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.