jmgoyder

wings and things

The weird experience

The other day I met one of my brothers, BJ, for lunch at the restaurant where Ming works so Ming took his lunch break at the same time. The three of us talked, ate, and laughed together and then, just as Ming was about to go back to work, he told us that on his way into town that morning, he had lost control of his little car on a big roundabout and it had spun full circle on the newly wet roads (it is autumn here so we’ve had some rain).

Ming said that a truck, and its driver, slowed down and witnessed his near-accident but luckily there was no other traffic as it was very early in the morning. Okay so BJ and I digested this information as we finished our meals then we went our separate ways.

At the time, I didn’t quite process that Ming had nearly been in another car accident/caused another car accident/come out of a potential car accident alive/not injured anyone in a car accident that was his fault … and that everything was okay … until I got into my own car to go to the nursing home. I began to perspire….

It was a cool day but by the time I got to the nursing home I was quite hot. I went to sit with Anthony for awhile before going on duty and, as his room is always so hot, because he feels the cold so badly, I thought my perspiration was due to that.

An hour later I was on duty in the dementia cottage and absolutely drenched in perspiration – every single strand of my hair was wet and the carer I was working with probably assumed it was menopause.

Anyway, I did my shift, sweatily and with no conscious thought of Ming’s near accident, then went home, still so drenched in perspiration that I had to put the air-conditioner on in the car even though the weather was cold. Just before I knocked off, Ming texted me saying, “home safe” and I wondered why he would do that because I had completely forgotten about his near-accident experience!

When I got home, Ming came out to meet me as he does and had all of the outside + garage lights on. I got out of the car and this was our conversation:

Me: Ming, I have had one of those sweat attacks – hyperhidrosis or whatever. Look at me – I am drenched!

Ming: Me too, Mum – me too! I was shaking and nearly crying when I got to work and sweating all day.

Me: Is that why you texted me you were home safe?

Ming: Yes! I thought you’d be worried.

Me: To be honest, Ming, I forgot about it.

Ming: So why are we both sweating?

I am quite interested in the fact that my mind didn’t absorb yet another close call in terms of Ming’s safety and yet my body absorbed it like a leaking sponge!

Will the car accident that Ming caused ever leave us? It has strengthened some relationships, weakened other relationships and probably mystified all of us in the ways in which it has affected us, individually – the nephews who went to the scene of the accident, for example; the mother who was overseas when it happened; the guilt we probably all feel for somehow allowing it – I don’t know anymore.

What I do know is that I am grateful, every single day since the accident, for the fact that every single person assaulted by that accident is still alive, still able to flourish, still able to overcome the obstacle of that terrible memory, still able to be.

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When the carer gets sick

It is now a few weeks since I was first afflicted with pompholyx on my hands and I have now seen three doctors (well, four, if I count Dr Google) and I now have all the antibiotics, steroids and ointments I should need to get rid of it. The blisters on my hands have now been replaced with peeling, bleeding skin and I am finding it painful to do everyday, normal things like turning a tap on and off, prepare a meal and even holding the steering wheel of the car hurts. I’ve read heaps of articles about pompholyx and seen some gruesome pictures that look just like my own hands, so I feel quite knowledgeable about the condition now.

A few days ago I noticed a few blisters on my left foot too but, like an idiot, I just kept hoping they’d miraculously go away, but this morning I woke up to two very swollen feet, with all of the toes on one foot covered in sores and one on the other foot too. (I think my feet must have been scratching each other in my sleep!) The left foot was so painful that when I jumped out of bed to take a closer look, I got a shock when I could hardly walk.

My first thought was how could I take Anthony out for afternoon today? That was my plan and I had told him yesterday when I had two normal feet. As usual my incredible mother came to the rescue and visited him and I spoke to him twice on the phone, the first time quite tearfully but the second time (my mother rang me from his room at the nursing home) more cheerfully.

There are a lot of mixed opinions about pompholyx but one thing I have found in almost everything I have read about it so far is that it can be caused by excessive perspiration. This makes a lot of sense to me because, despite the fact that I have always had a problem with this during our Australian summers, it has never been as bad as this year. In fact, a few weeks ago, I joked with a friend that I might have to get botox to stop it (I had read about this treatment and this was just before the pompholyx hit me). It turns out that this may well be a necessity for me if the pompholyx doesn’t go away with all the other stuff I’m taking for it. I could get my frown lines done too – haha!

On the scale of diseases, this is certainly minor and I know many people and friends who are battling much more severe health challenges, diseases, chronic pain and, yes, grief. So I feel a bit embarrassed to be so upset about what has suddenly happened to my hands and feet, but the main reason I am so upset is because it is obviously going to stop me from seeing Ants for awhile.

Ming, who did a whole bunch of errands and other jobs for me today, said (during one of the Home and Away commercial breaks), “I’ll do anything you want me to, Mum – just give me a list!” Then we had a conversation about stress:

Ming: You must be really stressed – look at your foot!
Me: I am now twice as stressed as I was before you said I must be really stressed so shut up!
Ming: Why can’t you just have fun, Mum?
Me: I can’t really have fun with this thing with my hands and feet.
Ming: I could take you out for lunch, to the movies even – popcorn? Pizza? I’ll do anything!
Me: Could you do a load of washing, vacuum the house, wash the dishes, do the groceries, visit Dad and bring me some panadol tomorrow?
Ming: Oh – okay. That’s a lot of jobs and you haven’t given me much warning.
Me: It’s called initiative, Ming.
Ming: No, no, no – you know I hate that word!
Me: Well guess what – I hate the word stress!

The hardest thing about getting any sort of sick when you are caring for a loved one with a proper disease (Anthony) and another one who has just had a second lot of spinal surgery (Ming) and all the other people who you care for, is the feeling of utter helplessness that you can’t help because you are sick too. For me it is, hopefully, just a temporary sick but it may go on and on (pompholyx tends to do that).

Apart from the spasmodic asthma attacks that began four years ago, when I was still working at the university, Ming was still at school, and Anthony’s health was beginning to deteriorate, this is the worst diseasy thing that has happened to me. I’m a bit scared I guess because I’m the carer – I can’t get sick! I am needed!

To those bloggers and friends and relatives who know this feeling, I salute you for your courage and honesty in talking so openly about these things. My empathy has grown a thousand-fold because of this pompholyx thing.

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Nightmares

I had a dream last night that someone I knew (it wasn’t clear in the dream who exactly he was), took me to a holiday house somewhere near the sea. It was a really shabby old house and I felt a bit reluctant to go in but I did anyway because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Then, once I was inside, the door shut with a clang, and I knew immediately that I was doomed because a hanging rope was already in place for me and the someone-I-knew became a cackling stranger who was going to hurt me before killing me. The terror I felt within that dream woke me up, and I entered the day in a daze of perspiring relief that it was just a nightmare.

Have I read too many books, seen too many movies, thought too many thoughts, felt too many emotions? Yes, probably, but this was the most frightening nightmare I have ever had. Of course this nightmare is not hard to interpret at all I guess – a bunch of mixed emotions following trauma; ongoing anxiety for all those affected by trauma; shame, guilt and embarrassment over the stupid things I’ve said and done since the trauma; and a momentary wish that I would die.

The nightmare has made me see much better what it must be like for Anthony when he experiences the night terrors and and hallucinations of his PDD. If I can experience such a vivid nightmare whilst being physically healthy, and wake up with my face covered in the sweat of terror, then what is he going through?

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