Friday, February 25, 2011

Permission to stop

So, the news is beyond good, it is exalting - but frankly, the quotidian things have not changed in the week post chemo. I still feel like crap. The mire is still thick around my heels. I am still feeling like I have been wacked over the head, can't eat properly, dog-tired.The news, great as it is, is sort of like a dispatch from a dearly missed loved one far far away - "home in 6 months time - see you soon." But damn, the knowing meagerly helps ease the daily grind. I do not want to live for the tomorrow, but right here in and for the now - even if it is a series of body blows. I can't help myself.

I say this not for sympathy purposes, but rather, for my own heed. I have become more cognizant of the need to stop. Breathe. Rest. Michael said to me last night, I feel like my number one job for March is to get you to slow down. Well, that is one tough gig. Good news is like jet fuel - for me, and for those around me - the phone has rung off the hook, the email pours in - the invites to do stuff...

I am trying, slogging through normal things today, in anticipation of Naomi's birthday party - easy stuff really - baking a cake, loot bags. I ordered all food, gifts, etc to the door via internet. No dope me. But I feel the tug, the pull of my former life. All those things I did, and well, and enjoyed! But not yet. Not possible. Even feasible? Even desirable? A question worthy of considerable thought.

It appears through my own psychological pathology I require permission to stop. Cancer has brought me this permission, has brought the juggernaut of my former life to a grinding halt. This is a good thing. This is a blessing. Now I know to heed the call.

*

Michael here now. Kate said, "Feel free to add to that."

It is true that I said to her last night that sometimes I feel like I was brought into her life in order to get her to slow down. She was feeling like she needed to do more. "More what?" I asked.

Earlier, she'd asked me what I wanted her to do, and I said, "I want you to do nothing. I want you to sleep."

She was in bed in the middle of the day feeling like she ought not to be in bed. "Bah!" I said. "You don't need to do anything. I'm here to look after you." Did I mention that it was her birthday?

So when she said she felt pressure (from where? from herself, from who she has been ... ) to do "more" as we move into March, I said I intend to do less in March. I intend to do next to nothing in March. We have been working our asses off working to get through this chemotherapy period. Now is not the time when we need to be raising expectations on ourselves.

When I talked to a psychologist two weeks ago, he advised me to "take two weeks off." Immediately. Because we have been living through a four-month crisis and we have been carrying a lot of stress and the body can accommodate that for a while, but only for a while, and also at a cost. So, he said, "You need to give yourself time to decompress. Just sit around and stare at the ceiling. Give that buried stress a chance to come out and be released."

So that is what I am going to do. I'm taking two weeks off, starting March 7th, then likely two more weeks off after that to be home with Kate in the post-mastectomy period. Four weeks off. To do nothing.

This, of course, requires a doctor's note, and my GP was glad to give it to me. Post-traumatic stress, of a variety. "The army doesn't leave soldiers on the front line forever," is what he said. "You and Kate have been on the front line. You need a rest."

Personally, I feel less acutely stressed than I did in October, say, but I also feel exhausted. Bone tired. I feel cranky, emotionally sick, tried in patience, on the edge of volatility, running on fumes. I am also, of course, breathing a sigh of relief. I am happy. We are happy. But there is no peace dividend. Life, at this point, doesn't simply return to normal. What is normal?

I like the decompression metaphor. We have been in outer space. We have been given the opportunity to return to earth. But we're not there yet. And we can't go straight back. We need to spend some time in the decompression chamber. We need to recognized that we have been living a compacted reality and there is risk in unpacking that compression too quickly.

That is some of what I am going to be thinking about in March, when I sit on the couch and stare at the ceiling.

1 comment:

Ian Hadden said...

When the two of you tire of staring at the ceiling, pick a wall to stare at for a while - and its less strain on the neck! Oh, and don't forget to smile, it helps as well!