Monday, August 18, 2008

Among the People & Chaos

A week has gone by and no blog entry by me. Well, the good news is I am doing quite well. The reason for no entries from me is that my internet connection was nearly non-existent from 8/9 thru 8/16. But there was a good reason for it. My in-laws blessed us with an all expense paid camping trip to the Jersey Shore - something we obviously can not afford right now.

And man-oh-man it couldn't have been any more beautiful. My pain level has been slowly decreasing so I was able able to go to the beach multiple times (absolute heaven), go to the boardwalk a couple of times, have a campfire, spend time with my in-laws throughout it all and get to know Daniela's extended family a lot better (her Aunt, Uncle, cousins and second cousins). Everything was perfect - even the weather.

And what amazed me was my reaction to being in public. Again, it was the "adjustment period." On our third night on the shore, Daniela's family brought us to the boardwalk - with all the rides and games and lights and music and bells and whistles and vendors on microphones loudly announcing what they have to offer. It was a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. So, it wasn't more than 15 minutes before I was clear I needed to step away from it all.

While everyone ate their delicious boardwalk food, I took a walk along the beach to decompress from all the chaos and intense energy. With all that happening, my anxiety level was getting high and since it is not my personality style to get anxious around crowds, I knew it was the post-surgery adjustment period. At one point while on the boardwalk, I even had a concern about not being able to protect my family because my body is still healing - very primal but very for a moment, it was real.

So, after about 20 minutes on the beach, I was ready to be among the people and the chaos again. So we walked and watched the kids go on rides and play the games and had a lot of fun. But then in crept in the anxiety again. Fortunately, I found a quiet area of the boardwalk away from the bright lights where I was able to find a little peacefulness, but not be too far from everyone.

A little while later, Daniela's Uncle Robert happened to walk up my way and he and I had a great conversation about the post-surgery anxiety/adjustment period. He's been through it following a surgery he had not too long ago and kindly shared his experience with me. It was so great to have my experience validated - to know that someone else could understand what I was going through - first hand. And as he shared what he went through, I was able to see where I had mistaken anxious thoughts for the truth. For instance, while I was in the hospital, I thought the nursing staff was resistant to administering my morphine when I asked for it. I was telling Robert about this, and as I was sharing with him I realized this was one of those anxiety thoughts - "them vs. me" - and I had believed it to be true until the moment that I was sharing it with him. The reality is, the staff was more than willing to give me morphine when ever I asked for it as long as it was no more than every two hours as prescribed. Why I thought they were unwilling to administer it...I don't know. But I believed it while I was there.

The anxiety is still very present for me - not all the time - but throughout the day I experience random moments of concern where I wonder if I am doing something wrong. So I will check in with Daniela and make sure we're good or just realize that my mind is at it again and go back to what I am doing. To tell you the truth, it mostly shows up in public, not so much at home. So, whenever in public I mind my thoughts and remember to enjoy myself.

At the same time, I am still slow to see people even here at the house. Being with large groups seems to be difficult at times and I can't always tell when it will be. If I find myself getting cranky or irritable I know it's time to step away for a moment and have a little quiet. Normally I would find all of this very humbling, but with all I have been through in the last 16 months or so, I can really say I have learned to accept what my body needs - of course regular reminders from Daniela don't hurt either.


  1. Bert,

    I missed you! I was hoping that your absence from the blogosphere was because you were choosing to focus on being well, being with family, and enjoying yourself during this interim/recovery period. I'm so glad to know that you were having a vacation.

    I think that you are having a lot more anxiety than I have had.. but I don't know if that's because I am farther down the road and being amnesic about how difficult it has all been, or if it is because I take a small dose of anti-anxiety medication every day. I'm guessing it's a combination of both, especially because during chemo and those first few weeks after chemo ended, I had plenty of anxiety-related insomnia, even ON the anxiety medication.

    But, luckily for both of us, we have partners who are looking out for us, and who remind us that we can put limits on those situations that we find difficult. That we can respect our physical and emotional states.

    I did not have to rely on the nurses to give me morphine - I was only on it for 2 days, and I had that pump thingy - but I can tell you that I had a few moments where I had hit the limit on self-administered morphine, and so I was forced to endure the pain until enough time had passed. Not fun, the waiting for relief. And in the fog of medication, I can imagine that if it were up to someone else to give it to me, I might take it personally that they made me wait. The confusion is understandable, I think.

    Anyway, I am glad to hear that you are doing so well, and that you had a lovely time at the shore. Such a great gift from our inlaws!

    You and Daniela continue to be in my thoughts.

    Maria Brown

  2. « A single, quiet thought (08/16/08)A single, quiet thought (8/16/08)

    To let go of illusion,
    let go of your thoughts
    that judge the experience.

    Experience the experience
    and do not deny it,
    but also do not categorize it
    or make decisions about what it is.

    Observe your experience
    in innocence and curiosity,
    realizing that innocence is
    a fresh and undecided point of view.

    ~From our Holy Spirit