A long time ago during one of those god-awful corporate sessions where people are forced to gather into pre-selected groups of mismatched coworkers, a very astute man who had known me at least ten years said in response to needing to say something nice about me, "You cope. No matter what happens, you always cope." I had expected to hear I was super-organized or good at structuring group process. Instead I was surprised that someone actually realized that probably my most dominant, and usually best hidden skill, was my ability to cope when things go wrong.
And I have coped. I have coped with divorce, parental and family strife, financial problems, major career changes, marital troubles, disinheritance, death, weight issues, theft and fire loss, friendship betrayal, the disappointment of never having children, as well as all the little disappointments we all face daily.
I think coping is probably a skill most children of alcoholics learn very early. Both my parents drank too much, but alcohol turned my mother very mean and she was a binge drinker. Consequently my childhood was very unpredictable and I was always watching out for the event that could set up a drunken night and the resulting ugliness.
Currently, a series of unsettling events has lead up to the depletion of my coping reserves:
- Wolfie, my beloved dog, died suddenly in October; one minute he was romping in the park and the next he suffered a massive bleed into his gut and we had to put him down.
- Hubby on the day after Easter suffered an aortic, cranial aneurism. Though he is now working toward a full recovery, he was hospitalized for ten days, six in the ICU. We have since learned that only one in five survives this type of aneurism and of that one in five, only one in four suffer no long lasting effects.
- Now the medical bills have begun arriving. The hospital bill itself has billed for over $117,000.
- I’m being "released" from my job at the end of this week and will no longer be a full time employee, entitled to benefits and insurance.
Here’s the thing. Intellectually I know that every one of the above "traumas" has a silver lining.
- Wolfie was 19 years old. We were so lucky to have him live as long as he did. He enjoyed his life with us and he died in my arms, knowing he was deeply and lastingly loved.
- Hubby survived, against all odds, he came out weakened but "in tact." He now has a wonderful array of doctors fighting to bring down his resistant blood pressure and to help him with the other indignities of that being 71 can bring: bad knees and diabetes.
- Hubby had really good insurance. Sure, a much bigger portion of the medical bills than we would like are ours to pay, but the largest portion is being paid by insurance. All the medications now required to return Hubby to health have so far only been five bucks a pop. The hospital is willing to work with us on setting up a reasonable payment plan for the amount we owe. Our primary care physician is exactly the one we wanted and he understands that medical costs must be kept down.
- I have come to hate the job; it was fun and rewarding up until May, 2005. The past 14 months have been awful. I dread getting up in the morning, my stomach is always tied in knots, and the pay sucks.
I know all these things mean I’m not doomed. I know that in my head. My stomach, tied in awful knots, refuses to listen to my head. Many of the signs of depression are the ones I’m exhibiting now: laying in bed all day with the covers over my head; sleeping during the day and staying up all night while worrying about finances; the inability to motivate myself to do anything beyond stare glumly at the TV (and watching movies/shows that are beyond boring).
I can’t write and my resume needs updating desperately. I can’t read and I certainly need to be proactive about finding a new job. I can’t think beyond, "Oh no, I don’t want this to be happening." Combined, all of this has left me bereft of my usual coping mechanisms.
For the past two weeks I’ve avoided church. I don’t want to have to explain that I’ve lost my job and I have no interest in the resulting sympathy pats and hugs. Plus, I know that secretly most everyone will be silently thanking their lucky stars they are not in my shoes.
I e-mailed my sister-in-law that I would eventually cope because it’s what I do in life. It’s just that right now coping appears to be later rather than sooner.