Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Out With It

I wasn't going to write here about what has been going on with my mom.  I was worried about violating her privacy, mostly, but also figured that what was happening was an isolated event. 

It seems I was wrong.  I think her being sick is now a part of my reality, and probably will be for some time to come.  I think her recovery is going to be a long-term process.  I know that it is affecting every part of my life, most of my days, and how I move through the world. 

I don't know how this will work, exactly.  I don't know how to collect the bits and pieces into a coherent narrative that allows me to talk about what this means for me and for us, our relationship.  I might make some mistakes.  I hope you, and she, will bear with me.  Maybe my dad won't print these out for her to read.  Maybe not for a long time.  Maybe never.

Maybe we'll just start with the basic chronology, and see where things go from here.

Nine weeks ago, mom had a total knee replacement.  This is the first major surgery she's had since I was little, and she was in a lot of pain.  Her doctor was not good about responding to what seemed to her family like excess pain, but my parents stuck with this doctor, and mom just dealt.  Mostly, I just tried to listen to her, and to sympathize.  When I went up to Idaho for my grandfather's funeral, I tried to soothe and comfort her, and to let her know she wasn't alone.  It seemed like she responded to this, and that her pain and spirits were temporarily better.

Then I came home, though, and she was alone again.  I see now that she experienced this as an abandonment, much like the one she went through as a child when her mother left her with friends and family for a year.  This, and a postpartum psychotic breakdown she experienced when I was four, have been the defining moments of my mom's life, I think.

Two weeks ago or so, she finally couldn't take the pain anymore and had my dad take her to the ER.  I think they tried some new drugs then, and that gave her some temporary hope, but it was at that point that I noticed she was sounded different on the phone.  Odd somehow.  I had one particularly frustrating phone conversation with her where I was trying to argue that they needed to go see a different knee doctor, one who would manage her pain.  That she shouldn't probably be going to the ER six weeks after a surgery, for pain.  That there was something wrong.  She responded that I was being overemotional and became irrational herself.  I realized later she was speaking to me like she did when I was thirteen, an out-of-control kid.  But I wasn't out-of-control.  She was.

I think that's when it started.

Last week, it was back in the ER again, but this time because she was having breaks, slips.  Psychoses, just like she had when I was a kid, I think.  Two days in the state mental hospital--which is not a nice place--followed.  Then more ER visits.  More horrible, painful, convoluted, distressing phone calls.  More terror.

Then last night, which was really bad.

Now she's in a small residential care place.  But she can only stay for five days.  I am wondering what will happen after that.  I am wondering whether I'm going to get my mom back.  I'm wondering if it's all new now, if we will have to develop all new strategies for communication, all new ways of being together.  And I'm wondering all of this thousands of miles from her, while I'm trying to raise my own family, and handle my own crises, and live my own life.

I don't have anything pithy to end with.  No clarity or words of wisdom.  Just a lot of fear and sadness and wondering.  I don't know if it will make sense to write more here or not, about this.  Here we are.


  1. Thinking of you... With love, C.

  2. Jen, I am so sorry you and your mom are suffering like this. "Where there is no way, I will find one." Mkuch love from Chloe