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Monday, September 1, 2014

Tummy Worry

The other evening, Ben got a really bad stomach ache. He was writhing in pain, moaning and crying. He is a hypochondriac, but even hypochondriacs get sick sometimes for real. I could tell this was real pain. The pain went on for hours, despite my best efforts and Mommy Tricks to try and help him. When he was going on hour #4 of the horrible tummy ache, couldn't get to sleep, and nothing was helping, we finally decided that we needed to go to an emergency room. 

When we broke the news to Ben, instant panic set in. Even though he had cried that he wished he could have his stomach cut open instead of having the pain he was in, the thought of something serious being wrong with him put him over the edge. His eyes bulged in fear and he peppered me with anxious OCD questions for the next three hours. That's how long it took for us to be seen at the ER. I was not a happy camper. It wasn't even as if the ER was crowded. Not fun.

I tried to keep Ben calm, but it was almost impossible. If I didn't answer a question JUST right, he would repeat it. If he didn't feel like I was telling the truth, he'd ask again. If he forgot that he'd already asked me something 47 times, he'd anxiously ask again, just in case the answer had changed.

Do you think I have cancer?
Do you think I have a tape worm?
Is it my appendix?
Are you sure?
My teeth are chattering I'm so scared.
Do you think it will be serious?
Do you think I'm ok?
Do you think it will be good news?
Do you think it will be bad news?
Are you sure?
Where is the doctor?
Is that the doctor?
Will I have to have surgery?
Is it my heart?
Do you think it will be good news?
Are you SURE???
My legs are shaking I'm so scared.
Do you think it's a tumor?
Do you think I'm going to faint?
Do you think I'm having a panic attack?
Do you think the doctor knows we're here?
What is that beeping?
Am I dying?
Will they cut me open tonight?
Do I need a blood test?
Will I ever need surgery?
Will I ever need surgery on my heart?
Am I dying?
Will you ever need surgery?
My head is hurting I'm so scared.
Am I going to go into a coma?
Do you think it's cancer?
Do you think it will be bad news?
Do you think it will be good news?

No. I'm not sure. Which is why we're at the ER in the middle of the night.

Imagine that script, repeated about 3073 times over 3 hours. I tried to stay patient, I knew he can't help all this. All this anxiety. All the OCD. It's like a loop in his head, questions over and over, he can't rest until he feels like he's gotten just the right answer. And seconds later, he may feel like he needs the right answer again. I knew he was scared. I knew he was very scared. He has bad memories of hospitals. Nothing good comes from a doctor's visit for Ben. But after three hours of this constant interrogation from my son, I was wiped out. Still no doctor.

Finally, the doctor came in, poked Ben's tummy, asked what meds he's on even though I'd already gone over that in great detail with the nurse three hours before. He said we could do a blood test, a urine test, and an ultrasound, but Ben looked "unremarkable" for signs of appendicitis. By this point Ben had had some toots and was feeling a little better. I decided that if he had no other symptoms, like a fever or nausea, we were going to skip all the tests and just go home. We'd see how things went from there. I was done with this ER.

On our way out, the front desk lady decided she needed to tell me her life story, even though I looked like death warmed over and was practically falling asleep standing up because of the intensity of our night. She did not pick up on my social cues that I would rather not have a great big conversation at that moment, and that I was rather frustrated with the care my son had received. She proceeded to tell me that she "avoids the ER like the Plague. Drink a ginger ale and get over it," she told Ben. Awesome. Great advertising for the place she works.

I finally just walked out. She kept talking louder so she could tell me more about her life, but I couldn't be polite while in the state of pure wiped-out-ness I was in, so I just kept walking. I did wave behind me, as an awkward way of saying hang in there, Miss Pessimist. Maybe try smiling once in a while. Maybe don't chew off a Mama's ear at 1 am when she's been waiting with her anxious, ticcy, OCD son, without being seen for 3 hours and expect her to be nice. Maybe get a new job so you're happier...

We went home, Ben manic with relief. Now he wasn't asking his anxious OCD questions, he was happily chatting on and on about everything on God's green Earth. And Mama was tired. So I finally told him he had to calm down so I could concentrate on driving in the middle of the night, exhausted as I was. 

Sweet Ben. You don't realize the weight of the world that he carries on his shoulders, every day, until something like this happens and you see his worries flood to the surface. He worries all the time, whether he lets it out or not. He constantly worries. About everything- real or not remotely real. He just worries so much. People who don't know him well are not let in on this secret about Ben. He expertly hides his Worry, but it eats at him like a parasite. If he is forced to hide his Worry, like at school, he internalizes it and the force of his anxiety is even stronger. I'm grateful he has the support of family and friends who love him, whether he shows them his Worry or not. I have to believe this will help him thrive and be the best Ben he can be.

Hopefully we won't have any ER visits anytime soon. Ben worries even if it's not him needing medical care. If anyone in our family needs to see a doctor about anything, this scenario of Worry resumes. I read an article by a mom who has a child with special needs about some things that we don't tell other people that we worry about. One thing is that we are terrified of becoming sick or dying. Because who would care for and understand our special children like we do? Who would 'get' the nuances that make them who they are like we do? So I tell God every day that I am not allowed to become sick or die, at least until I am 297 years old. Maybe by then my special children will be ok enough for me not to be physically in their daily lives. Of course my spirit will always be hanging around, watching out for them and probably irritating them. But until then, I am Invincible Mama. Nothing will hold me down, break me, or stop me from being who I need to be for my children. Don't even try. I will stay awake all night, if that's how long it takes to be seen by a doctor, answering my son's terrified questions over and over and over and over…I will do that for my son. 

We keep working on the Worry that eats at Ben. I know a little about this Worry, and it is not fun. It can consume you, as I was a first-hand witness to the night of the ER visit. Granted, that was an anxiety-producing experience for anyone. And usually Ben can hold himself together much better than he was able to that night. But that experience shined a light on the Worry for me, and reminded me how my son suffers so much every day with his Worries. Sometimes I forget that my kids have special needs, because we're just going about our daily lives, doing what is normal for us. Especially when something unusual, like an ER visit, happens, our special needs are magnified and I'm reminded how my kiddos need such personalized, patient, constant care.

The day after the ER, Ben said "Thanks for taking me to the ER, Mom." I said I thought you were mad that I made you go! He said "I know, but it shows how much you love me, that you would get me help even when I didn't want to go. That you would get me help when we didn't know what was wrong." My heart smiled. My sweet boy. We refuse to let Worry win. 

1 comment:

Full Spectrum Mama said...

I so relate to this post! Two of the Full Spectrums have serious tummy stuff and "mere" gas can be incredibly painful!!!!
Here is a book you probably already have, but just in case:
Living to be 180, at least,