Finding my Way Inside and Out
When Barry’s misdiagnosed broken hip and sudden, unexpected hip replacement surgery a month later plunged him into pain and complications, I fell into fear. Anxious thoughts imprisoned me: What if he doesn’t get better? How could I possibly live without him? Am I making the best choices to help him heal? Thoughts of our joyful life together and how bleak I’d feel without him plunged me into grief.
I immersed myself in navigating the medical system. Thank God I was allowed to sleep in his hospital room before and after the surgery! I wasn’t prepared when they kicked him out of the hospital a few days after surgery and I had to find a rehab center right away. My choices were few and the available one turned into a nightmare. The caregivers took hours to respond to his cries for help. Unable to sleep more than a few hours a night, I ran on adrenaline and stopped writing.
One horrible aspect of rehab was not being able to touch due to Covid. I was only allowed to visit him in a parking lot from six feet away, wearing a mask, though both of us were vaccinated. When he phoned me screaming and crying, I plunged into despair. A few days later, I brought him home. Fortunately, his upper body strength allowed him to move from bed to wheelchair to toilet. His doctor prescribed strong medication, which took the edge off his pain. Having him home was like springtime in winter. We cried and hugged. For the first night in a week, I slept more than 30 minutes.
The struggle was far from over. Barry’s medication wasn’t strong enough to ease the pain, and the doctors feared giving him narcotics lest he become addicted. Barry ended up in the emergency room twice with hiccups so severe they broke two ribs and made it impossible for him to eat, drink or sleep. He lost more weight. (Our prayers were answered when a savvy doctor at Straub finally found a cure for his hiccups—sugar on the tongue.) We struggled on. Believing as I do in the idea that thoughts are things, I worried as I felt my formerly optimistic, positive state of mind spiral down into negative, hopeless thoughts.
Now, four months later, Barry’s much better and I’m seeking to reclaim my peace of mind. According to my spiritual guru, Seth, everyone would benefit by telling themselves “I will only react to constructive suggestions.” If you find yourself harboring a negative suggestion, he recommends instantly replacing it with a constructive one.
That works for me on those few occasions when I catch myself thinking negatively. Often, however, I waste time and energy ruminating on repetitive, negative thoughts, becoming like Chicken Little yelling: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” I see in hindsight how wasting my energy on depressive thoughts leaves me less time to create, to write, to laugh and enjoy life. I long for a way to consistently change my negative thoughts into positive ones.
My friend Bill recently told me he keeps a gratitude journal because, “God gives you more of what you’re grateful for.” His words motivated me to try and get in the habit of writing in my gratitude notebook in the morning. David G. Allen, editorial editor at CNN, says, “You don’t have to set the bar high. Allow yourself to be thankful for the small, mundane things that give you joy and meaning, as well as the big ones…a handful each day should do it.”
I’m starting with being grateful for big blessings, however. I thank God every day that Barry is still on the planet and getting better, that I’m strong enough to help care for him, and for gifting us with friends and family who supported us through this crisis.
My next blog, In the Silence: Accessing the Inner Guru, takes a look at the tools I’ve been using to cope during this trying time. They’ve helped immensely! I hope you’ll check it out.
Lizbeth Hartz is the author of the true crime, true love memoir Angel Hero, Murder in Hawaii, A True Story. Get it on Amazon or sign up to read the 1st chapter free.
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