Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Yesterday as Bill and I were driving through town on errands, he reached across the console to place his hand over my left knee. I leaned slightly left as one hand covered his, but in the back of my mind I was trying to remind myself to keep off my left arm, which is suffering from the same pain as my right shoulder last year.
At this same time two years ago, I truly thought that my frozen shoulder/damaged rotator cuff was from doing visual merchandising all those years that I was in retail management. However, I now realize that the exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, muscle and joint pain, burning skin, nausea, memory loss and vision disturbances are all caused by years and years of stress and trauma.
I have my own little cycle, in which I have not been able to break free, since 1995 - almost fifteen years! This cycle was responsible for my marriage to Dale. It went kind of like this:
I'm so worried. Why is he drinking so much? Where is the loving husband? I have to leave. He's a good man. I have to save us. I love him. I can afford to live on my own. I feel so sorry for him. I'm stressed! I can fix this. I need him. How can he do that to me? He has a good heart. It'll be okay. He needs me. It'll escalate. I can survive. I can do it. He loves me. I can't go. I haven't tried hard enough, I haven't loved him enough.
At thirty-five, I was preparing for the worst. Jamie and I were going out to eat almost every night, Dale was often passed out on the floor in the living room or on the front lawn. At thirty-six I was responsible for all the driving and transportation because he was losing strength and going blind; there had been trips to Winnipeg and to Vancouver so that he could say good-bye to friends. There were eight hospital stays, some here in my city and some in Calgary. I worked full time and went to the hospital at night. I was exhausted but kept going.
At thirty-seven I had him cremated after his death and thought I'd survive on a small life insurance policy and continue my retail career later on, but there was no life insurance so I kept working. I was stressed out from staff turnover but kept going. By forty I'd met Bill, bought the house, moved a second time, went through a hospitalization for Jamie and desperately needed time off, so I quit my job. I had several hours during the day but more responsibility at home with Em's arrival. Within a few months I'd started studying for my life insurance license, but between the house and the kids I was extremely stressed! But I just kept going. At forty-three I had a bit of a breakdown, got my shit together and kept going.
Now that I am forty-four, I look back and think, why didn't I just do something I used to be so proud of my tenacious nature, but isn't that what put me here? I may have been able to keep going and going for years, but I have hit a wall and this time, there is no going around it.
Tonight I have an appointment for an insurance presentation, which is only the second one in as many months. I hope this means that I can start doing it again. For awhile there, I wondered if I was going to turn into one of those people that just gives up and lives in poverty. I've been angry with myself for several years now, for not leaving Dale, for not buying a house sooner, for not getting help sooner, for thinking I could do it all. People always say "you're so strong" and I remember thinking I had no idea that I could handle as much as I have, but now, whenever I feel a twinge in my arm, or take an ibuprofen, or use a heating pad, I know.
There is only so much a body can take. Know your limitations! Ask for help. You don't have to suffer alone, you don't have to keep going. It's alright to stop and regroup. I wish I had.