It’s been quite a while since I posted anything about my Dad’s recovery or about stroke in general. I’ve avoided writing for lots of reasons – but the clearest to me is exhaustion.
And most importantly, emotional exhaustion. That’s without a doubt the worst and the one that I spend every waking minute trying to avoid.
For 15 months I’ve been Dad’s physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, cognitive therapist, secretary, day planner, health care advocate, chef, personal shopper, nurse, nurse’s aide, chauffeur, psychologist, personal trainer, maid and somewhere in there – his daughter. I think my original role as “daughter” is the one I take on the least often. It’s too exhausting to be that with everything else. Being his rehab specialist in all other things is easier. Less messy. Less emotional.
Being his daughter is foreign to me now – so foreign that I’m forgetting what it was like when he took care of me. I’m losing the Maryland games, the late night phone calls when exams were overwhelming me, breakfast with Dad at the diner…Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided being his daughter for so much of this. I’m struggling to remember who he was before the stroke and every time I try, I slam the brakes on because I can’t hold back the sadness and despair that begins to seep in.
I haven’t written because writing forces me to face the emotional side of stroke. And that’s where I’m at a loss for words. That is the side that rips out your heart daily and leaves you struggling to breath. Watching Dad go through this is devastating – it’s easier to write his long-term goals and focus on the objective measures that mean there’s some improvement. If I disconnect from him I can almost stay objective and am not paralyzed by sadness.
I’ve felt unable to advise others on this blog recently because recently I’ve only felt able to deal with the physical. As a physical therapist by trade, I’ve treated stroke before – but I stayed safely disconnected. Until Dad, I just didn’t get it and I feel like my former patients deserved better – needed more from me than just exercises and feedback. I missed so much about what stroke really is because I didn’t let myself see the big picture – didn’t think that it was my job to appreciate or understand the emotional exhaustion that comes with it.
I’ll be better and do better. I’ll write something down tomorrow on this blog because something is better than nothing. Advice is better than silence. And for now, that’s just going to have to be enough. Maybe tomorrow I can face the loss a little better and allow myself to let the emotions in.
Because stroke really is more emotional than physical.