For The First Time In Months

I'm almost afraid to write this, lest I jinx myself.

For the first time in MONTHS I am feeling like myself. Not lost in the depths of depression or in the throes of anxiety, but dare I say, content.

For the first time since Christmas, I actually got together with my friends. I didn't cancel and stay locked in my apartment. I even had fun! I didn't feel scared to be out, or anxious to be surrounded by so many people. I didn't even want to leave like I so often do after about an hour. I am even going out to dinner tonight with another group of friends.

It's almost like the past 2 months didn't even happen and I'm just waking up from a bad dream. I am still very emotional about my dad and the situation regarding his health. He has been moved out of ICU and is out of the woods as far as death goes, but he is still having a hard time staying alert. He is only awake maybe 4 hours a day, and is often very withdrawn during that time. He recognizes people and has what the doctors call "automatic speech". Meaning he can talk to you easily using speech that is embedded in the brain from frequent usage; like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, etc. He has a harder time trying to construct longer sentences, but can if you don't overwhelm him.

I am so thankful that he is no longer in any danger of dying, but now I'm having to come to terms with all of this change. It may take years for him to fully return to where he was before all of this happened. He may be the same person, he may not. He may have deficits, he may not. Lots of unknowns. I started crying when I was driving the other day because I realized that when I flew out there in a few weeks that he wasn't going to pick me up at the airport like he always does. He wouldn't give me the huge hug and greet me with "Hi Punkin", like he always calls me. It's a lot to have to take in.

Given everything that's happened in the last couple of months, I am so grateful for where I am right now. It's nice to finally see the hard work I've been putting into my healing us finally paying off.

Ups and Downs

I feel like a broken record. My life is like one giant never-ending roller coaster. It goes up, up, up and lures me into a false sense of hope and security then speeds downhill at a rate that feels like it might kill me.

Last week was pretty stable. I went to IOP every day, talked about things that were on my mind, allowed myself to process the visit to California, and my continued fears regarding him and his health. All in all, I was feeling really well Friday when I left IOP. My mood improved even more when I found out my dad was taken off the ventilator and was awake for the first time in 3 weeks. I even got to talk to him on the phone for a few seconds. My aunt held the phone up to his ear while I told him I loved him. :)

Feeling so fueled by this great news, I had the energy to start doing things that I have been neglecting; namely cleaning. So I started cleaning my apartment all the while texting with my sister about getting together Saturday afternoon at the dog park. So I go into my bathroom to start scrubbing the tub and thought I heard my phone ringing, but with the water running I couldn't tell. When I turned the water off it was still ringing so I went to see who it was and it said "BLOCKED". Normally I don't pick up when I don't recognize the number, but I was worried it was my stepmom or aunt calling from the hospital so I went ahead and took the call. A guy was on the other end and this was the conversation:

Hey Lily.

Who is this?

What? You don't remember me? Come on Lily. I've seen you, you're looking good.

I hung up the phone and started freaking out. I had no idea who it could be or how he got my number. I saw that I had 5 missed calls, in the span of about 3 minutes and that he had left a message. I listened to it and then really started freaking out.

I saw you driving your black Lexus today. You're looking good. And you're in apartment 1509 right? Yeah, I can't wait for our little reunion. It'll be soon.

Oh. My. God. I was hysterical. I was shaking and crying. I ran to my front door and made sure the door was locked. I ran to my patio and locked that door too (which doesn't even make sense because I'm on the top floor and there's no way anyone can get in that way). I got my phone and called 911. I was expecting someone to beat down my door and chop me to little pieces. The switchboard took my information and said they'd be sending a cop my way. As soon as I hung up I started trying to call friends that lived near me because I knew I wasn't going to be staying at my apartment. After no luck getting ahold of the first couple, I tried calling my mom (which I knew would be futile because she let's her phone charge in the kitchen overnight). I knew I could just drive home (about 30 min away) without reaching her by phone but I needed someone to TALK to while I was waiting for the police to arrive. I finally got ahold of one of my friends who lives about 10 minutes away and asked her if I could stay at her apartment that night, to which she said yes, of course. I talked to her a bit but was still feeling very unsafe so I got off the phone with her and decided to call my sister to see if she and her boyfriend could come over so I wasn't alone. They live about 10 minutes away too and I had no idea how long it would take the cops to show up since it wasn't a time-sensitive emergency. I called her phone like 4 times, her boyfriends phone at least 2, and my cousin's phone (they hang out a lot together) but no one was picking up! I was a basket case! FINALLY she called me back a few minutes later and I explained to her what was going on and that I wanted her and her boyfriend to come over here so I wasn't alone.

She started laughing.

Lily, that was me! I thought you knew it was me. I mean, I used a voice changer but we were just texting each other so I thought you knew it was me. I can't believe you called the cops! We were just playing around. You never come over and hang out with us. We were just trying to include you.

OH. MY. GOD. I just lost it. I had finally gotten to a point that I wasn't shaking or crying and I just LOST IT. I have never wanted to kill anyone so much in my entire life. I yelled at her, which she probably couldn't understand because I was crying too but I just let her have it. Not 10 days ago did I confide in her that I hadn't been working because my PTSD was so bad that I had to seek intensive treatment and she goes and pulls this? I was just beside myself. I was so mad I could barely think. I hung up on her and just sat on my sofa and bawled. I was already full of fear, but to add anger, confusion, (relief that I wasn't in danger) among everything else... I felt like an idiot when the cops finally did show up and I had to explain to them that it was my psychotic sister who thought it would be funny to play a joke on me. Jesus. I was such a mess telling them this I'm sure they could tell how well she pulled off this "prank."

This whole situation completely affected my weekend. I am already having a tough time finding the energy to go out and do things. And an even harder time getting together with people. Aside from my family and doctors, I haven't seen anyone since New Years Eve. My desire to hide is overwhelming, but I was starting to feel more secure in leaving my "safe place" (home) to go see some good friends of mine that live about an hour away. But after Friday night, I didn't even leave my apartment for the entire weekend. In fact, I slept the majority of my weekend. I was so upset about what had happened that I allowed myself to shrink away even more.

I've continued to go to IOP, but the group has gotten so big (we had 9 people on Monday) that it is getting harder for me to have the opportunity to process what is weighing on me. We only have an hour that is designated for "open talk" and some of these women have no respect for other people's time. Today we were missing a few people, so the smaller group was easier to speak up in but I had to walk out at the end of our group. There are these two ladies that just have no idea how overbearing they are. They constantly interrupt each other and our IOP therapist when she is talking and it bugs me. Today, she focused on those two women and their issues, and it was a constant hour of listening to them talk on top her, not letting her finish her sentences, interrupting someone else, raising their voices so that they could be heard on top of someone else... it was just too much. My anxiety was through the roof listening to all of this that I was about to have a panic attack so I just walked out. They have no respect for other people and I refuse to be treated that way while I'm there.

I'm "graduating" IOP on Tuesday and I'm terrified. I'll be heading back to work full-time on Monday, March 7th and I just don't know how I'm going to fare. There are so many things at work that are huge triggers and I just don't know if I'm going to be able to shoulder it all and take care of myself. Only time will tell I guess...

It Can't Get Any Worse, Right?

So 2011 has pretty much sucked 100% since it started. It's one of those things that I silently think to myself "It can't get any worse" but then catch myself because I know that's not true. Every few weeks it seems I'm being dealt another situation to deal with in addition to the extreme burden I'm already carrying around. I am just now able to process the last two weeks enough to sit down and write about it.

My sister and I flew out to California on Saturday morning, as we couldn't get anything sooner because of the weather here. We arrived and took a cab to the hospital, greeted by my uncle. My dad had surgery late Friday night that lasted 10 hours, but was successful. It fixed his aneurysm and he was conscious and responding to commands once he woke up from anesthesia. We stopped in the cafeteria to eat when my aunt (who is a doctor) came running into the cafeteria and told us to come upstairs that my dad was no longer responding to commands or talking and she didn't like how things were looking. They were getting ready to rush him to CT and she wanted us to have the opportunity to see him, should anything happen.

It was horrible. He was restrained (because brain injuries often result in uncontrolled/involuntary aggression as a side effect to the trauma) and had tubes everywhere. As a result of the surgery, his whole head was bandaged and his right eye looked like someone had punched him. Apparently that is common because of how they had him situated when they did the surgery. Blood pools in that area and makes the patient look like they lost a street fight. My dad has never been sick aside from bronchitis every now and then, so this hit me like a ton of bricks. I grabbed his hand and asked him to open his eyes. He was only able to open one (as the other was swollen shut) but he looked right at me. I told him I loved him and that I wanted him to be strong.

That was the last time he was conscious. The result of the CT showed that he was having a common side effect of brain trauma and surgery, called vaso-spasming: a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain. If they constrict too much, they cause strokes and irreparable damage. Because of how quickly this came on and how much it caused him to decompensate, his doctors decided to put him in a medically induced coma and intubate him so his body would have time to heal without having to otherwise work so hard. I almost lost my father Saturday.

Sunday they were working on getting his blood pressure stable on the cocktail of medicines he was on while trying to treat the vaso-spasms. He had two procedures Sunday and was put on a ventilator. When I finally got to see him, I wanted to cry. They had to shave his beard in order to intubate him. I have NEVER seen my dad without a beard. He has had it since 1975, almost 10 years before I was born so I've seldom even seen pictures of him without it, unless he was a teenager. I know it was stupid, but I was so distraught.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty much the same. He was still unconscious and intubated, and my sister and I only got to see him for about 30 minutes each day. Our flight back was Tuesday and I was scared to leave. He hadn't really made any improvements since we got there and I was scared that he was going to get worse. When I went in there to say goodbye to him I just lost it. My aunt was in the room with me and just held me as I wept. The past 4 days had finally caught up with me and I couldn't hold it in any longer. She's got great bedside manner and knew exactly what to say to me to make me feel better. Knowing she was staying there with my stepmom for as long as necessary made me feel so much better as well.

My sister and I got back late Tuesday night, right in time for another ice storm. Everything was closed Wednesday so I couldn't return to IOP, but I did go Thursday. I can honestly say I was terrified to go because I didn't want to talk about the past week. I was about to fall apart and I knew it. But my IOP counselor prompted me to share with the group why I had been gone (I had been in contact with her so she already knew) and I just lost it. I cried and cried and felt like crap when I left. I was so drained and depressed that I couldn't get myself out of bed Friday to go to IOP, but a call from my aunt later that day raised my spirits.

They were slowly lifting my dad out of his coma to test his brain functions and he was moving his arms and legs and was able to show two fingers when the doctors asked him to. They kept him under extreme sedation for the rest of the weekend, but my aunt called me this morning saying that he's opening his eyes, responding to questions with nods (he still can't talk because he's still on a ventilator), moving arms and legs and following commands. They will probably take him off the ventilator tomorrow and if he keeps improving at this pace, they'll wean him off all the medications he's on and he could be out of the ICU by next Sunday!

He still has a long road ahead of him. They won't be able to tell how all of this affected his brain until he has some time to gain consciousness. He had a small stroke as a result of the vaso-spasming and the place it was located in his brain is responsible for mood and impulsiveness. Unfortunately those two are already affected with brain trauma, but adding a stroke in that area means that there is a good chance he may act different than he did before. It's likely that he will be able to walk without any problems (after some physical therapy to gain back the muscle mass he's lost/will lose after being bed-ridden for about a month) and talking might or might not be affected. It's all a waiting and patience game at this point, but it appears that he is no longer critical.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, no doubt. I was glad to be back at home, even though I wanted to be there for my dad. I kept trying to tell myself that my dad would want me to be here, taking care of myself and trying to get better. That's the mantra I keep repeating to myself. I spent Friday to myself, resting and trying to work on my mood. I called a friend who lives a few hours away and asked him a favor. He used to be in the Army and when he was deployed overseas, I cared for his dog. The most sweet, lovable dog I have ever known. I asked him if I could come pick him up and have a little dog therapy time since these past few weeks have been so hard. I was delighted to hear that he would be glad to let me take him for a while! That helped lift my spirits, too. Finally things were going in the right direction and Friday night I was actually a little happy.

Cue catastrophe. My cat, who is pushing 20, came into the living room where I was watching TV, jumped on the sofa like she normally does, sat there for a second then started having a seizure. She has NEVER done that before and it was terrifying. She took a header off the couch onto the floor and started making these horrible noises while she was convulsing. It seemed to last forever, but after about 90 seconds she stopped. She laid there for a while then I tried to get her to stand up, which she did somewhat drunkily. After about 5 minutes she started walking and went straight to her food bowl and started eating. She was acting perfectly normal. Of course this was at like 11 at night, so there was nowhere I could take her to get her checked out. I woke up early Saturday and took her to my vet, who looked her over and took some blood. It should be back tomorrow. There's a possibility that this was caused from a thyroid problem, diabetes or liver issues. If all that comes back normal it may just be a fluke. Every time the vet sees her he comments how she is the healthiest cat he's ever seen at her age. Hopefully that will continue to be true. I don't know if I could handle losing her now.

Life is so overwhelming right now I almost can't even think about it all at once. That's why I waited so long to write here because I didn't want to trigger myself into having a panic attack. I'm doing my best to take it day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. Having my sweet little boy back definitely is helping. We went to the park today and enjoyed the fact that the sun was out for the first time in what feels like months. It was just what I needed. He's the best therapy I could ask for!

Seriously, God?!

If life wasn't enough to handle right now, God has thrown me another curve.

My dad is in the ICU from an aneurysm that caused bleeding in his brain. My sister and I are flying out there Saturday. I wish it could be sooner but the entire state is covered in ice (I've been stuck at home for 4 days, sometimes with power, sometimes not), temps in the single digits with wind chills bottoming out at -18 this morning and more headed our way tonight.

I have pretty much been in a constant panic attack all day today. Please pray for my dad. He's having surgery tomorrow morning to try and stop the bleeding.