Sometimes there can be an odd sort of symmetry to life. Something happens in one part of life and then is unexpectedly mirrored back to you in a different part of life. We’ve experienced this recently with the exact words, “How much can you handle?” coming first from the man-child’s psychiatrist and then from my husband’s orthopedist.
“How much can you handle?” asked the psychiatrist as he mentally calibrated how quickly we could finish weaning the man-child off anxiety and depression medications that have become ineffective. There is no doubt a change is needed, but the ugly truth is these current medications need to leave his system entirely before we can start on new medications. The uglier truth is that while the medications are no longer as effective as they need to be in order for the man-child to fully function in the world, they are doing something and as they slowly leave his system he is experiencing an increase in the behaviors and symptoms that the medications help to manage. So, “how much can you handle?”, really meant “how bad can we let things get before the behaviors and symptoms are controlling not just the man-child, but the entire family?”
“How much can you handle?” asked the orthopedist after delivering the news to my husband that the bone spurs she saw in his ankle after he fractured it, are actually the result of severe and irreversible osteoarthritis. What she thought would be a quick fix surgery to remove the bone spurs, unexpectedly became choosing between removing the bone spurs – and possibly making the pain from the arthritis worse – or living with the bone spurs, managing the pain for as long as possible, and pushing off a surgery to replace the ankle (likely both ankles) for as long as possible. “How much can you handle?, really meant, “what’s your pain threshold for the physical pain and the potential emotional pain?”A man who lives a very active lifestyle is now faced with possibly losing the ability to do some things he loves in exchange for not causing more damage to his body.
How much can we handle?
What I want to do is run and hide, but I won’t. I don’t think there is a quantifiable answer to the question “How much can you handle?”. We won’t know where the man-child’s rock bottom is until he reaches it, and we won’t give up on him or a future where he is mentally healthier, so we’ll handle whatever happens. We can’t know yet which path to some pain relief and a reimagined future is right for my husband, but we’ll handle it all together.
Common “wisdom” says that none of us are given more than we can handle. That may be often true, but it’s also an overly simplistic world view. We handle the messy, complicated, unwelcome, exhausting, confusing, and frightening things that come our way because life is not a choose your own adventure story with only happy endings
I would not choose these circumstances we’ve are forced to handle, but I can choose my reaction to them and find ways to minimize their impact on my family. I can’t find the words to answer the question, “How much can you handle?” But I do know beyond doubt that we will keep getting up each morning, look for glimmers of hope, hang on tight, and keep moving forward because it’s what we do.