There is a fine line between paranoia and gut instinct. It’s the difference between the “feeling” you develop when you intimately know your partner and obsessive worry about every twitch. At times, I’m not sure I know the difference.
I know Marty, I know almost every nuanced movement, I know the yawn, the stretch, the moan and the slump. I watch and sometimes I assume and I almost always wonder, “Is this a sign”.
When you do this for a time, when you are another person’s life line, when you know someone so well, when you have seen illness come hard and heavy you get paranoid about all of those twitches. That means when Marty yawns my heart rate speeds up and the adrenalin starts to pump just a little harder. Is it a yawn or is it a precursor to something worse?
There’s the line, there’s the decision point, which is what makes this really hard for someone who embraces and feels anxiety like it’s your skin, for someone who struggles to keep the demons of worst case at bay.
I confess, I don’t really know how to differentiate between what is a real symptom and what is simply hyper-vigilance. Experience helps with perspective but experience also means I have seen what can happen with Marty and how fast, how amazingly fast she can go from fine to on the edge of extremely not fine.
It is the thought, the fear of the consequences of inaction that haunts me every day. It is the thought of the very real awful results of inaction that deepens anxiety and causes me to doubt.
Early on in our journey I worried about being one of “those” caregivers, one of “those” almost hypochondriac types of patient/caregivers that jumped the gun at every cough, sneeze, burp or fart. I did not want to be that guy, I didn’t want to be the old man that health providers avoided because we were always there with every little thing.
My doctor told me to forget about that and not worry about what others might think. He said I knew her the best and I should follow and advocate for my “gut” for my “feeling” because I was the one who knew her best.
He was right and Great and Wise has been the supreme advocate for following my instinct. He never fails, when he makes a diagnosis or recommends a course of action, to ask, “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about that?” The doctors listen to my gut.
I remember one trip to the ER when Marty had been showing very early signs of sepsis due to an undetected UTI. The doctor did the all of the appropriate diagnostic tests and came back and said, “You do know your wife.” Duh.
My knowing my wife is not the problem. My learning to be a strong advocate for Marty is not the issue. My evolution to a proactive as opposed to a reactive caregiver is not in question. As a caregiver you have to be all of those things.
The issue is how do you know the line, how do you distinguish between paranoia and the real coming storms that will certainly come back to visit us.
Truth….I don’t have a clue, if I did I would have my anxiety levels in check more than I do. If I had a clue I wouldn’t catch my breath at a yawn or a stretch or a cough or a sneeze. If I knew how to tell the difference between real illness and my worry about a real illness I would ….. well I would be a lot smarter than I am because most of the time I worry way too much.
When someone I know experiences a bad medical issue or trauma, I, as someone who is filled with Gandalf like wisdom and insight offer advice, of course I do. My best advice is one day, one issue at a time and don’t borrow trouble.
At some point in time I might listen to myself. Naw….that would make way too much sense.