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Sunday, December 29, 2013

The solstice was December 21st--the darkest day of the year has past.

My reaction to my situation has been of interest to me. Prior to my "death sentence" diagnosis, when I felt pain in my hip I would think: "This hurts, but it's going to get better. I just need to do my physical therapy exercises and keep working on flexibility. This is not forever." After the diagnosis, when I felt pain I would panic and think: "My bone is dead! There is nothing I can do about it! It has to be CUT OUT!!!" This would be followed by horrible sadness after which I would remind myself that I'm not dying and this is a condition which can be remedied (even if the remedy was not what I wanted).

The "interesting" part of all this is that my pain tolerance decreased considerably as I realized I was not going to get better. My general feeling of helplessness increased. My desire to withdraw and cease interaction with people became overwhelming.

The doctor didn't tell me to stop going to the gym. He told me continuing to build the muscles surrounding the bone would be beneficial if I could tolerate the movement of bone on bone in my hip. He made no recommendations for treatment in the interim between now and when the hip would be replaced, preferring to wait for the MRI results so he would have more information before making such recommendations.

My depression increased as my ability to manage pain became nonexistent. In only a few days, I had come to view myself as disabled and old. Random crying was part of every waking hour. Sleep was miserable.

Christmas morning was rather lovely. Around 4 a.m., I got up and did some online work while my family slept. DJ, who has never been able to sleep well on Christmas Eve, finally decided everyone had been asleep long enough and woke everyone at 8:30. We opened gifts, made breakfast, and settled into a game of Monopoly.

My mother had invited us to Christmas dinner. I was trying not to be unpleasant about another Thanksgiving-like turkey dinner--but I have my limits. As I provided most of the dinner for Thanksgiving and grocery shopping had been sparse prior to Christmas day, I chose not to volunteer food or help for Christmas dinner. I know--that was unkind--but I was feeling miserable and I didn't care.

We arrived at my parents' house around 2:00. I visited with my family (parents, brother and family, grandmother), but was feeling increasingly ill. Finally, after 30 minutes, I said I needed to go home. My father, who has experienced the pain of bone against bone movement (he has post-polio syndrome, which causes cartilage to decrease and bones to wear out), sent me home with two of the very potent, prescription pills he takes to manage pain. Legality sometimes takes a back seat to helping a loved one in distress, I suppose.

I went home and fell asleep on what we fondly call "The Napping Couch". When I awoke, I felt better, but still nauseated and in pain. I thought about taking one of my dad's pills, but opted for an OTC pain killer instead. I didn't want drug-induced sleep for the rest of Christmas day.

I read a book. I cleaned my kitchen. I watched the sun set. And I thought about a lot of things.

I decided that until I'm told I cannot, I will continue to work out as I have been. I feel better both during and afterward, so I don't believe I'm hurting myself, and I'm using and building the muscles that will help with recovery after surgery.

I decided I'm not going to feel sorry for myself anymore. It has its place, but I've allowed it enough time. At this point, it's just making me more miserable.

I decided to start researching and looking at my options, finding information about the things I'm facing, and learning about what's happening to my body so I can prepare for my future and cope with my present.

I decided I should probably talk to Therapist.

Thursday I went to the gym for the first time in nearly a week. I lifted weights, ran on the elliptical, and sat in the jacuzzi. There was some discomfort, but the benefit was worth it.

Friday I talked with Therapist. He had some good things to tell me and felt suitably sympathetic toward my situation. He thanked me for talking with him--said I'm a "bright spot" in his life. That was nice to hear. I don't feel very bright right now.

Yesterday, I filled out an application for an appointment to see a doctor who specializes in Birmingham hip resurfacing procedures, which is basically a hip replacement for runners. The procedure is about a decade old and has had fairly good results. I didn't think I would be a candidate for this, but when I went to the website and found it was recommended for "young" people--and realized I'm not even old enough to be considered a "young hip replacement candidate" (young = people in their 50s and 60s), I decided I needed to look into this. I'm really not ready to stop running.

The MRI will determine my eligibility based on the extent of bone death and condition of the remaining bone. I'm encouraged by the fact that avascular necrosis was listed with the conditions that are considered for this joint replacement. I have nothing to lose. If I'm told I can't have the joint replacement I want, I'll get the total hip replacement and plan on a few more before I die. I'll find something else to love. I'll be okay.

In the meantime, my emotions are all over the place and I don't want to be with people at all. I telephoned someone on Christmas day, because I knew the desire to isolate was becoming unmanageable, but I've not been able to talk to anyone since then. I've made attempts, but my ability to follow through is gone, so if I'm not met halfway, it's probable that the attempt will die. I just don't feel able to pursue anyone right now, to insist on attention--and doing so makes me feel unwanted and annoying. I'm not excited about placing myself in that position, so I probably won't.

But I'll keep going to the gym, and I should have MRI answers next week, and I'll see the hip specialist as soon as I can. Therapist said it's best if I keep talking to people, but if I have to chase them down, I would be better off using my energy for more pressing things--like staying sane, and managing pain and depression. I think he's right.

In the meantime, if you come visit me, I'll play you some Debussy. I learned a couple of his pieces to give away as Christmas gifts, but was unable to do so--so I've been giving them to anyone who chances by. They seem to be happy to listen for a few minutes. One sweet friend said it was "transcendent" but she adores Debussy, so that's to be expected. I won't be able to play for a few months after my hip replacement, so I'm performing as much as I can right now.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Avascular Necrosis

About a month ago I noticed that the pain in my tendon was becoming pain in my outer hip and the muscles in my thigh and backside were in spasm almost constantly. I was losing mobility in my joint. When I stepped on my right leg, or shifted my weight from side to side, there was audible popping in my hip. But most importantly, I was sleeping very little at night when the pain would intensify to the point that I could barely tolerate it.

So I made an appointment to see a sports medicine surgeon, thinking that it was time to get that tendon release and just get better--and why not see a doctor who would do the surgery and get me right back into running?

I saw him Friday. There were x-rays and a brief exam and a diagnosis. Then I went to the parking lot and cried for 20 minutes before I went home.

I'm not going to run again. I don't have tendonitis. I have avascular necrosis. Translation: the bones in my hip and upper thigh, and all the surrounding tissue and cartilage, have died.

This is a condition usually contracted by the following:
-Men between the ages of 30 and 60 years old
-People with sickle cell anemia, AIDS/HIV, lupus, diabetes, or Gaucher's disease
-People who drink alcohol excessively
-People who take steroids or osteoporosis drugs
-People who have had dialysis, or organ transplants, or who have undergone radiation therapy for cancer

As you can see from the list, I am not part of the "at risk" group. My doctor kept saying, "This is really, really bad!" and "I've never had a female patient as young as you who has contracted this!" After about the fourth repetition of those statements (with variations), I said, "Stop saying those things--you're making me really stressed!"

Then I learned that:
-There is no cure
-I no longer have any tissue between the ball and socket of my hip (bone on bone)--hence the loud popping sound, loss of movement, and intense pain
-I'm at risk for stress fractures, hip fracture, and eventual bone collapse

So I'll be having an MRI as soon as possible to determine the extent of the bone death and rule out bone cancer, and then a total hip replacement--with at least two more to look forward to in my future, as I am "so young!" Yay.

It's not the worst thing that could happen. And when I have a new hip I can still bike or swim or even play tennis. And the pain will be significantly less. But it's not the answer I wanted. And sometimes when I think about the moments when I would push through that threshold--the one where my breath comes in ragged gasps and I'm feeling like I might die if I run one more step--to the place where rhythm kicks in and I feel stronger with every breath and I'm absolutely certain I can run forever...well, it makes me sad.

Until two years ago I had run nearly every day of my life. I miss it. And sometimes, on warm spring days, the butterflies would circle and keep pace with me, and wildflowers covered the entire prairie, and in the summer I watched baby hawks learn to fly, or antelope running in front of me, or listened as breezes whispered through long prairie grass.

Everything will be fine. I'll get a new hip. I'll be free from pain. I'll still be me. But there won't be anymore running with butterflies, and part of me--right now a very large part of me--can't seem to stop feeling sad about that.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting It

So I wrote a post not long ago, about finally understanding how human sociality works; how it's possible to love someone deeply and wish to spend a great deal of time with him or her, but a few years later the novelty has worn off and one has moved on to another person (also deeply loved and interesting, of course). And I do understand.

I am not a stupid person, so it's likely that I always understood, I just didn't want to. I am also a stubborn person.

(I am eating a bagel with sesame seeds which keep dropping into my keyboard as I write this. While I'm not happy with the situation, I'll probably keep eating the bagel.)

My social pattern, until about eight years ago, was to charm people, enjoy their company, build a circle of those I could call or invite to lunch, but never divulge information about the person inside me. Ever. And should one of those people get close to me, I would simply become very busy, avoid contact, and wait until they lost interest. And they always did.

When I actually allowed people into my life--complete strangers, many of whom I met online--and bonded with some of them, it was dreadful. I felt exposed and afraid all the time. ALL THE TIME.

I thought it was because I knew they were just going to use me up and then leave. But there was more.

My experience has always been that when I love someone deeply (Darrin excepted), eventually they leave. And while I'd like to be the person who can shrug it off and go find someone else, that really isn't how I'm built. And so I knew from the start that any lasting relationship/friendship/companionship/whatever that I became involved in, would change. That's to be expected--even anticipated, sometimes.

However, there is a feeling I've been getting, of late. I am familiar, predictable, no longer scintillating company. There are just too many other people in the lives of people I love who are more....everything. They're funnier and warmer and more beautiful and smarter and just MORE.

Truthfully, they're not. However, they're not "old" friends. They're undiscovered territory and that's compelling and interesting. I have become the book that has been reread enough times that it's no longer good for anything but nostalgia.

In a perfect world, I would be making my own new friends so that when I become a nostalgic memory, I'll have buddies to spend time with. I don't work that way.

I rarely tire of the people I love. There is always something new and beautiful about them just waiting for my discovery. Always. So when I become hackneyed to the other person, I'm still finding out more about them, still getting to know them, still fascinated by what I'll discover next. Clearly, I'm a little slow when it comes to social development. Either that or I'm a great deal less complex than the people I know and it takes less time to discover everything about me.

Tolkien Boy once told me that real relationships were worth fighting for. I think he meant that. But I'm not really a fighter when it comes to making sure someone continues to care about me. And while I've often said there should be rules about how relationships work and how people love each other, I didn't really believe it. What I believe is that in any relationship each person should be absolutely free to authentically act as they see fit. So if that means I watch as someone walks away, or wish for visits and phone calls that aren't going to come because I'm no longer a priority, that's probably exactly what I will allow to happen.

It doesn't mean I won't resent it. And sometimes I might cry a little, just because that's what you do when you miss someone. And probably I'll call or email or try to make sure the other person understands I still want them. And maybe sometimes, when I'm feeling weak, I might think it's not fair. But in the end, I don't fight. I never have. And I'll watch whatever happens--then I'll read a book, or practice, or work, or clean my house. Because that's what I do. And besides, I know the contact with that person isn't ending--it's just becoming more spaced out. They still care--just not as deeply and not as often.

It's not a tragedy. It's my personal inconvenience. I was built a little differently...not that there's anything wrong with that...

(A more pressing problem is that I think it's time to clean the sesame seeds from my keyboard and I'm not quite sure how to do that.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas.

1. I finished grading my last final.
2. I began working on the 18 credits of continuing education the IRS requires of me if I wish to continue preparing tax returns professionally. Yes, I've had all year to work on it. Yes, it's due December 31st.
3. I called four friends. They didn't answer, but I did it, so I'm counting it.
4. I paid bills.
5. I went shopping.
6. While I was shopping my Christmas tree fell over. I'm not saying whether or not I took a long time shopping so Darrin would have to clean it up.
7. I made grilled baby Swiss and tomato pesto sandwiches for dinner. No one wanted one except me, so it was only my dinner. It was delicious.
8. I sang. All day. Out loud, in my head, and in my heart.
9. I picked the pansies that chose to bloom after 10 days of below zero weather (below zero ALL DAY LONG!) and put them in a vase because they're just going to freeze when the weather turns cold again. Besides, I think they like being with me in my warm house while I sing and Darrin cleans up the fallen Christmas tree.
10. I made Christmas treats. You should come share them with me.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Today I will decorate for Christmas.

The past four years I have been too tired to do anything except find the boxes where we store ornaments, tinsel, wrapping paper, lights, and decorations. Any actual decorating was done by Darrin and the kids. Last year Adam decided to rearrange my storage area, so finding anything was an adventure. I found the bare necessities for Christmas and left everything else hidden. I think this year I will dig through his stacks of whatever-we-are-storing-but-don't-really-need until I find all four (or six) boxes of Christmas. Perhaps it's time to rid myself of some of it, but the rest will be displayed for the month of December.

Darrin and I had a long talk yesterday. He's concerned because I am still a shell. There are emerging traits of what make me Samantha, but they come and go, and I seem jaded about everything. Darrin mentioned how I used to love talking on the phone with friends, visiting them, spending time with my kids. He talked about how I would get so excited about a sunset that I would prod and nag until he finally came upstairs to watch it with me. He remembers that I used to giggle all the time, that when I walked in a room everyone noticed because I couldn't stop smiling. He said, "Do you remember when you would go to Walmart--not because you needed anything, but just because you wanted to see how many people would smile back at you?"

Yes. I remember. I remember feeling anticipation and excitement and pure joy. But those aren't things you can just make happen. They're sort of spontaneous and unpredictable.

Darrin says I'm still tired. I've not recovered. I suppose he's right, but recuperation seems to be more work than staying tired--which makes no sense at all.

I taught my last class of the semester on Thursday. This was a lovely group of students. The majority of them worked very hard, but more than that, they were engaged and participating in class. Many of them would mention that they were learning things, that they loved my class--two students have changed their majors and will be pursuing pedagogy degrees because of the things they discovered abut themselves during my class. It's kind of a teacher's dream to be able to help a student find where he or she excels. I feel a tiny bit of delight about this--but three years ago I would have been ecstatic. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to stop talking about it. I'd be energized and happy to write the necessary recommendations as those students applied to different programs, and I'd probably follow up with them.

One student needed my help to make some recordings for her audition. I coached her, and rehearsed with her, and stayed seven hours until the recordings were complete. She had done well and she knew it. Exultantly, she turned to me and thanked me for my help. She wanted a hug. I knew this. I congratulated her, smiled my best, and walked away without hugging. I was just too tired. Hugging felt like a huge effort I was unable to make.

I played a short recital on Friday--arrangements of Christmas music I refer to as "trash with flash". But even though I disparage the music, I've always loved it--loved playing it. My millions of years of practice and training slipped into place and I performed very well. An audience member told me afterward that she loves hearing me play; that this particular recital of beloved Christmas music brought tears to her eyes. I thanked her, but I felt a bit of resentment. It's been a long time since I've felt moved by music.

And so I am doing a Christmas experiment. I don't k now if I'll be able to finish, because the time is growing short, but I am learning a piece I heard many years ago; one whose beauty left me breathless. I'm aware that what I connect with is usually not what others would find beautiful, but should the piece be finished on time, it will be my gift to some of my loved ones. I'm also aware that they would probably rather have something tangible, but this will never break, or be the wrong color, or one day be used up and discarded. It might disappear, depending on the interest and memory of the recipient, but that's up to him or her.

I am doing this because I need to value who I am and what I can do. I have begun to play by rote, because it is easy. I need to remember that I was given a gift, one I can share, and no one in the world can play as I do, because they are not me.

For Darrin, for my children, for everyone who cares about me--but mostly for me--I am going to rediscover what makes me amazing. And I'm going to share it. It's time to recover Samantha.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I hesitate to write this post--especially after the things I said less than a month ago in this post.

However, it's important to me that I am honest, and in my blog is where I put the uncomfortable truths that many people (including myself) do not wish to hear me speak. So I am writing this with the caveat that at any time I might rescind the words.

I understand.

I know why relationships wax/wane/disappear.

I don't have a lot to say about this, except it doesn't make me want to scream anymore. I think the most important thing is that I'm okay with the system and it's all right if people maintain shoestring relationships, meet intermittently, and feel happy about their interaction. People weren't meant to be integral parts of the lives of lots of people. Children grow up and leave, friends find other friends, sometimes married people choose to divorce and marry other people. That's just life.

I think I believed there was something about people not staying that said something about me--I wasn't good enough, or entertaining enough, or loving enough, or maybe, just not enough at all. It doesn't, though. The process of moving through people doesn't really say anything about me at all, except that maybe I'm human, too.

There are still people I want to have in my life. I would choose them daily. But I'm no longer terrified that I'll watch them move away from me and wonder why. And if they do, I'm pretty sure I'll be okay with letting them decide how frequently they contact me.

My stress about this came, I believe, because I allowed myself to have close relationships with people other than Darrin. I had never done that before. I told people things about me; I shared my loves and peeves and joys and sorrows. And then I became afraid that I had shared a part of me that would be discarded or mocked, or that I assumed someone would care when really they were just mildly curious. Yes, this is a reflection of my childhood.

But I think what has happened is that I'm recognizing that what I have to give has value, if only to me. It's up to the recipient what happens next. And if what I've given is disregarded or belittled, that's not my problem. I chose unwisely and I can learn from my mistakes.

I think there are lots of people who love other people in varying degrees. Their interest in those people has longevity based on the depth and reciprocation of that love. People are complicated. Lives can be complicated. Sometimes things like stress, or family problems, or physical/mental illness cause rifts that can't be bridged. It's a loss we mourn and then move forward. It seems to be the only healthy way to interact with people because no one wants to stay in a relationship because they feel threatened or compelled to do so. They want to be there because the person makes their lives feel better in many different ways.

That's all, I guess. I understand. Finally.

But just so you know, I still don't like it. I also understand that because of my nature and background, it's probable that I will always be the one who watches the other person walk away. That's not a fun realization. But it's reality. I can live with reality.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~Gilbert Keith Chesterton

I bowed to my Inner Selfish yesterday.

Thanksgiving brings a host of mixed feelings for me. I have good childhood memories of Thanksgiving. Each year was spent with my favorite cousin, Jeff, and his family. I felt, at those times, that I had an ally, a friend, someone a little bit like me who understood my whims and ideas and feelings. For three days I had a haven with a person I loved who loved me back--and no abuse from my mother. She was even kind on those days. Jeff and I avoided our mothers (and all adults), and it was nice to be able to relax with someone.

On the other hand, I hate Thanksgiving dinner. I always have. I'm not fond of meat, in general, so a meal dominated by a huge bird does not appeal to me. Jeff, who loves turkey, used to insist that I liked it, too, sliding extra helpings on my plate and covering the meat with cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. I hate giblets. I would eat a little of the potatoes (not a huge fan of those, either), search in vain for salad not made with Jello or some sort of whipped topping, and leave the table as soon as I was able, spurning the pies of a dozen flavors (I also am not fond of pie), and seek out an orange or apple that was bound to be in the kitchen somewhere. I still hate Thanksgiving dinner.

Jeff and I were of one heart when it came to large crowds. Thanksgiving always brought large crowds. Jeff would find a hiding place for us, and we would stay there playing video games, reading comic books, or playing Uno. Sometimes, if we were feeling sociable, we would join our older siblings in a game of Monopoly. I still have difficulty with large crowds.

So this year, Darrin volunteered to help with a community Thanksgiving event, and DJ had to do a stint on the ambulance for his EMT class, and Adam was working in the morning, and Tabitha had the stomach flu the night before and was finally sleeping--so I went to a place where I could be alone, and I spent time with me. An evening Thanksgiving dinner was scheduled with my parents. I stayed alone for about seven hours. I read, played stupid Facebook games, practiced a piece I've been memorizing, sang songs I love, went for a walk, and stared out my window for an hour. I didn't make the traditional Thanksgiving phone calls to Darrin's family or my sisters--nor did I answer phone calls. I ignored texts (except for the one from Blueyedane, because I love him and he doesn't make me feel like I'm invisible) and I sent none.

And I chose no one to receive my annual Thanksgiving email. Each year since I've had access to email, I've chosen someone I care about deeply and I've sent them a note on Thanksgiving. I've told them why they make my life better and expressed my love and gratitude for them. I love this part of Thanksgiving.

This year I just didn't want to. Maybe I'm ungrateful? Maybe I no longer love as deeply? Maybe I care more about the Thanksgiving email than the recipient does? Because I'm pretty certain that no one really wonders if I love them or am grateful for them, so it might come as a nice surprise, but there is no way anyone feels as profoundly about receiving that email as I have felt about writing it. Except this year I didn't feel anything.

At 3:00 I checked the turkey and started peeling potatoes. Adam insisted we do all fifteen pounds which turned out to be about ten pounds too many. Then I made candied sweet potatoes (and some plain ones for Grandma and me). I chopped onions and celery for stuffing and had Adam deliver them to my mom's house. At 4:30, my mom called to tell me she had rescheduled dinner for 6:00. I looked at the almost cooked turkey and told her it was a mistake, at which point she confessed that she hadn't even begun making rolls or stuffing and she was still making pies. I reminded her that we were only cooking for nine people. She ignored me.

So the turkey was dry and nasty, the stuffing underdone, the rolls were sort of horrid, the marshmallows had sunk to the bottom of the candied yams, and we had way too many mashed potatoes. Darrin said dinner was marvelous. Adam and DJ thought it was fine. The other guests took large quantities of leftovers home with them. Darrin says I am Thanksgiving Scrooge. He's right.

This morning, as I watched the sun rise, I realized that if I had to do my day over again, I would do the same thing. There is something about my alone time that I crave deeply right now. But I sort of regret not writing my Thanksgiving email. So today, I'm writing one--to me.

Dear Sam,

You're pretty hard on yourself a lot of the time. You always believe you can handle the stress and sadness that creep into your life with more grace and dignity. You wish you were better at friendship and parenting and playing music and cooking and keeping house and loving people. You want to live life with more joy and see more that is beautiful, but sometimes the ugly and sad are overwhelming and you're not as good at life as you want to be.

But today, the day after Thanksgiving, I'm choosing you as the recipient of my gratitude email. Because I think sometimes you should be thanked for the things you do--things no one notices and sometimes you only notice after a long time has passed and you finally recognize what you've done.

Thank you for not giving up. There have been so many times when you've wanted to and life has been really painful. But you continued, not always very gracefully, but with as much determination as you could muster, and you're here today--and that's a good thing because if you weren't you would have missed the sunrise this morning and it was breathtaking.

Thank you for trying to learn about people and relationships. It's really hard--probably for everyone in the world. You've had some wonderful moments and made beautiful memories as you've worked on allowing people to know more about you and spend time in your life.

Thank you for giving stupid gifts to people. You learned a great deal about yourself, and some of those giving times were really helpful as you worked on integration. I'm guessing the recipients wondered why you were giving them things, but it's not really important. They can work on dealing with their feelings about it on their own time. You needed to do it, and it wasn't easy because some of those gifts exposed you to vulnerability and allowed others to gain knowledge about who you are and the things you love. For you, that takes a great deal of courage. But what you gained in the process was invaluable and probably indescribable. Thank you for doing it even though it was difficult.

Thank you for forgiving the people who have harmed you. The angry times were important. The sad times were more important. The lonely times were horrible, but probably also important. Now that the rancor and bitterness have passed, you will always understand that what was done to you was wrong and should never have happened, but you have chosen to be someone who will find joy and beauty. I'm happy that you chose that. Your life will be better and you will eventually replace the ugliness of your experiences with the beauty of your choices.

Thank you for getting help when you needed it. Not everyone can do that. It takes strength and a willingness to look at what is hurting when one wishes to heal. The healing is still happening and seems to be taking an eternity. But part of that is because you're still deciding who you are. One day you'll know--and I think you'll like think you'll love her.

Thank you for taking time to care for your physical needs--for getting a mammogram and a physical even though those things are really horrifying to you and trigger memories you'd like to forget. But you did it because you understand you are at risk for breast cancer and you need to take care of yourself. That's a really good thing and I'm glad you did it.

Thank you for getting up every morning and smiling because you're happy. Thank you for recognizing you're happy even when life is really hard.

Thank you for being me.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I thank Thee, dear Lord, for the blue of the skies,

For the green of the woods and fields,

For the river that ripples and sparkles by,

For the harvest the brown earth yields,

For the birds that sing

and the flowers that bloom,

For the breath of the cooling breeze.

Thou hast made them all so beautiful,
I thank Thee, Dear Lord, for these.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The huge bout of PTSD symptoms has gone. As is normal, I feel rather drained and exhausted emotionally. Therapist believes that one of the reasons the occurrences lately are more intense and enduring, is because I'm learning to manage the symptoms--I'm allowing them to happen so I can learn to cope better. I have no idea if he's right, but a similar thing happened before the flashbacks stopped a few years ago.

When the PTSD symptoms leave I feel spent. I have no desire to talk with or spend time with people. Practicing several hours daily, working out at the gym, and working online are endlessly appealing. Then I panic because I have a terrifying memory of my uncle, floating off the coast of Florida in a tiny boat because that's where he could be completely alone. He would tell no one he was leaving or where he was going and we would only learn that he was "boating" when he arrived back home. I don't want to be my uncle. He is now almost completely anti-social, paranoid, and alone.

When the emptiness hits and the desire for complete solitude overwhelms me, I find myself ignoring the phone, emails...sometimes I chat with people but only if they hail me first. Then I wonder how long will they will continue seeking me out if I don't reciprocate, so I hastily return emails and phone calls and try to reach out to people on Facebook or online--but it's a rather huge effort, and so I remain emotionally exhausted and trying to remember why I'm doing those things.

Therapist says to just keep doing them. I often wonder if it feels easy for him to say that to me when he, himself, has never experienced the things I talk about, but I trust him, warranted or not, because I do not want to become my uncle, or my sister's friend who committed suicide, or the people I chat with at night in the PTSD chat rooms--people who live alone because it's too stressful to have a spouse or children, but they miss those people like crazy. I don't want that.

We've been having typically fluctuating weather. It's not unusual for November to have a snowstorm and below zero weather one day, and be in the forties or fifties the next. Our birds are silent in the cold. I've been missing them, as the past few days have been frigid. Yesterday it warmed a bit. Today is gorgeous and the winter birds are talking outside my window. It's lovely.

The warmer weather helps me, as well as the abundance of sunshine. I'm less likely to hibernate in my house and ignore all humanity on days like today. Still, when I talk to people, I don't always know what to say and I don't always want to talk. It has nothing to do with the person, who is wonderful, and everything to do with not being able to understand why they're in my life in the first place. I used to believe this feeling came from lack of self-worth, but that's not the case. It truly is completely baffling to me. I'm a workaholic. I love obscure poetry and literature. I take calculus classes when I think no one is looking. I'm a little obsessed with making food that is colorful and tastes amazing. I think almost everything in the world (including spiders and snakes) is beautiful in its own way. I'm a complete music nerd. If allowed, I would talk about music history and piano pedagogy nonstop--probably for days. I'm not particularly fascinating or beautiful or young, so I often wonder why people are interested in me at all. I seem, to me, humdrum at best and completely odd at worst.

Therapist says that phrase describes most everyone in the world. Perhaps we're all birds of a feather?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

If you can make sense of this post, I have a gold star you can wear on your forehead.

I know two women who were friends for nearly 25 years. They lived near each other and spent a great deal of time together for the first eight of those years, then one moved far away. After the move, they called each other a few times weekly and spent time talking while they cleaned or prepared dinner, sharing minute details of their daily lives and missing each other. Sometimes one would fly to the other's home so they could be together for a week or two. They came away from those visits rejuvenated and happy.

Then one day the relationship stopped. I don't know the details. I just know the phone calls ceased and the visits ended and nearly a decade has passed without the two friends sharing a word or a moment. They simply are not part of each other's lives anymore.

I don't know how this happens. I don't understand how people can move from closeness and intimacy to nonexistence. Probably that sounds weird, coming from me, because I've been known to disappear from people's lives fairly regularly, but the difference is, I never allowed myself to feel closeness. There may have been close moments, or briefly shared intimacy, but I would not allow those things to become more than just tiny moments, nor would I allow those moments to deepen or form lasting relationships.

I've done that now. I have more than one relationship I feel has depth and longevity--relationships in which I invest love and time, and I not only allow the closeness to happen, I often seek it. And now that I've experienced what that feels like, I don't understand how close relationships wane or end. At all.

I actually believed that when I allowed myself to experience relationships, I would then understand the fleeting nature of human sociality. I thought I'd know how it happens that people allow life moments to replace interaction with loved ones. I thought I'd get it. But I don't. The longer my close relationships last, the more I am baffled by the account of the two women which began this blog post. If this was just one account, I'd simply believe they were unusual, or the relationship became unhealthy, but I know of several such stories. People who were close for a very long time, and then they weren't.

I'm thinking about this today because for the past three years I've felt very large changes happening to my emotional self. I'm allowing myself some leeway because I've been asked to endure unusual emotional trauma during that time, but as I heal, as I regain my stamina, I find myself changed.

I don't yearn for closeness as I once did. In fact, I feel a great deal of antagonism when others seek closeness from me, and when I feel a tug toward any other person, that antagonism boomerangs back and I feel it toward myself. Tolkien Boy has more than once told me that my emotional self is maturing, insinuating that it was stunted in my childhood and youth because I was not allowed to express emotions and love words from me were mocked or ignored. I can't discount this opinion, partly because Tolkien Boy knows me fairly well, and partly because it's a logical conclusion based on my weird, rather horrifying past.

However, I would not classify my feelings for Darrin and my children as immature and while certain aspects of my feelings for others might be, I don't know that that stems from a need for growth, but rather, I believe it to be a side effect of learning to live with people while dealing with PTSD--not an easy task and one which many people who experience PTSD avoid. Allowing people to remain in my life while dealing with the symptoms of PTSD is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. It remains difficult. I keep doing it. For whatever reason, my heart and soul believe it to be important, regardless of the effort it requires.

I try to make certain that my struggle in this area doesn't scare people away. I spoke to Tolkien Boy on the phone about 10 days ago. The day had been awful. I think I cried through most of it. I was overwhelmed and angry and sad and nauseated. I felt like a complete failure and sort of hated myself. I finally let Tolkien Boy know I was having a difficult day and asked if I could call (because that's what Therapist says I should do). When we spoke, he said, "You don't sound like you're falling apart. You sound like you're doing well." I believe I made some comment about that being my tragedy--I always sound like everything's okay. It's practiced. It's what I was taught. Never let anyone know you're dying inside. That's not allowed. Forget that you're hurting and make sure you send the other person away with a smile and a laugh. Supposedly that will make you both live happily ever after.

I know it doesn't work. I leave conversations feeling glad that I brightened someone's day, and wishing I knew what to do to lighten my own load. I know all that stuff about doing service for others when you're feeling low and supposedly that will make your day wonderful, but thus far, in my life, that has not been the case. I feel grateful and blessed when I serve others. I feel glad if I can make their day happier, but I still struggle with panic and anxiety and often, depression.

It's my attitude, right?

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I work very hard to remain positive even while being realistic. I don't wallow often. I try to do good things. It's not like I'm seeking to be overwhelmed by symptoms of PTSD or loneliness or sadness. And I try not to spread it around. I really do want the people I love to feel valued and joyful when they're with me.

I'm not sure, really, what I'm trying to say here. Maybe that I'm feeling the changes happening inside me and I'm getting tired of always trying. I'm feeling stressed when it seems the only time people want to be with me is when they need my help or reassurance. Sometimes I want to be sought out because I'm Samantha and I'm missed. Sometimes I want people to enjoy my company just because I'm delightful. Sometimes I want to be the person thought of first when something funny or happy or newsworthy or mundane or odd just needs to be shared.

I don't know that I'm "maturing", as Tolkien Boy has expressed. I think I'm just getting fed up with PTSD and probably with relationships and people, as well. That sort of sounds the opposite of mature--and it definitely feels anything BUT mature.

Darrin says I feel this way because I don't allow people to fill my needs. I interrupt them and try to fill theirs instead. He says I'm afraid if I accept nurturing or love, I'll "owe" something. Maybe he's right?

All I know is this: the antagonism rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times, and has me questioning the worth of every relationship in my life right now. And that's unfair to my counterparts in those relationships. And I don't know what to do about it.

PTSD sucks.

That's all.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stressed, Tired, and Stumped

Last Saturday I attended the funeral of a friend. This required me to return to the place where I grew up and to meet with people of my childhood. While at the funeral, I was told some things about myself that are causing me some stress because until now I have had no memory of them. After we talked, my memories have been triggered and now I can't stop remembering. I sort of hate this part of me--this ability to suppress memory until it no longer exists for me, only to be haunted by its return.

So I'm not myself once again. Small things cause me panic; things I've done daily for years. Being online makes me feel completely unsafe. Chatting with people I know and love causes fear that is overwhelming. Being in rehearsal, teaching classes and private students, working online--all the things that make up my day--are giving me panic attacks that are difficult to manage.

I know what I'm supposed to do. Therapist and I have worked on this for years. I'm just not good at it yet.

Discovering memories, the existence of which I had completely forgotten, adds one more "thing" I have to process. I was the person in those memories. I did those things. I was in that place. I knew those people. So why did I forget? Why was I not strong enough to just cope with the moment and move on, allowing the event to be written in my history and continuing to live my life? Why did I feel that particular part of me needed to be erased?

For me this is is distressing to the point that I've not slept for a few days, and I've only been able to talk about it with one person--and now I feel guilty for talking about it with him. He is facing a number of large changes in the next couple of months that will completely remodel his current life. He doesn't need to hear about my trivia. Sometimes I forget that my life just isn't that amazing and I don't need to talk about it.

Still, when 4 a.m. rolled around this morning and I realized I hadn't slept--again--I started wondering how long I can go without sleep. I've had about three hours total in te past four nights and I'm starting to feel ill and paranoid. And I know, on the scale of Really Bad Problems, this is pretty trivial, but I don't really know what to do next. I could talk to Therapist, but I'm pretty sure he'll tell me to live in the moment, make cookies, talk to a friend, do something soothing...all very good suggestions, each of which is highly likely to send me into a panic attack from which I'm pretty sure I won't recover. Did I mention I was feeling paranoid?

Okay--I'm going to grade assignments. It has to be done, right?

Monday, November 4, 2013

A very short post

I went out of town for a few days. I wrote a post while I was gone--away from online access, for the most part--little telephone access--but I don't feel like publishing it right now.

Today my heart is crying a little bit for many reasons, most of which have to do with things I cannot change but wish were different.

That's all.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crying "Uncle" is not an option.

I am running once again. Real running.

My amazing fall down a steep, rocky hill, which managed to bloody nearly every part of my body and tear the cartilage from my hip, happened about three years ago. Following surgery and physical therapy, I attempted running again. Three months later I had tendonitis in my iliopsoas tendon. If you're not familiar with that anatomical part, it's the tendon that stretches through the abdomen and into the groin. It's used when the leg is lifted and turned sideways and when one walks or does any other movement. In short--it hurts like crazy most of the time.

This was complicated by my muscles going into severe spasms which would put stress on the inflamed tendon and on my knee. Translation: "hurts like crazy" became indescribable pain. Because I also have systemic hypermobility (which means my joints are more flexible than normal and it's not unusual for me to have a partial dislocation at the most inopportune times), my hips began to tilt, the ball moved out of the socket, and it was typical for me to be walking normally, only to start limping or even be unable to move with no warning. Needless to say, running was out of the question.

I continued elliptical training to maintain my cardiovascular fitness, but there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Sitting was painful. Standing was painful. Walking was painful. Sleeping was painful. I began to forget what it felt like to not be in pain. I still cannot remember because I'm still in pain much of the time.

Pain is an interesting phenomenon. Chronic pain is something one cannot understand without experiencing it. It gnaws and nags and wears one down until it seems to be the focus of every part of life. For me, it brings depression and robs me of my ability to successfully manage PTSD. I forget who I am. I can't remember how to interact with people and, more importantly, why I'm doing so in the first place. When the pain becomes unmanageable, I find myself emotionless and disinterested in anyone or anything.

A month ago I ceased all physical activity. Within three days my tendon was less inflamed. I felt a very low level of pain and was walking normally. This lasted a week. Then the tendon began to tighten. The strain on my knee became nauseating. My muscles began to knot and spasm again. My hip began popping and cracking whenever I tried to move or support any weight with it. Finally, last week, I made the decision to return to a workout regime and stick with it until it crippled me or until I regained the strength necessary to deal with the tendonitis.

So I'm currently in that process. I start with fifteen minutes of weight-lifting and strengthening exercises, then I move the a stationary bike for another 15-20 minutes, followed by a 10 minute run (yes, I'm seriously curtailing my desire to run more), and a 10 minute swim. I am NOT a good swimmer, but I'm starting to not hate it. I follow this with a soak in a jacuzzi where I try to work out knots and do some stretching.

I'm feeling the strength returning this week. Last week was horrible. I was exhausted and hurting and miserable. We'll see what next week brings.

This is my last-ditch effort to try to help my body work again. It's coupled with enormous amounts of water and anything with potassium. I have a potassium deficiency which is why my muscle spasms are sort of out of control. I take a supplement and drink coconut water and eat potassium rich foods which seems to make the spasms less severe. If this works, I'll be running as I used to by March 2014. If it doesn't, there is another surgery waiting for me. We might have to see how I weather a tendon release. I hope not, but I'm keeping it on my list of options, just in case.

In the meantime, if I seem moody or cranky or just plain obnoxious, I would ask you to reach into your groin, locate the large tendon that resides there, grab it and twist it for about five minutes--then monitor your behavior following that experience. It might help you understand where I'm coming from.

But the main point of this post is that I'm running. It's not easy, it doesn't feel great, but I'm doing it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today I Made Crabapple Jelly

This isn't really a big deal because crabapples are everywhere and the jelly is easy to make, but it also provides me with quiet time to think. And this is what I thought about:

My brother has denied Tabitha's claims that he molested her. I have two sisters who have stated they believe him and assume Tabitha is lying. One of those sisters has taken it no further. She continues to show love to Tabitha and invite our family to visit. The other sister has ceased all communication with me and my family. Ironically, the sister who will no longer acknowledge our existence used to be my best friend. When she was in trouble, I bailed her out. When she needed a babysitter, I watched her children. When she divorced, I cried with her.

When it became clear that she was no longer talking to us (and it was pretty obvious at my parents 50th anniversary when, while seated in the same room, I asked her a question about her children and she looked at me for about a minute, then turned away and started a conversation with someone else--and I think she put more effort into avoiding me than she put into helping make the anniversary reception a success), I thought I should feel hurt or angry. Instead I just felt tired. And when one feels as tired as I do, it's difficult to care much when someone tries to snub you.

I thought I might feel more when the tiredness subsided, but either that hasn't happened or my body has just decided not to expend energy on this particular development. I'm thinking it's the latter. It was nice, though, that my sister's new husband treated me nicely--even warmly. Clearly he's not willing to take sides in a matter that doesn't concern him. Smart man.

As I thought about this, I realized I no longer bend over backwards to maintain or build relationships with my family members. I used to do that. I wanted those relationships--I think I needed them. But I don't anymore. Well, I want them, but I'm unwilling to exhaust myself in one-sided relationships.

More than that, maybe, I"m understanding that my worth will be discovered by other people, regardless of whether or not my siblings and parents choose to acknowledge it. I believe my mother continues to try. It's difficult to tell, given her deteriorating mental capacity. I know my father cares for me deeply and as often as he's able, he tries to build and strengthen out relationship. My youngest brother tries intermittently to maintain a friendship, but his life is fraught with problems of his own making. I'm content to allow our relationship to remain less close for now. My sisters can't seem to decide what they want. I've decided that's a dilemma that belongs to them. I've made it clear that they're welcome in my life and in my home. I'm not going to shout to be heard. If they don't know that by now, perhaps it's time for them to figure it out on their own.

I'm not abandoning my family. I'm just moving my efforts to a place where I feel more fulfilled and less stressed. I think, for awhile, I strongly needed those relationships. Now, after unsuccessfully trying to build them, I'm understanding that one-sided relationships are not what I'm looking for and I'm willing to stop trying for awhile. As I stated, they're welcome, but I'm too tired to go looking for them when they would never do the same for me.

I've learned a lot about relationships in the past seven years.

I used to believe that the only relationships that last are those bound by blood or marriage. I don't believe that anymore. I have friends who have remained closely in my life for more than seven years. Closely, to me, means they check in with me regularly, or they let me know they read my blog, or they invite me to visit or spend time with them. It means I can call if I have a problem, or a question, or for no reason at all, and that call will not be an intrusion. It means they make time for me because they enjoy spending time together as much as I do.

I've been related to people in my family for much longer than seven years. I don't believe I can think of a seven-year span when even one of my siblings has stayed in touch with me. When I went to college my parents and siblings didn't contact me for an entire year. The same was true when I moved to California. I believe things are better now. I usually hear from my parents (who live three blocks from me) at least once monthly, and some of my siblings will usually contact me a couple of times during the year. I try to call or visit them at least monthly, as well.

But here's the difference: it's very clear when I call my sisters that they have other things to do. Our phone calls last about 10 minutes. I spend time with my dad because we own a business, but much of the time he's gone. I can only tolerate my mom for a couple of hours--not because I don't love her, but because she has become less lucid in the past year and talking to her takes a great deal of effort. Sometimes she forgets I'm there so I just go home.

When I spend time with the people who have chosen to stay in my life for the past seven years, however, it feels different. It's clear we're together because we enjoy it, not because we're relatives who are supposed to stay in touch occasionally. There is a mutual effort to remain close, I'm not doing all or much of the work, and I know they love me because they know who I am, not because I"m related to them. They ask real questions about my life--about me. I don't know when I last heard a question from a sibling that wasn't about my kids. My siblings have no idea what I do for work or what I enjoy doing in my spare time. I'm guessing most of my friends could make an educated guess and if it wasn't correct, it would be pretty close.

I understand there's nothing keeping my friends tied to me and that at any time they could leave. I hope they won't--but they could. But Tolkien Boy told me he's not going anywhere and if I disappear, he plans to find me so he can tell me how upset he is that I would do that to him. And it's highly likely that I would react the same way if he disappeared. And really, why stay in someone's life for seven years if you plan to abandon that person later? That makes no sense. Which doesn't mean it won't happen, just that it doesn't make sense if it does.

And at this point, my jelly was finished. I have lots of lovely, light red jelly-filled jars sitting on my cupboard. Now I have to figure out where to put them away. Since DJ and Tabitha moved home, I'm finding I have no more spare shelf space. It's a problem.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Confession: I don't know right from left.

Last night a friend chatted with me. This is how it went:

Friend: So...depressed much?
me: A little, yes.
Friend: I would never have guessed based on your blog posts...Haha.
me: You don't have to read them.
Friend: Yeah, I do. They show up in my reader.
me: Probably I've been excessive talking about it.
Friend: A little, yes.

My friend has a point even if I believe it's invalid. I need a place to write down the mess inside me. I've never said this would be a funny blog--or even an interesting one.

However, given that the last billion posts I've written have noted how depressed I am, my friend is right. It's a bit excessive.

And when you're right, you're right.

Or maybe left. As noted in the title, I really don't know the difference.

So I will stop posting about my depression--but I have to say, anyone who has experienced severe depression knows that's about the only thing one can think about when it happens. Sometimes thoughts stray to related wishing for death...or feeling helpless...or believing one is unfit for human company...or being sad...

Regardless, Friend is right, and I just proved it by almost making this blog post about depression. I will now change that.

Here is a funny cat:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Hunger is insolent, and will be fed." ~Homer

On yesterday's long drive home, I pulled off the freeway to use the facilities at one of the many truck stops lining I-80's stretch across Wyoming's south border. As I reached the bottom of the exit ramp, I saw a young man, probably in his mid-20s, and his dog. The man held a sign: "Stranded. Broke. Hungry. Please help."

Even as I passed him, I noticed both he and the dog were terribly thin. Some men are like that naturally, and maybe he was one of those, but I couldn't stop thinking about him. So I grabbed a couple of hot dogs, a bottle of water, two bananas, a Reeses, and a packet of dog food. As I checked out, using the last of the cash budgeted for my trip, the change came exactly to five dollars. Disregarding my mother's voice from long ago ("Don't give money to pan-handlers. They'll just use it to buy drugs or alcohol."), I slid the bill into the hot dog box, helped the attendant bag everything, and went to my car.

A minute later the bag was delivered and I was on my way with his whispered, "God bless," ringing in my ears.

And then I cried.

I cried because I wanted to put him in my car and take him somewhere safe.
I cried because I wished the food had been more nutritious, but I opted for calories over healthy, not knowing when that young man might eat again.
I cried because I knew other people would help, because that's what people do.
I cried because we have very little money right now, but he has less.
I cried because the cash I gave might buy a tiny bit of drugs or a drink of alcohol, but maybe it would buy some breakfast in the morning--either way, it belonged to him.

Mostly I cried because I was tired, I'd been through a difficult weekend filled with many people, I hadn't had time to do the lesson planning I'd hoped, and depression had nothing to do with my tears--nope.

Darrin said I couldn't ask the young man if we could give him a ride. About 20 miles down the freeway, a flashing sign announced an escaped prisoner and a warning not to pick up hitchhikers. I don't believe the hungry young man was that prisoner--they usually don't have dogs, right? But it reminded me that I didn't know him and probably it was a good idea to let him manage as he saw fit.

Still, I'd like to stop crying all the time. It makes my eyes itch. And I can't stop wondering about that man and his dog. I hope they eat today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Love is...finding one who is willing to hold your hand no matter how unfit it might be." ~Nishan Panwar

Depression continues strongly. I'm now in the place where I no longer care about anything for a moment, then I wallow in self-pity--wishing someone cared, and follow everything up by at least one very large panic attack.

Do I know the self-pity feelings are silly and false? Yes.
Does that make them less real? No.

It won't last. Therapist promised me it won't last.

Still, the worst part often seems to be what happens as the depression cycle approaches an ending. I'm tired now. I'm not good at redirecting myself. I vacillate between feeling like I might die inside if someone doesn't check in with me--see if I'm okay--tell me I'm loved--and telling myself to stop being an idiot and contact someone myself. In the end I don't do anything. It takes too much effort and I'm pretty sure if I'm the one contacting someone else, I'll spend the next five days castigating myself for bothering someone.

It's a problem.

I keep reminding myself that anything causing me pain is temporary and fictional.

I think, though, of people I know who have depression regularly; the ones who feel little excitement for life, who cannot enjoy beauty, who ache beyond crying. As I enter the landscape they frequent, I can't decide if the numbness is a relief. It might be--but that's irrelevant as there is little I can do about it.

I have a calendar. It has reminders of my schedule for the next month. I will be told where to go and what to do--and I will do it. And at some point, my system will stop being messed up by a drug that mended my reaction to a flu shot.

Therapist will check in with me tomorrow. He will ask me how I'm feeling and listen to my reply. He will remind me of the things I need to do to make it through this, and remind Darrin of danger signs to watch for. He will tell me I can do this and he believes it will not be much longer, then remind me it's okay if I have to get help from others.

And Therapist will check in with me the day after tomorrow...and the next day...and the next...

What would I do without Therapist? Does he check in because I pay him to do so? I'm not sure how I feel about that: I have to pay someone to care about me?


I'm not thinking about that. I accept what IS right now. The fact that I have to pay someone to check on me does not negate the fact that he DOES it. And I need to be checked on. So everything is great.

See? That would be a self-pity wallow. Hold on tight; the panic is about to set in.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced..." ~J.K. Rowling

At the risk of perpetuating the rumor that my blog is whiny, I need to write this post.

I am experiencing overwhelming, immobilising depression.

I know. Go get help. Take medicine. Fix it.

Except my body doesn't respond to antidepressants as it should. They serve to make me more deeply depressed and suicidal.

And I've been trying to get help. Therapist knows and I'll be seeing him this weekend. And I told another person because that's what you're supposed to do, right? And he'll check in with me periodically.

Time will fix it. I'm not clinically depressed, and I'm fairly certain this is the end result of taking a drug designed to make my blood pressure stop bouncing around, but which also had unfortunate side-effects for me.

In the meantime, I'm embarrassed that I feel sad for no reason, that doing anything requires incredible effort, and that I told anyone in the first place. I mean--this is just something I have to wait out. When my body has worked through it, I'll be back to normal. But I told people because right now waiting seems impossible and there are tiny moments when I feel I would do anything to make the sadness stop. That's a danger sign, I'm told, and I want to be responsible.

Still, I can't stop feeling that I should be able to DO something. How long have I been in therapy? Have I learned nothing? Why can't I make this stop?

Except, it's not really something you can just turn off. And what I really want to do is cry for a long time.

Instead, I've been cleaning, and working, and smiling, and pretending--because honestly, most people don't really want to deal with someone who is depressed, can't take standard meds for it, and has to just wait it out. Let's face it--that's depressing.

I find myself hiding from people, planning things we can do AFTER, when the depression is gone and I don't have to feel mortified by the fact that I might start crying at any moment.

But the truth is: I'm okay. I have moments when I don't feel okay, when my thoughts feel desperate and scary, but I'm not at the mercy of my thoughts. Right now I'm choosing to ignore them. I think that's what will continue to happen until my system is back to normal.

Still, I really want this depression to go away. I have things to do, and it's really bugging me .

Monday, August 26, 2013

School starts (for me) tomorrow. No. I have not yet written my syllabus.

In all honesty, I'm still tweaking the projects my students will be doing. I have yet to make the Power Point presentations that will walk them through the process, and I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to Power Point because even though I've used many, it always seems like I don't know what I'm doing when I set them up. I don't know why. It's a problem, no doubt linked to the fact that our university's music department is sort of prehistoric when it comes to technology.

Still, I'm excited about my new class format. I love the fact that we're going completely free of all hard copies (except for music examples, of course--paper copies are still the best option for practicing), that my students' portfolios will be online ready, should they choose to put them on the internet, and all their teaching resources will be found there, as well.

I didn't sleep last night, so when the sky began to lighten I went upstairs to watch the sun rise. The colors were gorgeous. There is something incredibly peaceful about watching the day begin--at least before I remember my enormous to-do list and panic sets in.

I'm already beginning to feel overwhelmed and I haven't yet begun. This is not a good sign. However, I also know I'm capable of whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing, even if sometimes I'm unsure of what that might be.

I think the trick right now is to take lots of breaks and keep breathing. I can do this.

At some point, however, I need to stop overloading myself. It's stupid.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

For a few months I have been feeling disconnected from Darrin. When I berate myself for allowing this to happen, I remember that I've been through some emotionally trying times, and that it takes two to make a relationship feel connected and vibrant. Since June, I've tried several times to get Darrin to spend alone time with me. Always I was told that he was too busy, couldn't arrange time off, or that he was too tired. Four years ago I would have said, "Too tired? You're kidding! Pack your bag and get in the car. You can sleep while I drive, but we're going." And Darrin would have laughed, packed his bag, gotten in the car and we would have spent a lovely day or two reconnecting.

Presently, however, I've become so emotionally unsure of myself, that Darrin's resistance has felt like rejection. And quite honestly, I've been feeling rejection in a number of relationships over the past couple of years. I've run the gamut from hurt and vulnerability to frustration and loneliness, and I've arrived at a place where I don't really care anymore. It takes two. If I'm the only one trying to connect, there's really no point to what I'm doing. It's time to stop.

Darrin is the exception, though. I chose him many years ago because I wanted him in my life forever. He gets infinity second chances. So I said, "Your birthday is coming. I'd like to throw you a party. Who would you like to invite?" He said, as I knew he would, "I don't really want to spend time with people. You're the only one I'd invite." So I said, "Good. We're going to Denver. I've reserved a hotel for two nights. If you can get Friday off, we'll leave early and go play."

I waited for his excuses. They didn't come.

Friday everything possible went wrong. Darrin found out he had three hours of grading due that day, instead of Monday, as he had assumed. Tabitha had monumental meltdowns as she contemplated work, college, and being an adult. Adam and DJ were being beastly at one another. Our washer flooded the bathroom. Clients were calling me. My dad asked me to come in to work.

I very calmly suggested Darrin work on grading while I nipped the other crises in the bud. I sat down with my children, explained that they were adults capable of taking care of themselves and letting them know that we, their parents, would be leaving soon and they were responsible to deal with their differences equitably. I let Tabitha cry, then asked her to find things to do while we were gone and we could tackle the paperwork for her job on Monday. I cleaned up the flood, told my father I would be coming to work on Monday, and ignored all further phone calls.

Darrin was in a foul mood. I didn't care. I packed the car and waited for him to finish grading.

As we drove to Denver it was clear that Darrin wanted to be grumpy and disagreeable. I refused to argue. He asked if I wanted to check into the hotel or eat dinner first. As I hadn't eaten that day, I suggested dinner first. Darrin immediately gave me five reasons why we should check into our hotel first. I agreed and said we could certainly do that, at which point he gave me five more reasons why we should have dinner first. I calmly said, "I'll tell you what. You're driving. You decide where you'd like to go first. I'm happy with whatever you decide."

So we went to dinner. The restaurant was one we'd never visited before. Other than the hotel, most of the trip had been arranged by Darrin and the kids, so I had no idea where we were going. This particular restaurant was chosen by DJ and looked sort of scary inside and out. However, the food was incredible. It was clearly made fresh on the spot--not like the chains that have premade entrees filled with sodium and preservatives. And the food was Italian, so Darrin was very happy. I had a slice of vegetarian pizza that filled my fourteen-inch plate (I made it through about 1/4 of it before being defeated), and Darrin ordered lasagna.

And we spent a long time at dinner. Talking.

Then we order one of everything from the Italian bakery, took it with us, checked out a very bad movie from Redbox (because I love bad movies), and checked into our hotel. We ate pastries in bed while watching our very bad movie, then got ready for bed, did that thing that people in love do when they're alone in a hotel, and went to sleep.

Darrin had made a long list of things he wanted to do on Saturday. I've not slept for about a week (insomnia sucks), but Friday night everything clicked and I slept from about 2 a.m.-8 a.m. Six hours is a very good night's sleep for me. When I woke, Darrin had canceled all his plans. He climbed into bed and while we cuddled he said he had decided we should just relax and enjoy the day--not be busy.

We left the hotel around noon and Darrin took me to an English tea house for lunch. It was lovely. Darrin was the only man in the restaurant--and he didn't care. We walked to a nearby farmer's market after lunch, bought nothing, then drove through several older neighborhoods looking at century-old homes that had been restored. Darrin decided he wanted to see a movie. He was fairly certain he knew where a movie theater was.

He didn't.

One hour (of giggling and backtracking and exploring) later, we stopped at a Subway where Darrin gallantly allowed me to ask a very helpful young man for directions. We finally made it to the theater around 4:00, enjoyed a not-very-bad movie, took pictures in a photo booth, and walked the square as we window shopped and thought about dinner. We went to Whole Foods, bought olives, and dolmas, and chocolate, and caramel cookie bars (because dessert is very important), then stopped at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. I will simply say, dinner was not a highlight of the evening. After the fabulous food we'd enjoyed previously, RT felt overpriced, bland, and low quality.

We got lost on our way back to the hotel, saw an enormous fireworks display, then finally found our hotel again. We ate olives, dolmas, chocolate, and caramel cookie bars, chatted about life, and got ready for bed. Before we did that thing that people in love do when they're alone in a hotel, Darrin said, "Thank you. We've needed to do this for awhile and I've been a grouch about it. I've had a wonderful time."

I lay awake for awhile last night. I realized that one of the reasons I feel so negative about relationships is because they feel like work--all of them. And much of the time, I feel that I'm the only one who wants those relationships to continue. Therapist would warn me not to read too much into this. He would say everyone who shares relationships with other people, feels at some point that they're doing most of the work and the other person involved doesn't care or doesn't want to put forth any effort toward maintaining or nurturing the relationship. But that's not necessarily true, he would say. And he would remind me that what I feel is sometimes exaggerated, especially when the feelings are negative.

It's probable that Therapist is correct. But I also know that I'm still tired. I worked very hard to get Darrin to go away with me, and I'm okay with that. He's my husband and I know that he loves me and wants to be with me. And I'm also very aware that even if he doesn't do grand things for me, he's constantly doing small things to make sure I have what I need (changing the oil in my car, doing laundry, taking out the trash, helping with dinner, telling me he loves me...). But I'm seeing Therapist next week and I think I need to talk with him about finding more relationships that build me.

I have to admit that the disconnect I was feeling with Darrin has permeated all my current relationships. I don't have the stamina to work on those other relationships as I did with Darrin--and I have no guarantee that they'll say, as Darrin did, that the work is appreciated and necessary. So I think I need Therapist's advice. I'm going into another semester of crazy-busy work. I'm teaching an advanced pedagogy class for the first time. I have private students starting the semester tomorrow. I accompany two choirs. I have some clients with complicated tax issues that need to be resolved in the next three months. I'm working online and helping my father with his financial planning business.

In short--I no longer have time to allow myself to become drained by relationships that are demanding, or to expend effort on relationships with people I love but who have become disinterested in me, for whatever reason. I need people in my life who will take time to check in with me, who will tell me about their lives while showing interest in mine. I need people who aren't inconvenienced when I need reassurance and who will turn to me when they, too, need someone to help them feel that life is okay--and so are they. I need to be able to express love and hear it expressed in return.

And quite honestly, I'm so very tired that if I have relationships hanging around with people who don't feel that my above list fits their description of how we should interact, I'm perfectly willing to give those people some time away from "us." Therapist would say I should try to talk about it first if I care about the person. Sometimes Therapist overestimates the amount of time I'm willing to spend being vulnerable with other people.

I'm not crabby. I had a lovely weekend with my favorite man. I'm looking forward to the good that comes with my busy semester. I'm just a little thrashed when it comes to social interaction. I guess, maybe, it's time for me to let other people take control/initiative/whatever in our relationships, while I spend a bit of time regenerating my need for company. So if I seem a bit scarce, I'm hoping I'll still hear from people (phone calls, FB messages, email, chatting when I'm online)--I WANT to hear from them, I just can't always be the one making contact. And if I don't hear...well...with a schedule like my current one, I will hardly have time to lament.

Good night.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"There are things known and unknown, and in between are the doors of perception." ~Aldous Huxley

I remember once telling a young friend how much I value my alone time--and then I felt like a fraud because I was immediately visited by a vivid memory of wandering about my empty house during one of those "alone" times, feeling overwhelmed with longing and sadness to the point that I fell to my knees and whispered, "I'm lonely." After years of being able to connect deeply with only one person, my soul was dying. I believe it was then that I began cataloguing all the reasons I was not deserving of such depth and connection and I decided that, perhaps, people only connect with their spouses and everyone else in the world was incidental.

I began carefully guarding everything meaningful in my life, making certain I didn't share it in casual conversation. After all, if I was speaking with a person who would simply chat with me and then forget I existed, it was vital that they know nothing about me. Soon I had built a persona who was a brilliant conversationalist, genuinely interested in whomever I was speaking, while passionately guarding all the things that make me Samantha. I had in my repertoire, short personal anecdotes designed to make the other person laugh and relax while telling them nothing about who I really am, but which would keep the conversation moving while allowing my new acquaintance to feel that they were learning more about me, thus encouraging him or her to share more personal information of their own.

It was a defense mechanism. Learning all I could about people with whom I interacted allowed me to ascertain the level of safety I felt with them. It also put them at ease and ensured that they felt congenial toward me--I was interested in them, therefore I was their friend. However, knowing that they knew nothing concrete about who I really was also served to make me feel defensive and a bit condescending toward them. I felt little respect for people willing to talk nonstop about themselves, but unwilling to dig deeply or care enough about me to find out who I am. The loneliness I had felt previously ballooned into a nameless ache.

I immersed myself in projects that required no one else. I read everything I could find, practiced incessantly, worked constantly. I drew enjoyment from running and being aware of my environment. I noticed everything. I took classes to become the best mother I could be and spent time with my children. I played with recipes, planted flowers, wrote terrible poetry, became a brilliant business woman and successful teacher. And when the loneliness whispered at me, I ran from it, refusing to look at a problem that could not, in my mind, be resolved.

Finally, after years of running, someone caught up with me. He made his way deeply into my heart. It was dreadful. I didn't like it at all. My entire being rejected the way this person pushed at my boundaries, repeatedly trying to connect with me on different levels. And when I eventually gave up and allowed myself to bond in friendship, he grew out of our friendship, put it aside, and disappeared from my life in a rather ugly way. In the meantime, I had allowed myself to indulge in other relationships--real connections with real people who seemed as interested in me as I was in them. And it was still dreadful. And I still didn't like it.

I can list endlessly the reasons why relationships feel frustrating and unsafe. I can blame PTSD and not bonding with parents or family members. I can name people I know who also struggle with maintaining and understanding relationships. All this is unhelpful. I can't seem to move to a place where I accept that some relationships are temporary, and that's okay, and some last longer--also okay. I am always afraid.

I've never really thought of myself as a fearful person. I do things all the time that other people would avoid because they're intimidating or difficult. But in the area of interpersonal relationships, I live in fear.

A year after DJ moved out, I told Adam that I was pretty certain DJ didn't love me anymore--didn't even think about me anymore, really. I cited reasons. I had many. They seemed logical to me. I spoke of this dispassionately. I said it was regretful, but DJ was an adult. There was nothing I could do about it. I heard Adam sniffle. When I looked up at him he was weeping. He said I was wrong.

For days I wondered why my words had made Adam cry. Finally, I asked him. He told me it was hurtful to him that if, indeed, I felt DJ was becoming distant, I would allow that to happen without making an effort to find out why, or without trying to change the situation. He said DJ spoke of me often, admired me, loved me deeply, wished he had more time to spend with his family. He said it made him sad that I had difficulty understanding that I was loved and he didn't know how to fix that.

Many of my posts on this site, probably 80% of them, map my struggle as I try to understand people, love, and relationships. I talk frankly of my feelings and fears linked to those things. I discuss the agony I feel as I try to build and strengthen the relationships I've formed in the past eight years, even as I am afraid and insecure. I talk of boundaries, and relationship health, and trust--all of which are deeply important to me, but terribly difficult for me to maintain.

And I don't know if I will ever stop feeling fear. I don't know if I'll ever know how to accept love without question. I don't know if the times when I feel abandoned or ignored, fabricated by my subconscious, will stop feeling normal and expected. I don't know if I'll someday reach a point where I don't need frequent reassurance and expressions of love in order to continue facing the incessant fear present in each relationship in my life.

I don't know.

But I'm trying. I've been trying for eight years. It's been a miserable mixture of wonderful and terrifying and dreadful. And I'll keep trying as long as those involved will stay. Someday, though, I want to stop being afraid.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself." ~Leo F. Buscaglia

I used to believe that in each of my relationships there would come a time when I would need to "let go." This has may connotations:
1. Letting go of expectations while allowing hope and belief in each other to flourish.
2. Letting go of past hurts.
3. Letting go of negative beliefs and belief cycles so that trust can enter in.
4. Letting go of preconceived notions and learning to see what is real.
5. Letting go of the other person--meaning, releasing control and allowing the other person the freedom to go or stay as they see fit.

Anyone who knows me understands that accepting the above tenets will cause me stress, panic attacks, and insecurity. They also know how much I want to do it because in my head, those constitute healthy relationships and I want those desperately.

I'm rethinking this, however. I'm not sure those things are correct.
1. Expectations are part of relationships. Hope and belief are wonderful and should have a place, for sure, but a relationship without expectations becomes amorphous. For instance, I expect people who care about me to acknowledge me when they see me. I expect them to hug me and allow me to hug them back. I expect Darrin to want to make love with me. I expect anyone close to me to trust me enough to confide, and allow me to do the same. I expect to be loved. And I believe those things are reasonable and necessary. They provide intimacy and boundaries. I don't believe I need to let go of expectations in order to have a healthy relationship. I just need to be certain those expectations are logical within the scope of each relationship.

2. I'm not sure that past hurt goes away. I think I believe we learn to cope, the hurt becomes less present, and we find ways to address the needs that arise without using our past as an excuse or crutch for our behavior. And in some cases, I believe we eventually might feel empathy or understanding toward the person who hurt us--not always, but often in the case of those with whom we frequently interact and share love. Letting go infers that I can continue as if something did not happen, which is imprudent. We learn from mistakes--ours and others. We find ways to avoid repetition and we use the resulting knowledge and experience. The hurt is a part of our lives. It's more helpful to accept it as a pivotal point and build upon it, than to forget it happened.

3. I think rather than letting go of the negative beliefs and belief cycles, I need to learn to change them into more positive ones. I need to understand the roots of the beliefs that cripple me, look for the reality in those roots, see what is relevant and discard that which is not. I need to confront the beliefs that stem from dishonesty or from harmful experiences, see the reality in those beliefs and find the truth about myself--no matter what that truth might be. Mostly though, I need to stop relying on those negative beliefs when I feel alone or vulnerable. I need to build new beliefs built on new, positive experiences, and stemming from people who genuinely care for me. I'm not sure it's possible to "let go" of core beliefs. I do believe, however, that it's possible to see them as they are, identify the ones that are baseless, and find ways to help the beliefs morph into more constructive, positive, honest ones.

4. This one I agree with. Completely.

5. The jury is out on this. I suppose at this point in my life, I believe in allowing the person freedom to become whomever they will. I believe in encouraging relationships with other people--even when that means time with me will be compromised or diminished. I believe in supporting those additional relationships when they are healthy and bring joy to those I love. I'm very aware that relationships ebb and flow, and that some just ebb, eventually. Interest waxes and wanes. Close friendships are difficult to maintain. Best friends find other best friends. It's all part of being human and interacting with one another.

So perhaps, rather than "letting go", I feel instead that I must allow people who have relatinships with me to grow, change--to "become." My hope is that they'll become people who wish to remain in my life, that they'll share in the things I have to offer. I hope they'll tell me about their daily routines, share stories about their pasts, and find ways to spend time with me as I do the same for them. I know it won't always be so. In fact, most of the time it won't. But I hope it will.

"Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear."  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Paying Tribute to Tolkien Boy on the Day of His Birth

I have been remiss in my birthday tributes to important people in my life--partly because I've been missing birthdays completely. However, because I'm awake, I believe I will take time to acknowledge Tolkien Boy who was born on this day. I've known him just shy of seven years now. These are things we have said during the time I have known him:

Tolkien Boy: I think you're charming. But I hardly know you at all.
me: No. Very few people do.

me: Are you my mother?
Tolkien Boy: I am not your mother. I am a snort.
: I love that book.
Tolkien Boy: So do I.

me: So, according to Tolkien Boy...
1. Even if life gets in the way, it's not out of line for me to remind you that I miss you.
2. Friendships are valuable enough to fight for--to make time for.
3. It's probably not the best idea to encourage friends to disappear, just because I'm afraid they might.
4. You're not planning to disappear, and neither am I.
Did I miss anything on my "TB says" list?
Tolkien Boy: 5. Tolkien Boy loves you a great, great deal.
me: That's the best one. 

me: When do you get to go barefoot?
Tolkien Boy: Nights after 10. Usually. And Fridays and Saturdays.
me: That's not enough. I think you need more barefoot time.
Tolkien Boy: I'll quit my job post haste. :)

me: I have a secret desire to be in a pie fight someday. 
Tolkien Boy: You'd look good in a pie fight. 
me: I think I would last five minutes. Then I would want a shower desperately. 
Tolkien Boy: pie shower
me: Ick.

Tolkien Boy: Oh, well, I'm not trying to avoid the question, just recognizing that I'm maundering
me: I know. I'm just reminding you that should you wish to share the maundering, you have a captive audience.
Tolkien Boy: Hardly captive, but I appreciate it
me: You aren't the captor, you are the captivator.
Tolkien Boy: lol I so love your turns of phrase
me: Very important. I should hate to be boring.
Tolkien Boy: I wonder if I am
me: Are you bored with you?
Tolkien Boy: no
me: Then I would say you are not.

me: Okay, but Tolkien Boy, for future reference, don't start a conversation loving me madly and end by apologizing. Just leave it at the loving part--okay?
Tolkien Boy: dude
me: Did you just call me "dude"?
Tolkien Boy.: I love you so much
me: Now you may apologize.
Tolkien Boy.: do not describe my loving

me: Tolkien Boy, are you sure you weren't drinking last night?
Tolkien Boy.: You know, I wonder about that too. I took an energy drink, and it really made me weird. It was a gift from a friend a while ago--near my birthday. I'll have to look at it. Maybe it was alcoholic. I thought it was caffeinated...she said she got it for me so I could get all my diet cokes out of the way at the beginning of the day. It's called something weird...loco or something like that
me: Four Loko?
Tolkien Boy: That sounds familiar. Is that a thing?
me: Four main ingredients:
Tolkien Boy: it tasted awfu. I only had half the can and then tried to sleep
me: Alcohol, caffeine, taurine, guarana
Tolkien Boy: you're kidding
me: Nope
Tolkien Boy: oh my goodness
me: Up to 24 proof.
Tolkien Boy: wow
processing this
I guess that would explain a lot, then
good grief
I thought it was just an energy drink
me: Also explains why it didn't really put a dent in that migraine.
It's been banned on several college campuses. Produces unexplained injuries and blackouts.
Tolkien Boy: wow.I'm glad I only had half the can
I guess I was drinking

Tolkien Boy: I'm writing a poem.
me: What is your poem about?
Tolkien Boy: Hipsters
me: Why?
Tolkien Boy: It occurred to me that someone should.
me: Okay. What are hipsters? Actually, I guess I'm asking this: There are many definitions of hipsters; which are you using?
Tolkien Boy: The general fashion/attitude one. Would you like to hear it?
me: Yes.
Tolkien Boy: "Hipsters, terribles enfants ,
invented very ugly pants."
me: Is that the end?
Tolkien Boy: Yup!
me: Well, all things considered, it might be more than they deserve.

me: Does it look odd to you when you see your reflection?
Tolkien Boy: Well, I'm never sure. Sometimes I seem quite attractive, other times I look positively monstrous. I've never had a good even attitude about my looks.
me: Well, if it helps at all, I rather love the way you look. And I never see monstrous anything about you--interior or exterior. 
Tolkien Boy: That's very nice of you--thank you. I worry about it too much sometimes. Fortunately, though, it's not an obsession.
me: I'm glad you're not obsessed. And just so you know, I don't say things to be nice. If I didn't actually feel that way, I wouldn't say it. I'd say, "Wow, that sounds awful. I hope everything evens out for you one day."
Tolkien Boy: lol 
 I would know what that meant, you know.
me: Yes. But I assume you prefer honesty. 
Tolkien Boy: Only when it comes from perfectly charming people. :)
me: Speaking of charming people, I saved a message from you that you sent on my birthday in 2008 because you sang me the birthday song. And I accidentally deleted it. Now I have no more Birthday Song from Charming Tolkien Boy on my phone. It's sad. It has been saved for almost five whole years. 
Tolkien Boy: I can send you another.
me: I would like that. Then I can save it for five more years.

Happy birthday, Tolkien Boy. We've had nearly seven years of continuous conversation--moments that have made me laugh out loud, and some that have made me cry a little. I would trade those moments for nothing in this world. You've blessed my life and I love you.