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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.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made." ~Groucho Marx

For years I've been saying to my online friends, "Real life comes first." Translation: If we're chatting and a friend comes to visit or a spouse needs personal attention, or some other interpersonal, face-to-face social opportunity arises, we need to end our conversation and tend to the people who are present in our lives. I'm not negating the importance of online friends. I'm just stressing that people need to be with people in real time. It's healthy. It offers things that cyberspace relationships cannot. It's real.

That doesn't mean that I don't want our conversation to continue or that I don't feel a bit lonely when the other person leaves. It just means I want the best for people I love, and spending time talking with me online when they could be with another person in real life, is not "best".

I realized last fall that my "in-person" people time was not as abundant as it should be. I began spending more time with Darrin and Adam, and inviting DJ to lunch more often. I spent as many weekends as possible with Tabitha, and I tried to connect with friends in Utah when I visited Tabitha, as well. I also began to make more friends in my hometown.

There were a couple of women who have repeatedly invited me to parties or lunch or just to take walks with them. I began accepting their invitations. And it was fun.

One of the women, Holly, seemed particularly interested in spending time with me. We talked often. She asked many questions about Tabitha and my boys. She wanted to know about my interests and ideas. And she was willing to share her personal information, as well. We spent quite a bit of time together. Darrin even consented to having date nights with my friend and her spouse.

This week Holly and I hit a snag. I've written about the difficulties with PTSD that cropped up over the past month. Granted, since I've eliminated the prescription culprit from my life, managing that particular monster has been much easier, but I still have moments that I don't handle things as gracefully as I would prefer.

Since I've spoken with Holly a great deal over the past year, she's aware of my stance on communicating boundaries and relationship needs. She knows I don't pick up on hints (which is sometimes because I miss them and other times because I choose not to notice they've been dropped). She understands that I'm more comfortable when someone tells me things with words, rather than hoping I'll draw a situation based conclusion. And one of the reasons I feel close to Holly is because she's been very careful to make certain I understand the nuances of our friendship--she spells things out for me. Often I've already figured things out, but it's a great relief when my conclusions are reiterated by her. She's very good about making sure I know we're on the same page.

I thought this happened because Holly was aware I have PTSD and wanted to make sure I was comfortable. It turns out that this is just part of her personality. She's a verbal person. I know this because I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was having difficulty managing PTSD symptoms. She looked at me quietly for a moment, then to my surprise, she changed the subject. I assumed she just didn't want to talk about me at that time, and didn't worry about it.

This weekend Holly asked if she could come talk to me. I was happy to have her visit. I enjoy being with her. But I was unprepared for her words. She told me she had personal experience with loved ones who had PTSD. The experiences were not positive. Holly has done a great deal of research about the disorder, seeking information of how to support and be of help to her loved ones. She let me know that trying to be a support person had left her feeling sad and helpless much of the time. She wished that she could make things better or that she could ease pain--but she couldn't.

Holly let me know that she's not ending our friendship, just drawing a boundary. She would like to spend time with me, talk with me, but she would prefer that I find support for times when PTSD is difficult, in other people. She feels ill-equipped to fill that role. She asked if I was okay with that. I said I was. People fill all sorts of roles in the lives of their friends. She's my "chat and go to lunch" friend. I told Holly I didn't need more support people for when PTSD was difficult. I had plenty of those in my life.

And that was a lie which was completely unfair because she had been honest with me. But I couldn't bring myself to say, "Well, I hoped you might be a person I could talk to when I felt sad, but I understand where you're coming from and it's okay." I knew if I said that she'd feel guilty and I might end up losing what friendship I have with her. I don't want that.

In addition to that, there is a part of me that feels very happy that she was honest, she told me something that was probably difficult for her to say, and she let me know exactly where I stand with her. She did this BEFORE I looked to her for support which is so much better than having someone in your life you believe can be of support, but who really isn't in a place, emotionally, where they can provide it. The result of this is that the person disappears when you desperately need a bit of reassurance. And Holly didn't skirt the issue. She knows people with PTSD can be needy. She let me know that my needs must be filled elsewhere.

Naturally, I  feel some embarrassment and disappointment. No one likes to have someone they like and admire say, in essence, "You have the potential to be needy and when that happens, I'd like you to go elsewhere." It sucks. But it also lets me know exactly where I stand in our friendship. And it's what I need to hear. I don't have to guess. I don't feel uncertain or insecure. And I won't make a mistake and try to talk to her when I need someone to help me through a time when PTSD issues are overwhelming.

The timing of all this was very bad. My huge family was here this weekend. They were civil, even cordial, so it's not like I had a horrible experience with them. But I felt stressed, and hearing the words from Holly (while I absolutely appreciate her honesty), at the same time was not easy. But I'm beginning to believe that for me, good timing doesn't really exist, so it would be well for me to learn to roll with the punches.

I'm also understanding that it might be a good idea to figure out what I'm looking for when I seek out friends. I didn't realise until Holly bowed out, that I actually was looking for a friend to support me when I lacked strength to manage PTSD on my own. Probably it's best not to have that ulterior motive when I seek social interaction.

Still, I have to give myself props for attempting real life. I don't love looking for friends. It's sort of like dating with no end game involved, and I don't like it. But I'm doing it. Yay, me.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Thinking has its place, but at some point it becomes a means of avoiding our lives instead of living them." ~Philip Simmons

I'm not going to talk in depth about the things on my mind, but I want to put them here.

1. Flu shot reactions, wildly fluctuating blood pressure, and medication.

I noticed about a month ago that I was waking at night, around 2 a.m., with stomach distress. It was an odd burning sensation that circled the outside of my stomach, rather than nausea or heartburn. I don't know how else to describe is. The burning then morphed into a pinching sensation. It was very strange and kept me awake for hours. In addition to this, it was not uncommon for me to be walking and suddenly feel faint. This usually happened in the late afternoon and as one of my kids were often with me, it freaked them out. They kept nagging me to go to a doctor. If I sat down, drank some water or breathed deeply, the dizziness would usually pass within ten minutes and I felt fine.

Between the two above symptoms, however, I started feeling miserable, so I began a process of elimination to figure out what was causing them. I finally narrowed it down to the medication I was prescribed to regulate my blood pressure after the flu vaccine sent it careening wildly up and down. I stopped taking the medication. The next day I felt better--in every way. Four days later I felt like a new person. I scheduled a doctor visit last week to make sure I wasn't being stupid.

When I described my symptoms to my doctor, he told me that fewer than 1% of patients had similar side-effects (not a big surprise to me--medicine and I do not agree most of the time). I also mentioned that since I'd stopped the medication, my difficulty with PTSD had all but disappeared. My doctor did a double-take, apologized to me, and said that in the rush to stabilize my blood pressure (which was bouncing between 225/115 and 80/55), he had forgotten I have an "emotional disorder". Apparently, the prescribed drug is not a good fit for people who have PTSD, and has the effect of exaggerating symptoms, often to the point of causing suicidal depression. Awesome.

So Doctor checked my blood pressure, which is normal, and said, "I think you need to stay off meds for now. We'll monitor you. You might need medication for something after a decade or two, but your blood tests don't indicate a predisposition to...well...anything, really. You're probably the healthiest person I'll see this year."

So I went home, called Tolkien Boy, apologized for being a beast for the past seven months, explained what had happened and suggested that we still be friends. He said okay. Next week I'll apologize to my kids. Hopefully, they'll let me keep being their mother. Then I'll apologize to Darrin and ask if we can keep being married. Life with me is never boring, but sometimes it's less than delightful.

2. Living without being consumed by irrational thoughts and feelings.

As I've not done this for seven months, I have to admit that I'm not quite sure how to handle the LACK of stress. That sounds weird.

Part of the problem is that when I'm overwhelmed by PTSD symptoms, there are many negatives (fear, insecurity, emotional pain, being certain that something bad is going to happen or that I will be abandoned by those I love, feeling worthless, not wanting to live...), but paired with that is an intensity of feeling that includes love and attachment. In short, I feel a greater depth of love and connection, but those "connection" times keep being interrupted by the less positive symptoms. The disconnect causes an increase in irrational thought--but when someone reassures me or talks with me, I feel an even greater intensity of love and connection...You can see why this cycle is unhealthy and difficult to manage, right?

If you can't, probably you don't have PTSD or any related disorder, nor do you know anyone who lives with those conditions. Or you are inordinately logical and all this sounds like a bunch of hooey--and maybe it is.

Regardless, now that the meds that were causing the problems are gone, I'm left feeling level and lucid, which is wonderful, but also not particularly in love with anyone right now. I'm guessing that's because I'm emotionally exhausted, having ridden the emotional roller coaster of the past seven months and trying constantly to manage the ups and downs without losing my mind. But no matter the cause, I'm still not really excited about people, in general. This is not the PTSD symptom that makes me run away and hide, it's just a lack of delight when someone appears in my chat box or sends me a message through email or Facebook. And even though I still make phone calls and chat with people, I keep thinking that I really have nothing to say and feel no compulsion to connect with anyone. I feel like I need a huge break from affection of any kind--which also means that hugging--cuddling--any physical expression of love, does not appeal to me.

I've thought about trying to decide what all this means. I've wondered how to handle it diplomatically, since I live with four people who expect me to hug them and one who enjoys having sex with me. But to be honest, I spent a great deal of time during the past seven months thinking of how to manage the drug-induced turmoil inside of me, and quite frankly, I'm tired of thinking about how to be a normal person.

So if I lack enthusiasm when contacted, please don't take it personally. It's not you. It's me. I'm completely worn out, emotionally, and I just don't have the stamina to pretend to enjoy human interaction--which doesn't mean I don't want it (well, I would want it if I had the energy). It just means that I'll be so much more delightful after about two months of recovery.

And now I'm done thinking about this. I'm going to go run, sit in a jacuzzi and stretch my silly, spastic muscles, work online, make lesson plans, decide what treats to make for an upcoming party I'm obligated to attend, and read something beautifully written, non-emotional, and fun.

The End.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"We learned a lot, and lost a lot of sleep." ~Mabel Smith

A few days ago Adam borrowed the scan/fax program on my computer for some documents he needed to send to school. When he closed the program he didn't leave my computer. Instead, I heard him say, "Uh...Mom...what IS this?"

"This" was a page I'd left open. Classwork from a Calc II class I've been taking this summer. And there were tabs from a genetics and a writing class I'd left open, as well. I explained that I get bored sometimes so I take online classes. Adam said, "Mom, this is what we've been talking about."

I had no idea what that meant, so he explained: "You do things, or things happen to you and you never tell anyone. Don't you think we should know you're taking online classes?"

I said, no. I had no reason to believe anyone would be interested in that. Besides, I'm a little embarrassed that I get bored and fill my time with geekdom, and I'm not excited to share that with my kids. Adam said, "Is this what you do when you can't sleep?"

He's not stupid. I suppose I could work then, but when everyone's sleeping and I can't, working seems to add insult to injury. I'd rather do something interesting that I enjoy. Adam said, "Genetics and creative writing I understand. Those are kind of cool. But--calculus?"

I like it. I always have. And I feel no compulsion to explain myself to my son who has the luxury of being able to sleep for hours at a time. So I didn't.

But here I am, doing my calculus assignments, reading about gene dominance, and thinking about what I'll write next, and beneath it all I'm wondering if I'll ever get to sleep tonight. So I think I might do something different. I have a book about fairies waiting for me to finish it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Junk Mail

I have a bazillion different email addresses. And I have a perfectly logical explanation for why each exists. However, last year when my life became insane, I stopped deleting and organizing regularly, and one of my mailboxes became very, very full. This morning I had 7421 unread messages.

This particular email address is the one I give to people who regularly forward doomsday warnings, recipes, family newsletters, and funny sites. I don't really have time for those and I definitely don't want the emails clogging my work inbox. I call this my "junk" email address and try not to remember that it's the only one I give to my family members.

So today I spent time cleaning up. I am currently down to 4690 messages.

I realized, after spending an hour scanning them, that if the messages are a year old and I haven't read them and no one's followed up or tried to contact me about them, I don't need to scan--I can just delete them. After that wise thought, the clean-up process has become quick and easy. Unfortunately, this particular email system does not allow me to delete more than 100 messages at a time, so I might be doing this for awhile.

I think, when I've had time to sort through the things I've stored in my head, I will need to do the same thing with some baggage that's been hanging around for more than a year. That might take a little longer than clicking on a box and hitting delete, but the long-term benefits will be necessary and helpful.

Last year was traumatic. When I experience trauma, one of the most devastating effects is loss of self. I'm not talking about self-worth. I actually begin to lose my sense of who I am. I forget the things I can do. I don't sleep. I lose all that is magic.

The past 10 months I have spent trying to regain that sense of self. It hasn't been easy, and if you're close to me, probably it took a toll on our relationship. When I'm doing self-definition crap, usually it means I question everything and everyone and trust is non-existent. And I'm not finished. I've been regaining strength and vitality, remembering the things I love, and testing limits in relationships--now I'm ready to rebuild.

Letting go of things I no longer need, even when they've been helpful, is part of rebuilding. Recognizing losses will be a part of that, as will learning to value gains--which will be the last step. It's intimidating, and unlike my email purge, there are no shortcuts. But I need to do this and I need to do it now.

I chose not to plant my flower/herb/tomato garden again this year. The Big Guy didn't send any miracle flowers to bail me out this time, but I'm okay with that. There is something about walking by my front garden, noticing last year's old canes and dried debris that has not been cleared out, and telling myself it's okay--I needed to take a break--that feels calming and important. It also allows me to recognize that the opportunity to plant is not gone; it will come again next year and the year after that...

As with my garden, I'm allowing time for other things that I would normally take care of immediately. It feels reassuring to know that I don't have to hurry, and while some things might be late or not get done at all, it's more important for me to take care of my internal health right now.

The next three weeks will be busy as I prepare to teach my class and private students, and Darrin, the kids, and I try to coordinate schedules and cars and time together.

I suppose the purpose of this post is to allow me to record that I'm giving myself time to become Samantha again. I'm allowing myself to not be powerful and perfect all the time. I'm remembering that while I AM very strong, I'm also vulnerable in many ways. I have a great deal of energy, but sometimes I need to rest. I know many things, but the most important are yet to be learned. I love with abandon, but I need to learn how to trust those I love (a learning process from which I recoil repeatedly).

And after all that I've written, I find myself toying with the idea of buying all the clearance flowers I can find, cleaning out the dead stuff in my garden, and filling it with the flowers just because I miss them. Probably that means I'm sort of hopeless when it comes to learning life lessons that are good for me, but I prefer to believe it just means I love flowers.