Friday, October 17, 2014

Things Hidden, Part 2

D uring the years of our marriage, Randal suffered from back pain. When we first got married, it wasn't so bad. Every once in awhile he would ask me to rub his back or pop it before bed time. He exercised a lot and was active walking to and from classes at school. When we moved from Salt Lake City to Peoria, AZ, Randal was holding a box and turned funny which caused something in his back to tweak. It was probably a pulled muscle, but the pain didn't go away. He went to physical therapy and tried to strengthen his core muscles to make up for the weakness in his back. That was at the end of 2004. In 2006, he was in medical school and had to have emergency surgery on an abscess in his neck that had developed an infection and 6 weeks later, it happened on his leg also. During that time, he decided to put off med school for a year and finished up his Masters degree. When he finished that, he decided he didn't want to go back to med school. I couldn't blame him! He would leave at 6am and not get back until 11pm. To say it was stressful, is an understatement. So for a year between 2007 and 2008, he took a break from school to decide what to do. During that year, he was much more sedentary. He was no longer walking all over campus with a backpack and his back pain got significantly worse.

Over the next 3 years, his pain would continue to get worse and worse. He saw several doctors who couldn't pinpoint a reason for the pain. He had a dozen different imaging procedures done; the x-rays and MRIs all turned up nothing. He had dozens of procedures done from steroid injections to burning and killing the nerves in back and hip to stop the pain. Nothing worked. I witnessed all this happen and unless you have been sole caregiver for a person with a chronic illness, you cannot begin to imagine how lonely and hard it is. I felt a loneliness during that time that is hard to put into words, but that still haunts me. The other side of this was what Randal was going through. I can't express the despair I saw in him and that he expressed to me. I won't begin to try to describe his experience during this time, as I know I would not do it justice. Suffice it to say, I do not wish this kind of pain and hardship on anyone. And if you are in this situation - either side of it - please reach out to somebody! If you know anybody in this situation, reach out to them! I used to yearn for somebody to ask me how I was doing. The rare occasions that somebody did, I usually broke down in tears so intense that I couldn't talk. But just being asked was enough.

Randal's pain and the disfunction of our relationship came to a head in March 2011 (which I described in the previous post). Luckily, Randal and I both reached out for help before something tragic happened that couldn't be undone. (There are so many resources out there, and I will post several resources we used, some I wish I knew about then, and others that I didn't need, but maybe someone else will. Look for these at the end of my post.)

Everything started to turn around when therapy began. Randal and I each had a personal therapist and we had a third therapist that we visited together. My therapy included time with a counselor and an "Empowerment Group" (codependency workshop). I read some amazing books (and selections from books) like I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary and Joy Lundberg (a book I think EVERYONE would benefit from reading), The High Conflict Couple by Alan and Marsha Linehan, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, and Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I learned a lot about myself during this time.

Crisis had this interesting side effect of clarifying what was really important and what didn't matter. I was forced to spend all of time and attention on my family during the last of years leading up to the big crisis. I no longer feel bad telling people, "No," when I am overdrawn emotionally or physically. I care so much less about being friends with everyone and making sure everyone likes me. I strive to show kindness and respect to everyone with which I interact. But when someone doesn't like me, I don't care! I learned that there are people out there with whom I am not going to enjoy spending time - and that's ok! It's a marvelous place to come to. And therapy is great because it just reinforces this (along with a lot of other really great things).

Crisis and therapy have another interesting side effect. They bring up EVERYTHING that needs addressed. There were some things addressed in therapy that I never would have addressed if it weren't for that crisis. I may have even been happy in my ignorance. Ignorance absolutely is bliss. It was for me... and it was for everyone around me also.

To be continued...


Crisis Resources:
Call 911
This is a great start if you can't think of anything else. In Arizona, they can send out a crisis response team at anytime - day or night. Crisis response teams usually always include a social worker or other trained counselor/therapist. Police, EMT, firefighters and other emergency response members may also come, depending on the crisis.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This is a suicide hotline. When you call this number, you will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. This is an awesome resource that friends and family members have used and I am so incredibly grateful they did.

Free or Reduced Fee Counseling in Arizona and elsewhere
Magellan Health Services
If you are an Arizonan receiving medicaid health insurance (AHCCCS), then you are eligible for free counseling through Magellan Health Services. This is their website:
I am sure that other states and countries offer similar services. Talk to you health care provider.
Arizona Department of Health Services
If you are in Arizona, DHS has a website to help find counselors and clinics where you can receive counseling or therapy for a reduced fee.
Religious Congregations
If you are religious, talk to the leader of your congregation. Many churches offer counseling or help paying for a counselor and some pastors/priests/rabbis are also trained in counseling.
Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities is a wonderful organization that I cannot say enough good things about. Some of their services include reduced fee counseling and low-income/homeless housing (and much more). The best part is, you don't have to be Catholic to benefit from their services. Here is a link to their Arizona website:

{Please feel free to comment with any other crisis resources that I left out.}

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