Tag Archives: powerlessness

Someone I Used to Know

I dive in after my little boy who has fallen into the ocean, frantically calling out to him, “Baby, baby, where are you?” I spot him underwater, slowly sinking, and I swim toward him, extending my hand, “Baby, baby, grab my hand. PLEASE GRAB MY HAND!” He stretches his arm out toward me but doesn’t quite reach me and continues his slow motion descent further and further down. I call out to him again, “Baby, PLEASE GRAB MY HAND”, and he makes one last try, and almost makes it but just as his fingertips barely touch mine, he slips away. As I watch helplessly as he descends deeper and deeper into the ocean depths, a sense of hopelessness and total remorse engulfs me, realizing that I can never save him. Then I wake up.

I am attached to my son. I am he and he is me—we are one and we always were. We are attached surely as if our livers, or lungs, or hearts were in the same body. I feel him and I cannot separate myself. I know for sure that I will not survive if one day I get the phone call that I have been dreading for so many years. I will cease to exist, if not physically, but spiritually—my soul will surely die and time will stop. I wonder why God puts people in the world for suffering while others live a charmed life. I go through each day, trying to become a “Lasagna noodle” and I am sometimes successful. But, alas, that serene state never lasts because I cannot get the vision out of my mind of my child, being shunned by everyone, alone, and looking like the Unabomber, hoody, sunglasses, and surgical mask, trying to navigate the world—running from all the entities chasing and trying to kill him.

Mental illness has taken his soul just as if he were a victim of a Body Snatcher—for he kind of resembles himself, but his essence is gone. He has become “someone I used to know” but don’t anymore. I can fool myself on some days and sometimes when I am at Church I can pretend in my daydream that he is sitting right beside me, worshipping God and feeling the rhythmic beat of the Christian Rock band. I can daydream that he is OK now and that he is back in his right mind. A sense of peace and serenity surrounds me and for a short period of time I can actually believe that anything is possible and I have hope again. But then reality creeps back into my world and I know I am powerless.

Today I have come to the realization that I can never save my boy—only God can. Unlike when he was a baby, he is a grown man and I have no control in his life. Although I had that dream so long ago, I can still remember it because it never felt like an actual dream—more like a premonition. I can pray and hope that one-day the stars and the moon will align and somehow he will be saved. But realistically I do not feel that will ever happen although I still hold out hope; when you lose hope that is the end and I am not ready to accept that yet.


Catastrophizing is defined as an irrational thought that some event in your life (either big or small) is way worse than it actually is. It is probably not a real word, but it so describes what many of us do. Although I am aware that I catastrophize, even having insight into why, and recognize it when I do it, I seem to be powerless to stop the downward spiral once it starts. It is basically an extreme overreaction to a situation that doesn’t warrant it. The problem with catastrophizing for me is that I don’t seem to be able to differentiate between large or real problems vs. life’s little annoyances. My reaction seems to be the same whether or not I’ve just been diagnosed with a severe illness, or my printer is on the fritz. A perfect example of this skewed thinking is the following: I had an infection of the big toe, which I tried to treat myself for a few days. Then I took off the bandage and it was painful, an angry red, swollen and obviously much worse. My initial reaction was panic–thinking that it was a “flesh eating” virus, and my entire foot would have to be amputated, if not my entire leg. I promptly made an appointment with the doctor, who diagnosed it as a paronychia (nail bed infection), drained it, prescribed an antibiotic, and sent me on my way. It is much improved today. Although I see it coming, I seem to be powerless to control it and my catastrophizing seems to have been integrated into my psyche at this point. I think I have always been prone to the dramatic when life doesn’t go my way, but this extreme overreaction to minor events is troubling. One problem is that I seem to view life in two shades—-black or white, never gray, the way life usually is. So, either everything is good, or everything is horrible, nothing in-between. I seem to constantly be waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” when I have a period of time without the sky falling in, which is what I seem to think will happen. I keep asking myself, “OK, things are going alright, so WHAT NOW?” I can guess the origin of this feeling. Years ago, I took a course called, “Abnormal Psychology” in which they described what it is like to be in a constant state of “alarm.” This is caused by stressors, which include major changes or situations in your life, such as divorce, marriage, moving, new job, death of a loved one, serious illness, etc. When you are bombarded with a number of major life events in a short period of time, you develop a state of constant alarm. I believe the combination of my serious unrecognized, crippling illness for so long, then subsequent surgery, running concurrently with the acute mental illness, homelessness, and ongoing problems with my adult child, has taken a huge emotional toll on me. Prior to my second spinal surgery to remove the tumor, I was utterly hopeless, about myself, and my child. I do believe that I would have benefited greatly from counseling after my surgery. Unfortunately I never sought that much-needed counseling, and the saga with my child continues to this day. I also think there is an element of PTSD–not in the traditional sense–but I feel like I have been through a trauma (both medical and mental) due to the never ending pain I endured, plus the treatment I received from the doctors who never took me seriously, along with the mental health system who continually failed my boy. Consequently, I am like “Chicken Little” proclaiming, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”, when maybe it’s just a little bit cloudy.