Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anxiety Attack, Day Eight of Hospice

Mother had an unusual reaction to some medication we gave her last night. This was the first time she had complained of pain, so we gave her a small dose a common pain reliever of hydrocodone and acetaminophen that had been provided by the hospice pharmacy.

I assumed it would make her sleepy, but instead she became very, very talkative. More words came tumbling out in the next hour than she has probably spoken totally since the strokes occurred over four weeks ago.

She stayed in what I call her “orientation/disorientation” spot of knowing and not knowing. Present and past appear to be the same to her. Last night, she tapped into some long dormant, or at least unspoken, emotional memories.

She expressed much fear that we were angry or disappointed in her. Her anxiety level at needing the kind of care that she needs (she suddenly seemed much more aware of her health situation--this was new) started to boil over. She’s always been such a giver and has always had a hard time receiving gifts or services from others. 

She spoke at length about her own mother, whom we all called Granny, and who had lived with my mom and dad for nearly 30 years after she was widowed. Mother kept talking about Granny’s helplessness in so many areas: she couldn’t drive, couldn’t make decisions, couldn’t figure out how to shape her life, couldn’t live independently. Although we children loved having Granny live with us, I was always aware that this was not easy for my mother. Ever.

I saw more clearly last night where my own mother’s need for radical independence came from. She did not want to repeat that cycle. And now, as I feared would happen, she is in her own nightmare, fully dependent upon others, unable to do one single thing to care for herself, and seeing herself as having failed us.

I drove home much later than I had planned because of the length of this conversation and my need to listen as carefully as possible to her. I’m painfully aware that I’m barely functioning. I can’t seem to hear or speak or think clearly. I stopped by the church and picked up some things I needed and exhaustedly drove to the house.

Then my own anxiety, mirroring my mother’s, took over and I felt swept away by the tide of my own sense of failure. I am having to take some time away from many of my ministry responsibilities. This letter was read this morning in worship and will be given to the congregation. Grief took over last night. I, too, must be on the receiving end of things. I simply can’t keep going without some relief. 

My mother and I are in the same place. We have the same choices before us. We can receive gratefully the movements of grace and love that are being poured out upon us by our families, our friends, our colleagues, our churches, and our communities, and find peace. Or, we can let our anxiety take over, our guilt at being the receivers rather than the givers, our anguish at not being in control (clearly a huge issue for both of us) and collapse internally.

The tie to the Gospel message shouts at me with this realization. I cannot serve and give and earn my way into the Kingdom of Heaven. I can only receive the gift given at huge expense, be grateful for the cross, and walk through the door held open for me that leads to the resurrection. But, truth be told, I’d rather do it myself. And I’m just betting I’m not alone. I don’t want to be beholden to God. But I am. Yes, I am. And with that knowledge, I can take another deep breath and go one yet one more hour, one more day, one more crisis.


Vicki Attaway said...

Christy, I read your words and am in awe of the enormous task living and dying is. First we're born and then we die, and what is in between is an attempt to merge our thoughts and feelings with our experiences in a manner that does justice to our existence. The dynamics of our inner lives are valuable and complex, like a knot on a very fine gold chain. Gradually, with sought after understanding the knot will loosen and free itself, one tug at a time.

It appears that there is great anguish in your heart and in your mother's as you both examine, in your own ways, your thoughts, regrets, wishes and perspectives. You are visiting your souls and finding them troubled enough to cry. You, Christy, seem to be on a quest to search for God and to accept help. May comfort come your way. When it does, tarry there. Pause there. Make it a part of your awareness and be continually healed.

Angie Hammond said...

Dear Christy,
As I read about your mother and her fears and your fears, I felt them in my own heart. I can't say I've experienced the same type of anxiety that you are going through, but I have an idea of just what it is like.

It is the kind that seems to take over ones very being and there is nothing else that can enter into the brain or heart. Your body is not your own, but operates on its own agenda and your mind well it goes where you'd rather it didn't. You have little if any control and that is what troubles you the most.

As for being a giver and not a receiver, I know that one as well. How hard it is to receive, yet as you say Jesus died for our sins and God gives us Grace even when we don't deserve it.

What to say to you as you go forward?
The words that come to mind are from Psalm 46
God is my refuge and strength an ever present help in time of trouble.

Then finally words that you often said to me when I was in a terrible place wondering if I could go on.

You told me that I couldn't save anyone or win my way into heaven and to try and remember these words:

Be still and know that I am God.

It is my prayer this day for you that God will enfold you in his arms and give you both peace and comfort as you go forward one day at a time.

Dana Norton said...

Christy, it may sound odd, but consider: perhaps God is working in your mother to prepare her and God is also working in you to prepare you for what is transform you both. Peace be with you, my sister in Christ.