Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Going Back In

I can feel the crazy nippy at my heels.

Today we head to New Jersey. A new cancer, a new surgery, more hoping and praying that Dad will once again emerge victorious.

I've been here before, more times than I care to count. Most recently when I was pregnant, though, and there our story begins.

My dad was in, I think, for emergency surgery to remove a section of his intestines that had become blocks by a hernia. All was going well and then he aspirated something, didn't get enough oxygen, went unconscious, and before we knew it he was in an ICU on a respirator. We needed to get back to DC for some reason...I can't remember what...so we left that day, unsure of what would come.

Days later I was standing in a grocery story with my husband when I got the call from my mom that my dad was off the respirator. I even got to speak to him, a huge relief.

And that's when it happened.

I had had a panic attack earlier in the pregnancy...the first in my life. I had at that moment felt like I was dying...my heart rate was like 160 and I could hardly breath. They had done some scans and concluded it was hormones, and I had moved on.

But this time was different. The floodgates had opened, and it would take months of pushing against the rushing water to reclaim my life.

It started immediately with lightheadedness and some fierce stomach problems. We got me home and I spent the next few hours hanging on to my husband for dear life...you see I felt like I was falling, even when I was sitting down.

I didn't sleep that night...and the next day was no better...I was exhausted and ill but my mind gave me no rest. I felt worse than I ever had in my life...I was in so much mental anguish that I just wanted it to go away...whatever it took.

By Saturday afternoon I was still lightheaded, still experiencing bouts of rapid heartbeat. Despite the fact that we had a roomful of people in our apartment we headed back to the emergency room. My husband was, by this time, losing a little patience, I think, but off we went. Another 12 hours, more scans, another conclusion that pregnancy was making me a little loony.

A few days and a few doctors appointments later I was on a few medications, trying to balance the guilt I was experiencing exposing my fetus to powerful medications with the knowledge that they were relatively safe and that the state of high-alert my body and mind was stuck in was not a good environment for him either. These were the first mental health meds I'd ever been on--and I've since weaned myself off--but I remember distinctly feeling like Alice in Wonderland when I took that first pill.

The next few months were an uphill battle. I've read that the biggest problem for people with panic attacks is fear of the attacks themselves and I guess that's what happened to me. Supermarkets were pretty much impossible for me, as was driving. My world shrunk down to a square mile. I worked from home, went, with great difficulty, to the corner store. Suffered through large crowds at kiddush. Repeated over and over to myself that my rapid heartbeat was nothing, that my lightheadedness was nothing, that I was not dying, that it would pass. Called my husband home from school, shul, wherever about a million times. And, except for my closest and most trusted friends, tried to keep the nature of my "difficulties" a secret.

Somewhere during the third trimester the fog began to clear and I started to reclaim my life. Supermarkets were still hard, but aside from that my symptoms were less and less and I was venturing farther and farther afield, pushing myself to do more, praising myself for small but important victories.

The doctors are pretty sure that it was really the combination of pregnancy and extreme stress that brought it all on. That I don't actually have these disorders in my non-pregnant life. And indeed, soon after Chamudi was born I weaned myself off the final medication and have been fine very since, thank God.

Until this summer.

It's been a stressful few months, and more than once I felt myself getting lightheaded for no particular reason. I acknowledged it, pushed on and tried to get more water, sleep, time to relax, whatever. I kept it at bay for long enough, and it receded with the stress itself.

But now we're heading back to the hospital. The scene of the crime. And, as I feel the outer edges of my sanity fray ever so slightly, I can't help but wonder if I'll be able to keep it all together.

When Chamudi was born I promised myself I wouldn't cry in front of him...I'd seen my mother cry so many many times and it was a difficult thing to bear. But I've already violated that about a hundred times over. Okay...children need to realize that their parents have emotions. But they also need to know that their parents are a stable safe place...and they don't need the burden of supporting a parent's emotional life or mental health struggles.

And so, with a deep breath, I venture back in. Wish me luck.


Shtetl Fabulous said...

Hang in there. I know it's a difficult time, but you're a strong person and will get through this. Sometimes we think crying or panicking is a sign of weakness, but sometimes we all need an outlet for emotion.
Refua shleima to your dad and shana tova!

Shoshana said...

*Hugs* I had no clue what you were going through, only that you were going through a tough time during the pregnancy. I hope that your father makes it through his surgery successfully, and that you as well. PLease let me know if there is any way that I can help.

bachrach44 said...

I don't know what else to say except good luck to you all.