Thursday, January 10, 2019
I never was one to attach a lot of meaning to holidays or birthdays, they were just another day, another year. Sure I enjoyed celebrating with loved ones but they remained just another day. I even recognized birthdays as a milestone of survival. However, my outlook on holidays drastically changed over the last couple of years for two particular days - my birthday and New Year's. Now I enter a period of mourning around these days in anticipatory grief over what the future holds.
I have always wanted my parents to outlive me and there were times that this was nearly the case. I fear the real possibility of outliving my parents. And as I age, this fear has intensified. My birthday and New Year's have become to serve as painful reminders of this fear as I become another year closer to my fears becoming reality. I no longer enjoy these days, instead I become overwhelmed with fear and depressive feelings - spending hours sobbing while my mind is consumed.
As a child and teenager, there were times that my doctors were amazed at my survival of times that I wasn't expected to live through. Afterwards, I was convinced that I would not live past age 21. When I turned 22, I was overcome with feelings of bewilderment and grief at passing 21. I had come to accept my death and was prepared for it. I didn't know what to think about continuing onward with life when I was utterly convinced I wouldn't see 22. My health was still precarious enough that it wasn't unreasonable to think my life was limited. Age 21 has come and gone and now, I find age 40 to be a prime limit to my life. At 40, my parents should still be living and they would be recipients of my life insurance policies that would allow them to be taken care of financially and medically in their older years. My parents' comfort and security is more important and means more to me than a long life for myself nor do I want to endure the loss of my parents. As selfish as that may be, their loss is a tremendous fear of mine and I truly believe they would handle losing me better than I would handle losing them.
And so for the day of and a few days past my birthday or New Year's I am overcome with mourning for another year added to my age and my parents' ages. This state doesn't stay for long but it is long enough to remove any joy these holidays may have held for me in the past. I try to remind myself during these days to enjoy the time that we do have together and no one knows the future. After a couple of days the intense feelings extinguish themselves until the next year when they are renewed with acuity once again. The fear remains with me on a daily basis in the back of my mind, however, not as acute as on these particular holidays. Most days it is easily manageable as I practice reframing my bothersome thoughts and distract myself with activities. It's important to focus on the present so that we don't get lost in the fears of the future.
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. I experienced life threatening complications resulting in 4 more surgeries that year and developing medical PTSD. I had an ileostomy for 6 years before having it reversed into a straight pull-thru that also resulted in life threatening complications requiring an additional surgery the following year. In 2021, I required my 8th surgery to remove my gall bladder due to gall stones and FAP. This surgery exacerbated my, at the time undiagnosed, Abdominal Migraine which is now being treated.