My husband left for Boston on Sunday for three weeks. That’s a long time to singlehandedly look after four kids two of which have special needs. My 16 year-old doesn’t really need looking after these days, but you would be surprised by how much care and feeding two teenaged girls require. I spend an inordinate amount of time spending time with my girls. It’s almost 24/7. So, I can’t afford to be out of commission. This is why I fear what has come to feel like a curse. Every time my husband leaves for a business trip, I end up in the hospital or at the ER.
The first time he left for an extended trip, I was pregnant with our fourth daughter. I found myself in the ICU on the brink of death, and my husband got a voicemail from one of the ER doctors that went something like this: “This is Dr. Asshat from the ER. We need permission to intubate your wife. Call us back at 1-800-WE-DONT-KNOW-HOW-TO-COMMUNICATE.” Who leaves messages like that?
Since my husband rarely travels for business, he said he would never travel again after coming home to see me in the ICU. He did, however, have to travel last summer, and, this time, I found myself driving to Urgent Care thanks to a contaminated fruit basket. I’m deathly allergic to kiwi fruit, and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t eat a piece of fruit from a fruit basket if a kiwi fruit was merely IN the basket. Apparently, I cannot. Enter Epi-Pen, Benadryl, and Prednisone. When I called my husband to tell him what had happened he yelled, “Goddammit! I’m never leaving again!”
I’m an optimist so I refused to believe that anything would happen to me this time worth a trip to the local ER. It must be noted that getting me to go to the ER must be like getting Dustin Hoffman to go to the dentist after acting in “Marathon Man”. Even if I’m dying–and I almost die at least once a year thanks to my various and sundry food allergies.
So what happened? It’s quite simple. On Saturday, the temperature rose above freezing so it rained. Then, the temperature decreased again, and all that water and melting snow froze again resulting in a lovely sheet of ice on my sidewalk and street. I park my car in the same place daily so I didn’t know that there was a very large sheet of ice underneath it. Monday night I parked my car a little further up exposing this glistening sheet of ice, and, to make a long story short, I slipped on it. Okay, I did more than slip. I fell and landed directly on my elbow. O the pain! I just lied there on the street like a dead fish, tears streaming down my face, trying to collect my thoughts. Three of my girls were standing there rooted to the ground. Grace was trying to take control of the situation by asking me if she could help me. I couldn’t say a word. I was trying to give them a task to do, but I couldn’t see straight what with this burning pain shooting through my forearm and out my fingers. Eadaoin might have been crying. Milly was trembling.
Man down! Man down! I couldn’t get up because the ice was so slick so I very ungracefully slithered up the sidewalk until I was on exposed concrete. We got into the house, and I immediately took 800 mg of ibuprofen. I thought I was home free. Not so. The pain was getting worse. Eadaoin started texting her dad immediately which wasn’t good. I could only imagine what she would tell him. I called my friend, and she and her husband came over immediately. It was 9:30 PM at this point, and I was feeling silly. My friend’s husband called his EMT friend, and it was determined that I should go to the ER so he took me. Doireann, my 16 year-old daughter, was adamant that she would be coming along. I felt very, very silly at that point, but I admitted that I was in pain. Dammit!
After two x-rays and two exams by the ER doctor, it was determined that the swelling was too great to determine whether my arm was indeed broken. So, they gave me two Narco pills for the pain, a sling, and told me that if my arm still hurt in three days to come back. It was probably broken if that was the case. We got home at 1 AM, and Milly was sleeping on the couch next to my friend who was peacefully hanging out. Everyone was exhausted, and I still felt silly–slipping and falling on ice, needing to go to the ER, and causing everyone to stay up late.
My friend’s husband returned the next morning and sanded the offending ice sheet and left a bucket of sand on my front steps for our use. My husband’s response to the whole affair: “Dammit! I can’t believe it. Again? Are you okay? I’m so glad they were there for you. I owe them….”
So, I am here today with my sling sporting some awesome bruises. I woke up at 5 AM this morning to a dislocated clavicle which I promptly reduced. Damn my multidirectional joints! So, what did I learn and why write about it?
I talk a lot about taking care of yourself, and part of that is asking for help when you need it. I hate to ask for help. I will ask for help on behalf of my daughters in a microsecond, but I hate feeling vulnerable. Doireann knows this about me better than my other children. She knows how to blackmail me, too. All she has to do is threaten, “I’m calling 9-1-1 if you don’t go to the ER now!” I hate ambulance rides. It draws too much attention, and it’s far too dramatic. No thank you. I don’t think any of us should like the notion nor should we want to visit the ER. It’s hard to ask for help particularly when you’re the one who makes things happen for others–when you’re accustomed to being the caregiver. It’s a necessary skill, however, and we need to do it. I need to do it even though I don’t like it.
Sometimes asking for help forces us to take stock of our resources, and maybe we don’t have that many true resources. Maybe there are strings attached when we ask for help, and it’s just not worth it so we feel that we must rely on ourselves. Self-reliance has been called a virtue in American society. If you can’t lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, then something must be wrong with you. There are people who still believe that the old trope “God helps those who help themselves” is actually in the Bible. Guess what? It’s not. God specializes in helping those who cannot help themselves. This is most likely one of the contributing factors to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. When you are struggling with any form of mental illness, you don’t have the inner resources and strength to help yourself. You need other people to lift you up and support you. American society so worships self-reliance that it frowns upon the notion of reliance on others in order to gain ground in the healing progress. Funnily enough, I don’t judge anyone else for needing help. Why is it then so hard for me to ask for it? I’ve got a few ideas.
My arm will heal. I will be back in the swing of things soon. The ice will melt. My husband will return. And, I’ve been reminded that there is nothing shameful about asking for help. I still don’t like it. I still find it very hard. Apparently, I still need to be threatened and in pain to ask, but at least I know that I have friends I can call. To me, that’s what experiences like these are for. They give us clarity.
Me and my gimpy arm are going to go rest now.