Is it possible to love too much?
I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster recently. In the bigger scheme of things, I’m doing great! I really have a handle on my anxiety, my meds are finally working in my favor and my year of cancer therapy has done me a ton of good. I think I’m a better person, happier, more well adjusted. There are just some really crappy things going on in my life, thus, the roller coaster, but I think I’m handling them really well.
I’ve been thinking recently about hope and that I am feeling a lot of hope in my life. However, I struggle with this because I get scared of the “next bad thing” to come along. Part of me just wants to live a wild, crazy and wonderful existence with no regard for the future, while part of me wants to curl up in a cave and never come out.
I wonder, have I been hit extra hard? Sometimes I try to convince myself that I have and that maybe I’ll have an “easy” future. You know, statistically, can it really continue like this?
The bad parts of the last few years, in brief …
1. 4/01- Difficult labor and delivery, didn’t sleep after birth more than two hours for seven weeks. Baby got stuck during delivery, almost had emergency C-section, but they went with vacuum extraction instead. Rough recovery.
2. 5/01 – My three week old daughter has heart failure in my arms, is rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, spends a week in PICU (is totally fine and wonderful now).
3. 8/01 – My husband’s biological father kills himself.
4. 9/01 – September 11. Although I knew no one, I took it very hard. I was unknowingly in the throes of depression and it made me crazier faster.
5. Over the next year, I got crazier and crazier, mean, ugly, tried to destroy my marriage. Got suicidal, but hid it from the world.
6. 10/02 – Finally diagnosed with postpartum depression, had to take a month off work because I basically had a nervous breakdown. Was told by a psychiatrist a bit later that I should have been hospitalized.
7. 1/03 – as my meds are starting to work for me, my husband is starting to learn how suicidal I had been, we are working on things, trying to patch up life. Then, Peggy, a dear, dear friend – the mother of Troy’s best friend, a major influence in Troy’s life growing up and great friend as an adult – commits suicide. It was a terrible blow to us and, of course, her wonderful family.
8. Summer 04 – My mother, my father, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law are all hospitalized at various times for various ailments. Over the next year, I believe my mother-in-law had six surgeries. In the summer of 04, we went 9 weeks without mowing our lawn because we were spending all of our free time at hospitals. (Our neighbors were pissed, but that was the least of our worries, naturally!)
9. 08/04 – John, who was the widower of Peggy, is killed in a car accident. Yet again, it was a serious trauma for their family and us.
10. Summer 05 – Russ, my father-in-law (my husband’s stepfather) was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, given a year. You can imagine what the next year was like – as he refused to accept the diagnosis and suffered surgery after surgery at the age of 85. In addition, during this summer, Troy’s mom, Jan, nearly died twice with a serious, undiagnosed gall bladder attack, then a blood clot that killed her spleen.
11. Summer 05 – This may seem like a minor thing, but it was nutso for us – every appliance in our house died and had to be replaced within about six weeks!!!
12. 11/05 – Troy’s brother became involved in serious legal problems and is estranged indefinitely.
13. 1/06 – After having a severe reaction to a cashew exposure, with her tongue swelling and her body covered in hives, Colleen is tested and diagnosed with a severe allergy to cashews and pistachios. We must carry an epi-pen with us everywhere, train the day care to use it, and make sure she stays away from all tree nuts. This freaks us out to no end.
14. 2/06 – My dad, who just celebrated his 80th, wants knee surgery, but in evaluating him, they find two blocked arteries in his heart and schedule him for a double heart bypass.
15. Between 2/06-3/06 – Our house is falling down around us. The are three leaks in the roof where rain just pours in. The wall in the front yard bordering the driveway is about to fall down (and ultimately does). We need a new oven. Thought we can’t really afford it, we decide to get a home equity loan to start making repairs.
16. 3/06 – I was diagnosed with cancer – you all know how scary and busy the time from then until now was with that – chemo, seven surgeries, numerous invasive tests.
17. 4/06 – Dad has open-heart surgery.
18. 6/06 – My 43 year old brother has a freak accident, ends up with a brain injury and spends a week in a brain trauma unit, then a month in bed, then three months off work.
19. 7/06 – My father-in-law dies. I’m in the midst of a really terrible part of chemo – I was throwing up at the funeral, couldn’t sit through it. Troy and I both had a difficult time mourning the loss of Russ’ life because I was so very sick.
20. 8/06 – I finish chemo and I believe my husband enters a severe post-traumatic stress meltdown – still recovering.
21. 10/06 – My dad has the double-knee replacement. I have a mastectomy.
As far as the “major” events, those are it. I did not mention the myriad funerals I attended – at my best count, I think during this period we had an additional 6 aunts, uncles and cousins die – most of them unexpectedly! I also had a dear friend die of ovarian cancer. My half-sister was killed in a house fire. (Followed by me frantically purchasing 12 smoke detectors.) Another friend died of brain cancer. My best friend’s mother died of a brain tumor as well.
Relationship with my hubby continues to be strained. I am in therapy still, have been for a year. We also have started marriage counseling.
Now … if you are still with me let me tell you that in the past when I’ve made this list, I’ve just cried and cried – felt sorry for myself, felt hopeless. Terrified of what the hell is around the corner!! This is a period of, what, about 6 years? I can say for sure the previous six years were not like this. They were good. There were some deaths, some sad times. But nothing like this.
But now, I’m not feeling so hopeless. I do wonder if this is just my lot in life! Is my life just always going to be full of struggle? If so, I had better get my head around it so I can have some fun in the in-between times.
So, I’m wondering, what do I do with this? I started reading a book yesterday and the author proclaims, “I know there is no such thing as life without struggle.” The book is called, “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.” I purchased it based on the title only … and that I’m familiar with the author, so I thought it might be something I could use.
Do I need to be worried about a future of struggle? Where do I get hope in all of this?
I hate the idea that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” I just think, “Uh, I really don’t want to try to be killed, thank you very much.”
However, my life has been completely transformed by these experiences. I am not the same person I was before. In some ways, I’m better. In some ways, I’m not.
Is this an inordinate amount of stuff for one family? Do you think I’m going to get a “free pass” of happiness for the rest of my life??? I keep telling myself that must be the case! I got hit with all of the hard stuff at once, right? Sometimes I hope so. I hope that is all there is and the rest of the “struggle” to come is just the normal stuff everyone has to deal with.
Don’t forget in all of this there were other people experiencing the same things from different angles. My husband and daughter, of course, have been through it all. My parents at one point had two children who were truly on the edge of death, not to mention my dad was recuperating from heart surgery during that time. My mother-in-law lost her husband, and both of her brothers-in-law in a 13-month period, and watched me be sick and all that.
And there have been other things going on that are very serious and traumatic in their own right, but didn’t rate the list: miscarriages, separations, divorces, my nephew being sent to Iraq (he’s back) and so much more. To me, this “low rated” list is the stuff of every day life – the struggles I would expect to deal with and hope to be able to support the people through. That list above, crap, it just has to be extraordinary! It can’t be normal or typical … I’m not sure how I can continue on if it is.
This morning, I was having a bad morning. The roller coaster of my current life is in a bit of a down slope for me today. So, I’m sobbing my way through making breakfast. Sniffle, sniffle, drip, drip. And the can opener breaks. The can opener. I mean, seriously! Can’t I just have a normal day? One peaceful, no bad news, no broken appliances day? And what did the can opener ever do to deserve to die in my kitchen?
I think often, “What did I do to deserve this life?” And I know the answer is definitely that I didn’t DO anything. I’m a good person. I deserve a good life. It doesn’t have to be a charmed life, but I would like it to be good and fun. There are people on death row for serial killings who had a much easier, carefree life than me.
Sometimes I tell myself that part of my problem is that I have too many people to love. I have a big family and lots of friends. I’ve suffered so much heartache because of that. Take out all of the family and friends from my “sad” list and you are left with: me getting PPD, my daughter’s surgery, and me getting cancer (and the husband problems.) That’s still a lot, but it’s sure as hell a lot less and more manageable over a six year period. And if you take away the husband and the baby, then all you are left with is me getting cancer (well, and September 11, but I don’t think I would have handled that as poorly if I wasn’t already suffering from PPD).
But, goodness, what kind of a life is that in between the bad stuff if I don’t have the husband, the kid, the moms, the dads, the sisters and brother, the relatives who love me and keep in touch, the friends who are like family to me?
So, my problem is I love too many people. I’ve allowed a lot of love in my life. I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t anticipate cutting any of those people out of my life because I love them, but I don’t want to hurt when they hurt. I don’t know what to do about it.
Of course, if I didn’t have all of those people to love, then I wouldn’t have had all of those people to help me when I got breast cancer.