Before the fact

Tonight, I can’t sleep. It’s just on 1am, and I’ve just turned on the light after more than an hour of lying in the dark. I slept wonderfully well when I was away. There was probably a range of reasons for that – fresh air, plenty of exercise, a good bed, not to mention a psychological relaxation at just being away from home.

For all that, I’ve slept well since my return also. Until tonight.

I visited the ophthalmologist this morning to get the lowdown on my cataract. There were no surprises. At the end of the session, I paid just under $500 and had been booked for surgery in October.

I need the surgery and am glad to have it organised, but I’d much rather it had never become necessary. A month ago, I had no idea I had a cataract. I was planning the annual upgrade of my glasses when quite abruptly, I realised my eyesight had markedly declined. That’s continued; even with my glasses on, everything is becoming fuzzy.

I have no real options but to get this done. The cataract is growing quickly. I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive in a month. But it’s just another thing I have to deal with. Another thing taking me away from the hope of some return to normality.

Now it’s keeping me awake. It’s not fear or trepidation or anything like that. After all I’ve been through, a small procedure on my eye seems almost minor. It might seem a bit crass, but it’s the financial impact that concerns me.

Last week it was confirmed that I must pay about $1900 to the ATO by March next year. My car is currently with the mechanic, and I expect a bill of around a grand (actual $1683). Now, this. I don’t know what it will cost yet, but I expect it will be many thousands. I will get much of it back through Medicare, but I still expect to be out of pocket by over a thousand ($3,500), and quite likely more.

I can afford bits and pieces, but it’s getting a bit rich for me in combination. Add to that the climbing cost of medication – that’s heading towards a thousand for the year also – and I fear I’ll never get ahead. And it seems such a waste.

I’m frustrated and weary. I have to stump up the cash somehow, and I’m sure I’ll manage somehow, but it doesn’t keep me from stressing over it. It’s the sense of helplessness that’s most challenging, but that’s a common feeling when you have a severe illness. I just hoped I would be past that by now.

The good news is that afterwards, I can ditch my glasses. Maybe I should focus on that – though focussing on anything at the moment with my eyes like this is a tall order.

What it means most crucially is that my concept of what ‘regular’ life is put on hold. I envy people who go about their lives with barely a care. I was one of them once. I don’t know when I’ll get back to that or ever will.

I did a lot of productive thinking while I was away. It occurred to me that this was the first time in many years that no one was waiting for me to return home. I missed that, even if it was ‘only’ a dog previously.

Part of regular life for me is having a dog around the house. I realised I had to get onto that, but it’s unlikely now, if not impossible, until sometime next year. I have to endure longer. It seems the mantra of the times. I just have to do it and somehow find a way. You don’t know how tiring it is to keep at that day after day, week after week. But that’s the deal.

I wish people understood. I think that most know who know me think I’m wickedly resilient. I get lauded for my supposed strength. And maybe it’s true – but it takes a lot of effort, and that’s what they don’t see. They see the outside. That’s H, they think; he’s a survivor. In a way, it absolves them of any responsibility.

I shouldn’t complain. I’ve made it my life’s work to be independent. I’ve pushed people away, unwilling to admit to need. I’ve proudly proclaimed my self-reliance. In the end, it becomes habitual, and when people see you, that’s all they see.

I’m having a moan, I know. I want it both ways and can’t. I want to be independent and be seen to be independent, but I also want people to understand it’s not as easy as it looks. I’ll accept help to a certain point, but no more – but then will feel aggrieved when no more is offered. We are complex beings.

I write because it makes it easier for me to manage these things. Writing slows me down. It brings clarity, insight, and perhaps some raw self-awareness. These are the things that allow me to continue – not the brute strength that others might imagine.

Ultimately, I have to manage and deal with a set of conditions. It’s easier when you know what they are. I’m lucky that way – I’m honest and can see. It’s the sort of honesty I could be more open with if I were smarter.

I’ve survived. I’ve come through. I think back to last year when I was in a bad way and marvel at how I did it alone. I know now that I probably needed a carer, but I made it without one. It’s easier now. Not over yet, and maybe not for a while, but I’ve dealt with worse. That’s what will happen now. I’ll deal with these challenges one way or another, and in a year, I’ll look back and wonder what the big deal was. Perspective. It comes easier after the fact.

Now it’s 1.41am, and time to have another shot at sleep.

P.S. The morning after. I got the quote. I can’t afford the surgery. I’m doing my sums and looking at other options, and I’ve told them that I’ll confirm by Tuesday, but unless I pull a rabbit out of my hat, it won’t happen.

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