Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who needs whom?

So today was the day. They day to see the doctor, and to get a progress report. I was nervous because although I fell better, I certainly do not yet feel 100%. But I definitely feel well enough to go back to work. I wanted to make sure that I got that particular point across. (I sure am sick of sitting at home...but of course it has been made easier by the unwavering companionship of my girls.) We waited for a little while for my name to be called, and after what seemed like forever, we finally were ushered in. In general, the appointment started off pretty good. I explained that I was doing better with my breathing, and had started walking. He then asked me all of the routine things: meds, anything else going on, etc. This is where we hit the snag. I explained that my palpitations were getting worse. I had complained about them during our previous visits, and during the time that I spent in the hospital. They showed up every time on the monitor as PVC's (premature ventricular contractions). No one seemed to be worried at that point. But at mentioning them this time, he became fairly concerned. He asked me to describe them. I told him that it felt like my heart was pounding; not in a fast, racy way, but in a smacking-against-my-sternum kind of way. I told him that they were AWFUL. Yes, they were enough to effect my life. If I was doing something and they started, then I would definitely focus on them and less on the task at hand. They were bothering me so much the other night that I took my meds early because they were POUNDING so hard. And it doesn't matter what I'm doing. They occur at rest, and both during and after activity. They occur when it is 9:00 in the morning, 12:30 in the afternoon or at 7:45 at night. They're definitely feeling stronger and occurring a lot more often.

As he was doing his exam, he said that I had described them perfectly. He said that what I was feeling was essentially what was happening. OK, good. I'm glad that he knows what they are. Or does he? He is the type of doctor who likes to have EVERY base covered. (Which is why he ordered an echo before my 2nd cath to rule out a possible clot. After the echo that pretty much cleared that problem, he still went in through my neck to make absolutely sure that there really truly was nothing there. Yeah, he is nothing if not thorough.) So he decided he would attach a Holter-Montitor for 24 hours (which I'm wearing right now.) I have to write in a journal when I eat, sleep, feel anything and do any type of activity. I then have to turn it in as soon as I can. This last part is pretty important, because at the end of the visit when I was checking out and making my plans for the next follow up appt (8 weeks from now) I was told that no, I CANNOT go back to work until we figure out what this arrhythmia is. He was also really adamant about me still not driving. He wants to make sure that I do not suffer some sort of episode and pass out. Yeah. That thought was comforting. But at least we're going to get to the bottom of it. For me, these palpitations have been tougher to deal with, and a bit scarier than even the shortness of breath. I FEEL these in a very strong, and annoyingly painful way. And they worry me because these are coming directly from THE HEART. They're not some blood clot in my leg that MIGHT later be dangerous; not extra vessels branching from a vein on its WAY to my heart. This IS my heart. And to have it feel like it is pounding so much and working so hard is scary. As I type this right now, the palpitations are RAGING. Good for the monitor, I guess...

So, after I got the not so good news of being out even LONGER, I went to work to let them know. They were, once again, very understanding. They told me to make sure that I was continuing to heal, and to come back when I was healthy and ready. I am really thankful and lucky to be able to work for a really understanding company, and with such kind people. With their understanding and help, I have really been able to worry less about the goings on at work and how I was "screwing" everyone over, and more on getting better so that I could come back well. AND they not only check in on me, but on everyone in our family; they always ask about how my mom and girls are. It's really sweet, and it is really appreciated.

But on that note, I've realized lately how lonely I am. I mean, I know that I have amazing friends and family, but no one is living in a disease with you. Of course what ever illness your trying to get through effects everyone around you; my mom, extended family, friends and job are all examples of that. But to actually be dealing with your bodies shortcomings and breakdowns day in and day out is really taxing on your mind and spirit. I generally am able to keep both positive and upbeat but on some days (days like today, for example) I just find myself feeling pretty alone and a little down. Especially when I need to walk away from my friends at work, or watch my mom walk out the door without me.

I'm sure that lots of people feel this way. And that's because you cannot possibly tell the people in your life everything. Although they would never admit it, if you were to tell them every emotion that you felt, or shared with them every thought or opinion that sprung to mind, they would quickly grow weary of your company. Your relationships would be worn so thin that they would eventually snap. And it is certainly not anyones fault. Everyone is just trying to get through the things tossed into the path of their own lives. Everyone is just trying to make the most of the time that we are given. So, when the people who love you most in life are busy with their own things, between your emergencies and when you really need them, what do you do with all of these feelings? You can either bottle them up, tell your therapist who is trained (and paid!) to make sense of it all, or you confide in your pets.

As I've said before, this particular time dealing with sickness has taught me a lot. It has really opened my eyes and my heart to things that I had been previously been missing out on. And my girls have definitely helped me in this area most of all. You see, dogs don't have their own lives to be getting back to when yours has been "stabilized". YOU are their whole lives. They not only depend on you for everything that keeps them alive, but they also want to be with you more than they want anything else in the world. And that bond is not only because you are the one holding the dish of food. It is because they are love. Pure love. If you lost everything and found yourself living in a cardboard box and suddenly there was no filled food bowls to be found, your dog would still stick by your side. Because they are all love. All the time. They give you the whole of their beings. All of their hearts. All of their souls. And they ask for very little in return. As fickle, unpredictable and temporary as people are, pets are always honest, constant, and permanent. They are a true gift. And for me, a reason to keep going.

But I wonder if I am putting too much of my problems and stress on my dogs. I wonder if I am burdening them emotionally; I know that I am leaning on them more heavily now than ever. My relationships with them have become more intense; which is both therapeutic and terrifying. On one hand, they are the perfect therapists: they will never take what you told them in strict confidence, and throw it back in your face during a fight; they will never think your crazy; and they will never share your secrets with another living soul. But although they are helping me emotionally and spiritually, there are just some things that they cannot, and will not ever be able to do. This is when the fear sets in. Although our relationships with dogs are as intimate (or maybe more intimate) than our relationships with the closest people in our lives, our dogs dependence comes back to haunt us. Not only will they not be able to drive you to a hospital, sit with you while you lay sick in your bed, or offer you encouragement before a major procedure, but they will sometimes make the already difficult situation a little more complex. Some one will need to take on the duty of caring for them while you are unable to. You are now depending on people: friends, family and strangers (doctors and nurses) for support both in the hospital and out. It is a tough pill to swallow. The beings that fill in the "love void" when all of those people are busy leading their own lives (and rightly so) in between the crises that arise, are suddenly banned from your side. Even if you are in a small local hospital that allows the patients pets to visit, there will still be limitations. Your dogs cannot drive; they will need a ride to and from their visit. They also will not be able to stay all day; even if the hospital were to permit it, you may be to weak or unstable to be taking care of their potty needs.

So what are we, myself and the people in similar positions, to do? On one hand, we find ourselves drawing more closely and becoming more dependant on our pets, but on the other we are unable to truly have them close by when we truly need them. It seems to be a delicate balance; a balance that I am really struggling to find. I have never been able to be really close to people. Even friends that I have had for years I have drifted from. It seems that once the physical distance grows, the emotional distance does too. And I know that I alone am to blame for this ever growing rift. I feel uncomfortable and unreachable by people because I feel so different and out of place. My interests vary so greatly from my other friends that I find myself in a heightened state of anxiety when I am with them and unable to really be myself. The person who wants to talk dogs. The person who wants to talk about MY dogs. Again, I know that this is all crazy. My true friends and close family would of course listen to all I have to say. I know that they do love me for who I am. But the social anxiety that I have when I feel like people are making fun of me, or not taking me seriously is enough to induce a panic attack.

I just want to be able to explain to people why I love my dogs in such a way. It's often a hard conversation to have. It is hard to articulate your points on "dog love" when you have people sneaking skeptical looks or trying to vaguely disguise smirks as you speak; or at least it's hard when you feel like that's what they're doing. (But I have already written enough on this. See "Black Sheep" post.) So I blog. I put down my thoughts and feelings on an internet page that will allow people to see them, and then let them decide if they want to keep reading them or not. Anonymity at it's finest. No rejection. No harsh words or rolled eyes. I'm finding the writing, posting, and sharing of the blog world almost as therapeutic as sharing with my girls. Almost. As soon as the computer becomes fuzzy and can curl up with me on the couch, then maybe the rewards will start coming close to those I get when I spend time with my dogs. Until then, I will continue to love my dogs, heal and keep learning life's lessons; no matter how difficult they may be. And I of course will be ever grateful to the people and dogs who continue to CHOSE to spend their time with me; of course they do not have to. But knowing that there are beings that make the decision to remain in your life and in your presence is a really powerful and awesome feeling. Love is love. Whether it be "dog love" or love from the people in your life, their love is all you need.

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