myself" has entered the picture.  If it did it was the weeks after my failed work attempt and the lithium toxicity.  However, given that I was pretty confused I don't think that counts.  I have been extremely stressed and sometimes frustrated in a what next? way.  But not so much that I didn't know the answer was anything and that compared to the recipients of my hats nothing I was going through was hard at all.

The other 2 seem the same to me and so Dr. Mind spends a lot of time reminding me of what I am.  The whole plan was to ask this week for the difference.  But then something finally made it clear to me:  the grieving comes out of the blue.  The grieving is when I am laughing one minute and sobbing the next.  The grieving is when I am not trying to think of it and the pain hits hard.  The thing I'm not allowed to do is to start the thoughts.  I'm anxious to see if I'm correct.  But even then it is confusing because so many things trigger ouchies.  I know that some of those should be fleeting thoughts and they aren't.  But they are not me trying to make sense of it (and being not allowed to try to do this may be the hardest thing any therapist has ever asked me to do) so I think they are ok.  I'm pretty sure I"m not ok when my mind wanders to the last few weeks I worked and I think about how nothing I did was anything I thought was for the last time.  The last day I worked was a Saturday.  A schedule never came up for me so I assumed I was to see the people who I should have seen earlier in the week when I took off.  I think it was something like 1 visit, 1 eval in the middle of town, 1 on the far side, and 2 on the near side.  Except that one person changed her mind when I got to her home, so I spent some time in the office organizing things so I'd have done that when I went on leave.  I knew I was starting Percocet that night and wasn't sure if I'd be able to work on it or not.  Then I evaluated someone who I'd just discharged; she was fine.  My next patient said he was scheduled to see another OT the next day.  I did the eval and called my supervisor.  It turns out that somehow there was an error and he'd been scheduled to see several of these people.  Oopsie.  The last person had gone on hospice the night before and didn't need therapy for that reason.  So pretty much my career ended sitting in a lobby of an assisted living laughing with my supervisor about the crazy scheduling and that I could go home early.  A good ending I suppose.  I just never dreamed that a true ending was possible.  But I can't change that, and I think if I don't start questioning it I'm allowed to think it.

Grieving takes many forms.  The other day I started crying with Dr.  Mind, somewhat out of the blue.  He started to say "what is that for?  You were doing so well" or something a little more gentle when he stopped and said "this is the grieving?".  Grieving right now seems to be a lot of things creeping up on me and making me cry.  I know there is more to come beyond this and Dr. Mind seems to think that I am going to want to start bargaining to be allowed to work because I feel better, which is actually not happening at all.  I am more aware of my limitations and that I may never be a clinician again than I feel any desire to work.  I can't even imagine working right now.  Right now grief is still just struggling to accept what is essentially the basics for the moment:  I've been very sick and am improving more than was necessarily expected.  There's no telling what I'll get back.  At this point there are some deficits that will make almost anything I try difficult (memory, trouble following instructions).  I am not well enough to consistently make good decisions.  I know there is more coming from the grieving end, but it is still hard to differentiate grieving and "what did I do wrong" thinking.

Finally, this little story is commonly shared among parents of children with disabilities.  But it works just as well if one day you were working in a job you loved and awaiting minor surgery and the next you were permanently disabled.


WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.



Copyright 2006 www.masterofirony.blogspot.com

3 comments:

Jean Grey said...

I like this story a lot. Although sometimes I think that you have to make your own Holland, if you can't make it to Italy. That is where I am in my life right now. Trying to figure out where I am, and what I am capable of doing with my life.

Just Me said...

Jean-I agree totally. But I think finding your own place is another stage in the journey, and that it's possible to go back and forth a bit. right now I'm not allowed to think about anything besides being in Holland. I have to get used to Holland like it or not. thanks for the help in getting this concept to be more concrete. I think trying to figure out what I can do is in strict violation of the "you are not allowed to think about doing anything just because you feel a bit better" law.

To be funny I'm taking a signed statement that I am promising to not want to work until otherwise told. I know I am not close to ready but Dr. Mind won't believe that.

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