Monday, November 4, 2013

Turning Tables

     I think I'm kind of flailing right now, searching for something that seems familiar, and so I've ended up here. Maybe it's because the holidays are coming up fast and it's going to be hard, again, to not be with my parents and sister as much as I'd like to be, because they're half the country away from me. This is only my second time, ever, not being in the same state as them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. At this same point in my mom's life, she'd already been to 49 of the 50 states, lived in 36 homes and been to Europe and back. I only say that to illustrate the point that I know that I, at age twenty-nine, am well past the age where I should be counting on opening presents under the tree in my parents' living room on Christmas morning. I'm damn near thirty, married, and have my own little family here in Carolina. I even have a lovely house with a big front porch that's perfect for Christmas lights! And still, I can't help but feel something's off.

     I've been in this frame of mind since late last night, when I came home from Carrie and Adam's house. See, I had what should have been a relaxing, happy evening on Saturday and it was, until it went wonky thanks to what we think was some random allergic reaction. I wasn't at all expecting it and though it should've been nothing, a one-and-done, my brain just isn't wired that way, I suppose. Well, no, that's not a supposition - that's a fact. I've never come across a situation I couldn't over-think.

     What happened was a whole lot of randomness, actually. I was at Adam's parents' house for dinner and we had seafood. Being from pretty much the dead-center of the country, fresh seafood isn't exactly something that's on every menu, so I rarely eat it. I'm much closer to the coast now, so it's more common, I suppose. Anyway, crab legs were had, oysters were eaten (my first time) and I finished my dinner off with 800mg of Advil, because I'd had a crushing headache since before I got there. Normally, I keep a bottle of ibuprofen in my purse for occasions like that, because I'm allergic to acetaminophen (Tylenol) and for whatever reason, that seems to be the painkiller of choice for most households.

     I didn't have my regular purse with me, though, so I asked Adam if there was any in the house. He went and got me a brand-new bottle of Advil, which I knew to be safe, because it's just name-brand ibuprofen. About thirty minutes later, though, I started having the weirdest reaction. I first thought I was coming down with the world's most sudden cold, but when I started wheezing and my face felt like it was swelling shut, I realized that it was probably something else.

    And this is where is gets flat-stupid on my part, because I shouldn't have let my back-burnered issues that have been simmering for awhile trip up my decision-making process. You see, kids, because my husband requires so much extra care and trips to the emergency room like nobody's business, I'm extremely reluctant to go for myself, even when I know it's warranted. My husband knows this about me, we've discussed it on many occasions, and he gets no end of irritated with me (rightfully so, I admit) when I pitch a fit about going to the hospital for little things like, oh, collapsing in the hallway at 5 in the morning. (I knew why it happened and there was nothing that could be done about it, so I didn't see the point in making the trip.)

       I have no idea if this is simply my own neuroses wreaking havoc or if this is a common thing among those of us who live with a chronically ill partner. Selfish though it sounds, I hope like hell it's on the more common end of the spectrum, because it's not fun being the only one with things like this. Surely someone else has experienced that same sense of guilt because they don't feel legitimately sick enough to suck up the resources of the hospital when they could be going towards helping a more worthy recipient. Surely?

     'Cause that's what it is, you know. A weirdly misplaced feeling of guilt that I don't really need to be in the ER because I'm not actually sick, just having a strange can't-really-breathe-and-I-don't-know-why moment; I'm not sick in the way my husband and others like him are legitimately sick. It's the stupidest thing, and I know that, but even knowing that didn't lessen the sense of shame I felt while I was there or dull the embarrassment I feel now remembering it. Looking back, I wish I just would've kept driving and waited for my husband to get home from work, though even as I type that sentence, I know it wouldn't have been the right decision.

     What I actually did was get in my car and follow Adam and Carrie for awhile, since our houses are near one another and I wasn't sure of the way home. Plus, I think they weren't entirely convinced that I was as fine as I said I was and they wanted to keep an eye on me. My already-limited ability to breathe was getting more and more restricted as I drove, so I called my mom to ask what she thought I should do. (You know, like all grown-ass women do, right?) Her thought was that I should pull the hell over and let my friends take me to the hospital. So I did, and they did.

     And they stayed with me, taking care of me, making sure the nurse got the right insurance information for my chart and holding my hand while I sat through my first-ever breathing treatment with albuterol. (That shit tastes like death, in case you were wondering.) Adam called my husband, reassured him that I was okay, told him where we were. Carrie kept me smiling, made sure all the t's were crossed and i's were dotted, paid careful attention to what the doctor said so that she'd be able to fill my husband in when he got there. I mean, if you have to go to the ER, that's the way to do it, with family that takes care of you until the rest of your family can get there.

    Still, I don't like it, I'm not okay with it. I'm the healthy one, the one who sits with my husband in hospital room and watches "Chopped" until he falls asleep; that's my job. I can't shake this guilt, this feeling that I wasn't supposed to be there. I've spent more time than most in hospital waiting rooms and have seen too many times the abuses of the services available, the nurses run ragged by having to care for belligerent assholes with no insurance and a sprained pinky toe. It makes me sick and angry and I don't want to be a contributing factor to any of that, I really, really don't. There was a tiny voice in my head telling me to get my ass out of the bed, there are people who need this room, people with real problems, not just some ridiculously random allergic reaction to the fillers in the Advil. Or the shellfish, could've been the shellfish, but not very likely. I mean, it wasn't even full-on anaphylaxis! (I don't think.)

    This is bad, I know. I can't keep going on this train of thought, if for no other reason than I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of my husband. He's pointed out to me many times that it's just as important that I take care of my health for that very reason. We know that the Marfan's is a battle we're going to fight the rest of his life and we're as prepared for that as we can be, but his point is that we don't need to add to the weight we already shoulder by me ignoring my own health needs. I know he's right, but I still can't shake the discomfort of having the tables turned on me. 

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