The last nine months – an update
It’s been on my mind every day since October. That day in October when I looked at my husband’s x-ray and first realised that the metal that supports his spine was broken. It sounds dramatic, and it kind of is. Not all of it is broken, but it has snapped clean off in one place, on both sides of his spine. The only real option is fixing it during surgery. Spinal surgery. Pretty worrying words. Additionally, the spine was no longer fused at the breakage point, making him lean over more and more to the right.
During these past nine months or so, those words have never left my mind. How I have related to the words has changed, it has been up and down. During the same period of time, I’ve also watched my husband’s discomfort and difficulties increase from leaning over to the right.
The background is that he has had spinal surgery before, when he was 13, to correct a severe scoliosis in all three dimensions (his spine leans forwards and backwards, left and right, and also rotates like a DNA helix). The procedure was experimental at the time, but it was clear that it was needed to save his life. For many years, the two rods on each side of his spine remained the same, and his spine remained fused (it’s part of the procedure to fuse the spine, immobilising it).
I’ve long had a theory that it would be much worse to watch someone you love go through something like this than to be the person going through it, and I can confirm with absolute certainty that it’s true. First of all, there is the worry about your loved one, and the helplessness of being unable to fix their problem. It’s also really easy to end up feeling guilty for not being limited and in discomfort or pain. Even worse, and it doesn’t matter how shameful it feels, there is the anger. At the world. At yourself. And, when it all really gets on top of you, your loved one. Why him? Why now? Hasn’t he suffered enough, been through enough? Why is he doing this to me? What’s wrong with me, why am I feeling this way, at a time when he most needs my support and care? After that, it’s easy to slide into depression.
Looking at it, it’s very similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I remember the disbelief and denial clearly, but it didn’t last long: the evidence was there, all too clearly. Sometimes, denial is paired with isolation, and I did feel that, too. It lasted a lot longer than the denial – even now, I feel a bit apart from everything, like I am sitting in a bubble.
The bargaining was weird. Who do you bargain with when something like this happens? Unlike grief, the situation is uncertain. You have so many unknowns to deal with, and who do you trying to make a deal with? The universe, perhaps?
The depression hits when it all sinks in, and the long days of waiting for the surgery become weeks that become months. Everyday life takes on a strange light, like you were living in sepia, or as if the sun was a bit too faint, the sunlight the wrong colour. Those long days are hard, and the bleakness of depression is hard to keep away. It all becomes so hard, so sluggish to get through. You try to reach out, find a rock to lean on, but it’s very hard to find that voice that might reach out to someone who could help. I’ve mostly failed at that. I wanted to, oh how I wanted to, but at the same time, it’s not a burden that is easy to put on someone else. I’ve chosen the wrong persons in the past, and it makes it harder each time to try again.
Acceptance comes eventually, mostly when the date is set and you know that this is what life is like, for now. Acceptance has meant, for me, a decision to set all else aside, and dedicate myself to the love and care for him, because I love him. I do it for love – no more, no less. And with that comes acceptance.
That is where I am now, a few days before the scheduled date.