Survival Mode: It’s not like a light switch

I haven’t blogged in a few days, mostly because I’ve been running back and forth from Orlando to Merritt Island to Tampa to Orlando to Merritt Island and so forth. I know that today is Monday September the 18th but I can’t even tell you what day I came back home to Merritt Island. It must’ve been Friday though because that’s the day my dad and I went to Moffitt Cancer Center to meet with the head oncologist there to get a second opinion on some blood work he had. I really, really didn’t want to go with him as I was still angry with him about how he had acted during the hurricane but I knew it was important for me to be there. What would happen if that was the day the oncologist said “Sorry Randy but things just aren’t looking good you only have (this much time left.)

That’s not something I would want him to have to hear by himself and again, I am his caregiver regardless of how much of an ass he can be so I sucked it up, put my big boy britches on and dealt with it. I may have put my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones on for most of the trip from Orlando to Tampa which could be seen as somewhat childish but hey, I went didn’t I? So, we get there and it turns out to be absolutely nothing. So, awesome, shout out to the big man upstairs for that one. It was nice to get away from the stress of the storm for a little bit even if it was just walking right into the stress of his cancer. One stress for another stress. Stress, stress, stress. That just seems to be my life lately.

I will say this though. I had no idea what true stress was until I got home from Orlando. See, after Moffitt, my dad and I figured what the hell, we’d already seen the west coast, why not go back to Merritt Island and see the east coast to check out the house and look for any water damage from flooding or roof damage. What we saw when we got to Merritt Island was incredible to say the least. Some areas were fine, like nothing had happened at all and other areas looked like they hadn’t even existed. Just a slab of concrete. The stress and the level of uncomfortability in the car was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The closer and closer we got to our house, the quieter we got. Even though we had several friends in the area tell us our house was fine, they couldn’t look inside, they didn’t know if there was a roof cave in or a water line break. We still didn’t know if we had power so we could come home or not. It was just a dead silent car ride for a good twenty minutes or so.

Upon arrival, we both had a sigh of relief. Luckily, we had a down privacy fence, a halfway down gated fence, a bunch of down limbs from trees and for the most part that was about it. We almost felt foolish for taking nearly half of what we owned with us to Orlando to be honest. At the time though it seemed as if our house was doomed and we would be coming back to a skeleton of a house with nothing left but a memory of what used to be. So, better safe than sorry right?

I flipped on a light switch and the ceiling fan in the living room came to life, the light with it turned on and we both looked at each other as if we’d just discovered the wheel or how to create and control fire. Immediately he was gung ho about getting back to Orlando (again) packing up and getting back to Merritt Island (again.)

My heart sank. I didn’t want to leave my brothers house. It was so nice there, so peaceful so loving. Everybody there from my brothers church was so caring and giving, expecting absolutely nothing in return. All my dad kept saying was “Let’s split up and go to the mall where the National Guard is giving out water so we can get three cases each!” We had plenty of water! More than we could drink in a year! The boil water alert had just been rescinded and even if it hadn’t, we had power! We could easily boil water and then put it in the damn fridge! I didn’t understand his thinking. I told myself come hell or high water, whatever we got from the NG I was going to give to somebody else. I know there are people in Merritt Island who still don’t have power and are still under a boil water notice. Hard to boil water with no power….I got as many small tupperware containers as I could and filled them up with water, and froze them to make ice blocks, got my “bug-out-bag,” and figured to hell with him. I’ll do what I want.

Family first though of course. The plywood had to come off the windows, the shutters had to go back up, the trees needed to be removed, both fences needed to be fixed, the inside of the house needed to be put back together, I needed to make sure my dad didn’t overdo it and I needed to make sure I kept my sanity. So, I called in the big guns.

NA to the rescue. I called out an SOS to my local NA group and four volunteers showed up tools in hand and helped me out with the bigger projects that I couldn’t have done by myself. I managed to convince my dad to go to Wal-Mart and pick up some groceries since we had to throw everything in the fridge and freezer away since there’s no way in hell he would’ve allowed “druggies,” into his house. Gee, thanks dad, tell me how you really feel…and by the time we got home a good chunk of the work had been done and everybody had disappeared. It was like a broadway show. The curtain dropped right as he showed up. Literally, the last person drove off as he was pulling onto our street.

Perfecto.

When he asked how I had gotten all of it done so quickly I just said “Adrenaline?” He scoffed and shook his head. I’m sure he knew I had help but at that point it didn’t matter. It got done. I think to prove a point, there was one last tree that needed to be trimmed up and he did that when I was out running errands. Just can’t win with this man.

So back to the beginning. I’ve been doing the best I can to pay it forward since I was given so much help when I needed it. A few people asked for some bottled water and I delivered it. Some ice here and there but nothing crazy. I still feel like I haven’t come through enough but at this point the Island is pretty much getting back on it’s feet. I however, just can’t seem to get out of survival mode. I’d been carrying my 9mm with me for over a week expecting to see looters or crazy drivers full of road rage. Or sharks falling from the sky for that matter. I have a ton of homework to do and can’t seem to just sit and focus and get it done. I put my headphones on and listen to classical music and it does nothing. I’m ancy, jumpy, irritable, I see my neighbors that still have debris all over their lawn and start raking even if they’re probably in Ohio or stuck on I-4 on their way home.

The war is over. It’s time to come home.

I don’t normally go to NA or AA meetings. I only went to the one in Orlando because a buddy of mine showed interest and he’d never been before. There is absolutely NO way I would say no to that so obviously I went. I don’t necessarily believe/subscribe to 12 step programs although yes, for millions of people they have been very beneficial and yes, life saving. I have my personal feelings and views about them but I try to keep them to myself as not to persuade other addicts/alcoholics to not go with the excuse being “well this guy online said he doesn’t go because (fill in the blank with my theoretical orientation about 12 step programs.) What works for me works for me but I might even go tonight just to again maybe feel a sense of normalcy.

I tried to work on writing my book last night, I believe I’m maybe 1/4 the way done but words failed me. Writer’s block! Ugh! Yes, I am writing a book, unfortunately I cannot publish it until either my father dies or publish it under a pen name because it’s an autobiography and my writings would probably get me kicked out of my family lol.

I called UCF to see if I could schedule a therapy appointment but I quickly remembered how many times I’d been told not to do that because it could jeopardize my future with the college in regards to Psych clubs, grad programs etc. Some things you just need to keep to yourself or go to private practice so I suppose I’ll have to just see my regular therapist on Wednesday. That’s fine and all but with so many due dates changing, professors re-doing schedules, my stress level and anxiety level through the roof, I have to wonder if I could get some sort of assistance through the school but again, I know if I do, it will reflect poorly on me as a psychology student. It’s sad but it is true.

Fact of the matter is that being in recovery and mental health issues still have a stigma and it is alive and well in educational institutions. I hope one day to help tear down those walls but now is not that time.

Anyways, I think I’ll try and meditate for a little while. My blood pressure is probably high enough for two men and I really need to find some peace and tranquility.

Remember caregivers, addicts, alcoholics and storm survivors,

You are never alone, nor am I.

C. Brooks

 

 

3 thoughts on “Survival Mode: It’s not like a light switch

  1. I believe UCF’s counseling services are completely confidential (unless you’re suicidal, abuse etc.) I really don’t think there’s anything to worry about with the future of your psychological career. I’d suggest trying it but just fyi, I was told they don’t handle “long-term or complex” cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the only issue is that students are the therapists and most of the sessions are recorded by professors. Typically professors have pretty good memories so if you spill your guts it can have long lasting effects on your collegiate career. Say I want to apply for a grad program, or a TA or RA position in six months. It might be an issue because of that. It’s not that big of a deal. I see my therapist tomorrow. I’ll survive. Thanks for the advice. I just gotta pull it together and know that it’s all temporary.

      Like

  2. Alicia

    No, crisis mode is not easy to just come out of. God did I ever learn that in 2015, and that was cancer-related, nothing to do with the very literal hurricane you just went through on top of the cancer stuff. Try to be patient with yourself. NO, it’s not a light switch. It really does suck that the world of academia, which claims to be so forward-thinking and progressive still has so much stigma about mental health and addiction. Speaking of, huge props to your NA friends who helped you get the job done, and shame to your Dad for caring so much about who helped you do it. Grrr! People tell me I should someday write a book about the experiences I’m going through now. Two problems with that. One, my writing skills have gone to hell since I’ve been out of both the academic and employment world for so long. They could get polished back up, I’m sure, but not to book writing level. Two, like you, it’d have to be published under a pen name, or I’d be thought of as the worst monster in creation for some of the things that would go into it. Sometimes I get sick of being told how much potential I have. I know people mean well, and in a way, I do appreciate it. But between mental illness derailing me for so long, physical disability making it hard (sometimes it feels like impossible) to break into or stay in the employment world, it’s just a frustration. I know I have potential. A whole lot of good it seems to have done me. It’d be easier if I didn’t know I had it. Have you ever felt like that? Clearly you have it too, though I know you’ve been sidelined by addiction, and now caring for your Dad. Do you ever go, “Damn, when do I get a chance to use this potential everyone says I have?”

    Like

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