Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, October 9, 2015

Natural Selection

I am addressing the decision to adapt or face extinction. People do it everyday without even knowing it's happening. My awareness of it comes simply because I'm too tired to make the decision naturally and gracefully. It requires Herculean effort to adapt as I demolish the dams that keep me comfortably stagnant, and doing so brings me no joy or excitement.

There is, however, something to be said about grim determination. My daughter has told me that state of being has never applied to me. Even when my hip was grinding against the socket and I was insisting that I continue my nauseating trips to the gym for my morning run on the elliptical, she said I did so with energy and delight. Probably that's because she didn't witness the mid-run, pain-induced vomiting sessions.

However, I've been feeling ever more grim since August of last year. I was assigned to teach two classes during the 2014 fall semester which effectively sucked all the joy out of teaching - to the point that I was, with the utmost finality, telling people that I was finished. I would not teach again.

In addition, I was asked to make a formal report concerning being raped, and was required to repeat my story more than once. This experience brought me more anxiety than I have experienced thus far in my life, and caused me to discover that what I thought was completely healed was simply lightly scabbed, requiring only the tiniest friction for the bleeding to begin again.

I suppose that was the most jarring discovery. And in spite of my efforts to circumvent them, all sorts of unhealthy coping devices presented themselves to help me meander through the resulting mess. In May I discovered I had a tooth abscess. My dentist told me it had probably been there for at least a month and asked why I hadn't come in sooner. The answer was simple. I didn't feel it. Which brought about the appalling discovery that I wasn't feeling any pain at all. That was the final straw, I suppose. Two or three years prior, I had worked so hard to learn how to feel pain. The process had been frightening and miserable, but I did it. To understand that anxiety and stress could undo my work made me feel exhausted and defeated.

Of course, I was told by people who care about me that I could fix this. I knew how. I was strong. This wasn't permanent.

It made me want to punch them all. Perhaps more than once. I didn't understand my knee-jerk reaction to what I should have felt was supportive. I kept telling myself to be grateful for their confidence in me. Then I wanted to punch them all one more time.

About two weeks ago I finally understood where the feelings were coming from. I didn't want them to have confidence in my ability to fix myself. I didn't want to hear, "I know you can do this." I wanted to hear, "We'll do this together."

There's something about knowing someone will walk with you and hold you up as you work through something that requires all your concentration and effort just to move forward an inch. But Therapist was telling me I didn't need him anymore. He was a sounding board, he said, but I was doing all the work myself. I'm certain that what he meant was, "Sam, you're amazing. Look how far you've come and look at what you're doing now! Congratulations!" What I heard was, "You're on your own. Best of luck to you. Let me know how things turn out. If you remember."

I was hearing similar messages from people, including Darrin, who had previously lent me the confidence to feel I could attempt anything because if I failed, they would be there to help me pick up the pieces. Now it felt like I would disintegrate and rather than having someone giving aid as I put myself together, I would have a distant cheering section applauding as I lay helpless, urging me to get up and do something while I bled to death.

That was what I heard. There is no doubt that the intention behind their words was something completely different. And the result is that my sense of loneliness and isolation increased to the point that I felt completely immobile and incapable of changing anything about my situation.

Well-meaning people inquired as to whether I was doing better. At first I tried to express what was happening, but I didn't have the words and I was already anticipating the negative response I might receive. Eventually, I just said things were going really well. As they had promised I could feel pain again (yay), and I was rallying, blah, blah, blah. Lies, of course.

One can only do that for so long before the truth makes itself known. Two weeks ago my husband pointed out a raised bruise as large as my fist just above my knee and asked what happened. I didn't know. About the same time, Tabitha watched me remove a sheet of cookies from the oven without potholders. Alarmed, she asked if I was okay. I had no idea what she was talking about until she turned on the cold water and pulled my blistering hands beneath the stream. Then I remembered I'm supposed to use pot holders when I do that.

So today I'm admitting that the work I've done since May has been ineffectual. I remain feeling isolated. And I'm still very, very tired. My stress level has increased to the point that my blood pressure is unmanageable even with my medication, I have no health insurance to get an evaluation and change the medication, and given that we're living on one salary (mine) right now, it is not in the budget to pay for such a visit.

On top of this, I am battling untrue beliefs that feel thoroughly real. I should know that Therapist would help me at any time, but the untrue belief that I'm buying into says that he doesn't really want to work with me anymore. It's been more than a decade. Any sane person would be fixed by now. He's tired of me, of my relapses, of my inability to get better. He wants me to go away.

Similar feelings permeate all my current relationships, sapping me of the strength to work on and build those relationships, and robbing me of the joy I used to feel within those. The result, of course, is that my ability to respond with appropriate emotion, to bond, to express deep feeling - all those have become muted to the point that I'm uncertain they're even whispering anymore.

So what is left is grim determination. It allows me to continue to interact with people when my brain says I should - to answer appropriately when they speak or text or email - to "Like" or respond to a Facebook post, or post a link, article or video on someone else's timeline. I'm listening to my brain because my heart is telling me to get the hell out of Dodge.

And I'm laughing as I write this: At this juncture, I really need you to love me for my brain. It's pretty much all I have left.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” ~Jane Austin

A couple of years ago I noticed that my support base was shrinking. This was not unexpected. Indeed, I saw it coming even before the support base was established. It was one reason I hesitated to accept help from people in the beginning. But then I thought maybe it would be good for me to learn to trust people. Therapist helped me by assigning projects that would cause me to bond with them. I never did learn to trust all the way, but there were days when I felt certain I could trust some of the people in my life. That feeling didn't ever stay, but it was nice when it was there.

When those closest to me became more intricately involved in their own lives, it became necessary for them to stop being with me as often. This was part of the plan. I fully expected that as I continued with therapy my need for support would decrease. The timing of that would, of course, coincide with my support base's need to move their attention away from me. But life rarely follows my plans.

What I didn't know was that I would have a number of hurdles that would impede my therapeutic processes. I didn't know that while I would, indeed, grow stronger, my life would become more unmanageable and stressful. So as expected, the support people grew away from me, but I needed them even more. This is no one's fault. It's just what happened.

I spoke to Therapist about this a year ago. I was feeling desperately alone and there seemed to be no one left to turn to. There was a great deal of silence when I reached out to people. Therapist asked, "Does the silence feel like abandonment?" I thought about it for a moment. "No," I said, "It feels punitive." Therapist said, "Do you think that's the intent of your support people?"

Of course it's not. Certainly, if I asked about it, everyone in my life would simply let me know they got busy or were just not able to talk to me when asked - for many different reasons. And it would all be logical and true. Which does not change the fact that it feels like I'm being punished and I don't know what I did wrong.

In my head I hear people reminding me that I'm allowed to contact them if I need to talk. I weigh that against the silence. Silence speaks louder.

Therapist asked me what my support people might say if I told them the lack of response feels punitive. I waited a moment, pretending to think. I knew what I was supposed to say. Finally, I said it, "No doubt they would feel badly that our timing didn't match. They'd try to make time for me later. They would be reassuring about caring for me."

That was kind of the end of it.

Except not really. Because I don't believe anything I said in that last part. I mean, I believe it would happen, but I also believe that the reassurance would stem from feeling awkward because I asked the forbidden question. You're not supposed to ask why people disappear. You're just supposed to accept that it's happening, stop feeling sorry for yourself, buck up and ignore the PTSD. It's not nice to be intrusive. It's not allowed to ask people where they have gone. Because if they've become scarce, there is a very good reason for it. They'll tell you all the good reasons if you overstep the bounds of propriety and actually ask.

What I hear, though, is this, "Sam, you used to be important to me (or entertaining or somewhat interesting). So we pretended to be close. You told me things about your life, and I shared things about mine. But now my life is changing and I really don't want to share with you anymore. So I'm busy. Really busy. And sometimes I think about you, but then I get busy again. You understand, right?"

I do, yes.

And it feels punitive, I suppose, because somewhere along the line I did something wrong. That's how it worked when I was growing up. If you're "good," the people in charge will be nice and care about you a little bit. And if you're not, probably they don't have time for you anymore. They're busy.

Therapist would tell me the support people in my life are not "in charge." He would say they really aren't in the business of emotional blackmail, and probably the last thing they intend is for me to feel that they're punishing me. But this is a sticking point for me. It's why I've never before cultivated close relationships. I understand that I'm broken. I know that I'm wrong. I also do not know how to stop feeling the way that I do about this situation.

And the weirdest thing is that there is a very large part of me that is really happy that they're busy being in love, and having families, and working, and living their lives. I want that for them. I support that with all my energy. But somewhere in the background is a tiny bit of Samantha who wonders why she's in time out, while at the same time understanding that she's completely wrong about that.

I'm sort of tired of being wrong. I'm really tired of feeling anything. And I have a great deal of work to do before Monday. It's good to be busy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sometimes there are just really bad days.