I think of my worries in boxes now.
I have so many of them, I can’t let them all come out to nag at me at once.
There’s the “worried about my Dad” box, which is huge and overflowing. It resists my every effort to close it. Sometimes I manage to get the lid down a little way, but it always springs open again.
Now there’s the “worried about my stepfather” box, which is smaller than my father’s worry box, although growing rapidly (much like his tumor). The worries were there before but they were mostly lumped in with general worry about my family. But now, after Thursday’s CT scan, he has a box of his own. A subsidiary of this box is the “worried about my Mum” box, which is really attached to the “worried about my stepfather” box, because what I am mostly worried about with my Mum is how she will cope if my stepfather dies. No one has said to me that my stepfather is going to die, and certainly the doctors are quite confident that there are things they can do, but I think the odds of this cancer killing him (or causing another cascade of medical issues that eventually prove fatal) are much higher than they were with his first bout, and I am very very worried.
There’s the “worried about the baby” box which has fluctuated in size significantly over the course of the pregnancy, reaching its maximum size after the anatomy scan. The follow up scans this past Thursday showed that everything continues to go well and that the right kidney is bigger than would be expected at this stage, suggesting it is doing exactly what we hoped it would- growing to compensate for the missing one. I had just about succeeded in wrestling that box closed until I learned that my stepfather is in renal failure because of the way the tumor is encroaching on his kidney. It is not that I think it all that likely that my baby will also develop colon cancer that will affect the kidney when s/he is approaching 65, more that this is a situation where it is a VERY GOOD THING that my stepfather has a backup kidney, and this of course reminded me that our baby has no backup. So I am back to worrying irrationally about the baby, although I am trying to curb this because I can only worry so much for so long without losing all ability to function.
The “worried about the baby” box also contains the usual post-infertility worries about the baby dying at birth or just before from a cord accident or some other tragic, incredibly unlikely occurrence that somehow feels not all that unlikely right now given my family’s current strike rate for freaky, fluky, unexpected medical disasters (see: my father being paralyzed for life by a wave as exhibit a, and my stepfather’s colon cancer that is not behaving like colon cancer usually does and is thus a source of great interest to his doctors as exhibit b).
And then I worry that all this worry is bad for the baby, because s/he is certainly not getting an optimal uterine environment right now. So that’s in the baby box too.
Then there’s a “worried about work” box, which is only allowed to get my attention when I have to do something related to the very next class I have to teach. Marking and seminars and conferences are not on my radar right now, even when they should be. I am very much in survival mode and just taking these last three weeks of the semester one day at a time.
My general worry box about all the other aspects of my life (E., Q., the cats, the house, the rest of my family) has been shoved to the back of the stack because I just cannot open it up right now. We still have not entirely sorted out the vomiting cats issue (in fact we think the food change has stopped one cat from vomiting but caused another to start getting hairballs), but I cannot put any time or energy into fixing it right now. I am vaguely aware that I am asking an extraordinary amount of Q. at the moment, but cannot rouse myself to try to rebalance. I try to be present for E., but it is harder than it should be.
It is all starting to become more than I can cope with.
I am either numb or exhausted most of the time.
I am not depressed- I have been depressed before and I know what it feels like- but I am struggling, even more so than I was a month ago. It is unrelenting. There is no end in sight.
And now I am officially worrying so much that it is affecting my sleep. For the last week or so, ever since my Dad had a conversation with my sister where he was able to express his own worries about what is going to happen to him and how the decisions will be made, I have been waking up at 5 a.m. or earlier and I have not been able to get back to sleep. This used to be standard operating procedure for me, but I fixed this well over a year ago (or possibly two years ago- I have lost track) by taking my mother’s insomnia advice of refusing to get up or do anything else but lie there and wait to fall back asleep. I retrained my brain and my body and I have slept exceptionally well ever since.
Now I wake up for no reason in particular at some stupidly early hour and my brain immediately tries to fix the worst-case scenario. Typical would be waking up to have my brain start planning how we might convince my mother to move to our part of the province if my stepfather dies and whether she would be able to afford to buy a condo and would she want to be in a condo and what would happen with my grandmother but it would be great for my mother because she would have all the support and access to good transit options to go see her siblings when she doesn’t want to drive, etc. etc.
This is not something I should be trying to fix. This is not something I should even be thinking about. But my anxiety has always manifested itself as catastrophizing- I jump to the worst-case scenario and try to fix it. So I know this is my anxiety seeking an outlet, because I am bottling it up as much as I can during the day to get through. But it is impossible to turn your brain off and go back to sleep once you are engaged in thinking about worst-case scenarios, even when you know that they will hopefully NEVER HAPPEN and you are completely wasting your time thinking about them.
I am really good at planning and organizing. It is one of my strengths.
At five in the morning, though, I’m coming to realize it is also one of my greatest weaknesses. Because my brain seems to think I can plan and organize my way out of these crises, that if I can just get enough details sorted out and enough ducks in a row, everything will get better.
I don’t know how to make my brain understand this isn’t helpful.
And right now I’m too tired to even try.