Fibro Frights And Fatal Fantasies



Image by FlickrJunkie via Flickr


I messed up and didn’t realize that the PFAM’s ( Patients For A Moment) blog carnival deadline was by midnight tonight. The subject was fear. I’m wondering if deep inside I just didn’t feel up to writing, competing, finishing or if I was dissassocating myself from the project. I was going to talk about the web of anxiety and how it feels when it starts to swell in my stomach. It always starts in my stomach beginning with a slight twinge, quickly advancing to panic and anxiety. My arms and legs feel tingly and somehow not connected to my body, I am alternately hot and cold or both together.

The first time that queasy sensation started was the summer before my freshmen year at college.  I was eating dinner with my family in a fancy Italian restaurant in Queens, NY.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, it was the first time I had ever felt anxious and I remember calling it “cold dread.” How could I explain this new, horrible feeling when I had never experienced it before? How do you name something you do not know?

Those fearful sensations in my body became like a close cousin to me. We lived as if we were conjoined; I could not separate reality from frightful fantasies. It was something that I have learned to live with and deal with.  I started with a tiny germ of truth and blew it up out of proportion. There was no stopping my obsessive worrying, nothing helped: warm milk, hot baths, reading a book, distraction.  I remember a time when I was sitting in the trolley in Boston and thought what I had whispered to my friend was overheard by someone else and I became overwhelmed and frightened. What if? What if? It became a wakeful nightmare for me.  I did a lot of catastrophizing back then and even now, once in a while, it still tries to creep into my brain. I need to forcefully push it away, as if an intruder was about to enter and I had to slam the door hard, with brute force.  Sometimes that is enough, sometimes it isn’t.

My cousin’s stomach ache could be pancreatic cancer,  my sister’s low throaty voice could mean she was manic, my narrow-angled glaucoma could make me blind in a second.  I worked with a hot-headed, explosive employee that I thought, for sure, would bring a gun to a grievance meeting and shoot us all. I remember strategically seating myself closest to the door, just in case. I lived in a world of tragedy, of horrendous outcomes, death, madness, cancer, stroke, coma, terrorist attacks, murder, mayhem and more. “Health and welfare” is what I worry about as I tried to succinctly wrap it up like an adorned Christmas present, perfect silver wrapping with a tight red bow.

The truth of the matter is that now we DO live in a fearful world and something COULD happen.  Fear perpetuates fear and even while  I am writing this down I feel the first fingers of anxiety like a gray mouse with darting eyes. I take deep cleansing breathes. I ask myself questions: “what are the odds of that happening?” The media doesn’t help: “Don’t go to public places when you are traveling in Europe” What? Of course we would go to public  places if we were in Europe. Is too much information just too much?  I refuse to watch the news on TV before I go to sleep.  The only thing we can do is try to push the worry aside and live as normally as we can; even if it takes enormous strength and effort. Carpe Diem as they said at Boston College where I worked: Seize The Day, as best as you can.

The Sick Mother

I hate the thought of my children having a mother that is chronically “sick.” I know, we all know, that it is NOT life-threatening but for day-to-day life, my illnesses have brought me nothing but pain, both physical and emotional. I was healthy and fine in all but the last three years but I am not sure if my children, now 15 and 17, remember that. They know what is happening now and they know what they remember from the recent past. It breaks my heart, literally, to have them be the one whose “mom is always sleeping” or “not feeling good.”

They joke sometimes about the things my husband has had to take over that I originated. To me, this is not a joke but it is heartbreaking. What about the years from 1-13 when I  did everything for them? It makes me want to cry. Now they know their Dad makes them lunches at night and greets them in the early morning. Even my “Mommy’s Famous Cheese Sauce” became “Daddy’s Cheese Sauce.”  It is NOT a joke for me, nor will it ever be, I find no humor in my own personal failings.

I want to be the mother that is there for them for everything. I was so greatly looking forward to college visits with my son and daughter and now don’t know if I can make it. We are supposed to go to relatives for Passover and I do not know if my body can physically take the 6 plus car drive down there. I do not know how to prioritize MY health for the emotional well-being of my children. They come first, always and forever. They need to know that NOTHING to me is as important as they are.

Will my absences be excused? There are only so many times that children can forgive and understand reason; at some point we are all children wanting our mothers to be there for us, no matter what. For every mother is a daughter that wants her mom to be there for her without excuses, physical or emotional.

For a woman who wanted nothing more than to be a good wife and mother, I find myself incredibly disappointed in myself. I am trying not to blame myself for my physical illness but I do. I understand that there are much worse things in life, and I am fortunate not to have to deal with them. But for me, my children’s lives come first and if I am not there at full capacity to guide them, to drive them, to go with them, than I feel that I am somehow disappointing them.

I want to be the one to drive my daughter to Payless for new ballet flats. I want to sit by my son’s side as we visit the first potential college he may want to see.  I do not want to be TOLD about these things later, I want to be there in the present.

What to do? There is nothing I can do but feel bad, for them, for my husband and for me; a woman whose only goal in life was to be a good wife, a good mother, not a sick one.