Ugh: The Stress Series I

Mary is the mother
of 3-year-old Ben.
Two weeks ago he underwent
a 5-hour abdominal surgery.
At the end of his hospital stay,
a problem developed.
Ben was forced to endure two hours of excruciating pain,
while being held down by five hands—
what his father, Scott, described as
“abject (though medically necessary) torture.”
A couple of days later, with Ben now at home,
having five tubes and drains coming out of
different parts of his little body,
Mary went to get his prescriptions filled.
While waiting for these, she did some other shopping.
She wrote of her trip:
I went looking for PediaSure and Carnation Instant Breakfast drinks. I’ve been shopping at this store for seven years. I know where everything is. But I stood there paralyzed like a stone in a stream, moms rushing in a current all around me filling their carts, and I could not remember where those two things might be. Then I started crying. It was pathetic. I was trying to read the signs above the aisles, then I forgot what I was looking for altogether. Ugh.”

Mary is learning these weeks how stressful
caregiving can be.
Any of us may be learning the same thing,
or we may have learned it long before now.
Our stress may come as a result
of our feeling terribly upset, even alarmed,
about what the one in our care must endure.
We may feel overwhelmed by our responsibilities,
wondering if we can do what’s asked of us.
We may feel utterly exhausted
by what we’ve been through,
by what we’re continuing to go through.
At the same time, if we’re like Mary
(and I believe most of us are),
we may carry on bravely,
acting like everything is going pretty well,
not fully aware of how stressed we are.
Until we’re standing in the supermarket
and we start sobbing.
Or until we snap at someone
who has really done nothing wrong.
Or until we suffer a horrendous headache
that refuses to go away.
Whether or not we recognize we’re stressed,
our stresses will make themselves known,
one way or another.
That’s how stress works, in all of us.
Stress wants an avenue of expression and,
more than that, deserves an avenue of expression.
Even in the middle of an aisle
at the nearby grocery store.

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