Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Interview Questions

The following are questions I answered for “Riding Bitch” on her blog last week. Thought they were great questions so I am including them here.

Q: Have you had any previous experience with caregiving before your husband was diagnosed?
A: Yes. My mother was sick in 2007. She was finally diagnosed with colon cancer and died three weeks later. I consider that my biggest learning curve (not that you ever stop learning). I spoke up when I was concerned or things didn’t seem right. But the doctors and nurses always seemed to have an explanation for things. I tried to be very rational and told myself that I may have a good head on my shoulders, but I was no doctor. I had to trust the medical professionals and what they were saying. This was one situation where I followed my head before my heart.

Unfortunately, I found out later that things were not as they should have been. There were many doctors and nurses at the hospital that were just plain wrong. They did not understand my mom’s condition. She was not taken care of the way she should have been. We even caught one doctor in an outright lie. As a result, my mother suffered tremendously at the end of her life. It was unnecessary. This experience changed everything for me- how I viewed the medical world, how I act as an advocate for myself and others, and even how I counsel clients.

Now I say without a doubt to trust your instincts. If things don’t seem right, they probably aren’t. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers you hear, ask again. Ask many people. Ask until you get what you need. Your life may literally depend upon it. I’m not suggesting you be cynical and assume everyone is incompetent. But it means to be careful and pay close attention.

Q: Are there specific things you learned?
A: Yes! In general, I would do these things anyway, but they are an absolute must if you are dealing with any kind of chronic medical problem. Get a notebook. Take it with you to every single appointment. Write everything down. Most importantly, let the medical professionals see you do it. Take their name and their title. Write dates and times. Even when they just check your vitals or something. I have found that those professionals who are conscientious about their work and do it well will not be threatened by this. In fact, often they encourage you to do so. We are all human and medical professionals are too. We all work better and more carefully when we know we are being held accountable. My book is full of these kinds of situations. In my second book, I will probably talk about a situation with my father when I accompanied him to the hospital. They wanted to repeat a blood test because they didn’t believe someone had already done it. I was assertive enough that I wouldn’t let them touch my dad until they double checked their records. I was right and they apologized. Not life threatening, but a good lesson in paying attention to the details.

Q: What was your experience of caregiving for your husband like?
A: Sometimes it was downright frightening. I had to respect his wishes as it was his life. But when do you intervene? When do you take over? In the book I talk about a time when Tim was in great pain but didn’t want me to call the doctor. I was not confident and most of the time I didn’t even have a knowledge base to start with. So you had to arm yourself with facts, then decipher through your individual circumstances. Scary. It’s too much. But I did it because I loved him. It was truly, truly a sacred honor. I’ve never done anything more important!

Look for next week’s blog. “Riding Bitch” will be answering similar questions here as a guest on my site…

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MOTIVATION

The good news is that I am booked to appear on AM BUFFALO on Monday, March 11, 10:00 AM, channel 7. This is the Monday before the book launch, which is perfect timing. The show and the launch are both a reminder to me that yes, after 25 years or so of struggling, I am still overweight. Most maddening is that I lost it a few years ago and then gained most of it back.

I’ve tried it all – diets, “life-style changes”, exercise… I know about toxins and all the things I shouldn’t eat. Hence, my latest attempt that I have never tried before. Hypnosis. While I would love for there to be a magic pill where I could eat whatever I wanted and still be healthy, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen in my lifetime. So I’m not trying to find the fast cure, just trying to find some motivation. I WANT to eat bad stuff. I DON’T WANT to eat healthy proteins and vegetables. Maybe hypnosis can help.

I had my first session on Friday. To my great surprise, I went under very easily. You know everything that is happening so it’s not scary or anything. First he had me do some image work. This kind of thing always fascinates me, or I guess I should say what comes out of it. The side of me that wants to be healthy and trim took on a red color, heart in shape but it was very fluid and flowing. The side of me that is stuck was a solid black rectangle, non-moving. I thought the image work would have the red swallow the black. However, my brilliant hypnotist wanted me to blend them together because both “sides” serve a purpose in our lives. (Remind you of the glass half-empty and half-full?) So the black became an outline around the heart, but the heart still moved around. It kept more form but it still was fluid. Interesting.

Then I got to picture all the foods I love but are unhealthy for me on my kitchen island. I’m not lucky enough to have one vice like sweets or salts. I love them all. So my island was full of cookies, potato chips, doritoes, cake, and carbs like breads and stuff too. While I was drooling on myself, he then added to the image that all of those foods were dripping with thick, white, slimy fat. He pointed out how disgusting they all looked. Makes me want to throw up even as I’m writing this. Then he told me to knock it all off the counter. When he said this, he snapped his fingers and said “Beets!”. We had discussed earlier that beets are a food I really hate. He wants me to associate those yummy but bad foods with beets. Interesting though, it’s not so I see them as just “bad”, but to break down the hard line barriers of good and bad food in my head.

Lots of homework. Cds to listen to, a workbook to read and do exercises in. So much for the magic pill theory. But I think I’m ready to take this on. All the exciting things that are coming up are making me be a little more willing to face my life-long demons. You ought to try it. I’m not sure yet how it will “work”, but so far it’s been fascinating and fun. Gotta go and make my protein shake 🙂


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Truths

I set up a speaking engagement yesterday and the conversation around that booking has me up and deep in thought. The venue is a place where people who are battling cancer (personally or with a loved one) can hang out. Most people have a very high regard for Hospice so I was surprised to be informed that many of this particular crowd are NOT Hospice fans.  They feel the message from Hospice is to “Give up and die” and they are fighting hard to beat their disease. We have probably all read miraculous stories of people who have overcome cancer, many by simply refusing to give in to the disease.  True?  True!

So here is what is formulating in my mind. Picture the ageless analogy of the glass of water – half-empty, half-full.  The glass is half-empty. True. The glass if half-full. True. I would say that most people tend to see the glass in one way or the other.  Usually people tend to see life in the same way- either pessimistically or optimistically.  Do you follow me so far?

Here is the theory I have been working on over the years in my practice. Both “sides” are true. How can one be right and one be wrong? It’s more a matter of perspective. In order to be balanced in life, those who see the glass is half-empty, have to concede the glass is ALSO half-full. If I am Miss Susy Sunshine, I have to recognize that there are also hurts and disappointments in the world or else I will probably ignore the genuine pain of people around me, including my own. If I am Miss Negative Nelly, then I run the risk of being stuck and missing out on the solutions and blessings that are in front of me and others. We are probably all naturally bent to one side or the other, but we can choose to consciously be aware of the other side as well.

Bitter and sweet.  Another face of the glass of water.

But because of this experience with Tim, I feel like there is another chapter to this that tugs at me.  Perhaps it is not new necessarily, but it is another way to articulate similar thoughts, adding another layer of sorts. For me, the great spiritual challenge is this- to hold both truths at the same time. It seems impossible and I don’t think in our culture we are encouraged to do so. But I want to keep trying. I want to keep changing my language from “BUT” to “AND”.  Instead of saying “The glass is half-full, but it’s also half-empty”, I would rather say “The glass is half-full AND it’s also half-empty”. Perhaps it is too subtle of a difference to matter, but somehow I think it’s actually a monumental difference.

So I hope when I speak to that group next month, I will be able to be sensitive to their position, to their feelings. And maybe I will also be able to at least open them up to the idea that curative care and palliative care are not necessarily in such opposition to each other that there isn’t room for dialogue- that there is room to learn from each other. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I tried to talk about that several times in my book- that Tim and I were constantly trying to juggle fighting for his life with accepting possible prognosis with grace and dignity. We all will die someday.  TRUE. AND… We all have much more power and direction than we ever give ourselves credit for. TRUE.

Thanks for bearing with me.  This is a very different kind of blog for me. I usually write about my feelings and experiences and it generally flows more easily.  The content here is still formulating for me so thanks for your patience… and I welcome your thoughts!


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Ridiculousness

Have you ever seen that show “Ridiculousness”? It’s kind of like an MTV version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Frankie loves it. He laughs hysterically when he watches it. I was laying in bed tonight when my head started blogging. Ridiculousness came to mind. I knew it had to be the title. Not because it’s funny. It’s the opposite. It comes from a very, very dark place.

Every once in a while I fall into this black hole. Intellectually I can totally dismantle its validity. In my mind I know it’s unhealthy junk. But emotionally I just can’t help myself. Twenty years of therapy on and off and I still battle my dark demons. Ridiculous.

I’m not sure what to call it. Depression? Probably in part. I hate it. It actually embarrasses me because it’s so pitiful and lacking in self worth. Definitely sadness. Can’t stop crying when I’m in it. On the surface, I am a pretty confident, outgoing woman. I’m relatively realistic about my strengths and weaknesses. I am aware I have much to offer the world. I am aware that in my own little corner of it, I have indeed offered the world my heart and soul and others have benefited from it. But in that dark place, I am scared- no petrified, that most people hate me. In a phrase? I’m unloveable. What is possessing me to write about it for others to see I have no idea, but I’m going with it.

About 15 years ago, I was working at a place and was getting ready to leave to dive into my practice. I was an email buddy with my co-worker’s husband and one time I felt like he pushed the writing a little too far and I told him to back off. Soon after that he excluded from his wife’s surprise party and then proceeded to let me know that it was intentional. He said I was a “liberal weirdo” and that everyone at work hated me and I was too stupid to realize it. Now, I had several co-workers assure me that wasn’t the case. And I knew he was lashing out because he was embarrassed that I called him out on something. But did any of that logic matter? Nope. Bingo. He hit me it my darkest fear. I was right, I’m not loveable.

The other night I had a very vivid, long, detailed dream. It was one of those non-sensical ones that is bizarre in details but crystal clear in meaning. I was with a group of people and I think we were actors of some sort. I had the distinct feeling that no one liked me and eventually people started to verbalize it. Then this mandate came down that every person had to find a twin to wear an identical costume with. It was obvious this order came down for one reason- to show me in a very tangible way that no one wanted to be my partner. I verbalized this to everyone. “Oh, I see. The purpose of this little exercise is to prove to me that I am alone.” They all jeered and laughed because it was true. There was one actor there (the guy from Mall Cop, go figure!) who I somehow sensed felt differently about it, but I couldn’t prove it. He was pouring drinks for everyone as they were having a celebratory toast. The occassion? Making me realize how disliked I was. However, I soon had the last laugh because I told them they were wrong and this guy did value me because he poured bitter liquid in their glasses. They were all spitting it out. I told them that he knew everyone of them would drink it but me.

I have no idea who that man was supposed to represent… God? And in a sense it was a positive ending. But I didn’t wake up feeling positive. I thought it was a horrible dream. Just awful. And I was even disgusted because I think I have it more together than to have that kind of deep seeded lack of self love to generate such dreams.

I’m sure there are many layers, but on at least one level, I think the “twin” represents a partner to me. In high school, I rarely had boyfriends. I met my first husband in Bible College. We divorced and then I spent seven years alone. Then I married Tim and we were together just a decade before he died. Here I am at 45, facing a birthday next week, and alone again. Dating, maybe, but not partnered.

I leave Sunday for my 25 year college reunion. It will be awesome. But I think it is part of the turmoil of my sleep. I remember attending the 10 year reunion, freshly divorced. I knew everyone was aware that my former husband was the one people were talking about because he became an atheist after our marriage. Tim and I attended my 15th reunion and for a brief, shining moment, I had a husband and baby by my side. Now I will attend my 25th. Alone again. Naturally.

No twin. No one that loves me so much they want to world to know by making me thier wife. I hate being a widow. I hate being a single mom. My loving friends point out that probably no one else will be able to say they are publishing a book. And I’m publishing a GREAT book!! I truly am proud of it. But I also realize that the ache in my heart isn’t about acheiving something extraordinary. It’s about being in the norm- having a significant other. I think that is part of my roller coaster of emotions about the success of the book. I want to revel in it, but I still haven’t acheived what my heart aches to- feeling loveable. Being someone’s favorite person. Being someone’s twin.

It’s ridiculous because I have more than one amazing person in my life. I am truly lucky and blessed to have family and friends that are astounding in thier loyalty and kindness. I know it frustrates them to some degree to know how much they care about me and extend themselves to me, yet I still fall down the rabbit hole sometimes. I truly love and appreciate them. And they fill a very real need and void in my life. But there is a void no friend or sister or father can fill.

I hate how pitiful it all sounds. And I intellectually know better. But for today, Thursday, my heart has fallen into the abyss. I won’t stay there. But it’s a dark night and I am truly praying for less ridiculous dreams tonight. Don’t give up on me, though. The positive Darcy will emerge again soon 🙂