My Hardest Cross to Bear

Have you ever just wanted to pack your bags and visit another state far, far away just to shut your mind off? Some would call it vacation, but I call it "the big brain reprogram." There's something to be said about being in a different atmosphere when you're going through a tough period in your life. I remember last May I was having horrible heart palpitations. I was caring for my mom, while watching her decline more and more. She needed more pain meds, more oxycodone, more morphine, more hospital visits. I wasn't sleeping at all. I was a walking zombie most of the time. I remember sitting in my living room in my section of the house crying. I didn't think anyone could hear me. My sister was downstairs visiting Mom and texted me, "Are you okay?" I didn't realize anyone could hear me. I didn't realize how hard I was crying. I was having anticipatory grief. I knew Mom was dying. I didn't want to see her die. I couldn't watch it....but I had to. My heart was palpitating to the point of getting checked out by an ER nurse. Everything was fine, so I made an emergency appointment with a cardiologist. It was more of a consultation for my workup for the following week, but I was leaving to go on vacation with my mom and my partner's family as well. How do I make these palpitations stop? What's wrong with me? Am I having a heart attack?

The doctor assured me that it wasn't a heart attack I was experiencing. He asked about my life's situation and then when he learned of what was happening, he said, "Go on vacation. I promise you this is just stress, or it could be a muscle spasm near your heart muscle that acts like the same 'twitch' you get sometimes on your eyelid. Relax. Breathe deeply. Sit next to the ocean this week." When I left his office, I never got another heart palpitation. I was able to safely drive everyone to the beach house and have the best vacation we ever had. And when I did get the full workup on my heart, I was fine. It was all stress related.

A month after vacation, I was grocery shopping. I was feeling weak from the lack of sleep due to worrying about my mom. I came home with her favorite dinner -- fresh Atlantic wild salmon. I looked over at her on the sofa and wanted to cry and sleep at the same time. I said, "Ma, do you think it would be ok if I make this tomorrow and we can order Chinese takeout for tonight?" She was more than happy with whatever. I felt so bad for not making the dinner that night, but I was literally dragging my feet from exhaustion. After she went to bed, later that night she called me downstairs. She said, "I have to call 911," calmly, and softly. She never wants the EMTs here. She fights it. She hugged me so tight, that I could barely breathe! How did she even have the strength? She said while hugging me, "I love you Debbie." I said I loved her back. Then she said, "I'm so worried about you." I said, "I am too, Ma...I am too..." And we both chuckled as we kept hugging. It was the longest hug my mother ever gave me. Then she went into her bedroom to make her bed and clean her room. She hadn't cleaned her room since she was diagnosed with cancer. She set aside all the remote controls in a pattern, like hotels do. She patted the throw blankets down so it didn't look wrinkled. But I knew what she was thinking as she stood there staring at her beautiful bedroom...

"This is the last time I'll ever see this room again."

I've told this story once before I believe. Losing Mom has been a long and tragic time in my life. I can't grieve anymore though! I can't! It's hurting me. They say it's good to mourn as long as you can, but I disagree. Even the Bible says to mourn for a couple of days, maybe a little more, but get yourself together and let the past be in the past. For the most part, my situation is a little different from all of my sisters' -- not better or worse -- just different. And what I mean by that is, since I work from home and do all the cooking and housework, I was home a lot with mom caring for her too. Trust me -- that woman took care of herself better than anybody else! She wasn't "disabled" -- only when she had bad days with excruciating pain. She was such a strong woman. Sometimes, she'd take care of ME! So my grief also involves feeling abandoned. Silly, right? But it's like, now what? Everyone is capable of taking care of themselves, so the feeling of not being "needed" has me in this strange limbo in life. My partner says she needs me, but if I wasn't here, she'd be just fine. I also miss the companionship, the conversations, her advice, her humor, her presence. I don't believe anyone will ever love me the way my mom did. She knew me so well, that sometimes I'd deny some things she knew about me and then think to myself, "How did she even know that?" Our connection was extraordinary.

I'm trying so hard not to grieve, and it's coming out in other ways, like outbursts of anger or extreme panic attacks during the day. It's affected my work greatly. I haven't written in a long time, just focusing on editing projects, and even that has declined. So please bear with me as I travel through this uncomfortable phase in my life. I'm trying to figure out how to live my life and where I fit into whatever purpose I have here. This year's horrendous flu left me with lingering asthma. Sometimes I'm scared to stay home alone because I get these horrible asthma attacks that turn into panic attacks, to the point of not being able to breathe, and then when I take the meds to stop the asthma, my heart races and palpitates, setting off my panic attacks again. It's a vicious cycle. I'm trying my hardest to fight off this relentless depression. Grief support groups only worsen my situation, and going to a therapist feels useless. I pray and I pray and I pray. God has been giving me these tests in life to make me stronger, but I'm so tired. I can't finish these tests. I beg Him to let up and ease my load as He states in the Bible. "Come to me those who are weary with heaven burdens," -- and I do, but then there's another test given that completely depletes me of all desire to live...and I want to live so badly!

Maybe leaving this house would help. Maybe getting a condo in a community would make me feel less alone. I always wanted to work from home ever since my corporate days. I hated going to the office! I hated it so much! And now, I hate being alone so much. I don't need a babysitter or someone to pacify my time -- I need to accustom myself to the deafening silence of my mom's absence. It's been 6 months since she passed. I didn't think I would be over her by then, because when my dad died, it took me years. I expect much longer with Mom. I want to focus on those around me who are in my life, but much of the time, it's just me with occasional conference calls with other people via video cam in other states. That's not "company." The weekends are okay. My partner has off and we usually spend them either going out to dinner or inviting friends over -- or just doing nothing at all, maybe cooking together and watching some movies. I sometimes meet a friend out for lunch or an early dinner, but it's not enough. I don't want to join "groups" or be involved in organizations just to appease the loneliness. I want to do things because I have a passion to do them.

The realization of all of this has me in a strange place right now. Like -- I'm trying not to be somewhere just to "be somewhere." I'm trying not to get out of the house just to "get out of the house." I want to have enthusiasm for anywhere I go. I don't want to spend time with someone just to pass the time. That's not only rude and disrespectful, but it's a burden on me as well if I'm not in the mood for company. I would never use a friend just because I'm feeling lonely. I want to be with a friend because I WANT their company.

I really miss her so much, but I have to adjust my attitude and accustom myself to this new and strange life I have now. Any suggestions would be appreciative.

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