This Post Took Three Days to Write

As I was crafting my last post, I came to understand why I was prioritizing a game over the mountains of important things (some of them very good) that are exploding in my life. It’s a defense mechanism.

I was suicidal last week – or, at least, the voices in my head were. It took everything I had just to pay attention in piano class last Thursday; thank the gods the instructor didn’t call on me to improvise in front of everyone!

Banji came over on Friday and helped me clean the area around my computer desk. I’m amazed by how much better I feel just being in this space now! It was really awesome of her … and it was also incredibly stressful for me. I kinda want to say maybe it wasn’t the best timing, but if I hadn’t done it then the clutter would have just kept making me increasingly miserable. It was the timing we had, so I’m glad we did it. I needed her support.

I visited with her family on Saturday. Her uncle was there; he kept criticizing her cousin and making passive-aggressive comments that were too subtle to respond to appropriately but could be devastating to a child’s self-esteem. I tried to ignore him, to connect with everyone else present, to enjoy our group activities… but it grated on me. Like a mosquito bite in a very awkward place. (It reminded me of how my mom has treated me, my own inner critic, and the cognitive distortions that make depression such a devastating illness.)

After they left, Banji and I were free to enjoy each other’s company. We played duets, sight-read my current composition project on a variety of instruments, and improvised on piano. The piano improvisation became incredibly silly, referencing inside jokes that are over a decade old. It felt so good to laugh with her, especially over shared experiences that helped form our relationship. It helped restore some of the sense of continuity I’ve been missing.

Then we moved to the couch and she decided I make an excellent pillow. We talked for hours. While I was holding her, everything felt right. My worries melted away. I felt whole, complete.

And I had hope for a future where little things like eating dinner together and playing duets and talking on the couch all night can happen whenever we both want them to.

Then Sunday came, and she had to drive home. For 5 hours.

I’m not suicidal anymore. I’m just sad. It’s going to take a lot of work to make our dream of living within a short drive of each other reality. (And even then, everything won’t magically be perfect.) A lot of it is outside our control. I have to include Fox in all my major decision-making. It’s big and scary and overwhelming.

Lately I’ve been trying to do too many things that are big and scary and overwhelming:

I’m re-taking 2 classes I had to drop 2 years ago because they were triggering my worst depression symptoms. In that time I was supposed to do useful things like find a medication that works for me and improve my music skills. Well, if Lamictal/lamotrigine has any chance of working, I need a much higher dose. The APN took me off it, then had me on 25 mg; I got frustrated and stopped taking it, then realized it seemed to help reduce my suicidal ideation so started taking it again yesterday… The point is I’m kind of starting over on it, I need to increase my dose gradually, and by the time I get any clinically significant benefit from it (or a different medication, if the APN puts me on one when I see her in three weeks) the semester will be over. I’m on my own. As for my music skills… they’re not as improved as I’d like, but I’m working on them. They’re serving me better than I’d expected (when I trust them).

The point is, these classes are challenging me in every way imaginable, but I just have to keep struggling through them. If I drop them again I might not be able to finish my degree.

Even if I do everything I need to, my school has a limit for how long you can take to graduate, and I’ve reached it. I’m at the mercy of a stranger who gets to decide whether I can have the extra time I’ll need to finish my degree. My recent experience of strangers making important decisions that affect my life has not been very good.

I’ve also re-structured my personality (in therapy) to the point where I have to change the way I interact with my mom. If I don’t, I’ll just continue doing unhealthy behaviors that ultimately hurt both of us. The ways I interact with my mom have been shaped my whole life to reduce the overt conflict between us and prevent her from abandoning me or falling apart emotionally or having to change the unhealthy behaviors she developed to adapt to live with her parents, etc. Changing them means risking the very things I’m programmed to avoid happening. I don’t always choose the best alternative behaviors, and she doesn’t always react well to them.

Based on our recent conversations, we’re both acutely aware of this and feel threatened by it. We’re afraid of… whatever comes next – but we also want the ways we’ve been relating to each other to change. I don’t know whether what each of us wants is compatible – or healthy. She won’t give me a straight answer when I ask her to join me in family therapy.

On top of this I’m (sort of?) coming out as non-binary. I’m in this really painful place where I’ve fully accepted it as my gender identity, but I’m not fully out to the people I interact with most regularly. They keep using the pronouns associated with my assigned gender; every time it happens it’s like a tiny stab in the heart. I don’t correct them because I’m not sure how to do so constructively. (And somehow it’s almost comforting because it’s familiar?!)

Worse, no one seemed to notice when Fox used my pronouns (in a shining moment of glory that filled me with joy) on Saturday. There was an almost imperceptible pause (that I might have imagined), and then the conversation continued as though nothing revolutionary had just happened. No one asked about the strange way he’d referred to me (“ze”). Their brains probably changed their perception of the phonemes to match their expectations.

Finally, my plan for this semester had been to join social groups on campus that might help me feel better about existing. My contact at counseling services has been respectful of my gender identity and tried to help me join a group that addresses some of my needs. But I just can’t stop thinking of it as yet another place to be misgendered! I feel like withdrawing into what’s safe and familiar, and where I know I can be perceived as I am… not reaching out into something new and scary.

The LGBTQ+ coming out group would probably be perfect… except that it’s a new social situation I’d have to adapt to. I imagine once the conversation started I’d either find it easy to participate, or get something out of listening to other people speak. But when it’s time to leave the house I feel anxious about entering a new, unpredictable social situation. I don’t feel like I can handle those at the moment.

I’m falling back, regrouping, re-prioritizing. This isn’t a matter of entertainment, personal growth, or self-actualization. It’s about survival. (Maybe my brain wouldn’t be in survival mode if my body were consistently getting the nutrients it needs…)

Anyway, priorities. The big 3: food, sleep, and physical activity. Let’s add emotional intimacy to that: hugs are amazingly comforting. Research across psychological disciplines consistently finds that the relationship between therapist and client is the most important part of therapy. Being emotionally available and supportive and non-judgmental heals, whatever the therapist’s orientation(s), modality(ies), and technique(s).

My mental health must be my first priority (followed by my physical health). Without that nothing else matters because I won’t be alive to enjoy it…

My classes come next; it’s very important that I pass both of them. Even if I don’t get the extension I need, I might be able to re-apply to the program and keep the credits I’ve already earned toward the degree – or transfer them to a new school if necessary. I’m so close to finishing, it’s painful.

The groups I wanted to join come last – possibly after video games. I thought they would help me to grow as a person, receive support for the issues I’ve been struggling with, and develop important skills I’ve been lacking … maybe even to make friends? I also decided at the beginning of the semester that it’s okay if I just need to focus on my classes right now. Making that decision – setting that boundary – is a way I can assert myself. That’s putting my hard work in therapy into action!

The nice thing about the LGBTQ+ groups is that they happen every week and I can show up when I’m ready to. I can make the decision of whether to go up to an hour before the group meets; my decision has no effect on whether I’ll be allowed to join in the following week. This week I decided not to go, but by the time one rolls around again I might be up to it. I’m thinking of calling and asking for a basic idea of how the time in group is structured, so it won’t be quite so unpredictable.

The counseling services group isn’t like that. It’s a specific 6-week course (complete with homework) and I’ve already missed the first week. I was invited to join in the second week (that is, today), but I’m feeling very ambivalent about it. On Tuesday I was wondering why I even wanted to be part of this group in the first place. By last night I was thinking maybe it would help me feel more confident and able to focus in my Thursday class (and more likely to go, because I’d already be on campus). The group closes after the second week, so if I miss it again I can’t join. I’ve been asked to let the facilitator know my decision ahead of time.

Perhaps it would be best to tell her I’ve decided against it. I already have a lot that I’m struggling with. I want to send in my own written appeal for periodontal treatment, I need to start working on the request for extended time in my academic program, I have instruments to practice, and I have papers to write. I’m counting primarily on the paper to get a halfway decent grade in piano class. If I don’t join this group, I’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to those things. I won’t have to deal with the social anxiety it’s bringing up. And I’ll have more time to recover from waking up before I have to coordinate getting ready to go somewhere with everything I need for the day, etc.

The main appeal of the group is that it’s an opportunity to practice yoga, meditate, learn ways to calm the nervous system, and cope with difficult emotions. I could do the yoga and meditation on my own … theoretically … but experience tells me I won’t. I need – and crave – structure and social support. I need to get outside my own head and receive feedback from someone other than my inner persecutor.

Just last night I had a great experience in my group music therapy class. I’d decided to show up, take notes, and role play for my group mates to the extent that I felt comfortable, but refuse to take a turn as therapist. Everyone else had taken their turn and I felt very shaken up, on the verge of tears. I felt raw, exposed; the muscles in my body tensed to the point where it felt like I couldn’t move. I sat very still for as long as I was able.

But the co-instructor came in and my group-mates told him I was the only one left who still needed to go. I couldn’t bring myself to come out as having a mood disorder, but I was as honest and vulnerable as possible: I said I’d been having a rough time and was feeling very raw and didn’t think I could lead a group in that emotional state. He asked if there was an experience I thought I could lead the group in, that might also help me to feel better.

I was going to do the intervention I’d come up with for my piano class, but sitting at the piano I had my back to the group and couldn’t find a practical way to remedy that. We were role-playing children, so my group-mates suggested I try a simple children’s song with two chords and play on guitar. I agreed to a song someone suggested, and the next thing I knew I was playing guitar fairly fluently, singing, using the song structure to maintain order while allowing the “kids” to be spontaneous and creative and interact with each other, and having fun. I was even able to take constructive criticism and try some of the suggestions that were offered.

I learned so much from that experience and felt so much better afterward … because I was present and vulnerable with others; I allowed them to support me. And they did. They were awesome! They gave me the push I needed to succeed.

I was hoping to have a similar experience with the counseling services group. We’d all be there to learn to overcome certain insecurities and practice new ways of being with ourselves and others. If I didn’t feel like it’s helping me, I could always drop out. Short of dropping out, I could decide the degree to which I want to participate (including whether to do the homework). It’s only five weeks. I might have made new friends, or at least learned something useful…

… But then I talked to my contact at counseling services, and she suggested I “put it on hold” so I can “focus on stabilizing my depression.” She seems to think it’s not really the kind of group I need right now. Perhaps I can try it in the fall.

I feel empty, deflated, tired, and maybe just a little bit relieved. and thirsty. Maybe I’ll just sit here. Indefinitely.

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The Healthcare Headache Continues …

I thought I had the answer: I would take a 3-credit course, in part out of interest and in part because it would make me eligible for my school’s “voluntary” part-time student insurance. But today I learned that there are no longer any part-time student plans available – whether that’s because my school dropped them, or the insurance company stopped offering them, I don’t know. I just know that I was very confused and frustrated when one part of the site still said I could opt-in to the voluntary insurance, but when I clicked the link it said no plans were available.

I’ve reluctantly accepted that they’re not offering insurance to part-time students, based on the mail-in forms having last year’s dates. They just didn’t bother to update the whole website. Lazy bums. (Acceptance doesn’t make me any less angry. It just saves me the trouble of trying the same thing over and over again just to be repeatedly disappointed by the results.)

I’m disinclined to trust the $400/month short-term insurance plan offered by an affiliate of my school’s insurance company. The very nice representative I’d talked to called back, reminding me to apply in time for coverage to start on the date I’d requested. She also re-sent the information she’d initially sent me. I’m tempted to call her back and thank her for her help. But the attached PDF clearly stated that prescriptions weren’t covered; when I tried to see if other plans were available, the one she’d recommended disappeared, so there were no plans available at all! I know I can call her back and ask questions, but I don’t want to risk wasting money (that I don’t really have) if the information she gives me turns out to be wrong.

In light of all this, paying nearly $2,000 to take a class purely out of interest became a lot less appealing – especially since a similar one might be offered for free on Coursera. I started listening to the lectures for one of my Coursera courses last night and found them to be positively fascinating. It felt so good to just soak in the information. No deciding what to wear, traveling, finding parking, potentially being late, awkward social situations, and consequences for not doing assignments required. So, I’ve decided to drop the 3-credit course I’d registered for at my school, and go the continuous matriculation route. A relatively small fee means I’m still a graduate student, really!

That still leaves the matter of health insurance.

I’ve decided against going to see a psychiatrist for the time being. The SAM-e (along with other factors) seems to be helping quite a bit, especially on days when I remember to take 2 doses of it (400 mg 2x/day, total 800 mg per day). It’s not perfect, but it’s at least as good as the antidepressants I’ve tried so far, with less adverse side effects (maybe because it doesn’t contain weird, unnatural chemicals?). It’s not exactly cheap, but I think I’m saving money over seeing a psychiatrist and paying for medication, especially if I need brand-name instead of generic. I can buy the SAM-e in 3 clicks and have it shipped to my front door – no phone tag, traveling, disclosing personal information to a stranger, and waiting at the pharmacy required. It might not be the best, but it works better for me right now. I can’t help wishing I’d found out about it years ago.

Health insurance suddenly seems a lot less important if it’s not the only way I can afford to treat my depression. Wakana doesn’t take insurance; I’ve been paying her at a discounted rate out-of-pocket. Insurance wouldn’t cover the SAM-e anyway. Hospitals are required to give life-saving care regardless of whether you have insurance. The only thing left is preventative care, which I’m hoping I can find a clinic for nearby. To my knowledge my state isn’t among the insane ones trying to shut down Planned Parenthood, so I intend to begin my search there.

(In case it’s not blatantly obvious, I hate going to see doctors. So, for most things, I wouldn’t bother seeing a doctor. If I’m miserable with a cold or something, I’d rather be miserable at home where I have access to things that help – like tea and soup – instead of at the doctor’s office.)

And in October I should be able to shop for an insurance plan on Healthcare.gov, so hopefully I’ll only lack health insurance until January. Hopefully.

Let’s be honest, I hate making these decisions. But this is the hand I’ve been dealt, and I need to do (or choose not to do) whatever it takes to protect my mental health. I’ve been burned by conventional medicine and the insurance required to make it remotely affordable, so I’m finding alternative ways to take care of myself.

Into Darkness

Today I brought Mom to outpatient physical therapy (PT) for the first time. She kept asking me to go in with her, but was able to operate the handicapped person’s elevator by herself. Other people opened doors for her. As soon as she entered the place proper, she seemed to forget I was there, trying to figure out whether I should help her, and if so what I should do.

Once Mom was happily at PT, Fox and I went to a relatively nearby movie theater to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m going to try not to give spoilers but I will say there were a lot of explosions. Overall, it was an excellent movie and I’m really looking forward to seeing it again. If I do so in theaters, I’m bringing earplugs.

Anyone watching me during the movie might have thought I hated it, though, and seriously wondered why I didn’t just get up and leave. I spent significant portions of the movie clinging to Fox for dear life – much the same way I clung to a previous significant other when we went to see Silent Hill, a horror movie that quite thoroughly terrified (and traumatized) me. Especially during fight scenes (in Star Trek), I was shaking, looks of panic on my face, holding my head in my hands, my body very tense, insisting that Fox hold me. It was, in short, a very strong anxiety reaction. Even afterward, when I went to the bathroom, I started shaking again and felt like I was on the verge of tears.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very immersed in the movie. The acting, the music, the effects, and an engaging plot all came together to really pull me into the overall experience. I could relate to and empathize with the characters; I cared about their well-being. So my physical responses do make sense with what I was thinking and feeling in response to the movie. They were just taken to what I perceive as an extreme that does not reflect my actual degree of emotional response. Nothing in the movie was particularly terrifying or anxiety provoking; I haven’t been traumatized by it; intellectually I knew I was perfectly safe, sitting in a movie theater being entertained. But the way my body responded, you’d think I was convinced my life was in serious danger.

It was extremely loud in the movie theater and I think (hope) that was a significant contributing factor. That said, I think the metallic timbre of the explosion and especially gunshot sounds was the main trigger for my anxiety response. It’s possible the motion (visual input) might have also played a role. It’s hard to say what role the music played because I wasn’t focusing on it during the most anxiety-provoking scenes, but I did notice that at times it was very intense, with loud rapid high-pitched passages played by the string section of the orchestra (e.g. violins). Again, I think my response was “normal” in terms of its quality, but not its intensity.

I’m pretty sure it’s a side effect of the medications I’m on. One of the “infrequent” side effects listed for Zoloft is hyperesthesia – increased sensitivity in one or more senses. Now that I know that, I can save a lot of time trying to explain my experiences to my next psychiatrist and simply tell zir I have “auditory hyperesthesia.” Additionally, an “infrequent” side effect of BuSpar is noise intolerance. I’m not sure whether that’s the same thing / similar / related, or something completely different. But it’s definitely been affecting me in my daily life. Among other things, it’s harder for me to shop for items I need and make decisions because I can’t tolerate the noise (especially music and advertisements) in a lot of stores.

We went back to the PT place to pick Mom up, getting slightly lost in the process. Fox was geekgasming about the movie and its relationship to classic Star Trek. It’s the kind of thing I love to watch and listen to, but find distracting and irritating when I need to concentrate on driving. Then his mom called; I asked him to put her on speaker phone so he could help set up my GPS and I could be part of the conversation. We stayed on the phone with her for a little while after picking up my mom, who quietly complained to me that she had been waiting for us for over an hour. I think she should have been the one to do this, but I stepped up and politely told Fox’s mom I was enjoying talking to her, but let’s continue this conversation later.

Then there was driving around in circles in traffic, shopping, eating at a somewhat noisy establishment, listening to Mom, trying to express some of my needs to her – such as my need for a day (or two) to myself every week – feeling like she didn’t quite catch my meaning, and trying to cope with a splitting headache. By the time we got home I was furious! I think it’s because here I am struggling with all this shit and she just keeps asking more and more of me and no matter how hard she tries to be nice and considerate and show her support I feel like she just sees me as someone to do shit for her. A servant. Is it my hangup or something about her? I don’t even know! It drives me crazy.

But the point is when we got home I was furious. Rat therapy helped me calm down. Fox ended up doing laundry for all three of us while I took a nap; I’m torn between being very grateful and feeling guilty about “making” him do my mother’s laundry. That just seems to be breaking some kind of unspoken taboo.

Wakana had to cancel both our meetings this week because she’s been sick so I can’t even take my frustrations out on the cymbal receive the support and therapeutic experiences I need from her. (I’ll admit I’m a bit annoyed about that, but I can’t believe she’d take a week off from work unless she had a really good reason to do so. It’s not like you can get paid sick days in private practice.) So I get to drive Mom to and from PT tomorrow (and possibly other errands), but I don’t get to have the professional help I desperately need! It’s not fair!

Please help support my blogging habit by buying products related to Star Trek on Amazon.com; you can even pre-order Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Sculpture

I decided to make therapeutic use of my modeling clay after waking up from a nap at midnight. The results were completely different from what I was expecting.

Mother’s Day

Despite staying up stupidly late playing Faster Than Light on Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning in time to join Mom for a Mother’s Day brunch at the rehabilitation center (where she’s recovering from double knee replacement surgery). It was, in the grander scheme of things, a relatively pleasant experience. I enjoyed spending time with her and was pleased to see how well she’s doing: she spent a good portion of our time together walking (albeit slowly and with much effort) with a walker. I was even able to talk to her a little bit about my frustration with Psychiatrist B (and mental health care in general). She was supportive, encouraging me to look into finding a new psychiatrist and telling me I “need to take charge of [my] life.”

mothers day card quote copy

It was when I was leaving that things got a bit messy. She asked me to wait until she’d used the bathroom so I could help her back into her wheelchair. Then she wanted me to take her shoes off and put her special, non-slip socks on. Once I was done helping her with that, she started attaching ice to her knees and running through a laundry list of things she needs me to do and talking about when she comes home. Apparently they can randomly tell her she needs to leave by 10am the next morning, “so you might get a phone call from me” to this effect. Finally, I’d had too much.

“Mom, I need to go. We can talk about this stuff later.”

“Okay, bye.”

“I love you.”

(Still futzing with the ice) “I love you too.”

Father’s Day

On the way home, I reflected on my Mother’s Day experience. Then my mind shifted to Father’s Day, a day that tends to be very difficult for me because it’s a nice slap-in-the-face reminder that my (biological) father DIED. The less-than-ideal (i.e. emotionally and physically abusive) nature of our relationship, of which I’ve been becoming more aware, doesn’t particularly help matters. Nor does the fact that I can never develop a healthy adult relationship with him (that’s 2-sided) because he’s DEAD.

“And on Father’s Day I’ll commit suicide.” An image of a knife slitting my throat appeared in my head.

Terrified, I called Fox. He was awesome.

cry

Rehab

IT’S NOT FAIR!!! There are a lot of parallels between my and my mother’s situations. We’ve both been in pain for a long time. We’ve both found ourselves limited in our ability to enjoy things we used to do, or just completely unable to do them. We’ve both had aspects of our social relationships and self-concept affected by our respective problems. We’ve both (finally) decided to seek treatment.

Mom paid someone to cut her open, remove part of her body, and replace it with metal. She’s in even more pain than she was before, but she’s slowly, with a lot of effort and support, getting better. She’s in the (near-)perfect environment for what she needs, making friends with others in similar situations, surrounded by friendly supportive and very caring staff. She’s getting visitors and phone calls. Her desk is completely covered in get-well cards.

getwellsoon

I am plagued by disturbing images of my body being cut open. I’m in a lot of pain and it’s hard to say whether I’m getting better – certainly not at the rate I’d like to be. I have loving support, but it’s a bit dispersed. My environment is far from conducive to my recovery: I am caregiver for 3 pets and will have to take the place of the transportation, laundry, dining, and nursing services she’s been receiving from professionals for the past 2 weeks. Only a couple of people seem to care about my situation; friends don’t so much come to visit me as want to hang out, so I either have to host the gathering or travel. Nobody sends me get-well cards. I’m concerned that if I start coming out about my severe, life-threatening illness now, people will think I’m trying to “steal the spotlight” from Mom.

And the Walk is only 3 weeks away.

warning-signs-of-caregiver-stress

I wish I could have an experience like she’s having, but with better food – and preferably without having to be (physically) cut open first. Go someplace, be taken care of, receive therapy, be able to talk to people who can relate to my experiences, be surrounded by supportive staff. I mean, one of the nurses at Mom’s rehab center cheerfully hugged me and said, “You better get used to me, I’ve been adopted into your family.”

But I don’t know if such a place exists for people with mental illness. I don’t want to go to the hospital. “Over my dead body.” (Which is kind of ironic, people generally go to the hospital to try and delay their death.) I want a kind of halfway place, a rehabilitation center, a step up from outpatient therapy. But even if such a place does exist and we can get past all the practical considerations (expense, who’s going to take care of Mom and our pets, did I mention expense?) there’s the stigma involved. Sure, family members might send me get-well cards … but what will they say about me behind my back?

Surgery

I woke up from my nap at midnight to an imagined experience of someone stabbing me in the middle of my chest, cutting open my torso, ripping out my vital organs, and throwing them on the floor. I think I felt more or less the same emotions I would feel if someone were to actually (physically) do that to me.

Sculpture

My initial intent was to enact that “fantasy” on my modeling clay – a much safer outlet than my own flesh. I got up, pulled out the modeling clay, and started making the head to go on the body I intended to mutilate. Early on, I realized I could actually sculpt a face, and got caught up in making a well-defined, relatively realistic nose. I left the eye sockets as cavities. I intentionally left out the mouth, but sculpted jaw line, chin, forehead, hair.

Once I was done with the head, I moved on to the torso. I had to chop a new chunk out of my block of clay – once complete, the torso required 2/3 of what had been remaining (after I made the head with the same clay I’d used for the pieces featured in The Bloody Arms Project). I hacked at the block of clay multiple times using my wooden sculpting tools, a process that enabled me to physically act out the violence that so far as been wreaking havoc on my emotions.

Then there was the matter of getting the stuff to take the form I wanted. I had to use all the muscles in my upper body, especially in my hands, to shape the clay. I panted and grunted with the effort. I laughed and cried. I was channeling, directing my energy. I was making decisions (e.g. “I need twice as much clay to make the body in realistic proportion to the width of the head.”) and acting intentionally. I was using the various tools available to me. I was discovering new details I could flesh out, such as collar bones and belly button. I was paying almost as much attention to realistically shaping the back as the front. I was happy the clay was so difficult to shape, because that meant I could make relatively minor changes (such as smoothing the surface of a curve) without messing up a feature I had worked very intentionally to create. I was creating a realistic 3-dimensional image of a human body, complete with wrinkles and cellulite. I was having fun!

I sat back and looked at the result of all that aggressive energy: a realistic and beautiful human head and torso. A work of art. Something I could be proud of. It only took 2 hours. And it was … no, not really easy – I had to work at it. It was frustration-free. I was pleasantly surprised by how directly I was able to shape the clay with my will (and my body).

Fox woke up to me verbally redirecting Dog away from my food. He sat near me on the couch and we started talking; I told him about the process that culminated in me having a work of art to show off. I also expressed a solution that had occurred to me; our conversation confirmed that it was the least I should do.

Recovery

Mom is … “asking” isn’t strong enough, and “demanding” is a little bit unfair … requiring me to play a very large role in her recovery. When she comes home she will need me to:

  • take her to physical therapy 3 times a week
  • do her laundry
  • do her grocery shopping
  • continue taking care of Dog
  • help her in and out of the knee immobilizers she has to wear when she sleeps
    • That essentially means I’ll be on call all night and early-mid morning!

My initial thought was to make transport to physical therapy (including helping her in and out of the car, driving her there and back, and waiting while she receives the actual therapy) contingent upon her engaging in family therapy with me. It would only be once a week, I’d still be driving and helping her in and out of the car, and she stands to benefit from it as well. If she refuses, she’ll have to get someone else to provide transport – probably the least socially awkward of the items on that list. If she agrees, she’ll also be playing an active role in my recovery.

handshake-drawn

After talking to Fox, I’m adding a few more items to my counter-requirement:

  • Since I’d probably end up ordering groceries for us both online anyway, she can order her groceries herself. I don’t mind helping her put them away, especially if we can then cook and eat a meal together.
  • We’ll split taking care of Dog: she feeds him, I let him out, and we both spend time with him as works out best for all three of us.
  • Just so we’re clear, “do her laundry” means taking it to the basement, putting it in the washer, transferring it to the dryer, and bringing it back upstairs. I don’t fold or hang things. (Really, I don’t. Ask Fox – he’s the one in charge of our laundry.)

My Treatment Plan

I don’t really have a coherent treatment plan and I think it’s time I get one. So far I’ve got individual music therapy with Wakana twice a week and meds that may or may not be having at least part of their intended effect. I guess I’m between psychiatrists.

I’m going to check out a depression support group that meets a few hours after I finish my session with Wakana. It’s inexpensive and within walking distance.

I need to make a list of possible family therapists; that will help show Mom that I’m serious about my request. It will be a process in which I’ll have to grow and change and work on the way I treat her, too – added stress. But if we can be healthier, if I can spend time with her without feeling violated afterward, it will be well worth the added effort. Even if all I get out of it is about half an hour once a week where she is supported in making the effort to truly see and listen to me, it will make a huge difference. That’s really … barely anything to ask.

Banji, I think a trip to the arts and crafts store is in order. I’m going to need more clay!

(Barely) Holding It Together

I never got around to visiting Mom in the hospital. On Wednesday I thought I’d go after taking my rats to the vet (by the time I got up the resolve it was almost time for their appointment) – but when I got home I was too exhausted by the whole process. Someone flipped a switch: while I was at the vet I was quite cheerful, but as soon as I walked out my face fell and I was tired and grumpy again.

Yesterday I seriously had a hangover from playing The Sims 3. My witch turned my inventor into a werewolf (using a potion an elixir); turns out werewolves are much better at finding rare gems than, well, anything else in the game. On her first night as a werewolf, the inventor easily found the gem I’d been searching for in multiple versions of this game – countless hours wasted (noisily) digging holes, exploring underground, and nearly getting eaten by zombie bears in the catacombs. The game said it was “an okay hunt” for my sim; to me it was the best thing that could have possibly happened ever in the whole world!

Yeah, my obsession is that bad.

Anyways, I couldn’t stop there. I got and turned in all the other materials she needed in order to acquire the core to her ultimate invention! And then she made the ultimate invention! Mwahahaha!!! It was the most satisfying The Sims 3 playing experience I’ve had since I started with this whole messy business.

I finally decided to save and give my computer a rest at 3-something in the morning. I dragged myself to bed; Dog woke me at 7am. I fed him and let him out and then went back to sleep until 2pm. Well, crap. There was pretty much just enough time for me to take care of pets, feed myself, prepare for class, and get to class – early! I was early for class! I couldn’t believe it! It was fantastic! And class itself was pretty awesome. The last meeting of that class; next week is the final. I’m going to miss it. 😦

I’d intended to visit Mom after class but once again, I was too exhausted. Completely emotionally drained. I thought eating something would help, but no. I needed to talk to Fox and Banji, to take care of pets, to be amused by pets, to relax. I still haven’t even started on my paper, but I think I know what to write about and the instructor gave me a couple extra days before the penalty for lateness starts kicking in. I fell asleep on the couch, then felt inspired to try writing down a melody that was frolicking around in my head, then couldn’t get back to sleep when I moved to my bed.

Dog woke me up at 8:30 this morning. Enter zombie, stage right.

Mom seems to be taking this whole thing very well. She called me this morning (I didn’t answer because I didn’t realize it was her!) and left a message reminding me that she’s moving to the rehabilitation center this afternoon and asking me to bring her stuff there “whenever is convenient; after dinner is okay.” Great, now I know what time she wants me to visit; I don’t have to angst over whether the time I think is okay will be good for her! She didn’t complain about me never coming to see her in the hospital. Maybe it didn’t really bother her or maybe she didn’t want to stress me out any more or maybe she just didn’t want to bring it up over the phone. Whatever the case may be, I appreciate it. It allows me to be a bit less horrible to myself regarding this whole mess.

My apartment is a mess. Dirty clothes and dishes everywhere; I don’t want to think about how dusty it must be. I was unable to brave the dreaded hospital to bring Mom the stuff she’d requested (and, you know, offer some emotional support during her initial recovery). I’ve been neglecting my schoolwork.

But I’m not starving and neither are my pets. They get some love and attention every day. I even cleaned the rat cage yesterday. The house hasn’t burned down. I’ve been keeping appointments and I went to class last night. When things as basic as going to sleep and waking up again are a serious struggle, I’m willing call the other stuff I’ve been managing to do a success.

Don’t Hurt My Mommy!

Something finally clicked for me: I don’t trust the healthcare system, especially not hospitals. I don’t. They do horrible things. They take babies away from new mothers. They might cut you without your permission. They don’t give you the information you need. They poke and prod you. They make you sit around naked for hours not knowing why you’re waiting. They don’t let you eat or drink after midnight. IVs – enough said. They might send you home while you still need help. They might prescribe you something that gives you hallucinations and delusions and keeps you from eating, and talk your caregiver into giving it to you against her best instincts.

Worst of all, they keep taking people away from me! They took my grandfather when I was only 4. They took my dad. They took my grandmother, and my great-aunt who was like a grandmother to me. Most recently, they took my uncle. The logical part of me knows these loved ones were in the hospital because they were sick, and died because the medical interventions available weren’t enough to keep them alive. But the irrational part of me sees my loved ones walking into hospitals and coming out of them in coffins.

And now my mother is in the hospital. Her double knee replacement surgery went well. She’s recovering just fine. I even got to talk to her; she was groggy but using complete sentences and already able to move her legs a little bit. But they made her wait 3 extra hours before doing the surgery and they’re not feeding her or even letting her drink water. And they poked her with lots of painful needles.

Grr!!! I’m feeling very protective of her, very angry. I don’t like that she’s over there and I’m over here and even if I were there I’d be powerless to protect or help her. I can smuggle in clothes and food she likes and other things she deems necessary. I can keep her company. But I can’t do anything about her condition and I can’t prevent them from causing her more discomfort. I have to be caregiver but I don’t know how to give care.

And I’m afraid that the same thing will happen to her that happened with Dad. The last time I saw him, I was overwhelmed by my own painful emotions. I had trouble getting past all the stuff he was hooked up to, the appearance of his failing health, and interacting with him. I was horrified and very, very sad. It put a wall between us. He didn’t want me to see him like that; he didn’t want to see me like that. I feel guilty – in his hour of greatest need I betrayed him. I feel angry – in my hour of greatest need, I was betrayed. Whether by him or by the system that didn’t provide us the support we needed to come together as a family, to interact with love instead of fear and death … that moment remains seared in my memory and on my heart, a painful scar that can never be healed.

Tomorrow I have to visit my mother in the hospital. She’ll probably be bedridden, both her knees still bandaged. Possibly still groggy, with tubes coming out of her. A dreaded IV. *shudders* The hospital look. Smell. Sounds. All of which I’ve grown to hate and fear. If I could I would puff myself up to 10 times my size, put out my claws, bare my teeth, and give everyone death glares. I would growl so loudly the earth would tremble. YOU WILL NOT HURT MY MOTHER!!! YOU WILL NOT TAKE HER FROM ME!!! SHE IS MINE!!!

mama-bear

But I can’t really do anything. This was her choice. It’s something she needed. It’s done. She needs to be in their care, and I need her to be there too because I wouldn’t know the first thing to do for her and frankly I couldn’t deal with it. But I’m worried about her and I’m worried because I haven’t been able to work on the paper due Thursday. Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to do much on it tomorrow, either. The biggest distraction: everyone is turning to me to find out how she’s doing. I can’t handle all the phone calls.

At least they’re concerned about me, too. It helps to know that people care. I just wish my aunt hadn’t told me to “enjoy tonight, because tomorrow all hell breaks loose.”

PANIC!!!

This is it. Mom’s surgery is tomorrow; I have to get her to the hospital precisely 12 hours from the time I’m writing this! She needs me to do about a million things! Take care of the dog. Bring her clothes and food. Do her laundry and grocery shopping. Check on things. Possibly pay bills. Put out her garbage (I have a hard enough time remembering to put mine out!). Drive her places until she’s able to drive herself. Call everyone to let them know how the surgery went. I’m probably forgetting something.

I have to juggle all this with my own shit. Schoolwork; I have a paper due Thursday and I really don’t think I’m going to be able to work on it much before then. I tried the past couple days but the reading was too much for me. And for some reason my mother having DOUBLE KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY didn’t register as a scheduling conflict that I should report to my instructor in advance. *facepalm*

I can’t really tell if it’s meds or lack of sleep or strong emotions or dehydration or someone has a voodoo doll but my muscles keep tensing up. Sometimes they hold me in one position for a long time (during which I usually feel overwhelmed by or swept away in random, disjointed thoughts, but sometimes I’m hyper aware of the outside world with not much going on inside). Sometimes they cause my limbs to jerk. Sometimes I think I initiate a spasm to get myself out of being stuck. That was me “this morning” – aka 2:00pm when I finally became awake enough to contemplate getting out of bed. Talking to Fox on the phone helped, but soon after we hung up I was stuck again (for a short time).

And then … I had to cut my conversation with Mom short because I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. I needed to get away, I needed to ground myself. I knew then that I wasn’t going to get any work done on the paper tonight. Damnit!!! Mental images: a knife slashing my left arm. Possibly my neck.

WHY?!!!

I’m surprised my hair is still capable of looking normal after all the times I’ve run my fingers through it in frustration and anxiety. I can’t scream and I can’t cry. The light is too bright and the sound of my computer fan is driving me crazy! No amount of water can ever quench my thirst.

I want to let go but I’m too afraid to. To relax. To cry. To play music. Something. I’m suspended in space and time, forever exploding, fragmented, in pain, a silent scream.  I can’t live and I can’t die. And I can’t sleep.