Friday, August 29, 2014

Fear of Flying

I had started reading Fear of Flying last month, before recent events.  I was loving it all the while it terrified me; it made me get really honest with myself about what I believe and what I think I want.  Quite a bit more graphic than I expected, but gut-wrenching.

I think I was scared to share this excerpt before now.  I don't want to admit that when I read this, I felt like someone had read my mind.  If I admit it, I'm admitting that I have serious doubts - about men, about women, about relationships, love, sex, marriage...and me.  I have serious doubts about me, and if I'm even any good for what I say I want.

But then I read the last paragraph and my eyes start leaking.  That is my dream.
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"But what was so great about marriage?  I had been married and married.  It had its good points, but it also had its bad.  The virtues of marriage were mostly negative virtues.  Being unmarried in a man's world was such a hassle that anything had to be better.  Marriage was better.  But not much.  Damned clever, I thought, how men had made life so intolerable for single women that most would gladly embrace even bad marriages instead.  Almost anything had to be an improvement on hustling for your own keep at some low-paid job and fighting off unattractive men in your spare time while desperately trying to ferret out the attractive ones.  Though I've no doubt that being single is just as lonely for a man it doesn't have the added extra wallop of being downright dangerous, and it doesn't automatically imply poverty and the unquestioned status of a social pariah.

Would most women get married if they knew what it meant?  I think of young women following their husbands wherever their husbands follow their jobs.  I think of them suddenly finding themselves miles away from friends and family.  I think of them living in places where they can't work, where they can't speak the language.  I think of them making babies out of their loneliness and boredom and not knowing why.  I think of their men always harried and exhausted from being on the make.  I think of them seeing each other less after marriage than before.  I think of them falling into bed too exhausted to screw.  I think of them farther apart in the first year of marriage than they ever imagined two people could be when they were courting.  And then I think of the fantasies starting.  He is eyeing the fourteen-year-old postnymphets in bikinis.  She covets the TV repairman.  The baby gets sick and she makes it with the pediatrician.  He is fucking his masochistic little secretary who reads Cosmopolitan and thinks herself a swinger.  Not: when did it all go wrong?  But: when was it ever right?

A grim picture.  Not all marriages are like that.  Take the marriage I dreamed of in my idealistic adolescence...I wanted "total mutuality," "companionship," "equality."  Did I know about how men sit there glued to the paper while you clear the table?  How they pretend to be all thumbs when you ask them to mix the frozen orange juice?  How they bring friends home and expect you to wait on them and yet feel entitled to sulk and go off into another room if you bring friends home?...

I know some good marriages.  Second marriages mostly.  Marriages where both people have outgrown the bullshit of me-Tarzan, you-Jane and are just trying to get through their days by hoping each other, being good to each other, doing the chores as they come up and not worrying too much about who does what.  Some men reach that delightfully relaxed state of affairs about age forty or after a couple of divorces.  Maybe marriage are best in middle age.  When all the nonsense falls away and you realize you have to love one another because you're going to die anyway."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The alternate list

The alternate list.

I don't know what to say about this week anymore.

I was on the alternate list for love, and now I'm on the alternate list for school.  I'm really having a hard time feeling unchosen this week.  Jeanie, I've been thinking all week on your question, and I think tonight I finally get it.  I was really overthinking it.  I give away my power because I have no power over someone choosing me.  My heart isn't wanted.  I feel like the woman left behind.  I feel invisible.

I think I'm getting a very clear message that I'm not to take care of other people anymore.  Not a partner, not a child, and not patients.  If it's about honoring my heart, can I even hear her anymore?

And my stupid arm.  Is it my neck, shoulder, or elbow?  Another MRI, more bills, more PT, more drugs...I am tired.  I am tired and I feel all my days.  All my hurts.

And what if I can't work?  What if I need another surgery, and really can't go back this time?  I know I have plenty of people who love me, but day-to-day?  When I get home?  When I go to bed?  Financially?  There's only me.  And if I can't stay strong physically anymore?  Will the injuries of the past finally beat me?

I am scared.  That's the truth.  I'm scared that this is all the better it gets: just me, alone and struggling, maybe forever.  Sure, happy endings happen for some people.  But sometimes they don't. Some people do end up alone.  And bodies give out.

I have no idea what comes next for me.  That is a very powerless feeling.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Day three

"If I have to take medication, is that medication making me more fully myself, or is it making me someone else?"

I heard that quote in a TED video today that made me both laugh and cry.  If you've ever wanted to know what my world is like, this video explains it.  Today is day three of being back on my full dose of Prozac, and I felt the darkness lift this morning.  I woke up spontaneously (no alarm clock = SO nice) but immediately wanted to hide under the covers.  I did that, but within five minutes I caught myself wanting to get up.

Let me repeat that: I wanted to get out of bed.

I'd made a list last night of things to do this morning: pay bills, read Kat's essay, put Teri's dates on the calendar, RSVP to my grandpa's portrait unveiling, put a quart of oil in my car, check in with Rob and Erin, confirm today's plumber visit with my property manager, and email off a refund form.  I got all those things done - in the time frame I intended - and even made myself a warm breakfast with coffee.  When Kat called, I actually wanted to answer the phone, and did.  When Jean texted, I wanted to reply, and I actually remembered clearly the memory she was talking about.

Another quote from the video was, "Depression is not the lack of happiness, but of vitality."  Nailed it.  NAILED. IT.

Grandma had to go to the eye doctor today, and as I drove the 22 miles to her house, I could enjoy the breeze on my face.  I sang a little.  Colors were brighter, and I was looking forward to seeing her. When I arrived, she started to tear up and said, "I've missed seeing you."

Normally, I would get a little frustrated or defensive.  Today I sat down next to her on the bed and said, "Grandma, I've been having a really hard time lately," and as I started to cry myself, "I'm so tired of being alone, and struggling, and moving, and waiting for the next paycheck.  I just needed a break to take care of me."

She said to me, "I sensed that.  It's not easy being alone.  Us single girls have to take care of ourselves first and look out for each other."

Still crying, I told her I started taking my medication again.

She reassured me, "Everyone in our family struggles with that; life is just hard sometimes.  There's nothing wrong with it, you're just taking care of yourself!"

Who would have ever guessed my grandma would be the one to get it.

We got fabulous news at the eye doctor: drastic vision improvement to 20/40 vision in her wet eye.  We'll be able to get her glasses set up now.  She had a perm and was finally wearing her dentures (both with no prompting from me) - oh how wonderful that was to see.  We got our fancy coffees (she is getting to be a pro at knowing what she wants to order) but she lamented not having any "rolls, pan breads, you know, just little nibbles" to have with our treat.

Instead of commiserating that, "Yeah, that would be nice," I picked up my phone, got online, and found the nearest bakery.  She waved off my attempts but I said, "Nope, we're going to do this today."  At Truffles and Tortes in Plymouth, we chose lemon tartlets.  So good, and we were both so satisfied.

I saw, and felt, that my vitality is slowly creeping back.

Back at Grandma's, I took Liza for a walk around the block, equal parts to benefit the dog, Grandma, and myself.  I measured her washer so I could order her new one, fixed her clothes rack, and bandaged her legs.

I left her house happy.  Tired and ready to go, but not emotionally spent and resentful.

At my acupuncture appointment, Rob saw the kinesiotape and lidocaine patch on my arm and asked with a lifted brow, "Soooo...how's your health been?"  I started to cry again, shared this week's events, and told him that truthfully, my sadness has kept me from paying good attention to my body this week.  He listened carefully and used several different needle points this time.

I felt a lot of garbage leaving my body as I rested during my treatment, and after five days, I can finally straighten my arm.  My continuing low-grade nausea is gone.  As I left, he shared with me the link to the Pandora station he uses at the office - a musical gift he has spent 5 years creating.

I cried again.

That's the thing - the Prozac doesn't make everything all better.  It doesn't cure my sadness or make me forget, it just makes it all easier to bear.  I get scared sometimes, unsure if I'm "fully myself" or "someone else."  I will always resent that I will benefit from medication for the rest of my life.

But it helps me get out of bed.

It helps me hope and to be productive instead of anxious about being productive enough.

It helps me look forward to people.

It lets the sadness come, but keeps me from staying stuck there.

It helped me delete all the emails for good tonight.

It helped me write about a good day, and smile once or twice, before I go to bed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Today

Robin Williams gave me a lot to think about today.

There's a reason that even though I hate psych calls as much as the next person, that for the most part I have deeply meaningful interactions with them.  That reason is empathy.

I know the dark place.  I know it well.  I know how little it takes to knock you back down the rabbit hole of hopelessness sometimes.  I know how hard it is to emerge from that place.  If I'm honest, I fear the day may come when I won't be able to. 

I finally found a truly helpful drug a few years ago in Prozac.  Minimal side effects, no zombie-like feelings, just the ability to smile more often, to feel joy sometimes.  

I went off it around early March.  I was looking forward to meeting a great guy, getting my own place, pursuing grad school, and summer was coming - all of which made it a good time for a trial run.  I am one of the lucky souls who can survive without medication.  I can go to work, take care of myself, have friends - and I judge myself terribly for choosing to take the medication.  It doesn't matter that I feel ten times more alive and can actually look forward to the future (or at least not think about it) - I hate that I benefit so much from it.  Absolutely hate it.  I just want to be normal.  I want to be better.  I don't want hope in a pill; I want hope to be authentic.

I've always viewed my benefit from medication as a personal failure and a lack of the strength.  I don't know how I forget this after all my therapy and a degree in psychology, but my nervous system is broken.  It was traumatized repeatedly, and in order to cope it made extra receptors for the flood of chemicals it had to live with, and it's burned out.  It was broken over and over in my teens, in an unimaginable way 15 years ago, and by disappointment after disappointment since.  It's still happening, facing life alone.  I know that the good times, the joys, and the triumphs make life good, and worth living.  They just can't always keep the despair at bay. 

And isn't hope valid no matter how it comes?  If I had stayed on my meds, maybe I'd have made better decisions about Daniel.  Maybe I would have been more cautious about letting him into my heart, my home.  Maybe I'd have said goodbye sooner.  I know for sure I wouldn't feel as devastated as I've felt the last few days, and even last month when I ended our more frequent contact.

And I tried.  I said yes to an opportunity.  A couple short years ago, I wouldn't have been able to even try.

I've been able to remember that today:  I genuinely tried, and I did speak up for myself and how I wasn't receiving what I wanted and deserved over a month ago.  I changed my behavior toward him of my own will in order to honor myself.  I thought about disconnecting us on FB, but I was actually trying to be mature and tolerant, to try and maintain a friendship with a man even though we weren't going to be together.  He may have chosen not to share the whole truth about another woman in the picture, but today, for some of the brief moments, I can tell myself that his decision is not reflective of my worth, or my lack of deserving better.

I've been able to acknowledge that even though I did get swallowed by despair again when I saw what to me was a terrible, terrible repeat of dishonesty and deception, I did reach out and ask him instead of assuming I was right, without making accusations.  I pulled myself up in three days this time, instead of weeks, as it has been before - and even in those three days, I managed to go to work, keep down a little food, clean my house, complete an education course, stay with my fitness routine, and even deal with a new health concern.  I reached out to friends.  I got it out of my system here. 

And today, instead of feeling like a failure, I decided to put myself back on the medication.  I've read the articles (both infuriating and encouraging), been inspired by my friends' blogs and their words, and thought deeply about how my decision making and responses would have been both healthier and easier to bear if I'd treated myself with the same kindness and compassion I offer to others.  Today, I've come to view my decision as an act of self-kindness and preservation.

There is no need for me to struggle so much when there is help that works for me.  I may hate it, but this bottle that is sitting on my desk makes me want to cry tonight - not with despair, but with relief.