ANXIETY!!! after someone has been sick


Oh friends. I'm up eating a banana and some corn flakes because somewhere deep in my head I have a memory of my Mom telling me to have a little carbs, or maybe it was a banana, to help me sleep.

Or maybe it was turkey that helps you sleep? I'm not sure, but I know it was food and I don't have any turkey laying around. (As a side note, Mom also told me that for really bad menstrual cramps, go home from work/school and have a hot chocolate with some Baileys in it and take a nap. She was VERY right about this. She left out "and some Tylenol and some Motrin" but still, sound advice.) 

So what am I anxious about? Laundry detergent. Mom's caretaker today sent a message that Mom needs more laundry detergent. Which made me think about how Mom doesn't do her own laundry anymore. Which made me think about how it was only 6 months ago that she could do that task. Which made me think about what other things she may or may not do that I don't know about. And then the spiral began with me thinking about how after someone gets sick, you can't go back to that time when you could ignore phone calls, or disregard that feeling that something is wrong. You can't go back to that amazing time where it was totally rational to think "it's probably nothing".  

Before Dad got sick, I hadn't known what it was like to have someone you love be sick. My sister and I got a phone call that Dad "looked like shit" and we were five hours away. We were driving north on 95 when Dad got admitted to the hospital for the first time. After an incredibly frightening and long drive, we made it to the hospital and without knowing it, began a journey with Dad that would last over 8 weeks in the hospital, most of it with Dad sedated in the ICU. During this time Dad was diagnosed with a number of things and finally, correctly, with Guillain Barre Syndrome. In those early days, Dad got a trach, Last Rights from a Catholic priest, a G-tube and a million other wires. And I got ANXIETY. And the worst part was sleeping. I could hear the beeps and terrible noises from the ICU in my head at night. I still can recall them. For anyone who has been there with a sick family member, or been a nurse or physician on one of these floors, I know you know what I'm talking about. I drank, I took Benadryl, I ran or walked or ate healthy or didn't. I went between reasonable adult coping skills and complete disorder. I started to fear the nighttime, because of what dreams it might bring. 


Dad recovered from Guillain Barre, and we danced at my wedding, only 8 months later. Not bad for a guy they said wouldn't walk again. 

Even after losing Dad, the anxiety didn't go away. I started medication for it, as needed, usually at night. I struggled heavily with my Connecticut/Catholic guilt about this- I truly thought that anxiety medications were for those who just couldn't deal with life, and that I should really be able to pull myself out of it. I should be able to just sleep, or just take a deep breath, or do some yoga or run more and work my way through anxiety. Like a pilgrim! But all of that wasn't working. The first time I took the medication it was like all of the things that had been marching in my head just got tired, and sat down for a minute and I could sleep. The next day I woke up, thankful for the sleep and more determined that I would never need that medication again. I probably took 6 pills over the time span of a year. See? I still want to show you that I'm not REALLY anxious, I just dabble in anxiety. 

But when the worst has happened, when the phone call you are dreading comes, when hospice is at your house, or you have to administer morphine to your parent/loved one/wife, is there any wonder that sometimes, anxiety is what remains? It's tolerable now, two years later. I don't need or want many of the coping skills I needed and wanted in those early days. But that familiar rush of fear and dread comes still when I have an unknown number on my phone, or get a call from Mom's nurse, or when my son jumps on his bed and bumps his head and we are debating if he needs stitches (last week). I don't jump the same way I used to when I see a call coming in, or when we have to take Mom to the doctor- maybe it takes more to make me panic now. But from time to time (tonight is a good example), my old pal ANXIETY sets in, and I know she means business. I can't ignore her, I can't make like a pilgrim and just will her away. She wants to be dealt with NOW. "But anxiety, I have to drive to Lancaster tomorrow and I'm going to be very tired if I don't sleep." 

I don’t care at all.
— Anxiety

I've found some things that have worked for me, just a few of them, and I wanted to see what you all thought. My first recommendation is that you get out of bed and stop trying to convince yourself you will just fall asleep eventually as you will see represented in bar graph format below. 

Patricia Cruz