Open Wide

drckupI went to the doctor yesterday for a check-up. The good news is that all of my parts seem to be functioning pretty much as designed and within specification. I’ve attained some level of notoriety, however, at the doctor’s office. The nurse and then the doctor both read their notes and proceeded to sit down on the round, rolling stool in front of me and began discussing the life changes that I have been through in the past nine months – my loss of Regina and my retirement after a long government career. The gist is all written down in my permanent record, apparently.

The nurse confided that she also was left without a mate a number of years ago and then, of course, we began to talk and compare notes. She talked about becoming numb. In time, numbness seemed to overwhelm her aches and prickly pain, she said. I agreed and told her that I thought that I was pretty much in the middle of vast numbness. It’s a pretty dry and arid spot to be in, I said. I had been reading several days ago about the numbness that very often accompanies loss. Numbness was described as being like a huge scab that slowly develops and then will cover a deep wound. It protects the wound. After a long time and when the wound is sufficiently healed, the scab will fall away. It’s a bit graphic, I suppose, but I get it. Anyway, the nurse said it took her two years to finally get beyond the numbness. This, again, is what I have been told. It can take some people anywhere from six months to two years or more to actually get back to some semblance of normal mental and physical health after a loss. Whatever normal is. And the nurse said what I have heard so many times before. “Take one day at a time. Be grateful for the small victories and learn to avoid the deep holes. One day at a time.” Yes, it’s true.

She was gracious and went about her checks and procedures professionally, kindly, and gently. Her words and her actions encouraged me. I thanked her. She patted my shoulder and said that she would see me next time and that the doctor would be right in. I couldn’t help but think that the ten minutes between us had been a holy moment. There seems to be a spiritual bond between people who have lost a loved one. There is much that can be left unsaid yet any encouraging words that are offered are most appreciated.

The doctor, who I like very much, came in later and also made mention of the trauma that I likely had been through. I said that I hadn’t thought of it as trauma and he stopped me. “Yes, Fred, it is trauma. Call it what it is!” He then proceeded to give me another Q&A on my mental and physical health. I’ve mentioned this before but the questions are interesting. The answers, of course, can be very revealing.

1. Do you sleep deeply at night for at least 6 – 8 hours or do you sleep fitfully or do you not sleep any at all some nights?

2. Are you in a routine? Have you established patterns for yourself?

3. Do you have a support system? Can you depend on them? Do they reach out to you? Do you reach out to them?

4. Have you participated in any kind of therapy or group maintenance sessions?

5. Do you eat regularly and healthily? How often do you not prepare your own meals and eat out?

6. Does your sadness incapacitate you?

7. Do you leave the house regularly?

8. Do you have shifting body aches and pains? For example, does your stomach hurt for a few days and then do you get pain in your legs, and then maybe later headaches or something?

9. Do you exercise?

There might have been other questions. We talked about each of these and the others. They seem so obvious but when one sums all the answers up, I guess the result is a pretty good facsimile of what is going on physically but also mentally. These are good questions. I remembered many of them from the visit I had had with the doctor back in the fall and I have actually tried to keep some healthy self-evaluation going to maybe gauge my sickness or healing since my first visit.

As before, he offered me some anti-depressants and some sleeping aids. I asked if he thought I needed them. He asked what I do when I get sad and I told him that I when I get sad I try to let it all out for a few minutes or half hour and then I try to get up and move on. I told him I want to grieve well in order to get it all out over time but I also do not want to become a slave to my grief. I am fully aware of people who get stuck in their grief and I do not want this to happen to me. I said that I think that I want and need to grieve fully, honestly, and without embarrassment or stipulation. I feel like it is somewhat akin to bleeding a wound or piercing a blister. I think I am strong enough to tolerate the moments of grief and then come back and keep moving. I think.

He said it all sounded good but he asked again, did I want some anti-depressants or sleeping aids? He really is a good doctor. He probes and he is able to hear the words but also see the body language and sense the state of my heart and soul. I appreciate him. I said that I didn’t want to be a martyr or some kind of hero but that I really felt that I could keep going without any aids at this time. He warmly said ok and said that if I ever needed some relief that he would be glad to help.

It was a good morning. Oddly enough. I’m encouraged to know that while my mind and soul whales away at the sadness and grief in my life, my body mostly keeps on ticking. At least the old car keeps running in spite of the crazy person at the wheel.

I read in my daily devotional a day or two ago something that J.R.R Tolkien said when he heard of the passing of his friend C.S. Lewis. Tolkien said, “So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age – like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one. This [Lewis’ death] feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

Yes. An axe-blow. Can I give it the time it needs to heal?

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