Sunday, November 29, 2009

The surgery...and the Thanksgiving that wasn't..

For those of you that follow on a regular basis, you know that I went under the knife last Monday, Nov 23. Not a big deal, just getting my gallbladder removed. However, it was a much bigger deal to me than that. The weekend before was rotten. I was a rotten person to be around. My temper was short and there was little that was effective at consoling me. I was pissed I had to have surgery, I was pissed my Mom wasn't here, and I was pissed because I knew my Dad would have a hard time. So, on Monday am, my troops and I converged at the hospital. On the way there, we stopped by the church so that I could see Mom. I went by myself and sobbed for a good 5 minutes on my knees. Attention God: I love you but this is NOT fair.

We arrived at the hospital and got the ball rolling. I went back to pre op by myself to get all ready. And, as I imagined, they were busy. However, the nurse that was about to be mine was dumb enough to fight with another nurse over who had to work me up right in front of my bay. That really started it off on the right foot....come to find out, I managed to land the most disorganized nurse ever. Granted, I was no wonder patient and I openly admitted that to her. However, I was none too pleased when she couldn't get it together...All I needed was to sign my consents so I could get my IV so I could get some damn DRUGS. However, an angel arrived shortly from my anesthesia team. She had been sent by my friend who was doing my anesthesia to check on me and get me rolling. And, get me rolling she did. With her calm voice and nature, she got my IV, got me calmed down a little bit, and got me some drugs. And, by the time I rolled in to the OR, I was making jokes. She was amazing. She held my hand and she did her best to make me feel better. She knew the circumstances and the monsters in my head that I was dealing with. And, based on how she treated me, I would venture a guess that either she has lost her Mom or she is exceptionally close to her like I was because she got it. And, my hand picked anesthesiologist provided amazing care as well. He was kind enough to not harass me as much as he normally does and to call my husband from the OR. I am not sure what I would have done without them. My surgeon also did fine work. My scars are going to be small and my ability to eat has been restored.

My dad was a champ. I know it was incredibly hard to be there for me without my Mom there for him. That was how they did things...they were there for each other. And, after my surgery was complete, he went to tell her that everything went ok. She already knew, but I know she appreciated my Dad's visit.

I was lucky enough to spend my days of recovery surrounded by friends. One of my friends was with me every single day until Thanksgiving. She kept me company, held my hand, rubbed my back, and tried to do all of those things my Mom would have. And, my friend Wilma was an amazing supervisor. I needed a little supervision....and her excellent nursing knowledge and care. As always, she came through with flying colors.

My Thanksgiving.....well, it wasn't. There was nothing about that day that made it seem like Thanksgiving. My Dad stayed in La Crosse so that he could be with my grandma and because he had a funeral service to attend on Saturday. My aunt spent the week at their place in Florida. And, Bryce and I spent it here. We went to church on Thurs am and stayed after to help serve dinner at the meal provided for our pantry patrons. Church was hard. I wasn't feeling thankful and I couldn't focus. However, one of the other members of the parish reached out to me. She came over during 'the peace' and told me that she understood that I was struggling and wanted me to keep going. Her husband died suddenly a few years ago and he is buried in the yard there as well. She understands what I am going through. And, she told me that I could slug anyone to gave me the platitude about 'just getting through the firsts' of everything....the first bday, the first holidays...all the milestones. She told me what I suspected, it doesn't get easier, you just do it....however you can.

I enjoyed visiting with her while we served downstairs as well. She's kind of an interesting gal. But, she gets it. She understands and she is now part of my army. I have a feeling I will need her and everyone else who has enlisted in the coming weeks.

My best description of Thanksgiving is a little odd. But, I felt like I was watching from above. I felt like I was observing someone else's life and I wasn't participating. I was an outsider. I would assume that Christmas will be much the same way.

I know I have a lot to be thankful for...however, when you are missing someone so much it hurts, that's hard to put in perspective.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Right Smack Dab in the Face

Today has officially been one of those days that slapped me in the face before I ever even managed to get out of bed. I know that because I remember just feeling snarly for absolutely no reason this am before I got up. It didn't take me long to figure out what the problem was. I miss my Mom ALOT today.

Yesterday was a day for the short list of good days. I got alot done around the house, ran some errands, felt productive, and emotionally felt good. I felt like I was going to win and that maybe this whole surgery and holiday thing would be manageable....then I met today. Today means that I don't really care of face either. I will take a few good rounds of sedation. I don't want to Christmas shop, I don't feel like it. I don't want to think about Thanksgiving next week. And, I sure as hell don't want to think about walking through the doors of 3901 Rainbow next Monday without my Mom by my side.

For those of you that aren't in healthcare, those of us that are, are NOT good patients. We know too damn much and have too many in, you can't start my IV there...and I will select my own anesthesiologist (which I have done). We are control freaks and being in a hospital and not being in control of what is going on is like a bad alcoholic without a drink. We are beside ourselves. But to pull from an AA mantra...I should just 'let go and let God." I'll try that, but I have a feeling it will be after quite a few tears. Luckily, I have a troops from my army joining me at the hospital....luckily, they are smart enough to know what will likely happen. I also hate what I know will happen there as well. Staff are going to think that I am just being a big baby because I am having surgery. Things like...."Good God, she's a nurse, doesn't she know this is no big deal?" will surely be said under someone's breath. However, I am not going to worry about those people. Screw them. This nurse has had a hell of a year so even a minor surgery feels monumental.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I have tried to keep reminding myself that I have alot to be thankful for. I was able to quit a job that I hated. I am married to someone who obviously loves me unconditionally. I have two wonderful dogs...even though I occasionally want to beat them. I have some amazing friends. Thanks to accupuncture, right now, my migraines are under control. My dad will be moving to KC soon. However, in the midst of all of those things, at times, I don't feel thankful at all. I feel resentful. Why do I have to be the one that has to do this? Why do I have to wake up every morning and tell myself that today is going to be a better day and that my Mom is in a better place. I am glad she is there...but I am not glad that I can't talk to her.

Today, I attempted to run errands. One of them was a stop at Hallmark for some birthday cards and some sympathy ones too. They are the first sympathy cards that I have attempted to buy since my Mom died and it didn't go very well. I couldn't even stand in front of that section without crying. I was unable to even open one. I know what they all say and none of it brings a bit of comfort to the person getting it. The comfort comes from knowing that someone else is remembering your loved one and that you are in their prayers. So, I didn't buy any sympathy cards. I couldn't do it. I will send a note instead. As for the birthday cards, I would have thought that would have been easier. Wrong again. It wasn't. I needed one for a good girlfriend of mine and my aunt. So, I went to the "For Her" section. I probably won't ever go back to it. It was DOMINATED by cards for Mom's and daughter's. All I could do was think that I would never buy a For Mom card again and that I would never be getting a For Daughter card from my Mom again. It was an entire 5 foot physical reminder of my pain. And, I wanted to rip it down.

I have finally figured out why I was unable to really Christmas shop in Chicago. I went there with hopes that the change of scenery would make Christmas shopping easier. However, throughout the weekend, I just couldn't get myself worked up to it. I know why. I basically called my Mom for a pre or post purchase stamp of approval on my gifts. Not that I can't make a decision, I can. I just liked hearing that someone else thought my idea was cool/fun/they would love it. And, she loved hearing about the people out shopping, what was on sale, and what I found for me. So, I am figuring out a different solution for Christmas this year.

I hate grief. It is one mean bastard. It lets you go along thinking that you might make it and then manages to knock you right back down again when you least expect it. It makes you doubt yourself. It makes you doubt your ability to function normally.

So, that's where I am today...wondering how I am going to put my right foot in front of my left. And, if I will be able to sleep tonight without all those rotten dreams that keep plaguing me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Getting my shit together....while fighting the silent war

On Friday, I went to the doctor in an attempt to figure what the hell is going on with my body. For the last month, I have been sick. Not just one issue....multiple issues. And, I am sick of feeling like crap all of the time. Life was hard enough when my body wasn't's even harder now. So, rather than continuing to self medicate and diagnose, I went to the doctor. And, while I was sitting in the lab getting my blood drawn, I had an interesting conversation with the phlebotomist. She noticed that I was in scrubs so, of course, she asked where I worked. I told her, and that I would only be doing that for four more days. She asked what I would be doing after that.... Without even thinking, I responded, 'getting my shit together." As you can imagine, she had no idea how to take that or what to say....insert awkward silence here. Of course, then I have to analyze my gut response. That is exactly what I am going to do. In many ways, my life has been in some form of turmoil or disarray for the past year. I was planning a wedding, working on moving out of my home, dealing with my Mom's cancer diagnosis, her death, moving, selling my home, and now facing a whole host of illnesses. Needless to say, if you live through all of that, at some point, you wake up and wonder what the hell is going on. That is where I am.

I can't wait to be done working. I am sick of my trained monkey position and the ridiculous bullshit that goes on where I work. I am ready to get my life figured out. I am ready to get organized again and figure out how I am going to spend my valuable time. I need stability and some semblance of normal. I know I still won't have that for a long time, however, I would like to create some circumstances that maybe, just maybe, resemble a stable and normal life. I am ready to dedicate my life to doing things that are important to me and trying to take care of me...and the ones I love too. This control freak is ready to get a handle on things again.....all while continuing to fight my own, often silent, war.

I have to come to the realization that my grief has become a silent war. Over the last week, I have often felt trapped in my mind again. I am missing my Mom horribly again. Most of it has to do with the fact that I have been sick. I have never had a long term sick stretch without the comfort of my Mom...Let me just tell you, this sucks. I am surrounded by concerned, loving people yet none of them are able to bring me the level of comfort that my Mom did. By this stage of the game, she would have been to KC to see for herself what was going on. She would have taken care of me and made me feel better.

I am also missing her because these damn holidays are coming whether I want them to or not. To be honest, I don't want to see them. In fact, if sedation through January were an option, I would take that. However, it's not about to happen like that. By the grace of God, I will make it through. I only know that because I have lived through the last 112 days. But, I also don't want to see the next 45. I don't want to Christmas shop without her. I don't want to have Thanksgiving without her. And, I don't want to witness the first weekend in December. This will be the first year that she and my Dad will not do their Christmas shopping in KC that weekend.

In my silent war, I won a victory this weekend. We were at the KU/KSU game in Manhattan. At one point, yesterday am, I wasn't really sure we were going to make it. My body was so mad at me, I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the game. However, I made it...we were going to try and do something fun and act like life was normal. Once we were there, we spent the day with part of my Dad's family. We talked and tailgated and I pretended that life was good. Especially when someone I hadn't seen since my Mom's death commented on her black pearl that I wear. We had been together for hours and she had yet to say anything to me about the events of the last 4 months...I guess it's just easier to ignore it...or forget about it. However, when she commented on my necklace, I pointed out that of course, it had been my Mom's. Insert her awkwardness here...followed by many comments that highlighted that. In my head, I wanted to bawl. I wanted to sit down and bawl right in the middle of the East parking lot. Yes, damn it, this is all I have left of her. I have this beautiful necklace and I don't have her. I don't have my best friend and I would give ANYTHING to have her back. And, I don't have her to tell me that everything is going to be ok.

Her absence struck me like that many times yesterday. I had so many things to tell her about.

One of the few moments of comfort in my head was granted by my cousin's amazing girlfriend. She has been through this war too.....not with the death of her Mom, but with her share of loss. And, she did her best to make me feel loved and comforted yesterday. She understood what was going on my head that no one could see. She gave me hugs because she knew I was hurting and a great new book to read to help me get through. With her help, I had a victory yesterday. I made it through another awkward social experience.

This week will be my last week as a practicing nurse for a while....and I am ok with that. I do not have the physical or more importantly, the emotional stamina to take care of others. My goal is to just make it through...make it through without a major meltdown.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Farewell, Florence....

This is a blog entry that I have been wanting to write for some time....but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to until all the appropriate ducks were in a row....

I quit my job last week. Actually, I didn't just quit my job, I left my career. Yep, no more Florence Nightingale for me. For some of you, this might come as a shock and for others of you, you really aren't that surprised. While nursing has always been part of my identity, it has not been a good fit for me for a while. While I love taking care of others, there are so many circumstances that get in the way of being a good nurse. Politics, insurance, a dysfunctional system, irrational patients, and a few cantankerous physicians just to name a few. It had gotten to a point where I no longer felt like I was making a difference and I felt as though I was functioning at the same level as a trained monkey. While I have significantly more education than a monkey, one could of easily done my current job. And, each week, something new came up at my company. Someone else got fired, they changed the rules again, or the vixen from HR opened her mouth. For those of you that aren't aware, I am not a fan of our HR department. During the short illness and subsequent death of my Mom, they were less than helpful or supportive. In fact, they went so far as to ask me in an email if someone else could just take care of my Mom so I didn't have to miss work. Excuse me?! And, then, while I was off following her death, they were less than flexible about my return to work, my hours, and my pay.....they didn't pay me for most of the time that I was off. Their rationale was that I couldn't use my accumulated sick time to take care of a family member b/c I was less than a month shy of my anniversary. Had it been 20 something days later, I would have been able to use it. It amazes me that they wonder why people continue to resign from the company. They do not support their staff therefore I don't see how they can expect any loyalty. Luckily for me, I am getting out.

I have had lots of emotions around quitting my job. I was a little nervous about it a couple of days before. However, I soon got over that. I knew that it was the right choice for me. I am not happy and life is too damn short to not be happy. Part of me wondered if it was the right choice b/c I know that my Mom was not happy with her work environment either....yet, she kept on going. However, the difference was, she loved teaching. Right now, I don't love being a nurse. I do not like the disrespect that I am shown b/c "you are JUST a nurse." I will be happy to not be hearing that on a regular basis. And, it has been almost impossible to take care of others since my Mom's death. I am fine with taking care of my family and friends but it is so hard to take care of others.....especially when they don't have any regard for the help I am trying to give.

I know that it would have been an interesting conversation with my Mom about quitting nursing. She was so proud that I am a nurse. But, I know that she would understand why I felt I had to do it. She would probably tell me that if she had had the chance to teach somewhere else, she would have long since left BCCC. And, she would have been proud of me that I had the courage to do it. I will just tell you, you don't quit your career without some courage. And, it would have taken courage to tell her....believe me. I know there would have been some interesting comments. However, she would have come around. She would have come around b/c she knows that the things that make me happy are not the things I have ever gotten paid for. It is doing things for Junior League, volunteering in the community, being involved at St. Paul's, and taking care of the things that are important to me. She would be proud of me for doing those things b/c that is how I want to continue making a difference.

Alright...for some reason...just don't feel like writing anymore. However, my absence won't be so long....