I’d had such a great week, and I felt as if I was doing well. I still believe that to be so; however, I do realize that trauma does have a way of reminding you of things you’ve lived through and how it’s impacted you.
My therapist said your body and or brain has a way of remembering the trauma you’ve been through, even if you believe you’ve moved past it. Thursday, May 7th, 2020, was a day that reminded me of the same day last year.
I woke up yesterday just feeling all kinds of out of sorts. It was surprising because I’d had a few really great weeks, and was experiencing a degree of peacefulness that I’d never experience before in life. So, when I woke up all teary and extremely emotional, I felt as if somehow I’d gone backward in my healing process. I couldn’t immediately understand what happened to cause these feelings to surface.
Today, I looked at the calendar because I knew I was reaching the time when my dad passed away. My father passed away on May 15th, but May 7, 2019, was almost more painful than the day he passed. So, I recognize now that my brain was remembering the exhaustion and trauma of that day last year.
The exhaustion of caregiving is surreal. That is especially the case if you are caring for someone who has cancer and who is not use to being sick. I was additionally juggling a pretty new job, my son in college and so many other things.
On May 7th of last year, I hit my breaking point in my ability to care for my dad. I was stretched thin, and his care was frankly beyond my capabilities from the day he came to live with me in January. I immediately realized that after I started caring for him.
The night before May 7th, I remember being so exhausted, I mean beyond anything I could remember because it was physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. The physical exhaustion was due to never really being able to sleep. I was never able to sleep soundly because I needed to be aware just in case he called out and needed me in the middle of the night. So on this particular night, exhaustion had me. I was tired, stressed, stretched thin, and I’d thrown my back out because I had to move him every two hours. My son was also exhausted, and he’d thrown his shoulder out, lifting my dad. We were BOTH a mess and frankly, feeling quite broken.
On that day, I woke up and started preparing for work. I would usually go in to check on him and get him breakfast before I started my workday. On this day, he started yelling for me to come in immediately. I was moving super slow because I’d thrown my back out. I walked in, and he’d partially fallen out of bed. I knew I didn’t have the energy to lift him, but I managed to prop his legs back up. He was able to maneuver himself back up to a certain degree. Then I noticed there was blood, and I just lost my crap. I sat on the floor and just cried. I was at a loss as to how to help him anymore. It was all so overwhelming because I was doing it all by myself. My son was at work, the nurses weren’t due in for hours, there was blood, I was tired, and I realized at that point that he was very close to dying. More importantly, this was the point that I knew I REALLY could no longer care for him in the capacity that he needed and in my condition. It was crushing.
All of his nurses had warned that he didn’t have long and that I should move him to hospice ASAP, or he wouldn’t die in my house. So a few days before May 7th, we put dad on home hospice even though I knew he should be in a hospice facility. Either way, luckily we did because they got him a hospital bed. Had he not had that bed, he would have fallen out of the bed in the middle of the night while I was asleep.
So, as I was sitting on the floor crying, I remember telling dad that I didn’t know what to do, multiple times. As I was saying this, I thought about how HE was the one I talked to when I didn’t know what to do. Now, HE was the reason I didn’t know what to do, and I had no one to go to. There was no one to talk to, no backup plan, no solution, and I was at a loss. I’m a program manager in my day job. I fix stuff and I couldn’t fix this.
Deep down, I knew I had to get him to a hospice facility. I also remembered the nurses telling me that if he ever left my house, he would probably NEVER be released to come back home because he was too sick.
Dad looked at me, sitting there on the floor crying. He said, go do your work, I’ll be ok. The hospice nurses came in hours later. I knew I had to remove him from home hospice and get him to the hospital with the ultimate goal of getting him in a hospice facility. He didn’t want to be in an onsite hospice facility, but I had no choice at that point. Since he fell, I told him I had to have the hospital check him out. I was crushed because I knew as he was being taken out by private ambulance, that he would probably never be coming back.
Upon arrival at the Veterans Hospital, they looked at him and realized where we were regarding his condition. They got him situated in a room, and it took three nurses to move him. It was then that I realized WHY my back was thrown out because I was mostly moving him by myself.
Once he was comfortable, he looked at me, and I smiled at him. No matter how bad he felt, if I smiled at him, he would smile back. Then he started talking to the nurses about how proud he was of me and how I always had his back. That I was the ONLY one in the family that had his back. He started crying and went on saying how he was the only one that had my back and my sons. He said he was worried about leaving us. He looked at me and I told him not to worry about us and that it was ok for him to rest. He needed me to permit him to leave, and I gave him the permission he seemed to be seeking. He was so sick, the stomach cancer was winning, and I could sense that he was tired of fighting. One week later he was gone from his physical body, no longer in pain and forever at peace.
So although it is now a year later, my mind, body, and soul remembered the traumatic day of May 7th. I don’t know that I can prevent my reaction to this trauma in years to come on this day, but at least I will be aware of it moving forward. Having this knowledge is 100% due to my amazing therapist. I kind of see her secretly as my superhero. 🦸🏽♀️
In closing, a part of what motivated me to create this blog was to create a journey of sorts of how my life changed so drastically after 2019 and how therapy is shaping that journey moving forward. So much has changed, and I’m sure things will continue to evolve. As things evolve, I will continue to share my journey with you.
I would love to know your thoughts on trauma and how it has shown up in your life. Reach out, let’s chat on FB, IG, and Twitter. Until then, remember to hug your loved ones, make peace with estranged family, if possible and embrace life because it can be fleeting.
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