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Monday, February 17, 2014

I am ridiculous

I'm going to get a new hip.

This is a good thing. I've been in incredible pain for the past two years as the cartilage in my hip has disintegrated and the bones have deteriorated. The pain has increased until walking is an Olympic event for me and lying in bed at night brings nothing but misery. Bone scrapes on bone as tiny cysts form and burst, bringing their own form of exquisite sensation.

This is a good thing. The pain will be relieved and there's a good chance I'll be able to walk without limping for the first time in a few years.

I've been told not to run. Running will decrease the lifetime of my hip replacement and increase my chances of dislocation.

My doctors say it's not a big deal. I can ride a bicycle or swim--infinitely superior forms of exercise anyway.

My doctors have never survived rape. They don't live daily with PTSD. They don't understand the psychological significance running has for me. I've mentioned it to a few people, but I've never written it here--because it's silly:

When I run, I feel powerful and in control. No one can hurt me. I'll just run away from them. I'm not particularly fast, but I can run for a long, long time. Eventually, whomever wants to hurt me will get tired and stop chasing me. Running will keep me safe.

Do I know that's untrue? Yes. Do I understand that if I was truly a target for someone who wished to hurt me, chances are, running wouldn't really help? Yes. I completely understand that. But still, in my heart, I believe running will keep me safe. And somehow, when I think in my head, "I'll just jump on my bike and get away, should someone try to harm me," or "I'll just find a pool and swim really, really fast and the person who wants to hurt me will stay away because...he doesn't want to get wet...yeah...that's it..." Those thoughts just don't have the same protective impact as the running away thought does.

My surgeon says I'll feel better when I have my new hip. He says things will go well and he's happy I'm healthy, young, strong--unusual for him when it comes to hip replacement patients. He also says I get to choose how long I keep this particular hip. It will have to be replaced again, as the life of it is between 20 and 30 years for a sedentary person, and about 15 years for a moderately active person. Surgeon judges me to be more than moderately active, and suggests we shoot for at least 7-10 years on this particular hip. He says can't recommend running, but he knows some people do run on a hip replacement. He says I need to choose what activities will keep my quality of life optimal--but also says that if I choose to run, I shouldn't tell him about it.

I like my surgeon.

Getting my hip replaced is a good thing.

Tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., I will get in my car, drive three hours to the hospital, and by the afternoon, the procedure will be finished.

But today I keep crying about it. I'm the world's worst coward. I should be thinking of all the ways my life will be better--instead I'm thinking about how I really like my poor old hip and I'm sad that the surgeon is going to cut out my bones and take them away from me. I should be looking forward to less pain--but I'm thinking about the difficulty of physical therapy and remembering that I'm already tired and I don't want to do therapy again. I should be thinking about how, in a few weeks, I'll be able to sleep for more than an hour at a time at night--instead I'm worried about missing work because I'll be away from home for three days.

And did I mention that I'm kind of terrified about all this?

I need to stop being ridiculous.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"We experience moments absolutely free from worry. These brief respites are called panic." ~Cullen Hightower

I'm an early riser. This doesn't mean I'm a morning person--just that I get up early. I can also stay up late with no problem. I've been known to stay up all night, grab a 2-3 hour nap in the morning, and have no problem with my sleep needs. I'm what's known as a "short sleeper". I have a genetic anomaly which actually causes me a great deal of misery if I get too much sleep. A sleep-in, for me, means my day will be pretty awful.

What this amounts to is a lot of alone time, something I usually enjoy. This morning, however, I awoke to continuous panic. A friend told me last night that I could call today--and I almost did. Then I remembered it was 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and there's also a one hour time difference which would make his time only 4 a.m. I decided no one loves me enough to field a panicked phone call at that time of day and put my phone away.

Panic makes me feel like screaming--and running. Especially when I don't know the source of it. I did neither. I worked steadily for about three hours, then I went to the gym. Usually this alleviates most of the panic, but today it hasn't put a dent in it. Darrin says it's understandable. I'm having hard, crunchy parts of my body cut out in three days. No one would feel especially relaxed about that. It was nice to have him sympathize. It would be nicer if he had stayed awake to talk me down. To his credit, he tried. But at this moment, he is snoring on the couch and has been in that position for an hour now.

Darrin took me to lunch yesterday for our anniversary/Valentine's Day. After years of coming home, exhausted by crowds and wishing we'd just stayed in and cuddled, we've learned to celebrate lightly on the day of, and do something romantic on a different evening when most couples are not vying for the same restaurant table, or theater tickets, that we want.

Valentine's Day, however, has always been a day I've loved. I've never ascribed it to romance, but rather, a special day to let people I care about know that they're important to me. I think this is because, growing up, Valentine's Day was the only day of the year my parents (mostly my mom) acknowledged that they loved me. I got a lovely card and sometimes a treat, and my mom made special once-a-year Valentine cookies. I loved them so much I had them served at my wedding. I suppose, for one day annually, I felt like I was loved--wanted--by my family.

So I made sure that others in my life knew of my love for them on Valentine's Day. I know many people despise the holiday. I understand why. I can't allow their negative experiences to change my feelings about a day of love for other people. I've always sent cards and chocolate (and sometimes those favorite cookies) to various people. One year my kids helped me make the cookies and we took them to several people in our neighborhood. No one understands the importance of the holiday to me--but I do, and I never want anyone in my life to doubt that I love them. I use the holiday to make sure they know.

Except this year I didn't. I've had so many consultations with doctors and surgeons and medical test people. And I've been trying to put in extra hours at work because I'll miss some time while I'm recovering from surgery. I'm scared, too. Probably that's stupid, but I am anyway.

I wish I'd been able to celebrate Valentine's Day as I wanted to.

I also think I want one of those chicken enchilada Subway sandwiches.

And I'd like to stop panicking. That would be good.

Friday, February 14, 2014


A long time ago I was chatting with Tolkien Boy. I was telling him something--I don't remember what--but he stopped me and said, "It sounds like you're saying good-bye." This was an old theme. I was always threatening to go away, not from a place of emotional manipulation, but because staying in any close relationship made me feel stressed and frustrated. So it was not unusual for me to take breaks, or disappear for a few days, or discuss the possibility of not being a permanent person. Honestly, I'm still a little puzzled as to why TB is still around at all.

But I've come to a number of realizations since that time and I think I'll share here, a tiny bit of what I learned.

I was saying good-bye. Not in the way TB meant, but definitely bidding a farewell of sorts.

You see, many times I have ideas and wishes which involve another person. Those are deeply felt and, I believe, sweet and good. However, they belong to me, and not to us. In truth, there really is no "us". When reality would hit and I would look at one of those things in my head or heart, and recognize that the wish was not shared by the other person involved, it was difficult for me.

I assume this type of thing takes place in adolescence and teenhood, when most people learn about feelings and reality. I did some of that as a teen, but I was also very separate from the effect of feelings. When a friendship or romance went badly, it was easy for me to look at it logically, briefly feel sad, and move on--effectively circumventing the natural process of grieving.

What I'm talking about now is different, of course, but I don't believe it's abnormal to wish to spend time with loved ones, regardless of whether or not those loved ones are platonic or romantic. And I don't believe it's unusual to have expectations or wishes within those same relationships that are not shared by both participants.

There was never anything profound about the things I wanted. Those wishes were small, insignificant, and to mention them would be silly. But in my heart, they had deep meaning, connections only I could understand, and were deeply rooted in the desperate needs I developed a long time ago.

So I was saying good-bye. Not to Tolkien Boy or anyone else. Not to my relationships or chat times or hopes for continued sociality. I was saying good-bye to those tiny little things I wanted; things that would make me whole but which I had no right to ask. I was understanding that who I have become will always be broken in some ways and I cannot ask well-meaning, kind friends to help me mend.

It's a difficult process--coming to such an understanding and letting go of the desperate hope that has always existed, but has never been acknowledged. I still do it. I have piles of such wishes and dreams inside of me. Slowly, very slowly, I have let them go and accepted the hole left behind. It's okay to be broken. One can still love and be loved. Life continues, relentlessly passing, and I can choose to hide behind the piles of all the wished-for things, or I can grieve the loss and take life as it comes.

I'm getting better at recognizing what's happening when one of those tiny needs and wishes dies; when I recognize that I have no right to ask anything of anyone when it benefits only me; when I assume there is an "us" when there is not. I'm getting better at not expressing the good-bye because it only serves to confuse whomever might be with me in the moment. I'm getting better at moving on.

But the cost seems to be that I am less hopeful, less brilliant, more willing to accept that life cannot become better and other people cannot help. I am saying good-bye but I'm not going away. I need to think about this a little bit more, because I don't really know how I feel about it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why I Don't Take Pain Killers, and other stories

Actually, there probably won't be any other stories.

I'm not talking about OTC pain relief. Sometimes I take those--except for ibuprofen, because I'm allergic to it. I'm talking about prescription pain drugs. I try not to take those.

But my current surgeon/doctor has asked me to take Percocet (oxycodone) during the night until my surgery so that I can sleep better. He believes I'll heal faster and be able to manage PTSD more productively if I'm not sleep deprived. I tried to tell him it's difficult for me to become sleep deprived. He said he wouldn't insist, but he wanted me to take the pills at night if I could.

So I have been. For about 10 days now.

Here's what happens when I take oxycodone:

1. It makes me sleepy, but doesn't necessarily make me sleep. It's possible for me to wake myself up and stay awake, even if I seem a little woozy.

2. It doesn't really affect my pain level, but the pain seems inconsequential. It's still there, I just don't care about it.

3. The pills do affect my emotional state. They remove all the built up stress and panic and I feel very relaxed and a great deal of relief. And that's the problem.

Anyone who has experienced problems with chronic stress/panic understands that when those things are gone, however briefly, the feeling of relief is overwhelming. For me, that relaxation of tension in my guts is the best feeling in the world. I want it badly. In fact, I want it so much that when I identify a source of that release, I've been known to do just about anything I can to get my "fix" as often as possible. Physical contact from certain people in my life gives me that relief. With those unfortunate individuals I become a cuddle whore. I have to monitor my actions when I'm with them so they don't feel smothered or aggravated by my need for touch, which in turn causes me so much stress that I find myself wishing they were far away so I could stop wanting to be next to them. Catch-22.

So when I find the source of my "fix" in the form of a pill--something that can't be aggravated or annoyed by my need to ingest it--well, that creates a new problem.

As mentioned above, I've been taking oxycodone for about 10 days. At this point, my entire day is spent waiting for the time when I can take a couple of pills and go to bed. Yup. That's all I want. I don't want to talk to people, or work, or practice the piano, or read--I just want to take a pill.

Once I take the pills, I sleep off the initial drowsiness (about an hour), then I wake myself up and enjoy the sensation of not having a panic attack. I usually do this for 3-4 hours (so much for getting a good night's sleep). When the pills start wearing off, I'll allow myself to sleep for 2-3 hours. Then I get up--because that means it's day and when night comes again, I get to take more "medicine."

It's plenty embarrassing to admit that I have a propensity for addiction. I'm willing to shoulder the embarrassment and be honest about what's happening to me. I told Darrin this morning. I'll probably talk with Therapist before Friday. Oversight is good.

The thought of discontinuing the pain meds makes me weep a little. When you spend most of your life so stressed that it feels normal, to find relief from that is heavenly. But I'm not stupid. While spending the rest of my life popping pain killers actually sounds like a really great idea right now, I know it's not.

Okay. Complete honesty: The thought of going without the oxycodone is completely overwhelming and it has nothing to do with pain management. Probably it's time to stop.

There are times when I really hate the fact that I have PTSD and all it's accompanying delights. It sucks.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Retiring My Wonder Woman Status

I have always been strong. Often it got me into trouble.

Age six: I live in Ogden, UT. We have a very large tree in our front yard, with a thick branch extending straight out from the middle. My father, because safety has never really been something he thinks about regularly (yes, it's a miracle I'm still alive), rigs a long rope with a 10-inch dowel attached at the bottom (so we could sit or hang from it) from a much higher branch, and we stand on the lateral branch and leap off.

I loved the swing. I don't believe I ever sat on it, but I learned all sorts of rope tricks during gym time at school. I could climb the rope and ring the bell. I could straighten my body upwards while hanging upside-down, I could wrap the rope several times around my thigh and hang from the rope, no-handed, upside-down (no, this was not sanctioned by the gym teacher). And the beautiful thing was that those last two tricks translated well on our homemade swing. There was nothing more amazing than hanging upside-down and swinging.

My older sister wasn't as flexible or daring as I was, but she could climb. So one day she climbed the tree as high as she felt safe--then dared me to climb higher. So I did (one does not think these things through at six years of age). And I got really, really high. It was amazing. And then I tried to climb down. Turns out up is easier than down.

I couldn't do it. My mother tried to have my older sister climb up and show me where the footholds were to get down. She couldn't quite get high enough, and every time she would get close, I would scream at her to get away. Yeah, I'm cooperative. My mom said I'd have to stay up there forever. I pondered. At the moment, it didn't seem a bad plan. I was comfortable. There was a fork in the branches where I could straddle the branches and sleep (nope, didn't think about falling out while I was asleep--remember--six years old). My mom said they'd have to tie my meals to the swing and toss them up to me. I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard.

My mom gave up and called the fire department. In a minute or two, a hook-and-ladder truck was in front of my house and a fireman was helping me out of the tree. Once I was off the branch, I was ready to see how fast I could go down the ladder and I was very put out at the fireman who insisted on descending before me and showing me how to put my feet carefully on the next rung. I said, "I know how to go down a ladder." He said, "I'm sure you do. Now, carefully lower your foot to the next rung and don't move your hands until both feet are on the same rung." It took forever.

So one could analyze this story and say I was reckless--but I was six. I'm cutting myself some slack. However, that same driven, recklessness has been a part of who I am for all my life. And the physical strength I enjoyed as a six-year-old, has been present, as well. I'm small but compact. I spent a good part of my life hauling hay, driving tractors, feeding livestock, moving hand irrigation, fixing fence, and doing whatever heavy, dirty job needed to be done.

I've also dealt with some pretty hefty emotional crap, and I think, given my age and the circumstances, I was fairly strong then, too.

My kids have always jokingly referred to me as "Wonder Woman". I've always assumed it was because I spend my day in a glittery bustier/blue underwear combo, complete with awesome high-heeled boots, but they say it's because I've always been able to do whatever I wanted, physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don't actually know if this is true, because I haven't told them when I failed miserably (or I took some time and flew away in my invisible plane until I could put on a happy face about everything). It also could have something to do with the fact that I always knew when they were lying--they believe my lasso of truth was cluing me in. I've told them that's just a mom thing. They don't believe me.

I'm not strong anymore.

The past four years, dealing with a suicidal daughter, learning of her abuse by my own brother, having to place her in a treatment facility--these things have robbed me of my emotional resilience.

The physical problems I've had in the past four years--four surgeries for various reasons, deterioration of bone and cartilage in my hip, increasingly intense pain--these things have gradually robbed me of my physical strength.

The past four years of declining ability to use physical activity to deal with stress and manage PTSD, being emotionally overwhelmed, feeling panicked all the time--these things have robbed me of my mental stamina.

Tabitha is home now and doing well. I've put a plan in place for when my family is unsupportive or unbelieving about the abuse she has suffered--and I've stuck with the plan for nearly a year now. I'm getting surgery which won't restore me to my original state, but will relieve pain and allow me movement again. I'm doing things to put my brain back together, learning new ways to manage PTSD, and learning how to find small bits of hope for the future.

But for now, I'm hanging up my Wonder Woman title. While I'll miss the ultra-comfy clothing and footgear, I need to stop trying to be something I'm not. At this point in my life, loading the dishwasher, making my bed, and vacuuming are challenging for me. I'm just not up to making the world a better place.

I'll be renting out my lasso and invisible plane. You're free to take them for a test drive. If you can see them.