Mirrors that Define

I have lived in the Northeast and Southeast United States. I was actually born in the north and lived there for several years. I probably should remember more about those early years, but I only remember a little. I moved to the south when I still young. When asked where I am from I always say the town in the south that seemed to be my where I had more formative years. When I was almost 21 years old I moved back to the north.

I moved to the Pocono’s. I found I did not like living there. I planned to move back but met my husband and stayed. I never meant to live there as long as I did but I never thought to move. One year I had a migraine that was extremely bad and my doctor admitted me to the hospital tests and to try to get rid of the migraine. Upon testing they found something in my brain, a white spot. There was a lot more testing done after the initial finding. This was not my first go round being admitted for migraines and having tests done. That was what concerned the doctors, no previous test showed this white spot. My doctor came in on a Thursday and said he was going out of town, that I would not be leaving the hospital soon and another doctor was going to take over until Monday. The next day, a Friday the new doctor came in and told me she felt there was no need for me to be in the hospital as all IV drugs had been stopped so I could go home with the pills I was on.

This was a big mistake. I was given 4 different types of pain medication while I was in severe pain and told to stagger the medications, switching the medications every 2 hours. I was in severe pain. I would fall asleep, awaken and not know how long it had been, which medication I had last taken, but I would guess and take another pill. That I did not overdose on these medications is a miracle. I know I took too many, as I started hallucinating. My husband had gone to the store and returned to find me completely out of it and had the hospital call my doctor where ever he was. He told my husband to take me to a larger hospital, forty-five minutes away that had more resources.

At this bigger hospital more tests were done. Sometimes they would do them in the middle of the night as that was the only time the testing equipment was available. They monitored my medicine. It seemed this migraine had taken my life over and I was in constant pain, no matter what was given. After being there for another week, it was decided to send to me another hospital about 2 hours away. As they were preparing to take me to an ambulance a neurologist asked if I wanted to see what was in my brain. He then showed me this white spot and told me they had come to the conclusion it was an incurable brain tumor. It was very deep in the brain and touching the brain stem. He told me I probably had 3 to 6 months left to live. I was shocked! I did not know what they had found just that they were doing tests to figure out what they saw. I thought it was something minor. So the ride in the ambulance now became even more scary. I had time to think I was dying and it would be soon. I was always told they could not cure my migraines that if I had a brain tumor that caused the headaches, they could cure that. Now I was told even a brain tumor could not be cured.

At this new hospital, which was a university hospital all the Fellows, Interns and Doctors would come in and point and poke at me, always saying out loud how I did not have long to live. The worst part of this was they had decided that I would be taken off of all pain medication so I could live what was left of my life without being in a fog from the pain medications. I thought how crazy that was. I was not in a fog from the medications. Why not let me live my remaining days pain-free? I had no choice though, the doctors had made it for me. I was there a week, given physical therapy lessons that were supposed to help with pain. I was so glad when I was released.

After I returned home, I called around to find out who the best neurologist in the area was. There was one that came highly recommended, he only saw the most difficult to diagnose or treat patients. He agreed to see me. He was over 3 hours away. He was a nice man. He ran many tests. He also told me I was not going to die in 3 to 6 months. That though I had a white spot, it looked more like multiple sclerosis. He ran tests for it but all came back inconclusive. He told me I needed to have an MRI done every 3 months to be sure it did not change. He also put me back on pain medication. He was a humane doctor, he did not see why I should suffer in pain. He is also retired now so if I ever need a good neurologist I will have to search again as finding a good neurologist is hard.

The next few weeks I thought a lot about the misdiagnosis and how I felt. I realized how much I disliked living in the north. We vacationed in the south every spring. I told my husband before our next vacation which was soon that he needed to find a job in the south as I would not be returning to the north. I loved my husband very much, but I also knew I did not want to spend one more day in the north. Knowing I could die made me realize how much I disliked living in the north and I certainly did not want to die there. My husband to his credit, told me to send resumes to places he could work in the south. Part of our vacation was spent with him interviewing. He was offered a job at every place he interviewed. He took the job that was willing to wait while we packed and readied to move to the south.

After he was offered these jobs I had another fear. Be careful what you wish for as it might come true. What if I were wrong and it was just me not where I lived? If I made my husband change jobs and we uprooted our lives only to find out it was not what I wanted. I worried a lot as my husband had accepted the job and I was busy packing. I wondered what we would do if it turned out we did not like living here. I worried my husband, who had never understood the south, would not like living here much as I did not like the north.

I worried for nothing. At first my husband had a hard time dealing with the slower pace of life. He was used to getting things done fast. It did not take long before he grew to love the slow pace of life of the south. To slow down and enjoy each moment, not going fast and planning the next movement. He told me often how he wished we had moved to the south sooner. That we wasted a lot of our lives up north rushing, running to stand still, rather than slowing down and enjoying everything life had to offer. He enjoyed every moment in the south. We were also lucky as there are several large university hospitals all within an hour drive. These hospitals are not like the one I had been in up north which had cold, uncaring doctors. These hospitals care about their patients. My husband would become a patient as time went on and we were very lucky to have the hospital and all the doctors, nurses and everyone who worked there.

I have explained where I have lived and how I felt about each. We all have our own likes and dislikes. I am sure that as much as I dislike the north there are just as many that dislike the south. But this is about how I define myself. I am a southerner. I am defined by where I live. I also let where I live define me. I am also defined by how I feel about where I live. There are many things that define me, but none are as strong as my feelings about living in the south. Some of my family that live in the north think it is stupid to let where I live define me. I do not think they understand. It is not really north vs. south. It is the way of life in the south. The acceptance of others in the south. I can hear some from the north saying they are not accepted in the south. To some extent that is true. When someone first moves to the south, we have to get to know the person. Once we do, if they are nice we like and accept them, no matter where they came from. We also accept them for who they are.

If anyone has been reading this, they know I use a lot of words to say a little. I talk a lot in person too. Up north, I am told I talk to much. Here in the south, talking a lot is what others like about me. Up north I would be told to my face I talk a lot in a negative way. In the south we do not tell people what we do not like about them. In both the north and south we are brought up if we have nothing good to say about something/someone, do not say anything at all. I wonder to myself how people in the north can be taught this yet turn around and point out what they do not like about another or that the person is different. While living in the north I saw this with others all the time. I thought it was cruel and would say so. That of course would lead to my being told I talk too much. Rude, crude and socially unacceptable is what we in the south say when someone decides to tell us what they think, if it is negative.

In this blog, I have generalized. I normally do not do that. There are many nice people who live in the north just as there are some that are not nice that live in the south. I do not like to generalize as there are always exceptions. I am simply pointing out that for whatever reason, when I glance in the mirror, I want a southerner to be what I see. As I move forward exploring what I want my life to be, when I am done, I want to remain a southerner that lives in the south. There are a lot of things I need to change as I move forward, but being a southerner is not one. This is not meant to offend anyone that lives in the north, south, east, west or even a different country, it is only my opinion about myself.

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Yet Another Type of Acceptance in the Mirror

There must be many more types of acceptance than I previously thought. I have written about two that were similar yet different. This one is different as well. This acceptance has to do with myself. More specifically how I am dealing with the death of my husband. How I am moving or not moving forward. How slow or fast this process is. How much I should rush myself and how much I should slow down. How I intend to do these things. How I am accepting everything. But I am not talking of just my acceptance, I am also talking about the acceptance or nonacceptance of others that makes this unasked for journey I am on much harder. I normally do not care what others think of me, but this is not only about me, it is about how I am dealing with the death of my husband and how it is perceived, accepted or not accepted.

It seems many want to give me their opinion on how I should be dealing with all that has happened. I am not allowing visitors, but I did allow two family members to visit during November and then December, each time for only a few days. As far as most that know me, including the two I let visit, they can only guess how I feel and am dealing from phone calls. I try to sound upbeat on the phone. I tried to be upbeat during those two visits. If I were to sound sad or show sadness it would only make others feel badly for me as none live close by. They would want to be near to cheer me up. I would not want that even if they did live close by. I put makeup on during the visits, part of the makeup was not actual makeup, rather it was to appear as if I am happy, a smile on my face, standing tall, head held high. I think I have fooled them as they think I am doing better than expected. I do something similar with phone calls, act as if everything is fine, joke about things, when a sad subject is brought up I think of other things in my mind so I do not sound sad. Once again I think this has worked as if these people thought I were not doing well, they would drive to see me, try to help me heal, which is not what I want. This is a journey or drive I must do on my own. I need to come out of this knowing I have done all I could to become whomever I turn out to be, my new self. I do not want the mirror to reflect what others want me to be, rather it should reflect who I have become. Now on to this different acceptance.

There are varying opinions on how I should be moving forward. It seems that to some, my behavior is accepted as normal after the death of a spouse. In some ways these people who accept what I am going through make it hard for me to push myself to move forward. If I tell them a little of how I am feeling (not mentioning panic attacks or anything other than my life without my husband), they immediately tell me I need more time. They tell me to take all the time I need to mourn, not to rush myself. That I will know when I am ready to move on. They know all I have been through. They know how taking care of my husband was a 24 hour a day job, with little if any time left for myself. They know that though I knew my husband’s death was inevitable, it was still a shock and I am now left alone. They are kind and caring in telling me how it will take time to get used to a life without my husband. They accept me.

I have a different group of people who think I have spent too much time mourning and should already have moved on with my life. They do not accept that it should take time to mourn and learn to live a life alone. Much as with those who accept my not moving forward make it hard, these people who do not accept my mourning make it harder. They do not accept the fact that I have not moved forward, they want to tell me how far I should be by now. These people seem to have a cold, uncaring attitude, as though my life with my husband should just be thrown out and it is easy to start over. No matter what I say they do not accept it. Instead I get lectures or examples of people they know who had a death of a spouse and were out and about, happy a week or two after their spouse’s death. I wonder how these examples of people who are thrown in my face truly felt about their spouses. If their spouse meant that much, how can it be so easy to forget them? Maybe they do not forget, just move forward and not think. I then wonder how they think by telling me of someone who has moved on will help me. It does not, it is hurtful to hear these things. It makes me feel less of myself that these people do not accept how hard this is for me. It also makes me wonder if I am taking too long to learn to live without my husband.

This acceptance is different from wanting acceptance of others. It is wanting acceptance from myself. By having two groups of people with different opinions of me, it makes it harder for me to accept that I am having a harder time then I tell others. With the group that do not accept, if I tell them something honest, that makes me sad, they tell me I am being dramatic, looking for pity. I have already said I do not want to be pitied. By telling this group anything I am just trying to buy myself time. Time to move forward without facing their nonacceptance. I need to stop telling this group of people anything, but that is really not an option. If it were possible I would cut these people out of my life for now, if not forever. I do not need to be judged every step of the way towards my new life alone. I am not a suicidal person, if I were this group would surely drive me to the thought of ending it all. I have been tempted to tell one of them on countless occasions that I am ready to give up and join my husband in death, but I know this is not true and this person probably does not care as much as they say. Or they would hear it as my looking for pity. I have to learn to accept this group as they will be in my life for the foreseeable future. Whether they accept how I am dealing has to be their problem. I need to accept this and just work on myself.

It has been a little over six months and though I have made progress, I feel as if I have not made enough. But then I ask myself, just how much is enough? I know there are more areas to work on. I know that neither group of people listed above are really my main problem. I know it adds to my problems, but it is not the cause. I am learning a lot about myself I thought I already knew in looking at what the mirror reflects. I need to keep learning. I also need to go back to the person I have always been, the one who does not care what others think of me. I need to accept myself for who I am. As for the others, it is their problem if the cannot accept any part of what I am going through. Most of all I need to accept that however fast or slow I move forward is acceptable, as long as I am moving forward.