Processing illness.

When someone, a family member or close friend, is seriously ill I always assume the worst case scenario. I expend a lot of mental and emotional energy on sick people. 

Last year my Grandfather had a bleed on the brain and was hospitalised. At his worst the doctor gave him a maximum 50/50 chance to last through the night. It’s a hard task to get all of my family together, the last time was, sadly, for my Uncle’s funeral, but most of us rushed down to the hospital to say our ‘goodbyes’. To see my Grandfather, who was always so full of life, laying there on the hospital bed with tubes coming out of his arms, one draining his head, and him slurring his words barely comprehensible and barely recognising us was devastating. All the other grandkids (well, grandadults) went back in for a second visit that day, but I couldn’t. To think that that was going to be my last memory of him upset me so much. Once I was on my own driving home I bawled. And then, literally a day later, he was fine. Well, better anyway. The miracle of modern medicine and technology! He’s 84 and gets tired often, but to sit and have a conversation with him now you would never guess that he was on his deathbed last year. 

Whilst I didn’t want him to die (I wish he could live forever!) I had prepared myself for the reality that at that point in time he was going to. And whilst I was elated he was getting better, I was also confused as to why I felt anger about it. 

Now, I’m sort of understanding that anger. It’s not so different to planning for positive things and them not eventuating. All these emotions are used, and you’re drained, for nothing. Whilst beating death is the best outcome, the processing beforehand was no less taxing, and having run through all of the scenarios of what I would/could do to be useful afterwards for my grandmother and family were not needed.

I remember saying to my parents after he’d gotten better not to tell me things unless they knew for sure. And I probably sounded very selfish telling them to not put me through that again

Enter my insightful Autistic Hindsight Lens. Predictability. The doctors had given him a low chance of survival and had told the family to come and say ‘goodbye’, I’d seen his deteriorating condition and said ‘goodbye’. Him recovering didn’t follow the logical sequence of events I’d expected. I’m not heartless by any means, I have a huge heart, I can’t stand to see suffering. Again, I feel like I need to reiterate for readers, I am extremely grateful that he is alive! 

I’m wondering if this is a coping mechanism – letting myself be flooded with overwhelming emotion and letting my mind run away with itself to consider all the negative outcomes; a purge if you will. So when disaster strikes I assume I will be prepared

The thing is, when your mind gets itself so intently set on a negative outcome, a positive outcome can really throw you out of whack. As nice of a concept as hope is, it’s one I really struggle with, because it’s not predictable. And this is very much to do with black/white all/nothing thinking I believe. 

I am an internal panicker, but externally you wouldn’t know it. I don’t think I catastrophise things as much as I get given information and try to prepare myself for, and process, the negative outcomes ahead of time. Without a medical degree I can’t factor medication and treatment options into my thinking either.

A few days ago my Dad came over and he’s all of a sudden developed this symptom that when he drinks alcohol he has pain in his shoulder and down his arm. I googled it and of course ‘cancer‘ was one of the results. He’s also dropping weight at a fairly rapid rate, and is extremely fatigued. My Mum made him go to the doctor and the doctor is running a heap of tests. The doctor did say cancer was a possibility, as is an infection of some sort. So my brain is ticking over in frustration with not knowing. I’m trying to distract myself but I haven’t quite figured out how to distract my brain from my brain with my brain. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

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This entry was published on November 14, 2016 at 3:45 PM. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Processing illness.

  1. I’m familiar with these experiences too… anticipating the worst outcome is sensible because if we stay in denial or we would be utterly devastated if the worst did happen. As Aspies we get used to anticipating upcoming situations as our coping mechanism. I know I’ve mentally confronted horrid outcomes and prepared myself … when it doesn’t turn out that way I was unprepared for the reality.Thrown sideways … it is starting dealing with the situation from a new baseline…. I’ve mentally created my ” new life state’ and begun to live in it … then BAMM…. new reality.Hope your father’s results come soon… it is hell waiting… have had to do so myself and it is the limbo/unknown that prevents sleep and getting on with life.
    wishing you all the best Amy. x

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    • Thank you! I feel better knowing that this is relatable! “As Aspies we get used to anticipating upcoming situations as our coping mechanism.” – so true! Dad has been called in to the doctors, which realistically means they’ve found something in one of his tests, his appointment is in a few hours and I’ve checked out the worst case scenarios on Google, hoping that I am over-prepared and it’s none of them, and also hoping (which will seem selfish) that he gets an answer today, not ‘we have to run more tests’ – yep, limbo/unknown is wreaking havoc! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ Thank you xx

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  2. So identifiable as an Asperger coping strategy: I think after a lifetime of “being” this way I have uncovered an unexpected explanation that has to do with how we experience “time” – not at all like neurotypicals who “look backward and forward” along a linear construct of time. For us Aspergers, time exists all at once, meaning we are built to live in the moment. “Outcomes” are not linear – they appear as a “cloud” around us. Too many possibilities to contemplate all at once CAN produce a lot of anxiety. Narrowing it down to worst case scenario is “protective” in that it returns us to “right now” and greatly reduces the energy needed to cope. Neurotypicals find “protection” in a linear sequence that tends to EXCLUDE negative outcomes. Either way, what happens, happens…

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