Monday, March 14, 2016

Your Good News Makes Me Feel Bad

I feel guilty about everything.

If I'm hanging out with my kids I think I should be working.  If I'm working I think I should be hanging out with my kids.  And don't even get me started on when I do something just for myself.

It takes me days to get over it.

I don't know if this is generational, gender specific, the fact that I was raised by a southern mother or some combo of all three.

Of course, nothing points out one of your habits like having one of you children pick it up as well.  I've started noticing this about my son; he apologizes for everything.  Even when it makes no sense.  Sometimes I swear he apologizes for just standing still.

And now I feel bad that I'm probably the person who taught him to do that.

I actually notice this about myself the most when I'm at the grocery store.  If I'm grabbing a gallon of milk and someone is standing behind me waiting their turn, I'll apologize. If I'm walking down the aisle and need to dodge out of someone's way, I'll apologize.  If I grab the last good avocado, I'll apologize.

Now that I'm aware of this, I'm always kicking myself as I'm loading my groceries in the back of my car (not literally - that would take coordination I don't posses).  WHY did I apologize??  I had just as much of a right to be where I was as anyone else.  No one else is apologizing.  Why am I apologizing for just existing?

Again, I wonder if this is part of my generation.  We were raised on the tail-end of the "seen and not heard" movement, so maybe that's why.  And it's funny how we apologize for everything, feel guilty about everything, and are raising a generation who seems to not feel bad or take responsibility for ANYTHING.

And for that, I'll say, "I'm sorry."


Your good news makes me feel like shit.  

Not all of it.  It's very specific good news.  But it's a biggie.

A little background on me, for those who don't know it:  My husband was in an accident on his way to work.  He then had a stroke, followed by brain swelling.  A doctor gave me the option of surgery to remove part of his skull, the outcome of which would have been a quality of life I was sure my husband would not have wanted.  I opted not to do the surgery.  Three days later he was declared brain dead.  He was a registered organ donor.

So, a few years later a politician named Gabrielle Giffords was shot.  Her brain began to swell.  Her husband opted FOR the surgery.  She lived (not as she did before, but she seems to be doing well).  I'm very happy for them both.

And I felt like I had been slapped when that happened.

I couldn't stand to watch the news of her recovery.  Every article and interview made me feel like I didn't love my husband enough to even try, when in the moment (and in moments of clarity) I knew I'd done the right thing for him.

Her wonderful, miraculous, incredible news is something I cannot stand.  And that's the truth.

It happened again recently. I was listening to the radio and the announcer started talking about a woman who had been declared brain dead, who was also an organ donor, and who miraculously began to regain consciousness before the transplant took place.  I don't know what her status is as this moment.

But that story made me feel like a murderer.

I'm not kidding.  I sat in my car, hands shaking, thinking, "What have I done?"

Now, rationally I know that every situation is different.  Ms. Giffords's injuries were not the same as my husband's.  I don't know how the second person came to be in the position she was in, but chances are her circumstances were extremely different as well.  And I'm so proud that my husband was an organ donor and helped so many.

But while the rest of the world rejoices at this wonderful news, it actually makes me feel terrible.  Like, stay-awake-at-night-second-guessing-every-decision-I-made-nine-years-ago-terrible.

And then I feel worse.

Whew.  Now that I look back on this blog, it's a real downer for a Monday.



  1. You have just very eloquently put everything I think to myself into words! I too apologize for everything to everyone - so much so that my grown daughters beg me to "stop saying you're sorry"! And of course, I constantly second guess all of my husband and my joint opinions on every course we took during his cancer treatments! I think "well, I should have done this, or that, or made him go here, or there" - and every time I hear if someone defeating cancer, I feel like a heel for being both happy and feeling like I just had a knife stab me in the side!

    Thank you, Catherine, for making me feel like less of a monster!!

    Ragen Cantrell

  2. Oh my goodness, I can relate to this like it was me. I too lost my husband from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident. After 18 days of highs and lows and everything on between we had to make the decision to take him off of life support. So many times I have asked myself "What if..." In my head I know there were no "What ifs..." but in my heart there will forever by a sliver of doubt especially when you hear the stories of those that have miraculously come around. It's hard to come to terms with it, but I thank you Catherine for saying the thoughts that I always just quickly put away. 16 years later and I'm still learning how to maneuver through these roads of grief.

  3. I continue to question decisions I made during my husband's illness. "What If's" will likely always be with me. I also see people with similar diagnoses who fared much better than my husband and feel both happy and sad all at once. Those emotions will always be there. Yet there's always an opposite scenario. Suppose you had made the decision to do that surgery, despite knowing in your heart how your husband would feel about the life he was predicted to have. Suppose the results of the surgery were terrible. The thing is, you were faced with making an extremely difficult decision at a time when you were an emotional wreck, probably physically exhausted as well. You did the best you could and it's even possible you had divine help making that decision. You can't go back. You might as well let it go. It's possible some other good came from it. Your posting about it here may help others. Now that you've done that, let it go. BTW - It's easy to dish out advice like that. Much harder to actually do it, as I well know.

  4. I too have the same guilty feeling of making that choice of letting him go. My husband had liver disease. He was on a transplant list for 2 years, but during that time, was in and out of the hospital with fevers, but they continued to keep him until he got better, then he would come home and a month or two later, we'd go thru the same thing. Long story short, one time he didn't make it. My neighbor was on a transplant list in another state, and they moved their family to Florida so he could get the care and treatment there and alas, a liver came up and he received his transplant. Our state if very full of those waiting for transplants. I think they understood my struggle to be 100% happy for them. I'm very close to them -- but I can't help be a little bit "jealous" that they got their dad back, husband back, and what the heck happened to me? Your words are always so potent and right on target.

  5. My husband had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. He was a registered donor and was able to donate several organs. I now do organ donation presentations in middle and high school classes and teach kids about the value of donation.

    I have to say, every one's story is different. Just because you chose not to do the surgery doesn't mean you gave up too soon. If you believed that the surgery would have been the best option, you would have chosen that. I didn't have to make that choice so I know I have little right to speak, but I believe that your husband knows your heart... your intentions... that you wanted him to stay. He wants you to be happy.

    As I look back on my awful day, I find myself wondering if I could have done anything that would have made a difference. But no matter how many times I run it through my head, the outcome never changes. But I can be different. I can be more compassionate and understanding of others in a similar situation. I can even show that compassion to myself and give myself time to grieve without kicking myself while I'm down. God bless :)

  6. My husband died in ICU as a result of multiple organ failure due to Sepsis following a simple procedure that went horribly wrong, Like many of you I have often had that thought what if I had not agreed to life support being withdrawn what might have happened, But deep in my heart I know nothing would have changed the outcome, I think all of us that have been in that situation have the same thoughts... Love to you all,

  7. My husband died of lung cancer. I did wonder if the doctor should have scheduled an x-ray every year or so. Soon after his death, I saw a tv show in which a woman who'd had a spiral ct scan discovered her lung cancer at a curable stage. When I asked his doctor, he explained that procedure was the equivalent to 600 x-rays, not something one can do every year.

    With medical procedures, things don't always go as planned. The fact that it worked on some other patient is no guarantee at all that it would have worked for our loved one. Heck, one of my friends almost died a year ago from having his tonsil removed.

  8. I am so grateful this came up on my feed. Thank you for putting into such raw, honest, powerful words what I carry in my own heart. I appreciate you.