A Lesson from Option B

When my husband got sick four years ago, I read a book about grief that really stuck with me because grief is not just about someone dying. It can also be about the hardship you are going through when someone is ill. That book was Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Over the holiday, my husband ended up in the hospital once again to undergo emergency surgery to clear up an infection that is running amuck due to his diabetes and Sjogren’s causing complications. As I navigated a week of text messages and phone calls from friends and family, I am reminded once again about the lesson that really stood out to me from their book.

Screenshot from the website for Option B

The website for Option B has been updated to include a message about resilience in the time of COVID, but that part I read years ago is still prominent today…when you ask what you can do or how you can help, you are putting the burden on the person experiencing the hardship. This week, I had many such text messages or phone calls. Honestly, I am exhausted. This hospital stay is a lot more nerve racking than previous ones because I can’t be there for my husband. Due to the COVID restrictions, there is a no visitor policy being reinforced. To make it even more stressful, he had to be transferred to a hospital out of state, almost two hours away because our local one was too rural to have the needed specialist on staff. They contacted nine hospitals before they found one that had the available surgeon and room in the hospital.

When my husband arrived at the hospital, the Emergency Department decided to do their own evaluation of his condition. So it would be another 36 hours from when he first went into the ER at our local hospital to when he received his surgery. Our local hospital let me stay in the ER with him until around 2am on Monday when they decided he needed to be transferred. So I was there to ask questions and advocate for him. At noon on Tuesday, he was transferred via ambulance to the bigger hospital. It took over two hours before I heard he had arrived, but I could not get any updates on his condition when I called the hospital. I knew how to access the patient portal for the lab reports and doctor notes, but when I called, I would be told there were no updates. Finally, I received a call that night from the surgeon that they would operate, but they did not know when that would be other than the next day, most likely in the morning.

Wednesday, I received a text from my husband that they were prepping him. He tried to do a video call, but my phone would not allow me to pick up the call and then he would not answer when I tried calling him back. I knew that he probably had been taken to the OR and it would be a while, but missing that call played on my anxiety. When I still had net heard anything after three hours, I started calling the hospital. I was transferred to the ER, but told he was not there and must still be in surgery, so they had no updates. The process repeated for hours. I couldn’t imagine the surgery taking that long because I was told it would be general anesthesia. So either something went wrong or the ball had been dropped. At my wits end, I tracked down the information on how to contact the nursing supervisor for the hospital since the patient advocates office was closed by this point. Within 20 min of speaking to the supervisor, I got an update that he was out of surgery and they were just waiting on a room to open. Apparently, he had been out of surgery for hours already. I hate that I had to “Karen” the situation by asking to speak to the supervisor, but it is what it is…

I updated friends and family through Facebook posts to keep them in the loop on what was happening. People offered prayers and thoughts, but there were some that offered to talk or to distract my son for a while. My landlord even offered to drop by the hospital or to lend a hand if needed. One friend sent me a giftcard to Grubhub so we wouldn’t have to worry about meals. Those offers were appreciated because if asked what they could do, my answer was nothing. I was sleep deprived, anxious, and stressed. The last thing I could think about was involving other people.

As I write this, my husband has undergone a second round in the OR. Still no word on when he can go home. Things have calmed down since the start of last week. My biggest strength is my son who has made sure we eat and even watch Supernatural to distract our brains from the waiting. It is probably similar to the mother-daughter study discussed in Option B. We are there for each other, so it lessons our anxiety.

So what is the lesson? Be there for each other and don’t leave things to ambiguity. Do what you can so the person feels like they have a semblance of control and a small piece of normality. We are still waiting, but things are getting better. I really appreciate my friends and family during this time. It is hard right now during COVID without things like non-COVID medical emergencies. Resiliency cannot happen alone. It is through community and support that we weather the things thrown at us.

Here is to a brighter year in 2021!

What a year!

There is still over a month left of 2020, but oh what a year it has been. There has been plenty of bad, but there has also been some good this year. My family has a lot to be thankful for this year.

What color have you been spending most of your time in?

I wish I could say that I have been living in the green zone from the above chart, but to be honest, I think I hover between yellow and orange. We have been in semi-quarantine since March. But oh so much has happened since that last day in the office…which I am pretty sure was a Friday the 13th!

In March, we had my husband’s SSDI hearing via phone conference. Our lawyer thought we should wait and reschedule for June, but my husband didn’t want to put it off any longer. There were technical difficulties which did not make the start any easier. It was about thirty minutes and it didn’t seem like the judge had many questions other than my husband’s income for 2017. He had started a new job that year, so the six months that he did work were equal to the previous year of part-time work and it really confused the judge that my husband had not been back to work since June 2017. When we were done, we didn’t know what to think, but out lawyer had a good feeling. About three weeks later our lawyer called me to say that they were approving the disability date. Honestly, for these past couple of months, I have been in shock that that journey was now over. I still didn’t believe it until the first monthly payment in July and was still nervous until we finally got the three years of retroactive payments for the three years that my husband had been going through the process of applying for disability. It is a very odd feeling to finally be able to pay off bills without a worry.

The SSDI journey is not the only one that concluded this year. Last week, I defended my dissertation for my doctorate. It was a success! I am officially a doctor (but not that kind of doctor)! I have a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Management with a concentration in Creativity and Innovation. I know this blog has been pretty silent lately and part of that is because I have been burnt out trying to conclude that chapter of my life. I kept telling people I would be a doctor by Christmas, I just wasn’t expecting before thanksgiving.

So what is next? I asked my son that question and he said I should take a break. He said no more classes or book deadlines. My husband doesn’t think I will sit still though. He thinks I will go for another degree. My professor thinks I should turn the dissertation into a book. One of my committee members told me that it is not the time to be humble and that I should strive to put myself out there (If you remember, one of my previous posts was about imposter syndrome).

My answer for what I would do was sleep. That is the only thing that I can think of right now. It has been a crazy couple of months and it feels like everything has been nonstop even working from home instead of commuting to the office. I took the last two days off and honestly, that is what I have been doing— sleeping! Maybe I will get to cleaning the house or baking cookies this weekend, but for now, I need to reset.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that my family is safe and healthy. I am thankful that our long journeys are over and it is time to turn to a fresh new page. I don’t know what the future will hold, but it can wait for another day.

Update from Self-Quarantine —lost count what day…

Today, despite suffering from a flare of my TMJ due to concentrating too much this week (I grit my teeth when I am focused on a task), I am in a good mood. The summer term is over for my university teaching and my grading is done. I also received feedback on my dissertation draft and it is not as bad as I thought it would be. I still have to add some information to make it more cohesive, but four out of the five chapters are good. I seem to have gotten out of my slump when it came to being productive (don’t look at the laundry baskets waiting to be folded in the kitchen!).

So when my son asked if I wanted to make something in the kitchen, I thought why not? We experimented with baking a pie with filling from scratch. Sorry no recipe because we used two frozen deep dish pie crusts from Walmart and followed the directions for cook time from that. Everything else was a little of this and a little of that. We used the apples from my Misfits Market order…we had a lot of apples this time. The pie came out actually looking like a pie which I think is a first for us when it is not a Sara Lee frozen pie.

 



My house smells like Fall because of the pie and it has me thinking a lot about what the next couple of months will be like. It is way too humid out right now to enjoy the porch or the deck, so I am looking forward to cooler weather with the leaves changing. It is looking like we will still be social distancing. School will continue to be virtual, but my son will be a freshman…he will actually be driving in a couple of months. Scary!

While I would like to return to a semblance of normal, I don’t think we will ever return to the way things were before. Supermarkets gave me anxiety before the pandemic and now it is even worse. So I am thankful for Instacart and Walmart Grocery pickup. I have even setup some of non perishable things I routinely buy to automatically reorder every month from Amazon Prime.

As you know from reading previous posts, I love the concept of Hygge which is appreciating the joy that comes from life’s moments. I take more naps now, cook more at home, listen to music, play with the dogs, and spend time with my family. This is a time of reset and I appreciate that. Now I am going to grab a slice of pie!

Gratitude Boards

In times of uncertainty, gratitude is very important. We have a gratitude board at work where everyone is encouraged to share what they are grateful for. It is a way of creating a ripple effect of gratitude through the whole organization.

I also curate ideas on one of my Pinterest boards. I encourage you to check it out here:

Today, I am grateful for the following:

  1. Fluffy cuddles from my dogs
  2. An awesome son who helps me out around the house
  3. A husband who is understanding and kind

What are you grateful for today? Share in the comments!

Anxiety is my Superpower!

Welcome to the A-Z Blogging Challenge, Day 1! When I decided to participate, I plotted out what I would post each day. There were a couple of reasons for that…if I have a game plan then I am more likely to follow through and it also takes some of the pressure off to write. Today’s post is about anxiety.

When I plotted out my daily blog schedule, I was originally planning on writing about agile project management. It is a topic that we have been focusing on at work as part of our professional development. In fact, today was supposed to be the third and final session of our face to face workshops on the topic. I will probably touch on the topic again later this month in some way or another, but this morning I changed my mind on what I am going to talk about. Hey, isn’t being agile all about flexibility?

Last week, my husband had his Social Security Disability Hearing. This means he was in the third stage of the approval process after being denied twice through the other two stages. His lawyer shared his SSA records with me and honestly, I am not surprised that he was denied because his medical records suck. Basically, SSA was going off of nothing more than six months of records from the very beginnings of when he got sick which was back in 2017. The records were not detailed and a lot of it was still waiting on diagnostic tests. In this last round, we submitted over 600 pages of medical records for consideration. We are caustically optimistic, but still waiting.

So what does that have to do with my anxiety? Well, I have been worrying over nothing but this process for the past couple of years and now we are at a stage where we can do nothing but wait again. So all my anxiety has been focused on getting to this point and making sure we have everything we need and the right questions are being asked. Such as, can a person reasonably be expected to retain competitive employment when they have over ten appointments on average a month? The answer here is no, so fingers crossed.

Well, now that I don’t have to worry for the moment about that process, my mind has switched over to the topic that is on pretty much everyone’s mind these days— COVID-19. I actually had a mini breakdown with tears in the kitchen last night while making dinner. But that is okay! There is nothing wrong with having these moments. Give yourself permission to cry every now and then. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. It is important to know that it is a temporary state and that too shall pass.

As I said in a previous post, we are sheltering at home here in Maryland per the governor’s orders. We have been very good at this. I call myself a Hobbit on a good day, let alone when we have to social distance. When I had my last day of work, we did our food shopping, but we are starting to dwindle our supply. My husband is high-risk, I did not want to venture to the store if I did not have to. Walmart is something that gives me anxiety on a normal day, which is why I am so happy that they have curbside pickup. Unfortunately, the hours have been so limited that at first we thought they had discontinued the program temporarily. This is where my anxiety comes in handy…

When my anxiety is flaring, I have trouble sleeping. So I will usually try to distract myself. Last night, I was up past midnight and decided to check out the Walmart Grocery website…Success! They had pick up slots available for Thursday. Now I have a grocery order scheduled for pickup and I can still follow social distancing while getting almost everything I need…still no TP anywhere. So if you are in need of groceries, try checking websites late at night.

When my anxiety is flaring, I can get hyper focused. Right now that focus is on finding ways to practice positivity and self-care. I was registered for a web session with Nataly Kogan, author of Happier Now, but I am tired since I was up so late last night. I almost skipped, but decided not to and I am glad I watched the session. The session was on using anchors or rituals as part of your daily self-care routine as a way to center yourself and not be so overwhelmed. Some of the suggestions are similar to the ones I gave a couple of days ago: take a walk, bake, talk to friends or family online, read, knit. Find something each day that will give you something to not only look forward to, but also give you something that is simple to accomplish. My son has been making his bed each morning. He saw that viral video from the admiral about if you want to make a change in the world, start by making your bed. My daily ritual will be to write these posts chronicling my thoughts during this time of uncertainty…finding a way to focus on the positive.

When my anxiety is flaring, I become a planner. Right now there is a list on my fridge of things I would like to accomplish while we are social distancing. Some of it has already been marked off, like catching up on laundry and planting my deck garden. Others are still pending, like spending some family time around the fire pit. There is no schedule for getting any of this done. There should be no obligations, but still something to look forward to. Normally, you would include dates to turn this into SMART Goals, but the point is the enjoyment not the productivity. Last night, the family played parcheesi…I lost, but we had fun and we were together. This wasn’t on my list, but it was on my son’s list. So that made it important to me.

I have chosen to reframe my anxiety by looking at it as an advantage. Reframing how I look at it is one way that I am coping right now. What is something that you are reframing to put a more positive spin on it?