The problem with caring
Let me apologize before I even write a word.
This piece will probably suck beyond everything that’s ever sucked before since I am so raw. It’s going to make people uncomfortable and I’m sure I’ll say all the wrong things.
TL;DR | My dad is sick. Skipping to the end of a long story, he has brain cancer, one of the very nastiest (like you need levels of awful with brain cancer). We plan to fight this monster with every ounce of strength our little family has (I am an only), even if it’s going to be difficult and the prognosis isn’t great.
But that’s not even what’s freaking me out the most right now.
The world has suddenly become so overwhelming that I’m numb. Like trying to feel your flesh beneath thick tights but there’s only emptiness. As a normally emotional person, I’ve completely shut down, becoming a task machine with some basic orders to “go that way”. Over and over and over.
Which makes all the wonderful messages coming in from friends & family even harder to handle, because I don’t know how to be or what to say.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. After I was diagnosed with MS in 2009, well-meaning people looked so stricken that I felt the need to comfort them so they could be ok about what was happening to me. “I’m very sorry”. “That’s so awful”. “I could never be that brave”. I’d smile and make some bad joke about chronic disease keeping me young, hoping to defuse another love bomb which will drive me straight into the muck. Again.
But this is different. I can’t seem to hurt locker the unimaginably terrible news about dad. And I’m doing a shit job dealing with everyone who cares about us.
Please please please don’t get me wrong — I am beyond grateful for all the love and support being offered constantly by our remarkable tribe. Everyone feels awful this is happening. Everyone is there for us. Everyone wants to help.
But I’ve put the “mask” on.
I’ll say “We’re hanging in there” or “Thank you so much for thinking of us” or “Your positive thoughts help so much” when inside I’m screaming.
Because all I hear is “I am so sorry your dad is dying”.
Logically, I know that people aren’t saying that and that they are struggling themselves with how to show up for us.
But I’m not logical right now.
I am devastated. I am trying to be strong. I am lost. I am hopeful. I am terrified. I am steely. I am fragile as shattered glass. I am angry.
He’s NOT GONE. He’s still here.
FIX IT, my brain says. FIX IT NOW. But I can’t.
Uncertainty & I don’t get along. I need something to do about a problem, which is why MS pissed me off something fierce. True or not, I thought naming my disease put it in a manageable place where it won’t hurt anyone.
We can’t do that with dad’s diagnosis. There is no way it won’t hurt.
So I tried to google my way to some wisdom.
- “How to talk about what I’m feeling when no one knows what to say.”
- “How to be authentic when there’s no option to process the awful before I have all my shit together.”
- “How not to wait until I’m alone to break down in tears every time someone asks ‘Are you ok?’.
- “How to be vulnerable enough to know it’s ok not to be ok.”
How to drop the fucking mask.
I’m not succeeding.
Talking to someone with cancer in the family is a crap shoot. On some days what‘s right to do is wrong. There are others when doing what’s wrong is the only way to manage the hurt. And some days just…. are.
I get it. There is no fucking card for this.
The best I can do right now is ask that we give each other some grace. I need to understand that people are reaching out from a heartfelt place and they’re not privy to the ongoing horror I am playing over and over in my mind. And I need everyone to understand that I love and need them (more than ever, honestly) but sometimes I need to go to ground, because it’s too overwhelming.
But please don’t stop reaching out, I beg of you. Maybe we need safe word — something like “Love” — so you know how much I appreciate being in your thoughts, yet I just… can’t right then.
And then we see what happens next. Ok?