According to a few Google searches, the definition for an autoimmune disease/disorder is: When the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake.
Some sites said that the immune system doesn’t distinguish between healthy tissue and harmful substances.
Each autoimmune disorder/disease has its own symptoms but some of the more common ones are: fatigue, fever, general ill-feeling, and joint pain.
Well after the last ten days, I’ve made up my own term: “Auto-emotional disorder”. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, it holds some things in common with an autoimmune disorder.
In the case of my newly named and diagnosed auto-emotional disorder, my mind lacks the ability to distinguish between a normal or healthy experience and a traumatic experience and reacts as if they all were traumatic.
Case in point: Last Friday Zoe managed to break her collarbone!
She was with Catherine at the time, on their way to visit Lacey. Marc went down and retrieved her because Catherine phoned to tell us she wouldn’t stop crying after her tumble. As they came down the driveway Zoe wasn’t crying but as soon as Marc picked her up out of the stroller the bloodcurdling screaming indicated her injury was more than a typical ‘booboo’ as Zoe likes to call them. The second I saw her I knew she’d broken her collarbone only because Catherine had broken hers when she was three and her entire body language and type of cry was the same. It’s not something a mother forgets easily whether they realize it or not.
But that’s where the two experiences parted ways. Instead of emotionally relying on my memory of Catherine’s injury; knowing the treatment, and assured of the outcome which was a normal childhood trauma, my emotional response came completely from my experience with Bernadette which was a terminal experience!
Within hours of Catherine’s fall we were at the Bakkers’ enjoying dinner and a fun evening. With Zoe, we sat in my chair and rocked for three hours as she lay totally limp. She didn’t move. I didn’t move. But that didn’t mean that what was going on inside me wasn’t moving because it was – like a hurricane.
From Friday to Tuesday, when Marc brought her to emergency and saw in the x-ray that she in fact had a broken collarbone, my mind was continuously assaulted with flashbacks every time Zoe would cry, wince, or refuse our help or care, just like Bernadette. Every time I’d pull down the basket for the Tylenol or Advil and double checked times and proper doses it viciously brought up memories of alternating the two drugs in an effort to bring down Bernadette’s constant spiking fever. I could feel the tension surge through me as Marc and I repeatedly discussed what the best course of action was: take her to the doctor or give her a few days? It was like reliving all those tense discussions as to what to do with Bernadette.
As the days passed and Zoe showed signs of improvement, the symptoms of the ‘auto-emotional disorder’ kicked in. Fatigue: I was totally drained from living on the edge of fear, always braced for that next bloodcurdling scream. Zoe was feeling a bit better and becoming more active again which meant more chance of accidentally hitting her broken shoulder – which did happen a few times. Fever: or in this case ‘temper’ which comes from the Latin root of the word temper-ature. 🙂 (Just kidding) I was frustrated and tense because she wouldn’t slow down and do low key activities to prevent reinjuring her shoulder (and giving me a heart attack.) General ill-feeling: all the flashbacks and memory attacks felt like arrows whose tips were poisoned with heightened emotional trauma. There was also the continuous 100ft waves which caused lack of sleep and listlessness. Joint pain: feeling stiff and sore all the time from continuous stress and tension. My hips revolted every time I stood up and tried to walk. My right leg was throbbing for no reason and I even experienced a reoccurrence of a terrible pain in the side of my head that started soon after Ron died and continued for almost a year after Bernadette died.
Thankfully it’s been ten full days since Zoe’s fall and except for an unconscious attempt to protect her shoulder once in a while, Zoe is definitely her usual active self again with full movement and use of her arm. My symptoms have lessened as well.
Through all that, watching Zoe adjust to her injury and how she just knew what she could handle and what she couldn’t, though amazing, also brought with it little jabs. Knowing that children are so resilient and watching it in action just made me think of Bernadette’s little body compensating for her limitations so she didn’t realize things were not as they should be. I know I’ve been down this road many times, always reminding myself that it’s only in hindsight that we understood her symptoms and not beat myself up over it, but watching Zoe heal was a constant battle against that temptation.
And lastly, the reason I likened this latest experience to an autoimmune disorder is because it reminded me of a dear friend who has a real autoimmune disorder and how stress seems to be a big trigger causing hers to flare up. Stressful moments with Catherine and Zoe cause my ‘auto-emotional disorder’ to kick in with lightening speed and it happens repeatedly. I just question whether this is now a lifetime disorder or will it dissipate over time. deep sigh