My mother is in rehab now. She had surgery about a week ago and is already up, walking (with help), and dealing with her granddaughter’s death about as well as can be expected.
I call her on the phone a couple of times a day. I wish I could get up there, but I’m too sick from the chemo. Yesterday, when I called and asked for mom, a nurse told me she was in the beauty parlor. For reasons that have nothing at all to do with beauty, that was the best news I’d had in while.
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Not surprisingly, I’ve been getting some psychiatric and psychological help for about a year now. It was recommended by one of my chemotherapy nurses after I spent a long chemo session talking about my feelings.
The psychiatrist, whom I really like and admire, doesn’t have me stretch out on a couch or anything like that. We talk for a bit and he makes comments, but he’s really more involved in prescribing drugs than in anything like psychotherapy, and that’s okay with me.
I was in therapy once, for one session. The doctor made a big deal out of telling me I could tell him anything at all and it wouldn’t bother him, and that sounded good to me. So I told him something. I don’t remember what it was (this was about 40 years ago) but it must have been pretty bad because when I looked at the shrink his face was twisted with disgust.
So much for that.
This may come as a surprise to most who know me, but I’m not crazy, or not really crazy. I don’t want to take my own life or harm anybody else, I don’t hear voices, and I have no ideas at all that I am Napoleon or Captain Hook or Al Capone.
I guess that means I don’t really need to see a shrink. What I do need is help dealing with the things are happening in my life, to me and – even more – to people I love. I am sad and sometimes scared. I’m angry. I can’t sleep without aid. I have no energy to speak of. My memory is full of troublesome holes. But I’m not crazy.
That’s where Linda comes in. I call her my therapist though the VA gives her some other title. She and I have a good relationship. I see her at least twice a month and I am able to tell her the truth without worrying about her judgments. We like each other. She’s helped me accept the truth and know that my feelings are to be expected and are justified.
I saw her last week and when I told her about my mother’s hospitalization and my niece’s suicide she didn’t hide her reaction or retain her professional detachment. She blurted a short sentence that you might expect to hear from a carpenter after he hammers his thumb.
I started to weep, something I’ve been doing a lot of in the last few days. She simply let me cry. And that was okay. I told her what I was feeling and she nodded and she said, "Of course you’re sad and frightened and angry. You should be."
She also told me I needed to focus more on myself. I know the truth of that. I have to take care of myself.
I’m not trying to sound like a candidate for sainthood. But she’s right. I haven’t been thinking about myself…at least not as much as I usually do. "Be nice to yourself," Linda said.
To be honest, right now there aren’t many ways I can be nice to myself. I’ve no appetite to speak of. I don't drink anymore. I can’t go sailing or walking. My libido has left town.
But I can read.
So I went online and ordered two of Garrison Keillor’s books – the only ones I didn’t already have in the stack by my bed.
The books arrived yesterday and I’ve already devoured one. It was wonderful to spend time in Lake Woebegon instead of in my own head.