More Dear PainPal...

Biting off more than I can chew?

March 14, 2000

Dear PainPal~

      I'm sorry I haven't written lately.  I'm coming out of an experience that demands that I look at some things differently and make some changes in how I handle crises.  Making some necessary changes, in this case, isn't an easy or a happy situation, because they involve my relationship with my family.

      We were very much looking forward to spending the two weeks surrounding Christmas with my elderly mother in another state.  Laden with gifts and brimming with good cheer, we flew home.  Two days later, Phil came down with a wicked cold and I began to have signs of a sore throat.  Because my mother has emphysema and is on oxygen, she has to be protected from contagious diseases.  Phil banished himself to the back bedroom after a visit to the doctor.  It was generally agreed that my Mom had already been exposed and our leaving wouldn't serve any good purpose.  Moreover, everyone in town seemed to be sick with this flu bug by then, so there was no avoiding it.  All we could do was wait and hope that Mom didn't come down ill.

      After five days, we were hopeful that she'd managed to fend the bug off.  And then the worst happened: she became suddenly and seriously ill.  The next two weeks would test my limits like never before.  And when it was over, I would return home with some painful realizations about my own condition and how it affects my ability to give care to others.

      I am glad I was there.  It became quickly obvious that my mother can't care for herself when illness strikes.  Left unattended, it's likely that she may not have survived this illness which quickly progressed to pneumonia.  Phil recovered and had to return to our home and work after the holiday.  I stayed and watched over my mother until she was well enough to get by on her own.  I wasn't able to do much physically, but at least I was able to act as her doctor's contact person and see to it that Mom was comfortable as she recovered.

      During those three weeks I got a pretty clear picture of how my own physical and emotional stresses interact and combine.  I was in considerable pain.  My medications didn't work as well because of the cold and stormy weather, my anxiety, and my inability to rest as much as I would have done had I been in my own home.  I wasn't sleeping or feeling well at all.  I began to feel as though I had bitten off more than I can chew.

      I've never done well with setting limits for myself, much less accepting them.  Until my injury fifteen years ago, I was a healthy woman who lived for her job and family.  I'm a type A person, anyway, and I was always on the go and giving 100% to whatever I was doing.  I was a "helper" by nature and by profession, and much of my life was devoted to caring for others.

      That life changed suddenly and drastically.  The injury to my back followed by surgeries was complicated by the onset of chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and cfs.  The biggest struggle I've ever faced in my life was in learning how to adapt.  My limitations really hit home when a loved one needs me and I'm unable to jump in and take care of things for them.  The emotional pain of this combines with my physical pain and makes matters worse.

      My mother's sudden illness made me realize that I can't do it all and that it's unrealistic of me to expect myself to respond as I would have if I didn't have limitations of my own.  Thankfully, she is well, now, and I am back home safe and sound and only a little worse for wear.

      Have a pain-free day, my friend.

            Your PainPal

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