I am forced to recall a very heated argument between my mother and me many years ago, one where she was so spot on neither of us knew how right she was.
“We argue so much because we are so alike, Denise.”
“I am nothing like you…” I shot back with anger and absolute belief in my words because I vowed to be nothing like her. I knew in my heart I would not grow old alone by living the solitary life she chose or pull away from family to the point where visiting becomes such a rare event it promotes resentment instead of the intended mother-daughter bonding.
And now I wonder if my current situation is a slight revelation to my mother’s state of mind as she approached her later years. The proof may be in the genes.
So here I am minding my own business when BOOM! out of (almost) nowhere I am diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, a degenerative arthritic condition where the canals housing my spinal cord and nerves are gradually narrowing. This causes LOTS of pain as the nerves can become pinched and result in ridiculous and continual pain in the tissues and muscles those nerves serve. It is present no matter how hard I try to ignore it. Eventually nerve pain cannot, nor should be, ignored. We all have our breaking points and I’ve reached mine. I said this hit me out of nowhere, this is somewhat half truthful. I’ve had the ‘introductory’ symptoms for several years, the ‘hello, I’m here!’ symptoms for about a month and the actual diagnosis for only several days. Sorry, I’m meandering off track but I still am wallowing in my pity and not ready to leave the party just yet.
As I wrote above, thoughts of my mother flooded in when receiving this diagnosis. She also had neck and arthritis issues plaguing her at about this same time in her life. And I remember her telling me how her nights were long and painful, sometimes dragging on into the early dawn hours. She described her hands or arms feeling heavy and numb in addition to other arthritic complaints I recognize as my own. Her health issues crept upon her slowly and I wonder, did she become somewhat reclusive because of her chronic suffering and fatigue? And perhaps because my mother’s reclusive tendencies developed over that same long period of time she did not recognize it herself despite my attempts to talk to her? I was not seeing her seclusion as a side effect of her medical condition, she never indicated this to be the case either, and I eventually felt resentment because what I saw was a mother who wouldn’t spend time with her daughter or grandchildren. And that hurt…a lot.
Now many years later while walking along the genetic trail, this daughter is stepping in the footprints of her mother’s medical path and I see ‘how alike’ we are and understand from where her choices may have developed. Perhaps she was experiencing too much damn pain to visit me and my kids. I wonder now if it was in her own home where she felt most comfortable dealing with her discomfort? At the time my disbelief and resentment grew between us like a brick wall with no doors or windows left open for communication. Now I imagine this to be her personal back story for choosing to remain so close to home. I empathize for what may have been her silent struggle all those years ago and admit I may have judged her too harshly. I call it her silent struggle because I never knew her to have this diagnosis although our symptoms are identical. She was of that generation that didn’t like to take medicine unless there was an obvious condition at hand, as in medically diagnosed. I have the luxury of knowing there is medicinal and therapeutic intervention to help alleviate the symptoms when flare-ups occur. I’m already on the books for PT and the medicinal is already on board! Unfortunately, my mother was later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and we all know how autoimmune diseases jump onboard the family bus. Well that bus will remain parked at the terminal for now, not riding IT anytime soon!!!
I’m driving a different bus and rerouting my energy away from the painful, emotional claws wanting to drag me down today. Chronic pain is crappy, I know all too well. I’ve given myself this week to wallow in Jelly Bellys to the point where I am (almost) sick of them. Ironically, skipping the gym to indulge in whatever else was pulling at me this week was not the right choice because working out gives me my greatest lift. Duh…gotta love those endorphins! Go to the gym if you can people, best medicine ever!!!
I know what I am dealing with is small potatoes compared to what others are dealt. Still, our personal disruptions are disruptions all the same. I do want to regain and maintain my positive mental attitude for there are many miles left in my heart and feet. I do not want to check out on my family because I’ve been on the see-saw when the other person jumps off. And it hurts… alot. You’ve heard the saying ‘Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!’ Well, I am prepared to do so but unfortunately they will be under my mom genes…