The Art of Repression

So the plan to distract myself from the upcoming (perfectly routine) surgery — still 10 days away! — is not working.

It consumes me. I think about it all the time. I am worried more about Kate than about M, and then I worry that if I don’t worry more about M something bad will happen, because of course worry and anxiety are prophylactic in nature, right? (No. No, not at all.) I am picking up little gifts for Kate: a duct tape art kit, a Bink & Gollie book. I bought M a water table for the summer. Because (perfectly routine) surgery.

The school is conspiring against me. Not in that they are going to give me a hard time for Kate being absent. As a matter of fact, Kate’s teacher is already making plans to help Kate plan her work around her absence. But there’s a fundraiser for which the stuff needs to be picked up and delivered that day; and Flora has a singing concert that night — and I keep looking at the date, and thinking, “Oh. I can’t do that.”

Now fortunately, I have lots and lots of support, and I suppose it’s as good a time as any to thank a bunch of people in advance. Of course, Dan is going to be at the hospital with us the day of the surgery, and stay overnight at least one night with us there. He promised Kate. My in-laws, as always. My parents are coming to stay with us, and make sure Flora’s routine stays as normal as possible. They are going to be the ones that make sure the fundraising orders get picked up and delivered, and the ones who will see Flora sing.

Aside: Flora kinda, sorta wanted to join a singing group at her school. I signed her up, and then she kinda sorta didn’t want to do it. I encouraged her, though. I thought it would be something she would enjoy and be good at. And now I have a 9-year-old who sings to herself all the time. I don’t even think she realizes it. She sings songs from Frozen, from Sound of Music, and a couple of religious pop songs. And love hearing her. And I’m a little heartbroken that after having been so encouraging about it, I am going to miss her concert.

Yesterday, I was talking to my parents about all the Stuff They Had To Do if they Didn’t Mind Too Much the day of Kate’s and Michael’s surgeries. I think I managed to keep the panic from my voice, and they were very kind and told me not to worry about this Other Stuff, they were on it, they’d take care of it, and I got of the phone and cried in my car for awhile.

So, trying to keep anxiety at bay is not really going so well.

I have bad tendencies. I have the tendency to be anxious. And although I fight it, I have the urge to want to be in control. If having children has taught me anything, it’s that there is no room for trying to control every — or even most — outcomes.

The prospect of this surgery is the perfect storm for my two worst tendencies to come together and drive me to distraction. It is completely out of my control, and even though I know and accept that, it’s still difficult. So I make long shopping lists (Gatorade, Italian ices, applesauce, pureed fruit pouches); I obsessively avoid thinking about the mechanics of the surgery; I haven’t yet prepared myself for what comes before; and I’ve no real idea what “after” will be like. Bad, I think. Not good. I buy little presents to appease the suffering children.

It’s exhausting.

These two!
These two!

3 thoughts on “The Art of Repression

  1. Umm, speaking both from the perspective of a therapist and mom, but maybe more importantly as the kid going through the (perfectly normal) procedures, your anxiety is infectious. The more freaked you get, the more the kids will think that it something that they should be freaked about. Getting anxious increases distress and can interfere with pain perception. Please try to understand- I do understand that you want to be in control and make everything safe. But the way you do that is to model trust and security. My mom was the guilt and shame freak out queen, always getting upset and apologizing for giving birth to me. My first surgery was horrible because she was so freakwd out I was too anxious to let the anesthesia work. And two weeks later when I had to have surgery again (the incision opened bbecause they insisted I play dodgeball at school- a traumatic event for sure) mom was given klonopin by my doctor and my dads kept her calm, so although it was scary, I didn’t feel like I was going to die. Or worse, upset mom more.
    I always ended up feeling guilty for worrying her. I still apologize for getting sick, and until I wrote this post I didn’t know why. Life happens, kids get sick. Try to trust that your kids are strong and can handle it and they will learn to believe it themselves.

    God never gives me more than I can handle; I just wish He didn’t trust me so much – mother Theresa

    • I really am trying to not freak out at home. We haven’t talked a lot about it. I plan to discuss what is going to happen closer to the date. I cried by myself in the car, and although I am anxious about it, I don’t think I am burdening Kate (or M) with my worries. And I will continue to take some deep breaths and stay level. And, of course, Dan is a rock. We will be a united front — a calm united front at that.

      • I promise you and the kids are stronger than you think you are. This was just my experience, and my mom sucked at dealing with her emotions let alone hiding them. You will get through this well. Keep taking care of yourself and the kids will be fine.

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