Friday, March 28, 2008
A) lie still, try not to move, try not to move my eyes over anything too quickly
B) go buy some Dramamine, take it and hope for the best
Hope that the best includes not feeling motion sick in the train or someone else's car because right now driving myself makes me dizzy, not to mention typing (which I should quit), or you know, getting up, walking...
And then there's the matter of where:
1) CVS: homeless
2) Ralph's/Trader Joe's: big crowded parking lot
3) Henry's: all natural Dramamine? Really?
and all of the above involving leaving the house (homeless) getting into my car (homeless) and driving (dizzy, homeless, dizzy....)
Seems that the best thing might be just to go to sleep now and deal with it all in the morning. Early in the morning.
I can't believe... no, I can because that's how this whole very entertaining show is playing thus far... it's not even going to make me feel better if I actually do puke because I'm not actually that kind of sick.
When I had chicken pox in first grade did I get to just have chicken pox?
I just slept for a solid two hours in a row without medicinal inducement and if I had them, I don't remember any of my dreams or nightmares.
Sweet Jesus! Rest!
Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to a friend this morning:
I'd be lying if I said I felt like I got good sleep last night. Can we rain check today? I am so tired and grouchy and I can't find a shoelace to one of my shoes that I washed and I know I had it in my closet and I am glad that this breakfast is just with PB because any other friend of Justin's would think I was looney toons, [sic]which I kinda am, butwhich I don'treally [sic] care about too much any more. It's just the way things are.
I really did want to see youu.[sic] Please don't take it personally. Our schedules just didn't work outand [sic] if I don't take a nap today ASAP when I am actually God willing capable of lying down and resting instead of just watching my mind go zoom zoom zoom while my body goes shut the F up....
well, you get the picture.
Despite several efforts to sleep until the appointed alarm time of 8 a.m. I was up just after six. As soon as my eyes opened I thought, no, please God, please God, don't let me wake up any further, I just have to go pee.... But by the time I got back to bed it was too late. First we're having breakfast with a friend and then I have that doctor's appointment, and what time is that appointment exactly and where? I need to print out the directions. And she's going to make me go over my whole history with her, I should make a timeline because I won't remember it all. I hope there's enough time for breakfast before I have to leave. It'll be nice to see him. What time is Justin leaving today? What else do I have to get done today? I wonder how much damage there was to those buildings last night. Maybe I want to go for a run. My throat is still a little sore from the smoke. I hope everyone was OK. I hope no one got hurt. Maybe I'll go check it out now, maybe I'll even bring my camera. It wouldn't be so disrespectful now to bring my camera, would it. No, I should try to sleep. But I can't. Maybe if I lay on the couch. [I tried it.] Nope. [I came back into the bedroom at 7:30. It woke Justin up and he asked where I'd been.] Out there. I can't sleep. Maybe now, I'm going to try again. Nope, this isn't working. I'm just going to get up and go for a run or something.
He consoled me with the small wonder that my tossing and turning hadn't disturbed his sleep. I'm just so nervous for this new doctor. Actually, I had been anxious ever since the fire--while all the other neighbors who were unaffected were sure to have moved on and maybe even forgotten about it by then, at 11:30 p.m., my heart was still racing with adrenaline-induced-type nervousness.
I had finally taken half an anti-anxiety pill so that I could manage to pack my suitcase for my mini-vacation with the girls without losing my mind or yelling at Justin for no reason at all.
The new doctor turned out to be good. She is the one that my shrink had wanted me to see from the beginning but who did not accept my shitty military medical insurance, so I had to hunt around. First I called three doctors Nancy recommended in order of her preference, then I took the appointment with the one who had the earliest time slot. That guy was a real ass who made me fill out pages and pages of information while I sat in his lobby saying that if I CALLED him on the phone he would start charging me for each minute over sixty seconds. In terror, I went into his office, cried my way through my entire explanation of the course of events and left with a prescription and disability paperwork, both of which made me cry harder because of the sheer disappointment of what my life had come to be.
Later, after spending a few weeks wandering around (still teaching), balancing on desks between students who had their hands up to ask a question, and constantly looking for the easiest route to the trashcan should I actually throw up, I went to my first appointment with her first insurance-taking recommendation and he switched my medication. Just over two calendar years later, I have been on two more medications that did not make my mood better but did make me suffer their side effects. I am now on a combination of seven medications which are a mixture of anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety pills that all have some distasteful side effect or another and also seem to work together and against each other to leave me feeling no better than I might feel if I just stopped taking them altogether. (The detox would be so painful that I do not experiment with this option.) Once I ran out of just one of the meds and took too long to get the refill and ended up with such horrific headaches that lying in the darkest room with ice on my eyes did not help.
So you see, I went to alchemist No. 3.
She actually radiated a sense of calm in the way that women who are not beautiful yet not at all ugly do. While alchemist No. 2 seemed to have a certain charm about him (maybe because he was a flare on my gaydar but seemed to want me not to know, maybe because I actually rode up in the elevator with him and he was in his running shorts holding a salad from Starbucks and checking his watch and my first thought was, "This is him, isn't it?," maybe because the first guy was so heavy and plodding and charged for breathing on his time and he was not so money grubbing), alchemist No. 3 seems real. Maybe women wearing Easter egg lavender just aren't scary. Plus she smiles and interacts with my comments as though she saw me as a person instead of another chemistry formula.
Fortunately, Nancy and she had talked and she seemed to comprehend and believe the things Nancy told her about me, so I didn't have to delve to deeply into the yucky muck of the past, I got away with sliding down in the Patient Chair and doing a quick time line from May 2005 (miscarriage) to the present. There were quick flashes further back, as there are apt to be when doctors want to know really when things got started with a person, but there was no dwelling, which of course there never is when 45 minutes costs $300 and is supposed to cover a lifetime's worth of information that spits out a *please God-willing* formula at the end.
Plus I got to be funny and she actually laughed (twinkling, crinkling eyes and all!) instead of pausing and staring as though wondering why I took it all as a joke.
I mean really, how can I not take it as a fucking joke when it's been more than two years now and grocery shopping is supposed to be a celebratory achievement? Fuck.
One of the funny things about these appointments is as a patient who wants to get as much out of the doctor as I can, I have to talk quickly so that I can get everything in during the time allotted for me to present. So, if I didn't have pressured speech (which I kinda do), I would come across that way anyway.
With alchemist No. 3, I jumped all over the place with my history and stories, sometimes having to say, "Why am I telling you this?" and even derailing her so that she had to look at her notes until one of us found and picked-up the dropped thread.
She asked me smarter questions, like, "How do you feel about germs? Like will you use a public restroom or just hold it until you get home?"
"My mouth is so dry from these damn meds that I can't hold it that long! But I don't touch the door really when I open it, and I wash my hands and use the paper towel to touch stuff, but," and this is conspiratorially,"if someone comes in there while I'm there, and they seem like they'll be leaving soon, I find all kinds of things to do so that they can be the one to touch the door on the way out. I'll put lipstick on, and look at me! I don't wear lipstick! but I'll put some on for a change, and maybe some lotion... and then I follow them out like it was the most natural thing in the world."
"What about checking things? Do you check the doors to make sure they're locked?"
"How many times is too many times?" I asked her. She might have thought that I was being sassy because of my tone, but at this point I have no idea what is "normal" and what is "off" unless it's really obvious (ie. washing my hands 30 times a day, which I do not do (small cheer for me!). I am so sick of all of the questions and frustrated with the whole process that I don't know if it is possible to approach it without a bit of a biting edge.
If I am snippy it's the least of my problems.
"Well, I might check twice," she said.
"I checked it three times last night. And that last time was after I asked my husband, the lights were already off and I had to go back. It's a small apartment, so it's not that bad, but Jesus! Believe the Marine!"
She laughed and noted something down. She's not afraid to indicate that three might be too many times, instead of just keeping freaky little reporters notes while I speak clearly into the sterilized air.
"What about other things? I have one client who goes back to the iron so many times to check to make sure that it is off, that now she just brings it to school with her so that she does not have to worry about it."
"Genius! That's a really good idea. Nah, I don't do that," but then I told her something else, as if I had another really good idea she could maybe share with someone to make them feel better. "But you know those packets, white, pink, blue and brown if they have Sugar in the Raw? If I'm no a date, well, God, on a date--I've been married for almost six years now, I don't "date"--but if I'm nervous, I used to do this.... I'd straighten them all out so that they were all facing the same way and grouped with the right colors. It's very calming."
She got this, "I see...." look and nodded. "So are you very organized?"
"I could swear I once was, but you certainly couldn't tell by looking at my apartment now. I used to be like Monica from Friends, and I know it was just a coping mechanism, but everything had to be just so. Straight. But now, I mean geez, there are papers cluttered everywhere. Who cares that the soup and Naked Juice labels are all lined up when there's boxes everywhere?"
I confirmed later with Justin that I was indeed once very organized--he acknowledged it and managed not to say, "AND GOD I MISS IT!"
"What about hand washing?"
"Well, I like to do it--the bathroom, before I eat, when I arrive somewhere..."
"How many times a day?"
"I don't know..."
"No! That would be crazy!" I remembered the disappointment of reading on my Teeth Whitening Mouthwash that I should not use it more than twice a day. "I do like to brush my teeth though. I used to do it all the time. It's very relaxing."
What? I wear braces! (OK. I liked it before the braces, but sue me. I had crooked teeth. At least they could be clean.)
The rest was less funny. OK, not necessarily less funny, but I'm getting sleepy again. I think she got a kick out of me knowing words like mixed state and cyclothymic. When she asked me if I ever got really manic I said, "I wish! I mean God, let me buy something already!"
I am not the only one of her clients who is frustrated by the word bipolar, since we don't get to have any of the so-perceived "fun" of the mania. For the first time I heard her describe it correctly: I go between being depressed and not being able to do anything but lie on the couch and wish I could do something about the stacks of papers around me, to being depressed and not being able to lie on the couch and sit still or even imagine just doing nothing but still not being able to do much.
My mania is making a long list of things I want to get done and then only doing some of them and beating myself up over it.
It's SO not as glamorous as being a real bipolar. Plus it's not really fair because bipolar carries such a heavy stigma with it--if I were asked to hire a bipolar office manager I would be afraid she would one day buy 1000 highlighters for a business of only three employees. Bipolar people are crazier than depressed people, everybody knows that. (Kidding! Get over it!) But who wants to hire a depressed person, either? Someone who sucks all the energy out of the room with her little Eeyore cloud over her head and who cries all the time. Sounds great. I can't imagine it would be that much better if there were a word for being chronically depressed but cycling from paralytic depression to agitated depression. Sad, bitchy, sad, bitchy.
There's no real upside to any of these labels. Except if I were a shrink I'd sure make a pile of money off them.
At some point I caught my breath, covered my face and took a deep breath. "I'm just so frustrated with all of this. I take this pile of pills and I don't feel better; I just want to hurl. And, no offense, because I didn't know you then, but You People certainly weren't helping so I started self-medicating with alcohol, which I knew wasn't good because I'd be depressed later but at least it helped me get through the moment then. And now I can't drink at all because these new pills make me feel like I'm going to hurl if I have so much as half a beer or a few sips of wine, and I'm going to SANTA BARBARA and ROME! How can I go to Rome without being able to drink wine?!?! I mean, I'm not an alcoholic, but it would be nice to have a glass of wine with dinner in ROME!"
So she's adjusting things a bit, pulling me immediately off one crappy pill and slowly off another.
She asked me if I wanted to try this method.
"Honestly? I don't really care. I just want to feel better. If you said, 'Go run in the freeway, that will make you feel better,' I would. I'd run a little off to the side, because I don't want to die from it, but I'd give it a try."
The magic in this decision is that I've also been getting head rushes lately, when there's a change in altitude, like if I go from sitting in a chair and my head is four feet above the ground and then I stand and I'm in the 5'5" range, or even worse, if I kneel down to pick something up from the floor and then I stand up.... holy God! Altitude sickness!
So that might go away too.
She left the room to get me a sample of one of the meds I am already on so that I can up the dosage without running out before my original refill lets me get more. It's not a fun pill, just another pill. I sat there spinning at same altitude I'd been maintaining for the whole 40 minutes and thought, "Dizziness and nausea are symptoms of anxiety too. What if it's just that?"
I asked her.
She acknowledged that fact, but thinks I've got more going on here because of this horrendous cocktail. She kept telling me she really believed I could feel better.
I guess I'm supposed to believe her. I think I do.
Still, when I found my way from her second floor office to the first floor of the parking garage I was seriously considering sticking my finger down my throat and vomiting next to my car before I drove away. Shy, and not wanting to give the appearance of a drunk driver or a lunatic, I did not. I just started the car, almost drove into the parked car behind me (but maybe I was not even close, maybe it just seemed that way from where I was looking with my wobbly head), and got home safely carrying Possibilities with me.
I explored the purging idea further with Justin, but he explained that it probably would not work since I don't feel sick from eating something bad, or having a stomach bug or too much alcohol in my system. Vomiting would probably just make me feel tired but still sick, plus my stomach and throat would hurt in yet another way.
"So I am actually not going to vomit, I just feel like I will?" If I knew it was not going to happen, then I would not have to worry about it so much, I could just feel sick and not constantly checkfor the least embarrassing place to puke.
"No, you might actually vomit, but you probably won't feel better if you do."
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The scent of smoke wafted into our bedroom.
We looked out the windows in both directions as far as we could, I checked the rooms for candles and electronics on fire, Justin closed the windows.
I opened the door. "Oh my God, Justin! It's out here."
Our fellow apartment dwellers were outside too, facing the black billowing smoke. Orange flames flickered out the window of the building across the street and behind the bungalows and small parking alley.
I put on my shoes and went outside. Justin followed. After climbing the stairs I could see over small houses, one of the boys followed me. Our other halves went across the street and into the alley. The entire time there had been sirens, but the sense of arrival felt insecure.
I knew Justin would help if he could.
The police were already there, my neighbor and I could not find our boyfriends, but crossed the street and watched with the other people who had been drawn out of their homes by spectacle, curiosity and fear.
There were people taking photographs with their digital SLR cameras, but they were standing at their regular height, just snapping at the flashing lights and the water spewing from the ill-attached fire hose at the hydrant on the corner. I couldn't do it. I saw so many beautiful shots. The sky was just at that beautiful color that only lasts a few minutes before darkness overtakes it. The red, blue and white flashing lights, the reflections on the red trucks, the little girls and boys holding their parents' hands or perched on their daddy's shoulders. One little boy was hypothesizing into the ear of his dad, "Maybe there was a candle and someone was playing with it."
I know there could have been shots.... the fireman's bag of equipment lying near the hydrant. The ladders to the roof. The black air and the stunned faces of the displaced.
What is the difference between camera owners and news cameramen or photographers capturing the moment? Who is exploiting other people's loss for their own gain? Does it matter?
I just couldn't do it.
I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe. That Justin hadn't gone in. The Marine. The almost-doctor. My husband. He says he would help if there was something he good do, if someone needed him, if...
You can see I won't deal well with that.
As it is I'm still all stressed out, and all we had to do was close all of the windows and shower immediately to wash off the smoke we know too well.
This block of car vandalism, car theft leading to homicide, incomplete building projects, homeless men sleeping and defecating and picking at our property, graffiti and the crazy Corner Guy... we'll miss you so.
I know in about two months I'm going to be married to one, but I found him and married him before he became a doctor.
So I hate doctors.
My alchemist sucks, even if he is good and well educated and athletic and relatively likable (if I were an older gay man looking for a preppy date) , his formulas are not really helping me.
So I am being directed by my LCSW to see another alchemist who will supposedly be better for me. This is the woman she wanted me to see all along, but whom is not in my insurance network and therefore will charge me full price, minus a special discount that for God knows what reason she has decided to grant me.
Full price: $300 for the initial consultation. Follow up visits $200 each.
I cannot imagine making that much money in about half an hour.
But I have to pay it. The medications that my current alchemist has me taking have ery little positive effect and thoroughly annoying side effects. Some people would use a stronger word than annoying, but I've been really close to death from several perspectives and I cannot say these side effects are fatal or intolerable, but I have an unusually high threshold for this kind of pain.
I may whimper at the first wince of pain if I twist my ankle, I may whine if I have a headache or a cut with the tiniest bit of blood coming from it, but somehow I have conditioned myself to plow through emotional discomfort, pain or trauma as though it were my duty, my destiny, my role in this looping drama.
I have gotten really good at it, in the sense that I can plow through assignments or chores despite the heavy feeling in my chest, the dizziness, the distractions pulling at my brain. Good at it, in the sense that things still got done. They still do get done. Sure, the assignments have changed drastically in their complexity, but they present the same difficulty to me in terms of their draining power on my mental battery.
Nancy said that when people walk into the grocery store with the flu and realize that they just can't do it, that they suddenly feel inconceivably worse than they did when they planned the trip to the grocery store, they just turn around and go home.
Even I have turned around and gone home when it came to the flu and the food combination.
But when it's this, when it's just something in my head, I can't let it win. I can't let it beat me. I have to Go! I must trudge through the store. I must continue to push the cart. I must gather our necessities of food and toiletries before I can go home. I must do what I set out to do. I must succeed. What kind of woman fails at grocery shopping?
Those wilting women of the movies in the 40s and 50s who were shown having "fits" or whatever they called it then fail to grocery shop. Those weak women. Those weak, weak women.
I am not a weak woman. I have worked hard, since I was a very little girl, not to let anyone see that they have hurt me. I do not know why. I just never wanted someone to believe they could get to me, that their actions or words could hurt me. I wanted people to see my strength and power and will. I wanted to be unstoppable.
And for the most part, I was unstoppable. I was strong. They thought they couldn't get to me or they thought I hated them, but they didn't think I accepted defeat.
Now, as if it matters, I carry this mentality forward in attacking my stalker. I will not be defeated. I will not be weak. I will not be overcome.
It is a ridiculous notion.
Perhaps I need to make peace with the idea that if I am having a bad day, a dizzy, sad, heavy, inconceivable day, the only way I will beat it is by giving myself the permission and the direction to rest.
When I plow through, I may fill the kitchen cupboards with our groceries, but my body feels as though I have just barely survived a terrible storm on Gilligan's little tourist boat. Forcing myself to endure that kind of pain, maybe that is what I should consider losing. Resting and moving through the storm as gently and safely as possible, maybe that is the winning.
Making my life as serene and painless as possible, is that my new goal? Can that be success? It seems so... mundane.
It is just so hard for me to learn to live this way. This weakened stronger way.
Living is not this hard for everyone.
Why is it like this for me?
No. Don't hand me that load of crap about God only giving me what I can handle. That's among a number of cruel so-called-Christian phrases that are supposed to wrap up the pain in a nice little bandage to heal the wounded but that really just cover it over so that no one has to see the ugly wound.
It is like this for me because of nature and because of nurture, just the same way everybody else's life turns out the way it does.
For now, on the prayer and hope that I hardly even dare to hope, spending $200 on a new alchemist who will be able to come up with a formula that does not include seven medications working more in contradiction with each other than in tandem with each other is all I can do.
For now, I have to believe that this isn't all there is, that I am not destined to ride through life in one of Alice in Wonderland's tea cups.
I bumped my elbow on the wall and said, "Oww."
"Ch," he followed.
"Some people finish each other's sentences, we finish each other's words," I smiled at him.
Justin, upon opening the bedroom window blinds: "Hello World!"
In the living room, I smile.
"Why so glum?" he asks the world.
I get up to look and give him a hug because he's been on a cuteness-roll this morning.
"It looks so gloomy out there."
He seems sheepish, getting caught talking to the world, though he hadn't made an effort to be quiet about it so I wouldn't hear.
The marine layer lingered outside.
Dressed up for work, he asks me whether black or brown shoes will match his softly lavender shirt and gray and slightly darker purple tie. His hand is covering the part of the belt he has on so far.
"Either one," I said. "Both of them will work, black or brown. And you don't have to cover up your belt for me to decide--I know it's reversible."
Actually, he only has two pairs to choose from. They are decent business shoes, but they are from the VA and specially designed to fit his prosthetic. Occasionally I am apt to ask which is more comfortable or what he'll be doing that day, so that I can try to suggest shoes that will cause the least amount of pain.
I woke up just before his second alarm went off and was pumped to start the day that was already racing around in my head. My eyes were sleepy and my body felt annoyed that I wouldn't sleep the one or two more hours that are suggested for general health and especially if I take a sleeping pill.
My mind is stronger than a sleeping pill, of all the things to overcome.
I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn't get calm enough. I had already tried reading and checked both of my e-mail accounts, but was stuck between productivity and rest.
I went back to the bedroom and got into bed. "Justin, aren't you supposed to get up and go?"
"Huh? Yeah. Where were you."
"I rised, but there was no shining."
"Maybe if I could spread out and take up the whole bed..."
"I am diagonal, huh?" he said and straightened up. When he finally left he said sweet dreams.
"Yeah, I'll see what I can do."
"I'd try diagonal," he said and closed the door.
Less than five minutes later I was in the kitchen chatting and watching him have breakfast. There's not point in lying in bed getting frustrated and annoyed with myself just because I cannot sleep.
Another joy of the mixed state and cyclothymia. I want to be nocturnal--when I went to bed at midnight last night I was still full of energy. But I knew I had to sleep. So I medicated, and I tried and it worked. But at the slightest indication of daytime, I mentally sped around even though my body weighs the empty extra weight of sleep deprivation and my eyes push down into my cheeks.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Last night got so bad that Justin helped me up from the couch and sent me to bed to go to sleep. He brought me a glass of water and I took the medicines I am supposed to take. I lay down to sleep; it was not even 10 p.m. yet.
"Did you take [a sleeping pill]?" he asked. It was a logical suggestion, given how much trouble I sometimes have time sleeping.
"No. I'm too dizzy; I'm scared. I don't want to."
"OK. Good night."
I closed my eyes, which kind of made the spinning stop, but not really. It wasn't as bad as the spinning of a drunken evening, but it wasn't like just lying down to go to sleep. Still, I slept until Justin came to sleep after working on his presentation until 2 a.m.
"Yeah, it's just me. Shhh.... I'm trying not to wake you up."
"Thank God you woke me up. I was having nightmares."
He reached toward me to calm me down. "Oh my God. You sure were. You're soaking wet."
Touching my clothes, I realized I'd been lying there sweating through my running nightmare.
I was a little bit afraid that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep, but I did, and slept for a total of 12 hours.
In the morning, I decided today would be a good day to stay at home. Take it easy. Maybe get some of the inside chores done. My yesterday kicked my ass.
Today was coffee with Justin, some computer work, making enchiladas and walking the dogs. Today was not letting myself get as sick as yesterday.
Letting myself get sick?
I gotta let up on myself.... I just had the privilege of getting that sick. It just happened. Sick just happens to me.
The problem with cyclothymia, which is a form of alternating between sadness and joy, lethargic and energetic, depressed and ...not. It is a very ...well, a milder form of a mood disorder. I don't get to alternate between lavish shopping sprees and dark drinking binges, I alternate between feeling too heavy with depression to be able to get anything done and then I make a super long list of things to do and get down on myself when I can't complete all of the tasks.
Miraculously though, Justin caught me. I'd put all of the groceries away.... lined up the cans and jars with the labels all facing the same way and carefully placed equally apart from each other (I don't think he noticed that, yet). It was later that I wanted it to be and I was exhausted and almost in tears over all that was not done, but I had to make enchiladas and Spanish rice.
Justin came into the kitchen and found me preparing to prepare (I had to clean the kitchen to be able to cook in it before I started cooking) to cook.
"Don't cook today. It will be two hours before it's ready. Let's just get something."
"But I have to cook today because there's always leftovers and you're going out of town, and I really want enchiladas and..."
He stopped me.
"Don't cook tonight. It's OK. We can have enchiladas later."
He had decided. He got the takeout menu, we called and ordered, and he went to pick up the food while I lay on the couch in disappointment, ignoring my ringing phone. He was so good and calm and caring even though he had a paper to write. He put my burrito on a plate and handed me a napkin.
So now we know... when I start talking fast and about lots of things in a row going back and forth between thoughts and I suddenly try to do too many things in one day... if Justin notices maybe he'll be able to stop me by saying something. The problem is, sometimes I don't know if I'm just back to normal--getting stuff done because THAT'S WHAT I DO, or because I think that's what I do and am missing my sense of reality.
It is totally exhausting.
I am told that when someone is in a "mood state" they think "that" is the way they always are, and so they don't remember that life wasn't always like that, they think "this" is they way they always are.
I have the extra privilege of being able to have a mixed state.
A mixed state.
Always an overachiever. Don't just have one direction of a mood disorder. Don't just go from A to B in a super-obvious way, a way that people can tell it's a sickness. I go stealthily. I trick people. I trick myself. I can rapid cycle from A to B and back again within a day, several times. I can be in both states at once--sad but totally awake even though it's night time, sad and also racing instead of subdued...
I am an overachiever mood disorder patient.
I know I have good days. "Normal" days. Non-disordered days. I know there are days when I do not have to make an effort to hold it together, or speak, or move.
I know I have good days.
I'll have more good days.
Maybe tomorrow. Definitely soon. It has to be soon.
Maybe if I just want it enough?
It will be tomorrow.
But I have always wanted good days. Maybe I just have to stop trying to have them. Maybe trying is the problem.
I would love to write, "Maybe I should just be." But that would be a silly little bow tied at the end of a story.
I am a woman whose body plays tricks on my brain, my heart, my actions, my words. That's what I am. That's who I will be.
I have learned about being a "human being" instead of a "human doing." It's a healthy concept. But for me, and maybe for everyone with a mood disorder or some other illness or disease, it is a little more complicated.
I have to manage this extra thing that exists inside me; I have to make sure it stays under control and does not become my essence. I have to make sure that I have enough room to "be."
Then maybe I won't just be a person with a mood disorder, maybe I will be my real self. Maybe even breathing will be easier.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The way I feel right now is a very very very significant part of why I am taking a medical leave from work.
There is no reason for this dizziness.
I just did what lots of American women do if they don't go to work every day. I went to the pharmacy and picked up some meds, I got some coffee, I went to a doctor's appointment, I ate a snack, I exchanged some Christmas gifts at the mall (yes, Christmas, yes, that's how much I hate the mall), I went to the grocery store (where things started really going downhill, but I took the medicine that is supposed to subdue that decline), did the shopping and then came home and put it all away. The neighbors needed their dogs walked last minute, so I drank a smoothie/juice on the way to their house and got lots of puppy-happy-to-see-you-ness and fed and walked them, which would be generally what it would be like if I had my own dog, and when I got home I thought I'd make some dinner.
I'd been planning the dinner for most of the day. On doctor's orders, I was not supposed to think too much and I was to get a second opinion ASAP on my medications. I was supposed to redirect my habitual analysis of behavior and experience and emotion to something simpler, like breathing. Or dinner.
But now I'm lying here dizzy, not thinking about it, but not feeling any better.
Thank God Justin saved me from myself on the idea of making dinner now. I made dinner last night, of course with our vintage oven it took twice as long as it was supposed to take to cook. I just did the dishes, I was ready to get started on dinner but I needed a couple of the ingredients from Henry's.
And now, instead of cooking or even writing I'm going to lie here and spin while I wait for Justin to return with a burrito from the yummy Mexican food place in the strip mall behind our apartment building.
I sure hope eating goes well.
And I sure hope the doctors manage to arrange a second opinion appointment for me soon.
I am tired of running these hills every day.
Monday, March 24, 2008
"Thank you, Jesus."
That's a little phrase that Justin's best medical school friend uses when something shitty happens. It's kind of a joke, but also (for me and Justin at least) a pithy truism--why should we only thank Him when things go our way, rather than thanking him for less obviously positive situations too. If we only thanked him for things that went our way, we might as well just thank ourselves, don't ya think? And the opposite is true as well.... if we blamed the crappy moments of our lives on ourselves what would that be saying about Jesus's place in our lives.
It's a very confusing scale. Seems easier to just thank him all the time and let it go at that.
So, thank you Jesus, for letting my heart break so many times, for letting us lose our first child during pregnancy, for letting me learn that the friend that I worried about was safe but just not thinking of me, for placing Justin in Los Angeles instead of a more adventurous place for us, and for having me spend an hour and a half of my time doing something that was not on my schedule.
Thank you, Jesus.
Because, of course, as that great country song goes, "One of God's greatest gifts is unanswered prayers."
The bruising patience I had to endure in waiting for true love and not settling for some poor substitute who was willing to fill the space I have for a lifelong partner led me to Justin, and he and I both know heartbreak and what it takes to have a mature and healthy relationship. We found each other halfway around the world when we could easily have met earlier--what with living between 0.5 to 15 miles apart from each other for much of our lives--but we met when we were ready for each other, and that gift has brought such sweetness to our lives.
The grief of mourning our desperately hoped for, worked for, prayed for dream child nearly destroyed me. But it also taught me a lot about the meaning of motherhood without actually having a child in our lives. This gift of this knowledge makes our life together now so much more full than it would be if we had a baby. This gift of knowledge gives us time to weave our lives into a stronger tapestry of marriage and joy. Possibly, the time and knowledge we have been granted may make us very healthy parents in the far far future, but it is also totally possible that we will enjoy incredibly healthy lives without raising children. Either way we are better for it.
The pain of having unknowingly spent much of my time with a friend who did not sincerely care about me, momentarily disillusioned me about having relationships with women in general. I am glad to know that she is physically safe and how she feels, even if her emotional retardation (and again I use the word advisedly) got in the way of my own personal growth and care. Thank you Jesus, because over the past few days you have given me so many reminders that I do have healthy, reciprocal, balanced relationships with people who are open and honest and true friends. Thanks for Oakley's visit, for Brian's enduring friendship and lunch date and for Tiffany's surprise presence today when all I expected was a cup of coffee and what I got was a refreshing reconnection with a smart and thoughtful woman.
Tossing us back to Los Angeles means putting us in a place we both already know and does not give us the adventure of living together outside Southern California--we won't be exploring the wet, green, yummy forests of trees and buildings in the San Francisco area, we won't be roaming the museums of Chicago and enduring the windy snowy winters or the humid summers so far from home. But that means we have the gift of remaining close enough to San Diego and closer to our families. That means that we don't have to live in an I'm-about-to-give-up-all-these-sunny-days way, because we're just relocating our umbrella on the beach. Also, he's going to one of the most amazing programs for Emergency Medicine residency in the world, so hurrah for family and achievement and friends all in one.
Allowing clinical depression, the recovery and dive back into work, and the relapse to disability to disconnect me from my world and then try to reconnect to it has sure been a lot of work. But having to give up everything I knew: teaching, journalism, winning, working, giving, giving, giving, achieving, achieving, achieving left a gaping hole in my life. Sounds awful, but it is not. Really, it is only difficult. And even that difficulty is a form of a gift because I get to choose what goes into my life this time. The first time I built a life so much of my structure was driven by what I perceived I needed to do to fulfill the expectations of others. Meeting those expectations took on a life of its own, a life for which my body was only a vehicle. I became this Amazing Accomplished Thing built on a foundation of accomplishment and stacks and stacks of more accomplishments. Does that sound human or even interesting? It felt like dying a slow death but not telling anyone about the diagnosis. One day, I'd just collapse and someone else would have to take the job of being the Amazing Accomplished Thing. Giving me this chance to rebuild myself really gives me the opportunity to remake my existence, to create myself as I am instead of as I should be.
So thank you, Jesus, for not giving me everything I believe is good for me.
Thanks a lot, Jesus.
As much as I am attempting to shrink my carbon footprint, I think I might splurge on the addiction I have to print publications. I need them, I covet them, I adore them. But if I have to settle for just being able to get the words from a computer screen, it's better than nothing.
Today, while I was reading Sunday's column by Maureen Dowd I ran across at least two unfamiliar allusions. I thought, "Hmmm. I don't know what that word means but I'm too lazy to look it up now." (And this from a woman who would only have to open a new tab to search for the information. It's not like I'd have to go to my big dictionary or the library or anything...) From context clues I got the gist, but still... yet another word I don't really know....
Then, at the bottom of the article I read this note:
"Oh my God! I'm going to be smarter in five minutes!"
I cruised back up to clarify a few words and phrases and not only did the information pop up right there, if it didn't it told me where to check for more. I told Justin how rad this new tool is and he was equally enthralled and asked where this new toy could be found.
"The New York Times, of course."
Later I read an e-mail from my college Alpha Phi friend who is now working in the Congo with HOPE doing micro-finance. Via the web she introduced me to a friend of hers who lives in the area where we will live for the next three years.
How can I not love a tool that allows me to "talk" with a friend in Africa who can introduce me to a friend in Los Angeles while I sit still in my pyjamas doing my morning reading?
On the downside, I have yet to find a comfortable position in which to read the news from my laptop. As a reader since I was about 3 years old, I love to read curled up on my side with the book or the folded up newspaper in front of me. It's called lolling around. I can lie on my side, my back, my tummy or sit up and easily carry the paper to any of those positions and be happy. This morning I tried to content myself with sliding down on the couch in an almost lying down position, as though I were a plank for someone very small or a cat to climb up my body and sit on the couch with me, and rest my laptop on my chest so I could be comfortable and read at the same time. It was not in the cards. My boobies got in the way. Boobies for me are not a shelf on which I can rest anything, so then I tried resting my legs on the coffee table instead and still, no real lounging comfort.
Alas, I still want my morning newsPAPER. It's cuddly, leaves ink on my fingers and has a beautiful familiar scent.
But the e-version does have the capacity to make me smarter in five minutes, so that's cool too. But I could combine the two. I could read in lounging paper comfort, and then if I found something I wanted more information on, I could just get the article online and click to put another fact in my brain.
Serious, how cool is that!!!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
You know what?
I am so tired of the hell-fire-and brimstone talk that I don't want to even write it that way.
Christ rose to assure us that He was still with us, and would be forever watching over us and acting as a spokesperson for us when we needed to talk to God. Christ rose to remind us that we are saved by grace through faith alone. (Romans) In other words, Christ rose to remind us that we just have to believe in Him and His Love and he will protect us and lead us to salvation and safety from the ills of existence (not to say that we won't still experience human suffering, but spiritually we will know that God's there saying to whatever devil it is that hounds us, "Hey! That's my kid! Leave her alone!"). The neatest part about this reciprocal friendship is that God's love is given freely and without expectation or ties or rules--He just says, "I love you. No exceptions. Thanks for being down there."
Easter--the reverse of Christmas: when he was born we brought Him gifts because Christ was just Baby Jesus and needed some stuff, but for Easter He gives us the gift of his life (again, actually) and everlasting love for everyone. All this giving just because of love--and love for practically strangers.
I mean, think about it. It's not like we knew this kid Jesus when he was born. We'd just heard that he was important and present, so we gave him symbols of our love--presents. Then, when he dies and rises He's giving everyone His love, and sure there's all that talk about Him knowing every hair on our heads and every sparrow, but he doesn't know who is coming into this world and He says He'll be there for all those future people anyway.
Pretty cool altruism all around, I'd say.
Still, it's a funny thing about Easter. There's a prevalent assumption that people will have Plans for Easter. That there will be a Celebration. That the Celebration will mostly involve gorging ourselves on a lot more food than we really need, and some chocolate and candy for good measure. Also, little kids expect the Easter bunny to hide eggs or leave baskets full of stuff for them, so that they can celebrate the joy of Easter by getting stuff.
Hmmm. I know there's some way to make The Bunny a Christian symbol, but really--what's with all this giving junk to people? Seems like even though Christ showed up at a meal to say He was alive even though they'd buried Him, he wasn't expecting chocolate eggs all over the place. In fact, I don't even remember that he asked for much, except that we were to love one another... His mantras, "Love one another." "Saved by grace through Faith alone."
I think if Christ had come to the door today, he wouldn't have minded that Justin and I were both working on our, well, work.
We did also take the time to call our family and our friends who get excited about holidays like Easter, but other than that the only thing that set this Sunday apart from all the other Sundays of the year was that it was the first Sunday ever after The Match. So we were a little more peaceful and happy than we've been recently.
Also, there's the one thing I really hate about Easter. The church is packed with Easter lilies--the only flower I am so allergic to that it makes my skin itch, my throat tickle and my eyes irritated--and just because they look like trumpets (to herald the arrival of Christ) they're everywhere.
But today, on Easter Sunday, four more Americans died in Iraq.
We have let 4000 people from America die in this war in that country, and that doesn't count the Iraqis and other collateral damage.
Wonder what Christ is thinking about that, Mr. Bush.
He'd probably rather chill with the Easter Bunny and eat some chocolate eggs. Maybe he'd even hang out with the Muslims and the Jews and the Gentiles and instead of watching them attack the so-called safe Green Zone he'd break bread and share it with them.
What I really thinks He wants on Easter, is for us to throw more love around than usual--like the extra flowers blooming in spring.
I think Jesus might have peaked into our apartment and been happy to see two of his people loving their own lives more than they have at certain other points in the year, loving each other freely and unconditionally, and calling our friends and family to celebrate the love in those relationships even though we didn't all gather for dinner.
And about that working... I think He'd be pretty happy to see that we both do work that we love and that we hope will enrich the lives of others through the gifts that we pour into these projects.
Today was Justin's sixth birthday in terms of Christian Church Calendar years since he was baptized on Easter. We noticed it and were glad, but it seemed like a lot of effort to get the candle he was given to light each year to remember his baptism, whereas with taking a break from work and sitting on the couch chatting about it seemed like a lot less work--which is a celebration unto itself.
Also today the sermon was especially good, and the church was brimming with not only those damn Easter lilies but with so much love... granddaughters there because their grandmother is so hopeful that they will join her at church, older kids watching the mystery of Communion and partaking in it even if they didn't quite know how, younger kids who have been hanging out in this church for quite some time now taking Communion and being so delighted at receiving the same gift the grown-ups get each Sunday that they dash from the Table thrilled and grinning as they still hold the wafer they've been given but are too shy and too excited to eat right there in front of the Pastor--they catch up to the safety of their parents and eat then.
So many of us sitting in the pews watched that little boy's joy and laughed quietly at his exuberance. I think we did it because even if he didn't know it at all and was just excited to be at the grown-up table, he reminded us of the significance of receiving Communion--Christ's body and blood and also the symbol that we all have in common the belief in the Holy Trinity. Probably after decades of taking the bread and the wine it gets easy to just do the whole service by rote instead of heart, but that little boy exhibited the ecstatic joy that coming to The Table is meant to bring. I mean, good Lord, we're Eating the body of Christ. How much more intimate and exciting can this relationship get? He's really just giving us everything. I mean Everything. How can we receive it as though someone were handing us a pencil to borrow?
Justin watched all this happen, and said, "That's awesome! Proper happiness."
This will be the phrase of the day for this Easter Sunday's church service and the next few weeks....
I don't remember having missed a Good Friday service since I was baptized on Pentecost in 1996, but we didn't go this year. Doing all-things-San-Diegan seems less urgent when I know next year I can come down and stay with a friend for Holy Week (Thurs-Sun) and go to the services. This year we had guests and yummy dinner to eat, and we were exhausted and church seemed so far away and traffic was bad.... so we didn't go. Same goes for Maundy Thursday.
But the handy thing about tradition and liturgy is I know what would have happened if I had gone and what took place despite my absence. I did what I had to do during those hours, but I have spent time in penitent thought these past few days. There are probably some people who attend these services and don't really consider the depth of the messages and symbols, but especially because I was absent I have been considering them.
It's too late in the night to comment on all of that now, but I feel certain that in the past I have often forgiven, apologized or reconnected with people with whom there had been conflict. It seems like a good time for it, those three days between Jesus' death and his rising. I know they are not, but they feel like dangerous times, what with God mourning the death of His Child and all. Not to mention Christ being locked away in a cave for his burial. It seems like a raw and barren time. A good time to do a systems check and make sure that my own "house is in order," as the Christians are fond of saying. This year didn't seem so dangerous. It was definitely a contemplative time--even with Oakley here and all of us indulging in San Diego's yummiest food and the fun of each other's company--but I felt less like the sad and scared women who are on the outside of the tomb grieving Christ's death, and more like one of the insiders (if the walls could talk), who knew that he was fine. That he was just spending some time gathering his thoughts and getting ready to come back and tell His disciples and by extension the rest of us what to do--at least to give us a vague plan, a general idea, a reminder of His teachings of sorts. This year, I felt like I knew that He was still here, planning and watching over us. Me. This year the person to consider was busy planning Easter.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Read for yourself: Harbor UCLA DEM
BTW, for all my bluster I am really happy that we are going to be living closer to our families. I'm tired of missing out on Dad's BBQs, Mom's family gatherings, Neil's various fun activities to watch or join... and yum! we'll be near Little India.
We're kinda going home... just not that close to home... and not to a home that's ever been ours together before... but kinda.
This is Next:
(pretty neat interactive map, huh! I heart Google)
View Larger Map
Exactly three months from now, June 20, Justin will begin his residency program there. In the words of another resident-to-be he'll finally be getting paid for the pleasure of working, rather than paying to work.
So today I Rise with a lot of information to use as I work toward our future. I know what I can shed and leave behind, I know what I must take with me, and I have a few tings in the undecided pile. But I can start packing now. I can give things away now. I can let things go now and know I will not have to try to find a way to keep them.
When we moved into this wonderful apartment in Hillcrest (From the County Animal Control saviors I learned that we are actually so on the border that the bungalows next door are in a different zip code; mean Corner Guy lives in North Park.) I participated to the capacity of which I was capable. I was pretty incapable of doing much.
I was so sick then, spinning and nauseated from my new medications, so depressed I could hardly move, leave alone make important decisions about possessions or even whether to eat. I remember now that they hospitalized me then; I told them, "No! I can't go now!" I think it was a Wednesday. "We have the garage sale on Saturday and I have to sort through the house to get stuff ready. Plus today I have to pack the bookshelves up." I always pack my books in the logical order in which they are shelved--favorite authors together, women authors together, letters and memoirs together, Greek lit together, Shakespeare, poetry... you get the idea.
"That sounds like a lot of work, a pretty stressful time, and you need to rest."
"I cannot rest now. I have to help my husband. He's got exams now and I can't let him have to do all that on his own. I have to help."
"You are very vulnerable now," the doctor said. I told him about my plan to escape the failure of having recovered, finished this miserable project of reaching a healthy life, of mental health. They knew my over-achieving past. My disappointment and frustration with working for three months on fixing this mood disorder was unacceptable to me. I was going to end the infliction that I felt and radiated to others. I knew a way to finish it quickly, and they knew I didn't like to fail. I was likely to succeed. So they hospitalized me.
Justin did the garage sale with the help of a then-friend. His medical school class helped us move. I was home for that--a couple of weeks earlier I had sat in the car trying to still my spinning head and creeping-up stomach while he drove us methodically from apartment to apartment and we eliminated the scary ones and the expensive ones. But I essentially watched these generous men and their friends carry our lives out of our house (including my teaching-related boxes) and into the U-Haul. Some of them even helped us empty the truck. My job was to hold myself together and do my best to tell people which room to deposit our goods.
We began to unpack and Justin left for a study session before his next final exam. Alone in the apartment with trays of kitchen utensils resting on the kitchen table, I made a barrier to the kitchen of boxes and bicycles, hoping that if my mind floated out of my body with its "good idea," its necessary next step, I would have so much work to do to get there that I would snap out of it, wake up before I could act on the devil's whispers. I sat on the couch waiting for him to return, refusing to move from my safe island. Maybe I rested or slept or watched TV if it were already attached to the wires that make it live.
I made it.
I never fully unpacked from that move--what after all would I have done with all those school books and lesson plans and records? They remained boxed, waiting for my inevitable recovery and return to the profession that gave us the paycheck that would carry us through three more years of medical school.
I am officially resigned.
I will take those boxes that might be relative to a high-school-in-need near this neighborhood. Maybe on Monday.
I am determined to fully participate in this move and settling into our future home. It will not be filled to the gills like this place; I will get rid of all we do not need. During the fires I quickly emptied my closet of items other people needed more than I do, clothes, shoes, games, toys all went to others. During this offloading of the old life (teacher, carrier of reminders of the past, keeper of photos I might one day paint...) I will make choices, I will pack, I will sell, I will help us move and always feel like where we have gone is our place; not the place my parents helped us move into because Justin was warding off death by amputation related osteomylitis bone infection white cell killing antibiotics, not the place our friends helped us move into because I was warding off death by reason of mood disorder--clinical label irrelevant, human experience extraordinary.
Now that we know where we are going, now that I love myself as much as I love Justin, I am going to live this life in the healthy position of taking care of both of us.
I love myself as much as I love Justin. Curious about what that means? I would do anything, anything, to ensure Justin's safety, his happiness, his good health, his own sense of self worth. I am perfectly aware that I am not in control of these factors, or thoughts or feelings in his life, but I can do my part to contribute to helping him live on the positive side of those intrinsic parts of his existence.
Safety: I can warn him if I see a danger zone he is entering, I can encourage him to make healthy choices, I can drive safely with him as my passenger.
Happiness: I can do things that make his life easier: picking colors, ironing, dishes, organizing, love, sharing, appreciating his quirks and his skills, arranging gifts or experiences I know he enjoys.
Thoughts, feelings: I can listen, I can appreciate, I can encourage him.
His health: I can order refills of his medications and take care of his foot (which has even meant changing bandages on the site of his latest surgery, for which I have almost no stomach and during which I cried for his suffering and my fears), I can avoid asking him to do things that I know cause him more pain than necessary--and he experiences pain each day just for being alive, I can cook healthy dishes and encourage our exercise programs.
Self worth: I can tell him why I love him and hope that he sees my love in his mirror, I can remind him of his wonderful qualities when he doubts himself or wishes he could have done more to save a patient, or his mother, or be something more than what he is, or that he could be in Iraq with his Marine unit, or he wants to help his father with his issues or his stepfather with his experience of loss and finding his way out of that dark place.
I know, I really know, that I cannot make Justin feel or experience or believe any of these qualities. But because I love him I can support him in his endeavors to find them within himself.
I know, I really know, that my own experience of those qualities resides in my hands. I also know that I have the blessing of a sweetly, gently, carefully woven net that will catch me when I am falling and help me get back on the tightrope where this performance plays out.
For all of these gifts I am grateful.
For all of these gifts I am growing more and more aware of my own strength and confidence and carefully placed hope. I am also growing more aware of who and what is a strong, beautiful, loving, worthy and reliable part of that net, and who and what is just there for their own benefit but will break at the slightest sign of needing to do the work a healthy relationship requires and which is reciprocal--those that know that reciprocity in a relationship alternates in timing. We help each other when one of us needs help, and when we need help at the same time we stand side-by-side, we lean on each other, and in that small reciprocity we hold each other steady until we nurture ourselves back to strength. That type of relationship is real. That type of relationship is steady. That type of relationship is worthy of the investment of love and time.
These things I have learned here, in San Diego, where I landed because like so many other once-foolish women I followed a misguided heart to a lure that turned out to be a trap. But I am not the fool anymore. Hopefully those other women will gain self-respect, self-understanding, self-esteem and self-love too. But I have it. I know I have more to gain, but I have a healthy dose for now.
These qualities are of my own doing. Yes, my support team has helped me realize that which is in my soul, that which is real and true, that which is healthy. Yes, Justin has been an extraordinarily strong thread in that net. But there have been so many others who were capable of the job--who accepted my offerings and who returned them in kind. Sometimes one of us gave more or less than the other, but the wisest of us knew then and know now that in our lifetime there will be many more opportunities to give and receive love as needed.
I am proud to be there to give my love. I am also not so ego-centric or egotistical as to not accept their support when I need it. Happily, I am also strong enough to let those weak threads remove themselves from the net at their whim and know that I do not need them to stay, that the net is an evolving object with threads that will come and go. That's OK. I will never fall too far and I will always be there to nurture those who stay--who can love and be loved.
The best parts of my net will move to Los Angeles with us. As with so many before them, we will stretch and even grow across the boundaries of state and country lines. Like Doctors Without Borders, Love knows no bounds.
It is only change of location and experience. All of real love remains intact.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The anticipation, the information, the shock, the confusion, the relief, the excitement, the celebration, the consoling of the disappointed, the photography, further celebration. A short break at home. An appointment with the past that chews away at the present and spits me out scarred. Change. Clothes, mood, focus. Dinner. More celebrating.
The best part has been watching Justin get more and more excited as the news sunk in, and the concept of being accepted at such a highly regarded program and finishing his residency in three years.
I am so glad that he is genuinely happy about his Match.
He keeps telling me the order of the next three years of rotations. The number of weeks he'll be working in the Emergency Department (ED) during the three years. The names of people he knows who are already residents there or who are going there with him, even if they are in other specialties. Every now and then he grins and squirms like a little kid who can't contain himself--a kid who is about to open his Christmas present and can tell from the packaging that it is exactly what he wanted.
I love watching Justin's happiness. It's so exuberant. He oozes joy.
I need to look at a map. I knew we might move, but the fact that we actually are moving to Los Angeles is sinking in very slowly. I am still stunned. LA. I told Justin I needed to look at a map because I have no concept the location of the places he and Oakley discussed while we ate dinner.
He scraped the sauce and mushrooms and capers off the top of his chicken piccatta and cut a piece off but didn't eat it.
"What are you doing?" I leaned over to look at his plate. "Oh my gosh, is that California?"
"This is Long Beach," and he placed a small bit of chicken near the "coast." "This is Santa Monica," a mushroom. "Here's Torrance," another sliver of chicken where UCLA-Harbor is located, "And there's Redondo Beach." He pointed to the more coastal side of the same bit of meat. "LAX is right there." A caper.
"Oh, so Torrance is that part where the traffic slows down on the 405?"
"Yeah, that's it."
He and Oakley both say Redondo Beach will be a cool place to live. He's talking about moving in May (!?!?!?!), which will give us some time to settle into the new city, which would be good. But May is the month after April, and April is 11 days away and we'll be in Rome and Phoenix for the first two weekends.
He starts working on June 20 or so.
We had this clock that was moving really slowly, and now it's skipping ahead so quickly.
I just need some time for it to all sink in.
There should be a pause button.
By the time we went across the street to lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery (for good ol' times sake) several of the students and their spouses started to get that glazed over look that says, "I can't believe it's over. We did it! But we're too tired to move from this chair just yet."
We're exhausted in manner of the moment the last guest leaves the wedding--ages and ages of detailed preparation, then the big day happens, and then it's over, yet it is all just the beginning.
Justin and I opened his envelope (actually I think I photographed a little bit of the opening) and he read it first, then I did. We both looked a little surprised, and then he looked serenely happy and excited, if you can be serene and excited at once. We hugged.
"Are you happy?" I whispered into our embrace.
Then the exchange of "Where are you going?" "Where are you going?" began. Within our circle of friends we had people who got their first choice and people who scrambled. For this first time in a long time at UCSD SOM everyone matched before 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday scramble day. Every single student matched. (Apparently some years they do not all match, at all. Imagine that!)
Most of the people were happy--married students whose spouses have important jobs in San Diego get to stay, people who traveled across the country to come here get to go home, people get to move to fun new cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston... Some people looked a little disappointed, but that is just because a group of people who are high achievers and accustomed to getting what they want are bound to feel shocked when they do not get their first or second choice in something.
The fact is that thousands of people applied for these positions, hundreds of people were interviewed, and only about 10 spaces at each school needed to be filled. So, getting your fifth choice is not something to cry over--not if you made your list thoughtfully and with much reflection.
One wise woman told a girl who seemed upset, "If I hear you say it was just your fifth choice one more time, I'm going to slap you." Of course the part about slapping was a joke, but really...
I have asked Justin about three times in the last five hours whether he is happy with his Match. He says he is happy. Any result would have been a shock--it's all just really overwhelming.
At one point last night Justin said, "Oh my God. What if we get Chicago? What have I done?!?!" It's so far and so cold and then hot and we don't know anyone there.
The UCSF debate has volleyed continually--it would be fun to start a new program, he's a good leader, it will come with it's pitfalls, it's going to be even more work than just being a resident because they will be shaping a program.
Staying in San Diego balanced its positives. Like grade 13. No change.
But I'm up for adventure!
But San Francisco is pretty far when it comes to brief family visits v. excursions and longer stays. Good. Bad. Indifferent.
The Los Angeles and Orange County area have never held that much excitement for me. I may be a Southern California girl, but I am not a prissy chi-chi girl, I do not know name brands of anything, and if I do know the names I don't really understand the food chain of branding. I like things that are functional. Natural. Beautiful. Useful. Practical. Simple and also entertaining, but I am so easily amused. I love just living. I am happy and blessed to have what I have, even if sometimes it's too much or too little for how I feel in that moment. That's just human nature. Having traveled and lived on the East Coast and in Europe, I know because I have been told--accused, in fact--of not fitting the California stereotype.
I am not a Baywatch girl, with long blond hair floating in the breeze as I run down the beach with large breasts bouncing in a red swimsuit that perfectly matches my golden tan. I'm a mutt and I love it.
Which means I am going to be really happy finally being legitimately "theirs" when I cheer for the Bruins. That's right! Justin got into, as one of the other students said, "the jewel of emergency medicine residency programs on the West Coast." He's going to be at UCLA-Harbor, which is a county program and only three years , so he'll be learning a lot and fast and seeing incredibly intense medical situations as well as serve the poor or middle class who do not have health insurance and wait until they must go to the ER. We're moving to the Los Angeles area. We'll be near Oakley (who is in our kitchen at this very moment--no longer a good long distance friend, but a "neighbor" as she said) and Brandon (her husband, Justin's best friend), both of our families, friends of both of us whom we haven't seen much since we moved.
Over the past 5.5 hours I have moved through stunned to thrilled to happy to content to stunned and back again.
The more I learned about the prestige of this program, the better I have felt about our choice. Justin's classmates are impressed that he got in there, jealous that they won't be seeing as much "stuff" as they will in calmer neighborhoods, and proud to have a good showing at Harbor from their class. (Nate also placed there, a very nice gentleman who helped us move and who has two precious children and a warm-hearted wife. We don't know them well, but we will.) Justin says people were shocked earlier when they learned he did not rank this school as his first choice, that they told him he should. Now that he's Matched there, everyone is telling him he will be able to get a job anywhere after finishing his residency there. (yippee!) And though we did not factor the fourth year into his Match List, Harbor is a three year program, so he will be a licensed ER physician sooner than later--which means we can start paying off our educational debt faster. As with most of the other older medical students, we do not even have a retirement plan growing yet.
Here we are. Peaceful. He naps. I write. Oakley learns a computer program, and we all know everything is going to be wonderful. Better than OK.
We are strong and connected individuals. Do people need more than that? For what?
There are a variety of possible reasons:
- yesterday I had that conversation I'd been waiting for for 10 months and it turned out the salient reason for that woman to disappear from my life instantaneously was just that I was "never that important to her." Learning that I wasted so much time on a liar who just now got the balls to tell the truth feels somewhere between getting mugged in the New York subway and finding out your "boyfriend" was just using you for sex.
- yesterday I drank one beer over a period of about two hours while eating food and despite the low alcohol content, the food and the fact that I was not drinking on an empty stomach I feel hungover. Apparently with this newest medication abstaining from alcohol isn't just a good idea because it allows the medications to work without being mixed with a depressant, now it doesn't require any intellectual willpower: alcohol makes me sick. Unfortunately, I like champagne--like the taste and enjoy sipping it sophisticatedly--and today there will be a champagne celebration of the near completion of four years of medical school and The Match.
- yesterday I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. (I guess I was writing? reading? I don't even remember.) and didn't take a sleeping pill to help me rest on the night before The Match because there wasn't enough time left to sleep, plus I thought I was tired enough to sleep because that's what people do when they're tired. But I'm not "people." I'm a girl who doesn't always sleep at the designated time, but can type first thing in the morning with her eyes closed most of the time.
- The Match.
In 2.45 hours I will finally know where Justin and I will live for the next four years. The future may involve moving hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the scene of San Diego, where we have shared our lives together for nearly six years. The metaphorical seed of our relationship may have been planted in Athens, but the roots took hold and the tree began to grow and blossom in San Diego. Fortunately, we are a hardy plant of great strength and endurance that has already weathered many storms (one near death experience connected to often fatal illnesses each, death in the family, medical school entry and four years--a known cause of divorce, financial strain...). I am pretty sure we will transplant together and just grow to be more beautiful.
But still, for two control freaks, we have way too little control over the news to be delivered in 2.25 hours. Military wives face this strain constantly: deployment, transfers--no arguing, no choosing. Just going. Then they have to live in those new places while their husbands go to work for "six months" that becomes nine, 10, 11... and then do it again. I married a Marine. At least I get to live with him when we move. Plus we did get him into medical school and knew that moving in four years was a possible outcome. We just both liked San Diego so much that we did not think we would have to go. (I should have thought more clearly: A Marine who was at the top of his class in the Marines and community college after surviving an amputation that led doctors to tell his mother to say goodbye, and who worked full time at night while he took a full load of classes as a UCSD undergrad, who survived a deadly bone infection in our first year of marriage, who got into one of the best medical schools in the country, who maintained both high marks in school and the "extra elective" of marriage, who scored well on finals and national exams while his mother was dying (and he was caring for her) and immediately after her death, who served as a groomsman/best man in at least four weddings while in medical school, who my parents adore, who loves me despite my illness, who acts as the CFO of our family, who worked on a research project from undergraduate through the present and is going to speak about his findings in Rome next month.... of course this Marine will be in a position to rank some of the best schools in the nation in the specialty of his choice. Of course they're going to like him at those schools and he will like them. Of course he could comfortably rank his favorites and exclude his least favorites. Of course he Matched. Of course....
But there's still antics like this morning's ironing decision. These kind of things make the extraordinary, impressive man described above still human and really fun to live with:
"I'm going to try this wrinkle remover," he announced triumphantly as he examined his long sleeved business casual shirt.
"Good idea," I reply and continue to type.
He moved the sheets on his side of the bed.
"Read the directions."
"They don't involve putting the shirt on the bed," I said, concerned that my laptop would catch some of the spray.
"Yeah they do," he said with confidence, as if he were an expert on laundry. In a robust voice he reads, "Place garment on hanger...." Then his sweet dimples appear with a little sheepish grin and he carried the shirt to the closet to retrieve the hanger.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Maya Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise," has been a source of strength for me for years--ever since I first read it. I have had the great blessed privilege of seeing her speak; she radiates a gracefulness and graciousness that I have yet to see in any other human being.
I have shared this poem with many men and women: sometimes when I think they would like some inspiration and rejuvenation, sometimes when I want to share with them something beautiful, sometimes just because I like to give things to people for no reason at all, save the pleasure of giving freely.
This afternoon this poem wraps itself around my heart and carries me through pain no one should ever have inflicted upon them, with our without intention.
Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
There are so many people in this world who do not know me. So many people who take one look at me and come to their own conclusion about the kind of person I am. People who interact with me and do not see what is in my heart, what my intention is--and because they never ask, they too do not know me. Other people have encountered one version of my Self and believe that morsel of information is all they need to know. Some people have seen a slightly fuller form of me, and with that they decide whether they want to know more or not. Most do not brave the waters and do not learn more. A few people of great strength of character and heart look deeper. They are the artists who walk around and around the model before they decide how they can best understand and represent what they see. They are the people who see the movie first and then read the book because they suspect there is more to it.
Those who want to know more--about anything in the world really--are few. Few. Very few. Few and far between. Many times they behave in the same fashion with most of the gifts this world has to offer; they know only the headlines or (worse?) the late night talk show hosts' jokes about current events, they know only the location of their state within the country, without a care as to this country's interaction with the rest of the world. I don't know if they just don't care or just don't have the capacity to go any further in their lives. They are not necessarily uneducated or even foolish or stupid.
I suppose they are just satisfied with the world at a glance.
I suppose what they see is all they need, if it were otherwise would not hunger and yearning drive them to dig for more?
I cannot claim to deeply examine all that I encounter. I am particularly bad about delving into science and ancient history, especially if I do not see a clear connection with those subjects to the current experience of life. But anything with words captures my deeper interest, things of beauty... lots of things. Especially people.
I always want to understand people. I want to know what drives them. What are their interpretations of their observations? What do they love? What do they hate? What do they see if they look at the model from another angle--are they even willing to look more than once. Why? Why not? I love to know people.
Yet as much as I love people. As much as I am curious about their existence. As much as I want to help them with anything they could possibly need. As much as I believe Martin Luther's idea that we are all little Jesuses and should act accordingly--bearing our cross and also gracefully giving and loving our fellow human beings. As much as I love... it does not work.
I don't know whether this rather mundane and unspecific ramble makes any sense at all.
What I do know is that I always rise. All those people who come to their conclusions about me at their own convenience and leisure will never know me. I guess that's OK. I know me.
I know I am strong, confident and hopeful. I know I love my sense of generosity, grace and goodness. I know I love me. Because I love myself (otherwise known as self-esteem, I do believe), I also know that I am deeply flawed, though perhaps not too much more than the average mere human being. (We aren't actually miniature Christs after all.) Perhaps my awareness of these flaws magnifies them--for me (the model) and the viewer. Another shame and blessing, is it not? I know I am not perfect and I have finally given up trying to become perfect so as to please other people and hopefully even myself.
My house is cluttered. I spend most of my day writing, painting, listening to music and reading. Lots of time thinking. Maybe too much time thinking. But this person is who I am. I love this person. No one else will love this person as much as I must love this person. No one else is going to create this person or help me grow or even necessarily be with me forever.
Yes, sometimes this person gets on my nerves and I just want to kick her to the curb. But for the most part I try to work through those moments and create a better version of my Self.
A lot of people have passed through this life of mine. Most of them do not stay very long, for a variety of reasons. Some of them do stay connected and maintain our relationship, even if they move far, far away.
All I ever truly want from people is total honesty--even if they think what they are going to say might hurt me.
No one else gets to decide what will hurt me, whether I will suffer or not, how I will respond to a stimulus. It's like when I try to protect Justin because I do not want his amputated foot to hurt; he wants to make his own decisions about how to take care of his body.
I think perhaps everyone in the whole world wants the opportunity to have that independence. People just want the freedom to live as they wish to live.
I believe we all have a better chance at creating healthy lives for ourselves if we gather as much information as possible.
So it does not really matter what other people's perception of me might be.
I know that I am a person full of wonder, full of beauty, full of grace, full of love and tenderness and generosity and loyalty. I know I am a person who works to become a better version of myself. Constantly.
Knowing this Me, how can I do anything but act with strength, confidence and hope? How can I do anything but love this person and treat her with respect and dignity?
I love who I am.
Some people will never know any of the words in that sentence I love who I am about me or about themselves or anyone else. A lot of people probably do not even care to know anything at all. It's OK though. I do not need other people to know that much of me.
I love who I am.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise. . . .
. . . Did you want to see me broke?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries? . . .
. . . . You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise. . . .
. . . Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard . . .
. . . Out of the huts of histories shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise . . .
. . . Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a day break that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I feel calmer though.
It's like my life is a blanket and I'm alone at the beach trying to put it down so I can finally relax a little. I have finally gotten one of the corners down, but there's sand blowing everywhere and the other three corners are still flapping around controlled by the wind.
Maybe at the meeting tomorrow afternoon I'll get one more corner down. I cannot predict the outcome of the meeting (though I do have lovely hopes), but I hope that whatever happens will help me understand what happened and have a clearer grasp on what may happen in the future.
Then Thursday corner three will be down... here or there, any where....
And you know when you get three of the corners under control the last one is easiest. You just have to move something onto it to secure it.
For right now, I'm just relieved to have gotten a start.... sure I hate having the sand all over the place, but at least I have something to hold onto now.
As it is, I am getting by with writing, painting, checking my messages constantly and occasionally taking deep breaths because I keep forgetting to breathe.
One: Where the hell am I going to be living in June?
There are 37 hours and 35 minutes until the envelope opening. Then some people I have never met will finally reveal the decision they have made as to where I will be living from, oh, June 2008 til at least sometime in 2012, or, you know, forever.
Two: When is this woman going to call me to tell me when my appointment is so I can get on my life?
Chances are good that I will not get a phone call until about 13 hours from now. So I'll have to wait. And then when she does call I still have to hope that she's got an appointment available virtually immediately.
Of course it's too much to ask. But a person reaches quiet desperation. I am there and I have to do something to make it better.
You can see I have about as much control over my life as the average military-family child.
It's driving me crazy.
So I'm hoping that somewhere in this giant blue Ikea reusable bag of tricks I've been filling over the years I'll find some tools that will hold me together at least until the phone call of great importance. Then, the next day, when they tell me where I'll be living I'll either be thrilled or horrified, so God willing I've got something to hold me together for that.
I know that all of these events for which I am anxious might turn out just fine. Maybe the call will come even tonight and we can have our meeting tomorrow. And maybe the meeting will go really well and all the relationships involved will move in a healthy direction. Maybe when I finally hear the truth about where we are going to live I will just be excited for any change at all because I am going on this adventure with Justin.
Maybe it will all be fine.
But right now I feel like I am going to explode with the expanding volume of waiting.
I have dreamt of a place and time,where nobody gets annoyed,
But I must admit I'm not there yet but Something's keeping me going
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Open up a world and let me in,
Then there'll be a new life to begin
I have dreamt of an open world,
Borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place
And nobody's taking sides
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Open up a world and let me in,
Then there'll be A new life to begin
I've been waiting for that moment
All at once the palace of peace
Will fill My eyes - how nice!
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find
Open up a world and let me in,
Then there'll be A new life to begin
I've been waiting for that moment
All at once the wrongs of the world,
Will be put right - how nice!
Monday, March 17, 2008
A period of time passed a few years ago during which I felt terribly sad because we wanted a baby so much but faced nothing but loss.
My friends were there for me then. Some of them were trying to have babies as well. Some also faced losses like we did. Some were brave, some were sick, some were not. Some had babies. People I was not close to, acquaintances, had babies also. Strangers had them. I admit it angered me when I saw babies treated badly, or people have them who didn't want or expect them, or people have them easily while others worked so hard for empty results.
But when my friends had their babies all I wanted was to be part of their experience. It's all we talked about. We planned, imagined, dreamed.
About their children and our lives.
Maybe while they were pregnant I was still a little sad.
But when their nine months were closing in, our plans made me happy. Really, really happy.
They were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their children and I did not imagine reality would be different than our while-they-were-pregnant talks.
Then reality happened.
A phone call--baby born, these many pounds, these many inches, healthy, happy...
I already had close friends with babies. I know there is a period of adjustment. I know not to expect to be a part of everything, not really everything.
But after having spent years with these women, having discussed our relationships with men who were jerks before we introduced each other to the ones we would marry, after having double and triple dated, after having attended birthday parties, after having lunches and dinners and coffee together, after painting rooms in their houses and helping with choosing which towels and sheets they should register for, after shopping for other women's babies together...
I never imagined that I would end up having nothing. No contact. No returned phone calls or e-mails. No pictures (don't all new moms send e-mail photos of their babies eventually?). No diapers for me to change. No bottles for me to feed. No holding for me to do while she did something else using two hands instead of just the one not holding the baby.
Having loss even though a baby was born into my practically-family-help-yourself-to-whatever-is-in-the-fridge family.
I have been joking about a black hole these women had fallen into.
But I know that they live in their houses with those towels and sheets and husbands and babies. When I drive near their neighborhoods on the way to Somewhere Else, I know the routes my car had once taken by rote. I can still get there by landmarks and curves in the road.
But I do not.
I go to Somewhere Else and do Whatever I Am Supposed to Do and I try not to think about Losing that Friend too much.
But what is thinking about her too much?
We used to call each other almost every day. Every day.
Thinking about each other was what we did.
We were all at each other's weddings, even if we had to fly to get there.
Sometimes the Disappearance makes me so sad that I want to cry or so angry that I want to shout and rant and rage. Sometimes I wonder what I did that made them disappear. But I remember the last time I saw them--it's different for each--we had fun, I babysat while she ran an unexpected errand, I sent a bazillion cards and gifts and did what women do when their closest friends have babies. Seems to me that love is a strange thing to leave behind so suddenly when a relationship has been so reciprocal and mutual in the past.
But that's what happened.
I do not know why.
I may never know why.
That's what hurts me the most--hurts in the sense of damaging my essence.
If these women have disappeared because their lives have become too busy to maintain friendships with friends-without-children, then they can tell me that.
If I have committed some offense, then they can tell me that.
But this disturbing silence is too sharp. It cuts through every other thing I have.
If they think we can be friends again later, when they figure out how to be a busier version of their old selves, then they can tell me that.
Ignorance is so not bliss.
So this blog entry was going to be a furious rant about being abandoned, which sometimes feels like my specialty.
Despite hearing from other child-less friends that they have had the same experience, or that it only gets worse as the kids get older, or that a lot of women do this when they have kids, it still hurts. Even women with children have told me not to take it personally because they know a lot of people who have cut ties with their old friends.
I wanted to rage against the heartless Lost.
But I cannot. Again. I did some research, like I did when I had my miscarriage and needed to understand why I lost our baby. I actually found some articles and a bulletin board which provided solace and company for me. Again.
One of the articles is here for you to read. It includes some advice for women like me, who have lost their close friends, and women like... moms who have gone missing.
Really, we all know we must miss each other. (I mean, come on, who could just totally forget about me?) We are also smart women and know that friendships are important in a lifetime. We were married long enough before the babies arrived to know that as wonderful as our husbands and families and in-laws are, girl friends share each other's lives with an intimacy and gentleness that those well-intended other people just do not fulfill.
I tag these entries, "You can pick your friends."
I can. They can. So many people have told me that there are replacement friends to find, or that some friendships are transient; only meant to last for the duration of a situation and then they end. Not to take it personally. To forget about them.
But I do not give up that easily.
And I know that some people have friends for decades, and maybe they hit rough patches but somehow they reestablish contact and end up having lunch dates still, all the way until they are retired and then talk about someone or another's grandchildren.
I want that kind of friendship.
I do not think I can throw any more kindling on the dying fire though. I think I have tried really hard to keep it going and there reaches a point where the work of friendship has to be mutual and reciprocal. There comes a point where I end up the fool for trying, or suffocate the last embers of friendship with too much good intention.
Maybe I have to accept that these friends that I had (have?) are not going to be those friends that I will know for decades--even though we've invested almost one decade already.
Maybe they cannot bear to lose me to the residency program that will likely move us out of San Diego. Maybe it's easier to distance themselves now, on their own terms, than to wait and say goodbye. (It would be see you later; I would visit; they could visit; there's e-mail and telephones...)
Maybe I will never know why this loss of friendship is better for them, is suiting them for now, is what they have chosen or allowed to happen to us.
I'd like to know.
It would hurt less if I knew.
I wouldn't have to imagine why if I knew. It wouldn't keep playing in my head, trying to decipher the Quiet, to understand the Lost.
In the meantime, for tonight at least, this article helped me through the silence of women I know are rarely silent.
Baby makes 3: How kids rattle friendships
The issue of having children - or not - can fill women's friendships with landmines. What for some is a joyous event can trigger conflicting feelings in others, regrets about past choices or awaken grief about their own losses. And even when women are at peace with their choices, having a child often still means the relationship needs to be renegotiated.