Letting Go of Pushing Buttons
Therapy has gone better and faster than planned. Especially after a few revelations last week, I expected several hard months ahead of me. I suppose this is where having some knowledge of developmental psychology pays off. I know a little bit more than your average Joe, so I can adapt a little faster. Needless to say, I’m feeling much better about life overall. Not great, mind you, but better. I have more energy today, and while eating is still a chore, I am doing more of it. It’s as if simply by knowing what’s causing my distress and by deciding out loud to deal with it, it has suddenly become much more manageable. They say knowing is half the battle. Right now, I believe it.
Work has also helped to keep my mind occupied, though the names of the callers have certainly caused some discomfort as they remind me of mistakes I’ve made and things I wish I’d done. I keep telling myself that life doesn’t happen in the “what ifs” and “I wishes” but happens instead in the “I wills.” I will get out of bed today. I will eat breakfast and lunch and dinner. I will take a shower, actually blow dry my hair, and get to work on time. I will remember to refill my prescriptions and take them on time (oops, let me do that…) I will pick my planner back up and readjust to having responsibilities again. I will make the phone calls that need to be made and follow through on promises. I will continue to deal with what I know and find new ways of changing the life patterns I have outgrown.
Sometimes in life, we create defenses that help at the time, but later on those helpful defense mechanisms can become a hindrance. For example: I woke up one morning and went to the hospital for a month. My life was forever changed. I spent many mornings reminding myself that life was different, that I was different, and that I had to continually prepare for the next statement from the doctors. I was constantly preparing for another curve ball. But now that the last eye surgery has been performed and my lupus is under control, I need to let go of the constant battle mode I spent the past three years cultivating. I need to learn how to relax and release myself from the fight or flight condition that helped me get up every morning and work through the physical and emotional pain. And I will learn to let that go. I will move forward. I will continue to be me.
I remember the morphine drip probably more than I should. I remember there was a button that I could push every ten minutes and receive another dose of morphine. I was told it was more than a junkie could handle, but because the pain existed so acutely my body welcomed the drug like water. When they first gave me the button, I couldn’t push it. My hands were wrapped up in pig skin grafts like the rest of my body, so I was unable physically to hold the thing, let alone maneuver pushing a button. Legally, no one else was allowed to push my button, but in practice no one could watch me endure that kind of pain. One nurse told another, “Now, we are not allowed to push the button… but push the button.” I couldn’t talk much except to say “button” at times, and whoever was near would usually oblige.
After a while, though, I stopped needing to press it so often. As the skin grew back and my mind began to clear, I actually managed to wean myself off the morphine button without anyone noticing. I’ve never been a fan of medications that take away a feeling of control, and I couldn’t stand the idea of becoming addicted, so I just stopped pushing the button. One day, a nurse asked me, “When was the last time you pushed that button?” I answered that it had probably been three days, and she immediately put in an order to have the button removed. I hadn’t pushed the button in three days, but I still argued a bit with her. Why would she take away my button? If it was gone, I’d have to call a nurse if I felt pain. I’d have to wait for a nurse to arrive and then wait again for morphine to arrive. I didn’t need the morphine, but it had been my saving grace for nearly three weeks! How could I stand to be without it?
They took away the button. I still felt pain. They stopped using morphine at all and switched to plain acetaminophen. I still felt pain. I had to wait 30-45 minutes sometimes for the acetaminophen to kick in, hurting all the while. I survived. I still felt pain. And I moved forward. Even after every eye surgery, I have done my best to take the heavy pain killers only as long as I’ve needed to take them. Our bodies and our minds alike create methods of coping with pain and with trauma. After a while, we can move forward without those defense mechanisms. It still hurts for a while, especially at first, but eventually time does mend the wound and leave simply a scar. Letting go of those defense mechanisms will often lead to growth and happiness in a new arena, making it even more important to deal with past issues and to move forward. The hard part is judging when.