Dear Doctor Bill,
I am thinking about you this morning while drinking my first cup of coffee. I awakened with a start in my recliner, and rushed to the bathroom, almost tripping over my wool blanket and quilt in the process. My bladder and my headache were about equally motivating and providence smiled as I did not fall, did not crack open my wounded noggin, did not have a bathroom accident. Eddy heard me lurching about and said, “How are you doing?”
This week has been that way, weird, the combination of brain surgery and compounds to promote healing and dissuade pain produces an altered lifestyle — interesting, but more challenging than normal. Last night I had some side effects of the mental kind, when I had the bathroom urge, but not the capacity to awaken clearly. In my fog, I fixated on the idea that I was trapped in a giant conspiracy to control and exploit old people, rendering us cold and powerless. I was trying to work out the details of this “system” of exploitation in my mind before it was too late, knowing that I could not resist this network of terror much longer. This was not going well, but safe on the toilet, I began sighing and ohming with each breath, quietly then louder. Gradually I remembered reading that suicidal ideation and suicide attempts are a one percent side-effect of the gabapentin that I’m taking. Fixating on a potentially destructive thought was frightening, and I wondered about how long it will take to let it go.
That memory question led to a good idea: “I should ask Eddy for a nice 2-a.m. walk — since I promised not to roam without her.” She was amenable, and round-and-round the kitchen, hallway, living room, dining room, office circuit we went, padding along in our stocking feet murmuring to each other about this and that, quietly to avoid waking our beloved downstairs neighbors.
Early-hour sanity walks on the floor were a prominent feature of our week-long stay at Oregon Health and Sciences and it’s nurturing to be able to continue them in a drastically shortnened form here at home.
As I think of you living at home alone, with the challenges of old age this morning, I remain in awe of your remarkable ability to succeed in self-care and community service in your present position of citizen of the show-me state.
Love from your Son by Marriage,