One day when I was a volunteer chaplain for hospice I visited a patient’s home. What stood out to me in that moment was the amount of people hospice had sent. There was a social worker, a CNA, an RN, a chaplain, and one more person who I can’t remember their title. That individual had all of her needs attended to. There were checkers and recheckers and follow ups and follow through. There was not one moment that that individual slipped through a crack. Not with her nutrition, not with her pain meds, etc. She was listened to, respected, heard, validated, valued. Every aspect of her being was advocated for. And she deserved that. There were charts with check boxes and everyone working with her was not only accountable but reliable and compassionate. Her comfort was THE priority.
That moment stayed with me because she did not go through the process of dying alone. Her not suffering was the main goal. Emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and every other need was met willingly and unconditionally. I should know. I was one of the people there.
And here is my question. Why does it take a person dying to get all of those needs met? When an individual experiences a loss or a trauma, they deserve every single one of those things too. Often times when I speak to people, friends, strangers, the common theme or subject is that they feel alone. That is so sad to me. A person may have one need met one day but so many other parts that make us up are neglected by others. And as I know we cannot count on other people for our happiness, I also know that others have the capability to lessen our suffering.
When a man/woman/child goes through a serious trauma, they need every aspect of their being cared for. But I know most don’t get it.
In the last few days I have been the recipient of genuine acts of kindness. Our car broke down today and a friend stopped what he was doing pick us up and to drive us home. While waiting I got overheated and a woman brought me ice water without me having to ask. A few days ago our well broke and a very kind neighbor came over and fixed it right away for free. These things do not go unnoticed by me because I have too many times been the recipient of nothing and of no one noticing. I have called. I have reached out. But no one took my hand. But in these last few days hands were reached out.
It has been a difficult week of many appointments. I am very tired. The car breaking down could have been a far worse situation and I feel fortunate for the kindness of others. This week, after 3 appointments to try and understand my cognitive changes/confusion/ panic/ I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The pharmacist was incredibly rude stating that I needed to just practice yoga instead of relying on a pill to help me. I carried on with my normal freeze numb mode of not speaking until I got home and felt a rage burning inside me. How dare this man judge, accuse, assume. He had no right. I wouldn’t be picking up this medication if in that moment it was not 100% necessary. It was unavoidable. So I called the pharmacist in an inraged, red faced, hands shaking, phone call. I asked if he remembered the girl who was in the wheelchair picking up her med. He did. I think told him WHY i was getting the med. I proceeded to tell him about the abuse I endured and the PTSD. He promptly gave me sympathy, understanding, and care. I realized that although I did not owe this man an explanation, it was a good teaching moment for the both of us. I got to practice speaking the truth, he got to learn not to judge.
So today after our car broke down and the friend wanted to lift me in the car, and I said no, I chose to tell him why. I would have in the past, just watched him being perplexed at me not wanting him to touch me, wondered what he was thinking all the way home and late into the night. Instead I told him the truth. I have PTSD. And this is why. I haven’t spoken the words but a few times. Speaking them is a harsh reminder of the severity of the things I have been through. Telling him made me feel so much better. Because my reason for not wanting to be touched was not only valid but it deserved to be spoken and heard. He ofrouse responded with deep compassion. Side note: aside from getting men’s cologne on me, it is very difficult to be driven in other people’s car. My husband knows just how to drive me gently so as not to help me. It causes great anxiety riding with others. My muscle and bone disease make me very fragile so slamming on the brakes could really hurt me. Plus I cannot get into a high vehicle so my husband had to lift me in.
I have decided to change my future dialogue with people. Instead of only telling them that I have chemical sensitivties, which I do, so please do not hug me or I will get a rash…tell them that I have PTSD and tell them why. These words, at this point in my life, need to be spoken. I don’t want to wonder what others think because of my demeanor, that I cannot help, due to the PTSD.
I love the understanding and kindness I have been shown in these last few days by the few people who simply made the choice to be kind. It made me think of the hospice patient, and how hard my week has been. How I wished many times this week that I was surrounded by a village of people who cared about every aspect of my being. I wished I had a CNA, an RN, a Doctor, a chaplain, all sitting around me listening and acting on my behalf to lessen my suffering. I really wish I had a hospice team this week. But, the few individuals who step forward and remind me that I am cared for means everything to me. Some days I know my cries for help are either not heard or ignored or not understood. It is the random acts of those who have no clue what is going on inside of me that help soothe the pain. I count those blessings every day.
Today was my husband and my….my husband and I…..I have no idea the correct grammar in that….Today was our 20th wedding anniversary. I was reminded that life can be and is very very difficult. But through it all my marriage is beautiful. Through illnesses and broken down cars and everything else that has been thrown at us, our bond becomes stronger and stronger. He is my one thing steady. And even though it is impossible for him to be 4 people attending to my spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental needs, he never stops trying. For that, I am so grateful.