Life is generally less dramatic than I imagine it to be. My mother’s latest hospitalization resulted in my returning to her home to stay with her for a few days. I ended up taking back roads to get there and back safely, so that I wouldn’t have to drive 70 mph on the interstate. The drive was scenic and beautiful. I think I’ve found my favorite route to East TN, a nice curvy road that takes me through gorgeous back country. The drive was half the adventure, the enjoyable part.
The other half was contemplating the same life and death questions that I’ve obsessed over for the past 28 years and fully acknowledging the fact that we all end up dead in the end — a lesson on Impermanence. I suppose the challenge with Impermanence is deciding how much crap we put up with before we die.
My mother finally began dialysis for her failing kidneys. I’m worried about her living alone; but apparently, not worried enough to warrant changing my own life to suit her needs. That sounds harsh, uncaring. I wish I wasn’t so selfish. There’s a lot of shame in the realization that I’m too weak to cope with the challenges life places in my path and weaker still in practicing the compassion that I feel is so necessary to change this insane world we live in. After all, the lunatics are running the asylum.
And speaking of weaknesses, I experienced one of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever had in public on the day that I had to take my mother to Fort Sanders Hospital for the procedure to place the catheter for dialysis. Seriously, it’s like I have Tourette syndrome or something when I have anxiety attacks like these, swearing like a drunken sailor (I mean no offense to anyone diagnosed with this illness. This is a matter of expressing exactly how I feel during an attack and the swearing obscenities seems par for the course.) My heart was racing. I felt like I was hyperventilating, everything around me spinning like a top, like seeing stars as depicted on cartoons yet really seeing them. And the noticeable stares from strangers, gazing at me as if to say, “What’s her problem?”
The anxiety attack/complete meltdown was the result of my mind going blank, not knowing where to take my mother after I got her to the hospital. Perhaps, it was also the realization that my mother is currently going through the exact same thing my father went through more than 10 years ago before he died. Déjà vu. Long story short, thankfully (and mercifully), an orderly happened across us who realized I needed help. He took us exactly where we needed to be and managed to calm my nerves. I probably looked like a lunatic, sounded like a maniac, and felt more worthless than I ever have. My sister ended up taking the rest of the day off work and met us there as a result. The procedure went well, and Mom was able to begin dialysis the next day.
I cried myself to sleep that night, out of sheer helpless despair for her condition and guilt.
Fast forward to returning home and finding the house in a disastrous state. I spent 4 hours upon returning — cleaning! That was after only having about 6 hours sleep the night before, and taking close to 6 hours to drive home because I felt I needed that alone time to recuperate from the trip. I’m a woman obsessed. A clean house means serenity, calm, sanity for me. It’s something I need. KR added insult to injury with the comment, “It wasn’t that bad!” when he returned home from work later that night. Yes, yes, it was; but I chose not to argue about it.
Fast forward again to therapy this past Tuesday. I’m going to throw out a hypothetical scenario here to hopefully make a point: Imagine for a moment that you are sitting outside with a temperature of 26°F (-3°C). It feels so cold, and you are shivering in the freezing breeze as you think to yourself, “I’m freezing! It’s so cold out here!” and say as much out loud. Someone sitting beside you tells you, “Change your thoughts. Change your perception of the weather, and you won’t feel so cold.” Yeah, sure, it’s laughable, absurd even. If the temperature is 26°, the temperature is 26°. That’s freakin’ cold! You’re shivering for good reason. Shivering is your body’s natural, autonomic response to frigid temperatures.
Why are emotions and any thought or feeling that follows (not precedes) an emotion any different? Emotions are as much an autonomic response to external stimuli as the shivering on a cold day. Most often, the thoughts and feelings that follow this emotional response are equally autonomic. Emotions can trigger certain thoughts and feelings which in turn trigger our behavior. Further reflection and introspection afterward only serves to “change our thoughts” in theory, not practice. When the same emotion resurfaces again and elicits the same thoughts over and over again, as in the case with people who ruminate obsessively as I do, telling us to “change your thoughts to change your life” is not only dismissive and invalidating but also this psychobabble reiterates the worthlessness clients feel when they find they cannot accomplish such a seemingly simple task.
Please, reread that last paragraph again!
Emotions feel real — even irrational thoughts feel rational while the person is experiencing them — whether or not any other person perceives this reality and acknowledges it. All that really matters is that the person feeling these things, perceives their reality. Dismissing an individual’s thoughts or emotions because you feel uncomfortable discussing them or lack the presence of mind to offer valuable insight only serves to invalidate the experience for that individual, creating more distress. Don’t preach to me that “changing my thoughts” will somehow, magically make life better. I struggle every single day to coax my thoughts away from my usual cynical, pessimistic views. It’s not an easy task. Some days are more of a struggle than others. That fact doesn’t negate my effort, which is obviously more than what other people see or give me credit for.
I could write more, but I’m choosing to stop before I say something I regret. I’ve already redacted a few hundred words from this final post, none of which would change anything for the better anyway. Rage is on my heels and ready to scream. I’ll comfort the Monster with tonight’s music choice: