Monday, February 20, 2012

To sum up the last week...

Go Red for Women donation card from the luncheon.
Here we go.  Finally sitting down to write about last week.  I have no idea what I'm about to say, because this is my first real opportunity to sit down and think about it.

Right now, I am noticeably agitated.  I have been snapping at the kids and not able to focus on much of anything.  So I made this list of everything that is contributing, and I think it's safe to say that once things calm down this agitation will resolve on its own!

1.  The usual.  I have two little kids and no time to think.  There is constant noise, climbing me, biting me (yay!  A-Train turns out to be a runner and a biter - two things I haven't had the fun of dealing with before!  And, by the way, he totally bites with love.).  "Mom look at this!"  "Eh! Eh!"  ::scream::  ::collapse into puddle of crying mush:: "Did you see that?!!"  "A-Trrrrrrain!  NO! NO NO NO!  THAT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA!" (Bean is like a third parent.) 

People of various sizes and speeds trip me when I turn around in the kitchen.  I open the fridge and someone appears out of nowhere, grabbing their sippy of milk or pulling every. damn. thing. off the shelves on the fridge door. 

I can generally only find half a pair of shoes per person.  Socks no longer have to match.  I'm not sure how long it has been since the boys had baths (whatever!).  All I know is that no one smells and I just used the mama spit method to remove the visible dirt and stickiness from A-Train while he nursed to sleep for his nap.  And guess what?  Absolutely not a lick of shame in telling you all this because this is life with two little kids and I'm embracing it.

2.  Busy week.  It has me tired.  Need I say more?

3.  Zoloft - I just went completely off of it week before last.  I had been on it since just before I went to New York and my sister was officially introduced as a spokeswoman for Go Red for Women.  I didn't mention it on the blog because it wasn't really that big a deal.  I needed something to get me through numerous upcoming triggers and unusual stresses.  I wasn't entirely sure how much I was going to see/hear my sister's story or photos of my mother or just how hard it would all tug at my heart strings and pull the trigger on my flashbacks.  After that, there was the trip to Texas to sort through Mom's stuff that had been in storage.  I wasn't sure what exactly I'd find, what condition it would be in, or what it would trigger.  It ended up being fun and wonderful to see all of the stuff, which was mostly in good condition.  Through all of this, we thought we might be moving.  Moving is actually another trigger for me - not of flashbacks, but of general emotional turmoil.  We aren't moving, and other triggers seem to be calming down, so I went off of the Zoloft and wonder if I am having a bit of a rebound....or if I shouldn't have gone off of it.

4.  Mom's story.  I was so glad to be able to share Mom's story but, uh, I'm sure you can guess that telling it to a thousand people was a potential trigger.  I expended a decent amount of energy being hyper-aware of my surroundings and anything that could make me too emotional to speak intelligibly.  (I'm going to get into the speech and event itself a little more below.)

So there you have it.  I'm kind of wanting to yell (ok, I might have already yelled), "Everybody get off of me!"  I think it will pass.  I'm hoping writing all of that up and just getting it out of my head will clear some space in there.  Because it is packed tight and loud in my head right now.  Whew!

This might be a pretty good example of what one former Go Red speaker told me - that even sharing her story over and over,  it was still emotional and difficult and draining.  She is currently retired from that type of volunteer work, and I can completely understand why.  I am currently at the opposite end - I want to shout Mom's story from the roof tops until the statistics change.  I want to clear a little space from the chattering question of why is this still happening???  Why are women's symptoms being ignored or misdiagnosed?  Why do I know of numerous stories similar to my mother's that took place well after her death?

The Luncheon. 

So.  Friday, I spoke at the largest Go Red Luncheon in the country.  I also hustled to get my kids taken care of, gorged on really not-healthy food well past my bedtime, and got in a full-body workout by pushing both kids around the house in a laundry basket.  All in a day's work!

After hustling to sort out babysitters after the original one realized she had triple-booked herself,  I left with A-Train at about 8:45AM, confident two sitters (both of whom Bean knows) would figure it out and I'd pick him up somewhere or other or see him at home in the afternoon.  I was sort of glad there had been a (very minor) crisis because dealing with something right then kept me from being overly stressed about my speech.

I arrived in Indianapolis and met a bunch of people and didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing for the first 45 minutes.  I realize now that I was supposed to be enjoying myself and taking advantage of the really fabulous stuff they had going on at the luncheon.  Had I not been distracted by my inner dialogue ("Deeeeeeeep breaths.  Hold it together jussssssst enough.  You need to be able to speak clearly enough for people to understand you.  But you should cry.  You're going to cry.  But don't cry right now.  For real.  Now is not the time.") - if I hadn't been distracted, I probably would have gotten a free chair massage and also maybe some lipstick at the free makeup booth because apparently I don't currently own any and I bet I looked like I have no lips from the back of the ginormous ballroom...

In any case, we did a quick walk-through.  I chose to leave my slightly annotated script for my speech with the podium copy of the script for the event, and then I had to keep moving.  I went back to the room where I had stashed our stuff and listened to sweet A-Train say "uh oh.  uh oh.  uh oh." He didn't know I was there and I am pretty sure he was saying "uh oh" just because he can and not because anything had happened.  His sweet little voice was such a comfort.  Mothering hormones are awesome.

I came back and anxiously sat at my table near the stage.  I was kind of afraid my time to speak would sneak up on me and I'd have a mouth full of salad as I introduced myself.  I took tiny bites and huge deep breaths.  Then I was up.

No one else had used the podium copy of the script.  In fact, I think everyone had left their copies of the script there, because there were at least three.  I chuckled and said something like, "well...somewhere around here is what I have to tell you..."  To a thousand people.  As I prepared to tell them about the single most traumatic event of my life, I was trying to be my goofy self.  The incongruence was actually funny.

So I started my speech.  Throughout the other speakers (which were largely talking about and giving awards for generosity, sponsorship, and the incredible amount of volunteer and staff work that went in to coordinating this huge event), there had been clinking of forks.  During my speech, there was complete silence.  I thought that might make me uncomfortable, but it felt good.  There were no distractions - no eating, no shopping, no background noise, nothing.  My story - Mom's story - would be heard.

I did "the ask" - I asked everyone to donate, and to do it generously.  I was happy to do it.  What I know of The American Heart Association and Go Red and their use of funds is good.  Funds are necessary for research.  I've even independently heard wonderful things from AHA-funded researchers about the efficiency of the organization.  Money is necessary to hold events, print information, create the photos that go on the print information, purchase space in media, etc.  Money is essential.

But I do wish now that I'd said something like "invest enough in this cause that you take it personally the next time you hear a woman slipped through the cracks like my mother.  Invest enough that you can't keep your mouth shut when it comes to spreading the facts about heart disease and women."  But I don't even mean invest money...I want people to invest themselves.

The bottom line for me is that I am frustrated not by a lack of money, but by the lack of awareness - amongst women/the general public, and seemingly amongst medical professionals (possibly not "seemingly" - and I don't have the time/energy to devote to finding a better link/study/source than that and this...apologies).  Though the medical professionals I know seem to be aware, I am still hearing of women's symptoms being missed or not taken seriously.  I have yet to hear a single story of a man's heart attack not being taken seriously.*  And the broader cultural attitude that women will fly into a panic or make poor choices if we give them appropriate information pertaining to their health...well, there is an awful lot of that going around in all arenas of women's health.  (I will not discuss reproductive rights.  I will not discuss reproductive rights.  I will not discuss reproductive rights.)

In any case, I asked for money and received some applause (wouldn't it be cool if you got applause every time you asked someone to write a check?).  Of course I know the applause was for my story, but I was still caught off-guard (that wasn't in the script!).  I finished up the rest of my portion of the program and returned to my seat.

My sister was front and center on the donation cards.  It was perfect.  It very much felt like the three of us were together and in some way had made the tragedy into a small victory.

A local television reporter returned to the stage as Mistress of Ceremonies and asked me to stand up.  Then she asked everyone else to stand up and applaud me.  Wow. 

A woman at my table asked for my mother's name so she could make a donation in her honor.  During lunch, people came to my table and hugged me.  Multiple people stopped me after the event to tell me they were touched, that my mother was proud, and that I should always remember that laugh of hers I spoke of in the speech (remembering the sound of her voice and her laugh is a wholllllle other post).  My heart could have burst - in the good, metaphorical way!

As I arrived home and was getting everyone in the door, my phone rang.  It was a previous speaker at the event, who had been really busy and was apologetic for not calling sooner.  We talked for a little while - found that we have some similar frustrations and concerns regarding women's heart disease awareness (her mother was also misdiagnosed, and also died).  And also that she works at the hotel where The Beast was staying.  Further, she told me the whole hotel goes red through February, has drinks and entrees that raise money for Go Red for Women.  The Beast had not yet informed me that his hotel was very obviously in support of Mom and me while he was away!  The Universe is bizarre. 

I got the boys inside and we played for a little while - mainly with me pushing those squealing weights around in laundry basket boat.  There were stormy seas!  And obstacles to avoid!  That's a workout I'd recommend for the busy and/or bored!!

*Do point me to these stories if you know of them, as I'm perfectly willing to be - and maybe even hopeful that I am - wrong about this attitude and trend.

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