Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crying Wolf

Yes, I have been silent.  There have been a few adventures over the past few days.

What started as a minor fever developed into a ridiculously high one on Monday night, resulting in Don being taken by ambulance to emerg (I've never called 911 before -- it kind of felt like getting away with something, which probably necessitates a whole other self-examination!), where they fought like hell to get control over the fever and a raging infection.

This outcome, of course, left me feeling rather chastened for my rant about men and fevers.  And mad as hell at the home care and TeleHealth nurses who had told us there was nothing to worry about, and I should just feed him ginger ale and wait 48 hours for the fever to subside.

There is a connection between those two previous sentences.  Crying wolf.

My rant about men and fevers was, at the time, perfectly valid, as the fever hadn't gone more than one degree above normal at that point, and my experience with Don and other y-chromosome carriers with minor fevers had definitely been of the sucky-baby variety.  Can't and won't take that one back!  :-)

But the problem in the face of mild-fever-sucky-babytude is that it's hard to notice when the fever actually gets worse, because the pinnacle of sucky-babytude was already reached at 37.4 and had no further to go.  The only way to tell if the temperature has gone up past 40 is to stick your hand on his head and pull it back like you've just touched a lit stove.  And then wish you'd paid attention to the moaning a few hours earlier, even though it sounded exactly like the moaning from two days before.  And then wish he weren't a y-chromosome carrier, which is really a silly wish to make, but at least you wouldn't have stopped paying attention to all the cries / moans of "wolf", and known when there was actually a wolf at the door.

That's the first sentence.  How does crying wolf apply to the second?

In times of high stress, we tend to revert to our childhood knee-jerk survival strategies.  One of my more prominent ones was to hide in the background, not raise my voice, be insanely careful to never "cry wolf" or be perceived as doing so, so that when the time came when I had big reasons and big proof, somebody would listen to me.  (Not a terribly successful strategy, as it turns out, but that's a whole other blog entry...)  The other biggie was to never question authority, even if I knew they were wrong, because there would be severe consequences.  (This was an incredibly realistic survival strategy at the time, not terribly helpful any more.)

So when I first called the home care nurse about Don's fever on Saturday, and she said it was probably nothing to worry about, he'd just picked up a bug from a visitor, I took that as the voice of authority.  I did ask if it might have anything to do with his surgery, or the catheter, or if there anything to worry about or keep an eye out for, but pretty much got laughed off the line and told to feed him ginger ale until he got better.

Of course, silly 'lyssy, don't bother the poor nurse with your petty concerns about minor fevers when she's got more important things to deal with.  If you're a thorn in her side now, she won't listen to you when it really matters.  Don't be a sucky baby.

And, lo and behold, the fever was gone Sunday morning, so she was obviously right and I was obviously just a glass-half-empty worrywart with trust issues.  Right?

Unfortunately, the fever was back Sunday night, along with nausea and vomiting.  It was too late to call the home care nurses, so I turned to TeleHealth instead.  Explained the history of Don's surgery and the fact that he had an indwelling catheter, and specifically asked several times and in several ways if this could be an infection we should worry about?  Again, no, couldn't possibly be, because the catheter bag wasn't cloudy.  We should just wait 48 hours for the fever to clear, don't bother the poor overworked folks in emerg just for a trivial fever.

Of course, silly 'lyssy, you've done it again.  Stop bugging people with your overactive imagination.  They know what they're doing, they're the experts, stop pretending you're something you're not (intelligent, knowledgable, capable, competent...) and go back to being quiet.  Stop crying wolf.

Yes, even in intelligent, knowledgable, capable and competent adulthood, in times of stress it's really hard to shake those ingrown voices.  What we hear as children seeps so deeply into the psyche that it becomes our own voice.  On my better days, I'm fully conscious and aware of whose voice it truly is.  In sleep-deprived, stressed-out, uber-care-giver mode, however... I'm still easily duped, even by myself.

And yet, when those "never cry wolf" voices scream their loudest, it has ALWAYS been when there's an actual wolf in the room.  The "never question authority" voices have always screamed their loudest when the people in authority were not to be trusted, and my gut was correct.  This was the case when the adult voices shouted this at my childhood self.  This is the case when my inner daemons shout this at my adult self.

Listening to those voices has always caused me harm.  Not listening to my gut has always caused me harm.

Yes, I have trust issues.  Maybe there's a good reason for that.  Maybe I have trust issues because certain people can't be trusted.  That's not a fault, it's simply good perception.  I should learn to trust my trust issues.  :-)

So... how do you train yourself to trust the gut you know has never led you astray?

This is not one of those rhetorical questions I'm going to give an answer to.  I would really, really love to know the answer.


  1. Baby steps my friend. Baby steps.

    And one day, over a glass, or bottle of wine, I'll share how I, like you, never listened to my inner wisdom and betrayed myself -- and then, I learned to listen -- and while I still slip up, I come quickly back to centre.

    And in the interim, if you haven't read Gavin deBecker's The Gift of Fear -- do. Both my daughters have, and have given it to friends to read. It's all about trusting our intuition.


  2. I believe it's in my "to read" pile! If not, it's in my "friends have recommended I buy this" list. :-)

  3. Dear Alyssa, I'm sorry to hear about Don's emergency but I'm sure glad you listened to your guts. Keep growing, keep shining; I'm learning lots from the journey.

    Wishing you only the best,