The events leading up to a Tsunami begin with an Earthquake, a shaking, a shift in the Earth’s tectonic plates, the ground shifting under our feet, what we believe to be solid shifting beneath us. My father’s illness also began with a trembling, a literal shaking, but I failed to predict the tidal wave due to follow.
The first thing I did was ignore reality. I played it down, “it’s just a tremor, just an itsy bitsy Earthquake”, and pushed it out of my mind. I watched as Dad worked around it, avoiding the steps at the front of our house to go round the back door. I watched as he leant on others for support. I watched as he took things slower. As we all learnt to take things slower, in a world forever telling us to go faster.
The water of the wave loomed closer, lapping at our feet, as I watched my Dad begin using a cane.
I watched as he struggled to breathe, an infection in his lungs had pulled him under, under the waves. I watched as he caught his breath again but forgot my name. I watched as he remembered it again, and things were calm once more- for a time. But the tsunami was coming.
My mind seemed to have just one thought during this time:
What’s next- what’s next- what’s next-
A wild churning panic that never switched off, an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t shake. Throughout this period, I wanted not just to watch, but to know. As Dad became sicker once more, I wanted to know what awaited around every corner and what would lay in front of me as I hesitated before stepping into his hospital room week after week. What
challenges would we have to face that day.
I felt as though I was drowning in uncertainties and fear. This was the tsunami. This was the dread, the panic, the tumbling, the debris of how our lives used to be surrounding us. My family, people I had known my whole life, felt almost unrecognizable to me as we each struggled to deal with the deluge.
I was surviving, but I was missing something important. While I was consumed with knowing what may come next, I frequently overlooked all the tiny opportunities right in
front of me to find joy, peace and laughter. To find grounding and certainty of a different kind. Listening to music, sitting in the sunshine or doing the crossword with my Dad for example. All these moments were, for the most part lost to me, drowned out by the crowd of anxieties blaring in my mind. Drowned by the salty water of the tsunami.
Then, one day, I caught one. A special moment. Unlike the tsunami, which threatened to drown me, this was more like catching a gentle wave into shore- it was exhilarating and rare and beautiful. It started with a shaking of Dad’s arm, growing more and more insistent as he couldn’t find words to speak and every time I failed to guess what he needed, the frustration grew. I finally caught on when his other arm began to rise from the armrest and I understood. He wanted a hug.
The magical moment, the glimpse of power and peace I experienced is indescribable. Certainty. We were there, in the present, and we were connected. For days afterwards, for the life of me I couldn’t work out why I had always been so concerned with what was going to happen next. Why I let the tsunami pull me under. Whatever would happen, would happen. We had this moment. And so, as the surge of emotion died, as the hug ended, as I sailed into shore and planted my feet on the ground, I knew I could carry this feeling wherever I went. Whatever waves came my way.
Cat Morgan is an emerging writer and mental health advocate who believes strongly in the power of lived experience and encouraging creativity in the mental health recovery space. She is studying psychology and disability studies at university. In her spare time she enjoys playing the clarinet and being in nature.