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Friday, November 9, 2018

Today is a rock bottom day. You know when you get to the place when even crying feels like too much of an effort? I'm there.

The job is still good. I like it. It allows me to recover from last year. And it has good benefits. And DJ works there, too, now.

But my other hip needs to be replaced. I'm really trying not to let this be huge.

It's huge.

And it makes me super depressed.

DJ keeps reminding me that the pain will stop when the hip is replaced. I remember that from last time. But I also remember how long it took to recover. And I remember how depressed I became.

And I just got my running stride back. I love it so much. And it's going to go away. Soon.

I'm trying. I want to make certain I write that. I've been continuing to try to work on therapy stuff and things that will keep me healthy emotionally. I'm trying.

It's just that there's so much that keeps pulling at me.

My dad is dying very slowly. But also, he could go at any time. Congestive heart failure. Arrythmia. Organs failing. Inability to eat leading to extreme weight loss. Calcium deficiency. He's dying.

My mom is is denial. She insists my dad will get better. She says she does not have dementia. She's very upset that we've asked her to stop driving (after two major accidents caused by her).

My siblings have stepped up and are helping all they can. That's a good thing.

There are many good things. My father-in-law is leaving on Sunday for an extended vacation. And when he comes back, we'll be selling the house and parting ways. That is an incredibly wonderful thing.

Fall has been lovely.

I'm not sick.

I'm not teaching school in a place where I'm not allowed to teach.

The summer from hell is over.

The air is still breathable.

We had some positive results in our mid-term elections.

But still, today is pretty difficult. Tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

I have a new job. It's good.

I'm finally well enough to use running as an effective tool to manage PTSD again. What that means is, when I run, I don't end up exhausted and comatose. And there are endorphins. And I have energy.

I've also realized that I'm in that stupid place where I don't know who I am anymore. This is only in relationship to other people. Inside, I know who I am. I have a very strong sense of self. But when it comes to other people, I have no idea at all.

Touch is problematic again. Because I want it, but I also keep being attacked by the belief that other people are repelled by my touch, and perhaps by me, too. It's a weird phenomenon. I want to touch you, but I REALLY do not want you to recoil or rebuff me. Therefore, I'll just smile instead.

I don't believe this is new. I think caring about it is. Ten years ago, I didn't care. If I wanted to hug you, I did. If you didn't like it, too bad. If I wanted to touch your arm, your hand, even bestow a very brief kiss, I did. And I laughed if I thought someone didn't like it because it didn't matter to me.

It matters now. Maybe I've become more real.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I stopped writing. Real writing. I mean, you have to write stuff at work-- lesson plans, email, shopping lists. But all the things I've been doing here for more than a decade, I stopped. I wanted to understand why I kept coming back. I wanted to know if it was helpful, or cathartic, or just a place for me to be moody and brooding and maudlin.

Also, I got to a place where functioning at all was nearly more than I could manage.

It's not easy to teach 500 students weekly when you're tapped out. I did it, but probably not very well. And there was this weird social need to make sure no one really knew how badly I was doing. It wasn't pride. It felt like, if anyone knew, that would be the end. I'd give up. As long as other people thought I was doing okay, I would be.

But I would look in the mirror and not recognize the person at all. And I lost so much hair because of the stress of being ill and trying to be okay. I would pull my hair back in a ponytail to go to the gym (because why would I stop trying to keep running when I had no energy?) but the ties had to be looped again and again; the small ones I had bought because they would only have to be looped once when I was healthy and had hair.

One day, my nose began bleeding. I'd had small bleeds in the preceding days, but this one didn't want to stop. For three hours. The blood was going down my throat even as I leaned over the sink. I was vomiting it up. I guess stomachs don't really like to have blood in them. And it was filling up my sinuses and ear canals. So Darrin took me to an urgent care clinic which sent me to the ER where they shoved six inches of dry packing up my nose because they said they couldn't cauterize it.

I tried to laugh it off. I told jokes about it. But it wasn't funny. I mean, it probably was, but the PTSD the process triggered was more than I could manage. I was reduced to sitting on the couch and trying not to hear loud noises or talk to anyone. I couldn't sleep at night unless Darrin held my hand. I was, in short, pathetic. Because of a nosebleed.

I didn't cry. Not ever. I didn't cry when the nightmares came or when the pain of the packing being shoved inside my head had me writhing in the stupid ER chair. I didn't cry when I had to go to the ENT who said, "What did they do to you?" then took out the hateful packing and carefully, gently, stabilized the bleeding so he could cauterize my nose. Which all hurt nearly as much as the ER visit did, but not emotionally. And I didn't cry when I went to talk to Therapist about how I felt.

I'm crying now. A month later. Because, finally, I have the physical and emotional strength to allow it. Yes. I'm crying over a nosebleed. And hair loss. And being ill for a year. And having to look for a job again. And Darrin having to look for a job again. And having to live with my father-in-law still. And living in a place where the air is poison to me.

All of it. I'm crying over all of it.

And did I mention that it's 99.9% certain that one of the people I love most in the world is moving far, far away very soon? Yeah, that's happening, too. But I'm not insisting that we spend every free moment together until he leaves, mostly because he would say no. Also, it would make me crazy because I don't like to spend every free moment with ANYONE. But still, I'm not insisting. I believe that shows great restraint.

So I'm back here, writing, because I have a tiny hope that if I leave some of it here, the crying will stop someday. I think it will.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Two Months

That's almost how long it's been since I came here. I have a number of reasons for staying away, the first of which being that I just became exhausted.

It's been a very long time since I've been so sick for so very long. I lost interest in most everything. There were mornings when I was sorry I was still living. Some mornings I thought about ingesting everything prescription at once. That would have included prescription decongestants, cough suppressants with codeine, narcotic pain meds for my tooth extractions...

When that happened, I convinced myself I was being melodramatic and probably I'd just end up nauseated and vomiting. Then I got dressed and went to work.

Five months of nearly nonstop illness. That's actually not terrifically long, but it felt endless.

At this point, I've had about four weeks of feeling well. Then last week I contracted another virus.

The diagnosis: My immune system is compromised. I have asthma which puts me at high risk because I live in a polluted environment. Probably, as long as I work in a place where I am exposed daily to different germs from more than 500 students, my life will be like this.

You know that natural happiness that has always been mine? That wonderful feeling that bubbles up even when I've been at my lowest? It's gone. It's been a very long time since I've been happy at all.

In the meantime, PTSD has nearly eaten me alive. I've tried so very hard to maintain relationships and stay in touch with people I love. But it feels impossible.

A bright spot. My sweet sister, K, with whom I work, knows I'm struggling. Every day or two she pops into my classroom to give me a hug or just check in with me. She doesn't say anything about noticing that I'm not doing well; just says she missed me and wanted to say hello. I need that. I need people to smile back at me while I'm trying desperately to look as though I'm okay, walking through hallways filled with students I teach, smiling, talking with them, all the while wanting to just go to my classroom, lie on the floor and sleep.

I'm not sleeping at night lately.

I had this conversation with Therapist:

Therapist: You mentioned you feel that people love you, but try very hard to maintain distance between you.

Me: Yes.

Therapist: What causes that feeling?

Me: I don't know. It just feels like people want to talk with me, but only if they have something to tell me. They're not particularly interested in me, personally.

Therapist: Do they ask questions?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: That might indicate concern or caring.

Me: It might.

Therapist: Do you believe they're concerned?

Me: Not really, no.

Therapist: Why not?

Me: I just don't see why they would be. Here's our conversation: They ask how I'm doing. I say, "Still sick. They say, "That sucks. I'm really sorry." I say, "Yeah, it does. Thanks." The end.

Therapist: What do you want them to say?

Me: You know, it's not really what I want them to say. And it's not really about being sick for a long time. I used to spend time with people. More than that, people wanted me to spend time with them. Now I go places and see people I know, and I understand that things have changed. It's not that I'm unwanted. It's just that I'm no longer an integral part of anyone's life. Except Darrin's. Yes, I knew you were going to mention him. And that's great. I love that after eons of time, he's still in love with me and I, him. That's not what I'm talking about.

Therapist: You're talking about friends.

Me: I suppose. Except, if you look at what's happening, I have tons of friends. Those are the people who know you, who make a big deal about wanting to see you but are too busy to actually do it-- and they're okay with that because when you finally do get together for an hour, it will be very special, like no time has passed since you were last together, and you still love each other madly, because that's the kind of friends you are!

Therapist: I take it that's not what you're interested in.

Me: I'd really rather have no one.

Therapist: What have you done to keep your relationships close and less like those casual friendships you just described.

Me: Not a lot. Sick, remember?

Therapist: It sounds like you wish someone would take care of you a little.

Me: Not a chance. That would make me nuts.

Therapist: And also make you feel loved, needed, and cherished.

Me. I don't think so.

Therapist: Well, I could be wrong.

Me. Yes.

LONG PAUSE

Me: Actually, I think the people in my life are sort of afraid of me.

Therapist: Why would they be afraid?

Me: I'm an intense person. I'm not afraid to say I love you a million times and mean it with all my heart. I don't get tired of the people I love deeply. I always want to spend time with them. I'm happy to hear all the things in their lives from the really momentous to the mundane. I often try to dig deeper, to know them better, to find out more. I don't think most people like that. I think I make them uncomfortable.

Therapist: Maybe they want the same thing.

Me: Do you? How many people outside of immediate family do you have who feel that way about you?

Therapist: A few.

Me: And how often do you see them?

Therapist: Not often enough.

Me: Which means what? Monthly? Annually? Every decade?

Therapist: Probably a couple of times a year.

Me: And do you call them in between?

Therapist: Sometimes.

Me: Often?

Therapist: Usually every few months, yes.

Me: That's not often.

Therapist: For me, it is.

Me: That's what I'm talking about. If someone contacted me every few months, I'd be fine with that. I'd let it happen. But I wouldn't count them as close relationships. And probably they'd die out because I don't have the ability as of yet to trust people who walk in and out of my life every few months or years or whatever. That's why I think people are afraid of me. I want them. I want them in my life often. I want to know about them, lend support, touch them sometimes. I'm scary.

Therapist: Sam, you're not scary. And I don't think they're afraid. They're just busy.

Me: Yes, they are.

Therapist: That's not a bad thing, you know.

Me: Nope. It's a healthy boundary. It's living life and allowing people to have a part of that life. It's how real grown ups interact.

Therapist (laughing): I'm not sure that's what I meant.

Me: No. But one thing is very clear. I'm a three-year-old in my heart.

Therapist: I think that's understandable, given your background.

Me: Maybe, but not socially acceptable. And I realized something this week.

Therapist: Yes?

Me: I was at a dinner for staff appreciation week. I was with colleagues I meet with weekly for meetings. We work together, sometimes teach collaboratively. And I like them. I think they like me. But that's it. I don't belong. I never have. I probably never will. This is not me asking for advice as to how I CAN belong. It's just an observation. And because I like my colleagues, I find myself wishing sometimes that I did belong. Except then I remember-- I've never belonged anywhere. Not ever. The closest thing I've felt to "belonging" is when I was alone in a practice room playing my guts out. I belonged there and on stage. And with Darrin.

Therapist: There have been other times, Sam. You've told me about them.

Me: Yes. There have. But always with people who feel the need to put up those "healthy boundaries." And you know what? That's wasted effort because I would NEVER trespass. I would NEVER insert myself where I was not needed or wanted. And I would NEVER put someone I love at risk physically or emotionally. But still, they seem to need to warn me about all the reasons they can't spend time with me or communicate with me or whatever. As if I wouldn't already have thought of all those reasons because PTSD reminds me constantly that I am unfit for human company.

Therapist: They tell you they don't want to spend time with you?

Me: No. They tell me they do. And then they tell me why they can't. And it's fascinating to me. Because if I want to spend time with someone, I make time. I schedule it. It's a priority because THEY are a priority. I never want anyone I love to believe they're not important to me or are less important than another social engagement or work or the weather. But I think they're afraid I'll think they feel the same way about me. And for whatever reason, there has to be a boundary that makes certain I'll never believe that.

Therapist: You've been feeling pretty down lately. It sounds like you're emotionally spent and a little bit angry.

Me: Anger is a secondary emotion.

Therapist: That's my line.

Me: And now it's mine.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018

Sometimes you celebrate the demise of a year quietly. Outside there were fireworks. Some felt a little too close for comfort as the sparks hit our window for about 15 seconds. But inside was peaceful and calm.

2017 was yet another difficult year in many, many ways. There were troubling and frustrating things, but also triumphs and growth. 2018 will bring the same, no doubt.

I do not love my current job. I've vacillated between wanting to find a new job right away and feeling that I need to complete the school year. I'm currently at the halfway mark. I believe I may have stayed too long. However, the final decision will be dependent on my interactions with one of my administrators. I have some consulting to do with district personnel, at which point I will figure out the proper course for my future employment.

The situation at home with my father-in-law is one of d├ętente. He was gone for about three weeks while he had a couple of surgeries and spent time in a care center, receiving daily physical, occupational, and emotional therapy. There is no question that he is lonely and bored at home. However, his desire for Darrin and I be the sole people who can fill those needs is misguided and unhealthy. I've told him we won't do that for him. Prior to the surgery, at the insistence of his primary care physician, he visited a nearby senior center and loved it. I'll be encouraging him to go back frequently. In the meantime, Darrin and I have enjoyed some peace at home during his absence and that seems to be continuing now that he's back.

And how am I doing?

Emotionally, not well. I've been seeing Therapist fairly regularly. He's not thrilled with my quest this year to "normalize" all relationships. He said that's something he encourages clients to do because many of their relationships are unhealthy or dependent. Mine are not. My desire for normalization is based on my feelings about the relationships, not on the relationships, themselves. Because I experience intense feelings that are difficult to moderate, I have concern that I need to make changes or strictly control my interactions with other people. Therapist says this is probably unhelpful. It simply serves to make me even more hyperaware of myself and less likely to connect with anyone.

Also, he points out, my attempts to normalize probably weren't even close to normal.

So I'm left with that. Therapist has provided a lengthy list of things I can do to help alleviate my stress in this area, but they all involve cooperation with my relationship counterparts. He assumes they are all perfectly willing to work with me on this. And I think they are, as long as the work is short and sweet. None of this will be short. As for the other, well, I'm guessing it won't be that either.

Physically, I've been better. 10 weeks of pneumonia has certainly taken its toll. There were times when I was ill that I have no memory of things I said or did. Then there was the broken tooth thing. That was painful. I now have no tooth and am waiting for an implant to heal enough to be capped. It was also during that ordeal that I realized I've shut off pain again. There's a lot of numbness going on, I suppose. It's hard to feel things when I'm very sick. 

Currently I'm battling another virus. It seems mild and I don't expect it to develop into anything horrible. But I'm concerned about a couple of things:
1. I go to school on Tuesday and there's a whole host of bugs there. If my immune system isn't up and running, I'll be sick continuously.
2. I can't be vaccinated against the flu, and it's here. I survived H1N1 about seven years ago, but I really thought I might die. I'm not being melodramatic. I'm pretty sure, even in comparison to the two times I've had pneumonia, H1N1 is the closest thing to death I've ever experienced. There were a few times when I stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. It was scary. I'd rather not do that again.

Also, there's a good chance that my left hip is dying. I was told that whatever caused my right hip to die was not something I needed to worry about, but I'm having similar symptoms on the left. I'll be seeing a doctor this month to determine what needs to happen next. I'm hoping for a verdict of more weight loss and physical therapy.

But this is a new year. I begin each new year with a list of pieces I want to learn. I haven't had time to compile one yet, but Beethoven figures prominently. I've been spending time with Mozart and I'm ready for a change. I also have an insanely difficult Prokofiev Toccata that I've been wanting to finish. Between those two, that might be my complete list for 2018, and if I finish them, it will definitely be enough.

Other things I would like to do this year:
1. Hike more places. I need to do this in June before the heat hits. Hoping my hip cooperates.
2. Read more books (Duh! Always!).
3. Write more in this blog-- but positive, or maybe even creative stuff. I'm finished whining. 
4. Start cooking again. Real cooking. And maybe I'll document it in my cooking blog. My kids have been asking for recipes which I'm bad at creating, but I could make the attempt.
5. Redirect my PTSD. I need to stop being overwhelmed by it. It's impossible to live with anything approaching joy when I'm preoccupied with painful symptoms that distract and detract from the things that make me happy. 
6. Decide what to do with people. I know that sounds weird, but it's become very difficult for me to talk about what I need from people which, in turn, makes it difficult for me to support them or even just spend time with them. I suppose the time has come for me to figure out how to meaningfully have people in my life, or stop going through the motions altogether. I need to take some time to think about what both of those scenarios look like. Therapist says I don't get to make decisions about this on my own. But, honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who cares about it. Everyone else seems fairly comfortable with the status quo and I'm not sure I want to upset that. Also not sure I'm strong enough to deal with rejection or rebuff from people I love right now. It's sort of an ugly place to be, but I'm bent on being more positive about everything. 
7. Let things go. I've been hanging onto some events, thoughts, dreams, and relationships for far too long. It's time to move on.
8. Face failures and redirect myself. There are a number of things that have been pure failures. Usually, when that happens, I look at the data, figure out what went wrong, and decide if I want to try again or move on to something else. Lately, I've just been allowing the failures to sit and eat at me. It's time to deal with those, as well.
9. Sing. Not at school or in my job, but when I'm alone and I want to. It's been awhile since I've sung simply for the joy of it. It's time.
10. Dance. Because I need to. Because it's good for me. Because. 

And now it's two hours into the new year and I need to sleep. Happy New Year. May your 2018 be everything you wish. Consider yourself kissed for luck.