I talk to Dr. Leo over the phone today. I sent him email after the most recent specialist appointment, giving him an update and asking him to call me at his earliest convenience. We had a really good conversation about my frustration: frustration with feeling physically bad all the time, frustration with not being able to do anything about it, and frustration with not being able to do stuff. He asked me a lot of questions about mood and depression. We talked about laying low on the medical front for a while and focusing on the other stressors in my life (of which there are many). We compared the situation of feeling miserable and without feeling to being upset because I only had the energy to be at two hours of my best friend’s wedding rehearsal (and dinner and planning, etc.)

One thing I really appreciate about Dr. Leo (& Timothy) is that they are not afraid of blank space. In our conversations, they’re perfectly comfortable with having periods of time where no one is saying anything. It’s so nice for me because I’m used to being around people who are eager to get to the point and then move on, but sometimes I can’t physically, mentally, or emotionally move that quickly any more. Anyhow, at one blank spot in today’s conversation, Dr. Leo asked me,

Do you have a cold? Or is our phone connection breaking up a lot?

Ummmm, no. I’m, uh, uh, crying over here. Sorry. It’s a lot to deal with.

(pause, a long pause) Oh. It makes sense.

We didn’t dwell on it. We didn’t have to. I’m trying so hard to manage everything myself and understand all the medical complexities, but the truth is that I’m not qualified or educated to do this and I didn’t even sign up for it!!!! It’s really hard, and I’m doing a lot of it on my own. Aaron visits (or calls) once a week and prays with and for me. Alana and Tabitha text or call me whenever they can. But the day to day stuff is all up to me.

I confessed to Dr. Leo that a lot of the time, I don’t know if I’m being proactive or responsible enough; it’s hard for me to judge when I’ve done a reasonable job. Want to know what he said? He said, You’re perfectly responsible, Abigail. You’re dealing with a lot of things all at the same time. I’m here to help you, and so are the rest of us.

We talked about it more in some detail. He’s going to call Dr. Samuel (and possibly Dr. Harold) and fill him in on what’s happened in the last two months. He’s going to share some of his concerns about my emotional stability and see how they can work together. I’m going to compile a list of all the requirements I need to meet to achieve ABD status, and then Dr. Leo and I (and possibly Dr. Samuel) will map out a plan for me to accomplish everything without burning out. Then, I’ll present it to my department, and he’ll be right there helping me fight for myself with something concrete.

The future holds a lot of unknowns. I’m not sure how a lot of things will work out. But I know I’ll make it through to the other side, wherever the other side is. Dr. Leo is available for me to reach out to. Other doctors are also willing to help out however they can. And, I have a God who’s bigger than the disease that seems bigger than me. While He may not choose to take this illness away, He’s blessed and shepherded me by bringing Dr. Leo & Aaron into my life. And, I know that He’s here to stay.

Abigail Cashelle

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