Archive for the ‘therapy’ Category

I’ve taken to saying holy cow! when what I really want to say is Fuck.

What I want to say is that I’ve been hurtling through this year, but that doesn’t quite fit.  I feel like I’m moving slowly, taking measured steps forward while huge barrels of icy water crash down around me.  What I want to say is that this has been an outstanding year.  But it isn’t really true either.  I’d count my blessings for you but you’d be bored – the list is so long.

On the other hand, since my daughter was born in June, I have watched my mother change from a person I recognized (no matter how I felt about that) to a woman who is a rather unpleasant stranger.  I’ve attributed this to the death of my maternal grandmother in November but really it could be something entirely mental health related.  My grandmother lived with my parents and the fall that precipitated her death was dramatic.  In the end, it wrung my mother dry.  We flew cross-country with our 6 month old in the winter for the memorial and that was the last time I saw any familiar part of my mother.  In April, my paternal grandmother died.  My parents handled this as they characteristically do; in an effort not to upset my sisters and I in any way, they downplayed her imminent death and eventual funeral.  Within 24 hours of hearing she had just days, I was on the opposite coast with my hand on her shoulder as she passed away.  I think there’s a lot I want to say about that.  I know that if I had told my parents I was going prior to rather than after my arrival, they would have discouraged me and been disappointed that I’d gone.  As it was, I felt disobedient for skulking around.  It was important.  That’s what I want to say.  Last week, I learned that the menacing looking black patch on my arm was melanoma and I’ll be heading in for a biopsy of my lymph nodes.  While I keep saying it’s nothing, the odds are unlikely, we caught it early enough, what I want to say is this sort of thing wouldn’t happen to me.  Cancer is just not what I see happening.  I’m pretty sure though, that saying that is a good way to get kicked in the teeth.

It’s a lot for one year.  Even if it’s a health scare and not a health crisis, it’s still two grandmothers (three if you throw in D’s Annabelle in early fall) and one mother short than when I started.  I catch myself trying not to hold still, moving forward steadily, hoping not to get drenched again.

Folks, this could be considered graphic.

Sometimes, I’m a pretty bad wife. Occasionally, I’ll insist the chicken is still frozen so that we have to have pizza instead. And, every so often, I’ll stick my head out from a  book and say, “Why is the cat meowing?” without even checking to see if he has food. I know, dastardly. I don’t even make up for it in other ways. You see, I don’t like to touch the wet laundry unless there’s lotion nearby and I don’t like to fold things that are inside out. I don’t like to unpack things and I don’t like to talk about key racks, picture frames, closet organizers or decor. But, at least I do these thing every so often. Throwing her a bone, so to speak. Like I said, I’m a pretty bad wife.

I don’t think I’d had a single panic attack until I rode a collapsing deck down a couple of stories. After that, creaking wood sent me into heart-fluttering shakes. But otherwise? Totally okay. Totally okay in all areas except, apparently, disco rice. I would link that, but I’m not up for whatever images might be behind that Google search. No, seriously.

I think I’ve been storing up panic. Pre-deck crunch, I went to Africa a reletively undamaged person. In fact, I’d say my interests ran to the macabre and that I had a stronger stomach for gore than most. And then I spent one very hot afternoon in an African morgue. Culturally, it was fascinating, though that word implies a lightheartedness I don’t intend.

A crowd of women in colorful fabric crouched around a small set of steps in the morgue courtyard. The courtyard itself was pretty, trees and benches dotted a walled cement area framed on one side by tall concrete and the other by a low L-shaped building. The women wailed. Isn’t that what you’re meant to do when mourning? It’s not really crying anymore, it’s a ripping sort of hollow sob that rises and falls with your breath and your memories. I watched them cluster and mourn while I was taking a break from watching a body.

This was on the heels of several mundane things. The stereo from the embassy truck was stolen after delivering the coffin. My boss yelled at me on the cell phone for not being able to be two places at once. I watched dried leaves drift on the pavement. It also followed some firsts for me.  Speaking with the tender-voiced manager of the morgue about why we would need to use our U.S. coffin. Explaining why someone needed to stay with the body. Learning about the draining mechanism in the steel lining of a coffin.

Even now, I’m unable to give eloquence to that afternoon. There was blood in swirls on the floor. And, there were bodies. More than I expected. Stacked and carried in ways I hadn’t expected. A smell that never faded, even after hours. And of course, there were bugs. This is not CSI’s cool, dimly lit morgue. This is a bright, summery place with no air conditioning and wide open doors and windows. Honestly, it was easier to stare at the tiled walls than at the waiting body. Or worse, the wide hallway with a slide-show of atrocity. At least, it was easier until I realized that I wasn’t dizzy so much as the tile was moving. And that the small, white bugs responsible for the movement were everywhere.

You know, that’s all I can say today about that day. And it’s the first time I think I’ve put it into writing. Shared with someone who wasn’t my partner or a therapist. I’m not sure how I developed the idea that the larvae exclusively populated one-hour crime shows, read-in-a-day detective thrillers and third world countries. How privileged to assume wealth is an inoculation.

One weekend before we moved in, we left a trash bag with discarded sandwich wrappings on the floor of our new kitchen. When we came back a few days later, I picked up the nearly empty bag to toss with the rest of the painting detrius. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what was under the bag. I can’t anyway.  The 20 minutes of sobbing and shaking that followed was enough to turn D. pale. That was a real panic attack. It put my issues with cracking wood to shame. She cleaned up the mess and soaked the kitchen in chemicals. I don’t know how long it took or how awful it was. I’m not even sure where I went in my mind as it happened.

Last night, we discovered our outdoor trashcan had picked up unwanted visitors. First a few, then a lot. I think we’re both happy that I wasn’t the one who discovered it. Regardless, I also wasn’t the one who dealt with it. If, by dealing, you mean dousing the interior with dichotomous earth and returning, green, to the house with this statement “Let’s throw out the whole can.” I can’t help but wonder if she’d be less squicked if I hadn’t turned the first instance into weeping, startling panic. But they are gross, and I don’t blame her for wanting to spare the trash collectors.

Summary?  She is amazing and I am damaged.  I’m the lucky one.

Maybe my hopes were too high when I signed up for a travel writing class.  I had some secret goals (make new friends, stop being crazy) and some not so secret goals (write).  Apparently I didn’t know or had forgotten that adults taking writing classes are at best quirky and at worst pretentious assholes.  Unfortunately, my class was not split so evenly down the middle.

Points for not automatically assuming I’m one of the pretentious assholes.

I don’t know what it is.  Perhaps it’s a way to distinguish oneself.  Look at me, I’m incredibly creative, I’ve been all these places and I’m really into this writing class.  So much more into it than you.  It’s the “than you” I take issue with.  It doesn’t seem to be enough to just be the most shining light in the class.  Some of these folks need to be the loudest, the funniest, the most well-traveled, and deliver the most fantastic turn of phrase.  The most polite description I can think of (other than pretentious assholes) is teacher’s pets.

As the kid who always did well enough to escape notice but little to stand out, I wish these grown up children would give up already.  I did accomplish one goal: to write.  I enjoyed that bit.  I did not make friends.

As a side note, I also did not get less crazy. When the writing prompt is to write about some place you’ve been and you end up writing about an African morgue and then your next three pieces are about burning trash heaps, dead babies and motorcycle accidents, you begin to wonder if writing is enough to remedy the crazy inheritance from your former job.

I’ve got two classes left but I’m not going back.  On the other hand, I have a medicinal herbs class beginning this week and I’m thrilled about that.

This pause in delivering my unpopular opinion certainly isn’t your fault.   No, don’t blame yourselves, it’s all me and I’ll take responsibility.  In fact, I’ll give you internet presents, which are the best kind of presents, and you’ll love me still and all will be right with the world.

At least, until I get back to my unpopular opinion.

Things are tumultuous here.  We’ve started looking for a house and let me tell you, that isn’t the walk in the park that I imagined it would be.  It’s another post altogether but let’s just say for now that “quirky” and “polished” have very little to do with one another in a glaringly obvious sort of way.  Also, there’s the mental health question, which, fortunately, isn’t a question anymore but which is leading me in an entirely new direction.  I won’t give it any more time here, but suffice to say it’s enough to make everything a shade more difficult.

Me: I thought 2009 was a leap year.
Shirl: It isn’t.  See?  (Points to calendar)
Me: Yeah I see, but I really thought it was.  Was 2008 a leap year?  Do you know?  Can you look?
Shirl: (Looking, impatiently) You see?  This is why you have headaches.  All you need to know is that next month doesn’t have 29 days.  But you have to take it one step further, worrying about things that don’t matter.
Pause
Me:  Right…but was it?  2008?

This is why I haven’t made any resolutions.

I can’t not keep track of every last thing.  Did you put the keys back on the hook?  No?  That’s okay, but I need to know where the keys are.  Did the garbage man plan to come today?  I’m indifferent as to whether it’s today, tomorrow or next week, I just need to know whether or not it’s today and when it will be.  Is there an extra day next month or not?  Is there a rule here about this?  What exactly is the rule?

It isn’t that I need to follow all the rules.  After all, I don’t put my own keys back half the time and I don’t mind missing the garbage run as long as I’m choosing not to put out trash.  It’s the same reason why I’d be a model prisoner.  Or just look like one.  I don’t have to do everything by the books, I just have to do everything right or know how to perfectly skirt around it so that I can minimize the effort, time it takes and the consequences.  My sort of perfection.  And I have high standards.  Sigh.

For example: I’m making a calendar for February.  It will kill me if I have to do it twice.  It will torture me if I have to wait for the answer about the extra day.  It’s bad enough that I haven’t already memorized which years are the leap years for the rest of my life.  Furthermore, it’s a terrific oversight that I don’t know exactly how long I’ll live so that I can figure out all of the leap years from now til then and never need to worry about it.  Looking it up more than once is a waste of valuable minutes that I could be using to find. out. more. information.

Now you think I’m crazy.  I think you might be right.  But this brings us to resolutions.  If I were to make a rule for myself, for example, bring my wife her slippers every night, I would never ever make a mistake.  I would rather suffer miserably than make a mistake after I’d said I would do something.  It’s a relatively inconsequential thing, slippers, but I’d work out how exactly to make sure it gets done every night with maximum efficiency and then I’d never ever neglect to do it.  If it couldn’t be done efficiently, the resolution would have to go.

Change isn’t the problem here, I’m all for it.  But change involves a time commitment.  If I bring her the slippers at a different time each night, that’s fine.  As long as it fits in the clockwork of the night.  If she wants them at 6pm each night but nothing else happens at the same time everyday, I’ll agonize over how to make it efficient and then never deviate.  She would never have to scold over late slippers, there would never be a chance.  If inconsistency is the rule, I can follow it to a tee (as long as I’ve considered all the consequences, read the fine print, considered the better alternatives and determined whether or not the stated intention is the actual intention.  Fortunately, I’m a fast thinker.)

Slippers aside (and thank goodness she doesn’t have any), you can see how this is a problems with resolutions.  Just today I thought, maybe I’ll resolve to walk up all stairs instead of ever taking an elevator.  And then I spent the next hour thinking of all the instances when that might not be possible (What if we visited the Empire States Building?  What if we had luggage at the airport?  What if I broke a leg?)  Since I couldn’t effectively resolve all the what ifs, I decided it wouldn’t be a good resolution after all.  I’m still mulling over walking up one set of stairs a day, but that has equal hurdles (How long would a “flight” be?, etc.)

As a result, I try to live well instead of making resolutions.  I probably shouldn’t eat Twinkies and I probably should bring my wife slippers (or the equivalent)  but if I do (or don’t) no one is counting and that way no one (me) has to spend time worrying about whether 2009 is a leap year.  You see?

Crazy Carousel

Posted: 19 December 2008 in therapy

I suppose it isn’t a great sign when the brand new therapist says, 10 minutes into the conversation, “Let me recommend a psychiatrist.”  Subtext, “Your crazy is so evident, I can’t not say something, sort of like the spinach hanging from your front tooth or the toilet paper dangling from your skirt.”

It wasn’t a complete surprise.  I don’t think anyone is completely sane all the time and I’m certain I wasn’t born with the advantage.  I’ve got enough genetic crazy that I didn’t really need situational add ons to send me over.  So not a surprise, and not all bad.  At least I’ll get an answer that doesn’t begin with “You’ll compromise your security clearance if…”  Good riddance, that.  Funny how it’s still worrisome if you’ve sought mental health care but they don’t ask if you’re a habitual liar.  i guess the answer to that would be no, in any case, right?

So back to the therapist after the new year and off to someone who is likely to ask me questions like “Do you drive too fast?”, “Spend money impulsively?”, “Wish to drop a toaster in the tub?” and so forth.  I know, fun times.  I have to admit, I suddenly feel a bit odd talking about this turn of events but I’m unlikely to stop doing it.  So you’ve met me and I seemed sane, well, isn’t it fun to know I’m as multidimensional as you are?  I only wish I had a handle on it like you do.

Just Go See.

Posted: 14 December 2008 in therapy

Sometimes I am amazing.  I can do everything and then some.  I can produce, conceptualize and develop.  I’m brilliant and quick, I’m rested and enthusiastic and competent.  I know what you’re going to say and I know what you’re thinking.  Those are good times, and while they aren’t are frequent as I’d like, those times come often. 

Then sometimes, I’m irritable.  My speed turns into impatience that you’re going so slow.  I’m edgy, jittery and productive, but sloppy.  I don’t want to produce, conceptualize or develop, but I will I if I have to and I’ll do it at light-speed.  I’d rather do anything else but my work.  I want to do everything else but can’t decide where to start.  I don’t sit still.  Those times come on the heels of impossible brilliance. 

And sometimes, I’m tired.  I can’t sleep enough.  I just want you to be quiet, not ask me to decide, not demand action.  I don’t want to do the things I love.  I don’t want to move.  I’m not interested in whether you’re too slow or too fast, I just wish you’d leave me alone.  I can still produce things, but I can’t conceptualize or develop.  I wouldn’t want to.  These times come, and stay, but they bring with them the hope that the cycle is ending.

About a year ago, I was sitting in a psychiatrist’s office listening to him confirm what I was afraid of.  That this could be bipolar, and that it wasn’t going away.  I listened to him talk to me about management and treatment and remember feeling terrified that he would prescribe something that would take away the brilliance, the movement, the speed, the happiness.  It was a deep knife in my stomach, twisting with the idea that I might be stuck in the not-caring, or worse, stuck with nothing, stuck in somewhere flat.

Flat seems like the worst possibility.  I don’t want to be flat.  I like the times where I feel like I have superpowers, life is so easy, so fast.  Sure, I procrastinate for a week or two when I just can’t manage to think past checking my email.  And sure, it helps that my wife pays most of the bills so that all I have to worry about forgetting is the rent.  But it seems like a fair trade off for moments of genius, moments thick with motivation and accomplishment. 

In the end, he didn’t prescribe anything.  He was more cautious of my security clearance than I was and knew that I’d have some explaining…some evaluation…to do to keep my life.  We could manage the lows, he said, but my physician could do that without risking anything.  What he didn’t know was that I didn’t want to keep my life.  Two months before my security clearance needed to be reviewed I left it behind, so I never had to say, yes, I’ve been to a psychiatrist.  Am I unfit to do government work?  Certainly not, at least, not according to ten years of supervisors.  It seems unreasonable that doing something as simple as managing my moods could put my clearance at risk.

But now I’m free of that particular yoke around my neck and it’s a year later.  Things haven’t gotten worse or better.  I make a point not to drive too fast, spend too much.  Sometimes it’s hard, but I know what to look for.  I seem to be managing the good times, but I’m doing a poor job of keeping the other two thirds of my life in check.  I’m sure my wife would like me to smile, like me to be more patient.  I’m sure I’d like to feel better about myself, too.

And so it’s back to a therapist tomorrow as the first step in decided what to do next.  I still feel that awful twisting as I think about losing the energy – what I think of as my true self – but I’m trying to look at it as a go see.  Ge see what can be done.  Go see who in town is good for this sort of thing.  Go see what’s next.