I don’t know if I have ever really addressed this before on my blog, but as the “good” daughter and functional eldest in my family, I am the one who helps my parents with medical issues (as well as other issues) when they arise and are too much for my parents to handle. I take this role as an obligation and not really from the heart, but it is my job and I do it. I have a friend who has questioned my commitment to this role, saying that I don’t owe my parents anything, and I hear her point of view, but someone has to help my parents and that someone has ended up being me.
I got a text from dh on Thursday afternoon indicating something was wrong at home and I immediately called him and found out that my dad had had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to a new medication he had started. The thing is, my parents were traveling home from Boston when this occurred and were just over halfway home. They ended up stopping at a hospital and spent the afternoon/evening in the ER and then they admitted my dad overnight. Dh stepped in to take care of my parents’ unruly dog and to do some care taking of my parents.
Yesterday, the hospital decided they needed to keep my dad another night, so dh and ds drove down to that hospital, picked up my mom and her car and they all drove back home so my mom could get things she and my dad needed. Then dh drove her back down and then he drove back home. He spent 6+ hours shuttling my mom back and forth. And…since they did keep my dad overnight last night, dh will have to do it again today (which isn’t completely certain, depends if they let my dad discharge today or not.)
And me? I feel incredibly guilty and ashamed. I feel guilty that dh has had to step into my role. It is my job, not his. And I feel guilty that he is having to deal with my parents who are neurotic and overly anxious on their best days…I can only imagine what state they are in now. It has been pointed out to me that dh has no issues helping my parents and it is true…And ultimately, he is helping me by helping them. But I still feel really guilty. Well…maybe less guilty after talking to repeated people about it yesterday…but still guilty.
And then there is the shame. Because I don’t really feel much about my parents’ plight, other than the obligation factor. And I should feel something, I should care more, I should worry more, I should be obsessing about what is going on….But I can’t. As a matter of fact, Thursday night, I thought to myself, “I hope he doesn’t die because that would mess up my treatment.” Ugh…I am truly a horrible person to think that way.
So, that crisis kind of consumed my yesterday. To make matters worse, I had to tell someone about it. I needed to be able to text during groups because I was trying to keep up with what was going on in terms of dh and the travelling and such, so I told one of the Direct Care people that I was having a “genuine family emergency” at home. Of course, she said it was fine to text. But then she wanted to talk about it. <sigh> Everyone wants to talk about things here. And I said no (I really didn’t want to cry) but my eyes had teared up and my nose was running, so I was a bit sniffly. The other Direct Care person noticed my sniffling (honestly, these people notice EVERYTHING and hear EVERYTHING that goes on) and asked if I was okay. I ended up going out of the group with the first DC person to talk.
Of course talking meant I cried. But I told her what was going on and how I felt guilty. She was very understanding and supportive (they always are) and helped reduce my anxiety. She also made some comments about how I tend to internalize everything and not reach out when I need it (See…I told you, they see everything!) and some other things that indicated that she has been paying attention to my nuances for the past few weeks. And honestly, though I am loathe to admit it, but I felt better after talking about it. She also encouraged me to ask for peer support.
Anyway, they are really good about interdisciplinary communication here and so that DC person sent out an email letting my team know what was going on. I know this because when I met Mac for my nutrition appointment, she already knew. I kind of questioned her about it and she said that they keep on top of what is going on with clients to make sure they can offer support. And this time, instead of chafing at the comment (cuz you know, I don’t need anyone ever) I kind of just accepted the premise. Plus, it was Mac saying it, so I know it was genuine. Mac kind of has a grounding effect on me, which is nice. I left my nutrition appointment feeling a little bit better than when I went in.
And then after lunch, Meg pulled me aside to check in. I kind of spilled my guilt and shame at her to let her help me sort through it. She pointed out that dh is helping my parents because he wants to, not because he feels like he has to. And that him doing it is a way that he is taking care of me. And then she pointed out that the disconnect I feel with my parents goes back to and is a product of attachment injury. That reframe reduced my shame level several degrees. Mostly, Meg just listened and countered my guilt and shame and was there to support me. I think I am starting to accept that people want to help me and maybe….just maybe, the littlest part of me is getting the message that I don’t have to struggle with everything on my own.
And as to my parents? In true form (the covert family rule that medical issues are secrets) they actually haven’t said a word to me, no call, no text, no nothing regarding my dad. I am sure part of it is that they don’t want to interrupt my treatment, but part of it is that they are so neurotic. It is a wonder that I learned to internalize everything? I had some good modeling for it.