I guess you’re the new Office Assistant. Welcome to the team! Okay, that’s a weird thing to say since I’m not on the team anymore, and I’m sure everyone else is making you feel very welcome– they’re a great bunch! The dedication and skill of the people you’ll be working with might knock your socks off. Gary and Keith are(almost) endlessly patient and will be very kind about explaining things if you get confused. There’s a lot to learn, so don’t feel bad if you need to ask a lot of questions! I still had to ask questions three years in! It’s fine! It’s expected.
I think you’ll find that the job is very challenging but also very rewarding. Getting to help people in the ways that you’ll get to help people will probably be as great for you as it was for me. Everyone will be very supportive while you’re learning, and soon I’m sure you’ll fit in wonderfully.
You’ll get to know our clients’ quirks over time. Some of them you’ll groan when you see their names on caller ID, but others you’ll be excited to talk to. One of my favorite things is getting to shop for people– sometimes you’ll bear back how much Joe liked his winter coat or Jane liked the poster you got for her. That feels great. Other times, you’ll be drafting correspondence from templates, making calls to Comcast, or filing. Those things are less fun, but if you keep in mind that it’s all in service to the clients, it makes it easier.
Just never get injured. Never get sick.
I don’t mean “don’t sprain your ankle.” Or “don’t catch a cold.” I mean don’t ever get anything chronic. Don’t ever get hurt hurt. Because if you get hurt you’ll be told that you shouldn’t talk to the team about it because it makes your coworkers uncomfortable. You’ll be told that it’s not a good excuse for fucking up. You’ll be reminded about how hard it’s been on the team that you got your life messed up by something out of your control. Management will make it very clear to you what a problem you are now. And they will push you out like they pushed me out.
They’ll act like every ADA accommodation is a favor they’re personally doing for you. They’ll tell you how hard it is on the team when you need to take time off because you can’t walk straight or feel like someone’s hammering a nail into your forehead. They’ll celebrate your birthday and your work anniversary but you’ll never get a “get well” card. You won’t be able to mention your illness in your yearly review, because “that’s not what they’re for.” If you make a mistake, they will condescend. If you make a real fuck-up, they’ll punish you as much as they can without the union making them stop. You’ll be told over and over that what happened to you, the limitations you have now, don’t matter, aren’t a factor, why can’t you perform like you did before the horrible thing happened to you and liquefied parts of your brain.
They will treat you with pity and call it compassion.
They will make it hell for you to stay.
So enjoy your time here and never, never get hurt or sick.
My husband and I toured a house yesterday. Immediately when we got inside, I smelled mildew and fresh paint. That was not a good sign. We walked through a few times and told the realtor we’d think about it. On the way back home, we impulsively stopped at a Japanese restaurant and got a light lunch. We decided at that table that we would not buy the house (which did have some lovely features, but several more ticks in the “no” column than in the “yes.”)
And while we were sitting there, me noshing on edamame and sipping water, I told T that I think I’m spiraling a little bit. I’m impulsive. I don’t have a lot of control over my emotions, and I hate it. I have worked very hard to have control over myself, but lately I am snappish, mercurial, sullen. I speak without thinking and am overly friendly with people who (it seems to me) give me weird looks and then try to go back to what they were doing. I ache for connection but shrink away from it, full of doubt.
My normally pretty-damned-good self-esteem is faltering. I don’t think I’m a worthless pile of crap or anything, but I do have my moments of intense self-doubt and calling myself weird, stupid, or crazy, even if it’s only in my head. I can usually manage to push those feelings aside and move onto something else. But yesterday, I felt a sort of melancholy that I haven’t felt in quite awhile– this feeling that the ground was falling away from underneath me and I was in freefall toward… I don’t know. Some sort of emotional doom.
I know myself pretty well, so when I was telling T about all of this I said “I’ll probably feel better tomorrow, because I usually do feel better after a good night’s sleep.” And I was right, I do feel better today. Not all the way better, but no longer like the abyss is looming.
The past 14 months have been one of the most difficult periods of my whole life– and if you know me, you know that my life has had a lot of difficult periods. Already plagued with health issues, I did not need the addition of a traumatic brain injury. But that’s what I got, and I am doing what I can to make the best of it. In a life that’s probably about half over, I’ve learned that often that’s the best thing we can do.
I’m still employed and getting straight A’s in school. But it’s dragging. I’m dragging. My verve and enthusiasm that I worked so hard to cultivate are failing me right now. When we got married, T said he wanted to buy a house within five years, so I fixed my abysmal credit score, paid off debts, and started trying to save. When I enrolled in school, I decided I was going to kick ass and I have. I have done so much with hope and willpower, but now there are things in my life I can’t just power through. There are things, like buying a house, that are in many ways out of my control. Knowing that my goals are years away from being achieved is really taking a toll on my psyche. And I just don’t have the energy to go fast fast fast all the time like I always have. I get tired so easily. I can’t coast by with intelligence and willpower, I have to utilize that skill that I’m still trying to build and has never come naturally to me: patience. I hate patience.
Things have been better, and I’ve gotten stronger. But eventually strength isn’t enough. Smarts aren’t enough. Humor and pretty green eyes, unfortunately, don’t mean much in an insane housing market. They won’t give me a Masters degree for being cute. Work doesn’t accept “well, I’m trying” as a substitute for getting stuff done or answering the phone. And there are some days when the effort of just getting through is so exhausting that I sort of cease to function by 5pm. For awhile, grit, determination, and my eternal/infernal optimism were carrying me. But those things aren’t inexhaustible. I am so, so tired.
The despair I felt yesterday was something I used to feel much of the time. And I kind of marveled at it, like how did I live this way for so long? Because for a most of my life I saw myself standing next to a vast canyon, feeling the wind try to push me over the edge. Feeling parts of my brain telling me to just jump and get it over with. And for the past few years, even after my injury, I sensed that the cliff was still there, but that I was no longer standing at the edge. I’d moved into a clearing several dozen paces away, and I could not gaze into the bottom any longer, contemplating, wondering, tempted.
Yesterday I was closer to the edge again. The wind was whipping. The canyon loomed. And as I always have, I turned my back away. I looked toward the clearing. I kept my eyes on the hope, the potential, life. Because some days, that really is all you can do.
I haven’t blogged in awhile. It’s not because there’s nothing going on. There’s a LOT going on, it’s just that none of it is super interesting.
I’m still recovering from my stupid head injury. I got some money for it, which is nice. Started watching a bunch of The People’s Court on YouTube and realized that I could do a small claims suit. To sue someone in small claims court in Oregon you need to notify them first of your intent and give them time to respond. So I did that and the bastard surgeon just sent me money so we wouldn’t have to go through the whole nonsense of court.
T and I, with our newfound riches, started looking into buying a home and have quickly realized that we are not going to be able to do so without a miracle– or the cooling of the market, which will hopefully happen soon. 10 years ago we would have been able to afford something awesome, but Portland is very hot right now when it comes to real estate, so we need patience and probably to save more money. Or a miracle. If anyone would like to lend us a few tens of thousands of dollars, that’d be swell.
I had an evil coworker who left in the middle of last month, and that makes me happy because she’s terrible.
The cats are fine, we’re both basically fine, everything is FINE. I’ve gotten good at doing subtle makeup. So that’s nice.
I’m still in school, still gettin’ A’s, still plugging away at everything in hopes of a brighter future. I turned 41. I’m tired all the time.
I’m working toward a degree in social work, and my union is paying for me to get my associate’s. After that I’ll probably transfer to the local university (which I dropped out of 12 years ago because I was not a stable person back then) and get my bachelor’s and master’s from there.
You can do a lot with a Master’s in Social Work. You can do so many fucking things.
Education means choices. I’ve worked for the same employer for over 4 years now, and I’ve been in my current job for just over two years. I was really in love with my job for the first year and a half. I get to help people. Isn’t that cool?
And then I got hurt.
I started seeing a new therapist today. My longtime therapist, who I saw for about 9 years but has since moved on to the more administrative side of things and in fact now runs the practice, recommended her. And we just clicked immediately. I like her a lot. I talked about a lot of things, because, y’know, first session with a new therapist. Instead of feeling exhausted afterward, I felt energized and excited.
And one of the things I told her is that I’m doing really well in school. I know I already said that, but it’s important.
My brain injury really fucked up my life. Most of my symptoms have finally abated, but some are sticking around and might be permanent. I can deal with those, I think. They suck, but I can figure it out.
My work performance has suffered. My overall health has suffered. My personal life was affected. I have terrible memory now. I have trouble focusing. My spelling and typing have gone to shit. I have frequent, sometimes debilitating headaches. I often feel despair, which passes, but it’s not fun.
Through all this, my GPA stayed fucking solid. For the last two terms I’ve gotten all A’s. This term I’m taking statistics, and as someone who hasn’t done any math above arithmetic for about 24 years, stats is a fucking challenge. But I’m acing it. I’m acing everything. I started college again at 39, and it seems I was finally ready to do it right. I’m a good student. I’m wicked smart. I’m doing it. It feels like I’m learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Look at me goooooooooooo.
But when it comes to work, I just feel so trapped. My husband and I have great insurance because of my work. I am getting an associates degree for free because of my work. I have stability because of my work. And it fucking beats a lot of other jobs I’ve had.
It’s just really hard to come back from what I’ve seen. It’s hard to know that if I get sick again, I’m kind of on my own. Leave and benefits won’t give me clear instructions. My short term disability insurance, which I opted into and comes right out of my paycheck, seems fucking useless. They’re still processing my claim and sending me forms saying that they’re still processing my claim. And my team, who I gave so much of myself to not let down, doesn’t really seem to care. I think they’re all sick of me being sick.
As if I’m not.
So I’m in school. And my grades are very good. And I’m going to get my degree, and then get the next degree, and get the NEXT degree, and then… then I will have leverage. I will have choices. I will be able to decide where I want to go next. I won’t have to worry quite as much, I hope. I won’t have to be an Office Assistant anymore, at the bottom of the totem pole, replaceable and negligible and treated like a liability because I had the audacity to get a fucking TBI.
So, according to the title of this post and the song that inspired it, “everybody’s working for the weekend.”
You know what I do on my weekends?
Statistics. And whatever other courses are required for my major. And I like it.
School means choices. I’m not going to fuck it up this time.
I used to be someone who cried a lot. Happy or sad scenes in movies, frustration or sadness in my own life. I used to cry probably more than was healthy. But it was good to cry.
Something changed. It started when I was 20, during a very difficult summer. I dropped acid and slept with my friend’s 33-year-old boyfriend while she was away on a trip. Then I went on a 40-day vacation to Boston, Vermont, and London– and on my second-to-last day in London, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. Later that summer, I found out my parents were divorcing. I was a mess. Everything I thought I knew to be stable was suddenly shaky. A lot of the drama was self-created, but a lot of it wasn’t. These are just the highlights.
I had always been an exploder. I became an imploder. Instead of striking out at others I mostly punished myself. I guess I still blew up at people from time to time, and even before this I tended to take things out on myself– and I have the scars to prove it. But one thing that changed was that I stopped really being able to cry, no matter how sad I was.
I took an Eastern Philosophy class at the local community college (My Pretend College, for my hometown readers.) I don’t remember it being a very good class, but it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing that makes one silently sob behind their hands. But one night, when I was 21, that’s what I did. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I wasn’t making any noise. I don’t think anyone even really noticed at first. But I just could. not. stop leaking water from my eyes. I wasn’t really sad about anything in particular; I was sad about everything. And at this point it had been about six months since I’d been able to cry, so this one night I just couldn’t stop. I had friends in the class, and someone had to drive me home because the leaking would not stop.
Over time, and because of an abusive relationship that made me cry a whole fucking lot, I eventually regained the use of my tear ducts. But because my ex was so awful, I stopped fighting back because I’d learned it didn’t do a whole lot of good. The times I did strike out, it was mostly physical. He got in my face one day, mocking me when I said “you won’t let me have any friends.” He said it back sneeringly, “you won’t let me have any friiieeends.” And I scratched his face so hard that he bled. Another time I whipped him in the face with my leather jacket when he had me cornered and was screaming at me. But I did not tend to yell. And when I hit him, he tended to stop. The day I made him bleed, he told his shocked coworkers “you didn’t hear what I said to her.” You’d think that would have made him reexamine his treatment of me, but it didn’t.
When my brother did the bad thing when I was 30, I didn’t yell back at him. I collapsed into a heap of tears, because I’d learned that’s what we do with abusers. We make ourselves at pathetic and small as possible so that maybe they’ll stop.
Anyway. I can yell now. I have regained that ability. But I usually have my temper under control, and I tend to write letters when I’m really pissed off. So I can yell, if I have to. I just can’t cry.
As I’ve said in previous posts, this year has been really damned hard for me. Health issues, family issues, work issues, oh my.
I can’t remember the last time I had a good cry. And holy hell, I need one.
I still feel like things are mostly good, or will be mostly good soon. My marriage is astonishingly stable. My cats are astonishingly cute. I’m pretty good at my job. The head injury is finally loosening its grip on my brain. I had oral surgery and was in pain for longer than seemed reasonable, but that’s getting better too. I have a little more energy now. I feel less defeated.
I don’t know why my tear factory laid off all its workers. I don’t know how I can be profoundly sad and not shed a single tear. I well up sometimes, but my cheeks stay dry.
I feel emotionally constipated. This is not my usual state. Maybe it’s because of the vast number of pills I have to take to be a functional adult. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up. I don’t know.
I don’t have a good ending for this. It’s just on my mind today.
Song in title is from a musical called Brownstone, but I’m familiar with it from Bette Midler’s cover.
In March, I got a concussion. The story behind it is pretty incredible.
I had some Major Dental Drama in 2019 when I decided to get dental implants done in Mexico. They were not done well, and what I went through was traumatizing and horrible and I would recommend that you don’t get dental implants in Mexico, because in my case (even seeing a well-reviewed doc) it made my oral cavity situation so so so so so so much worse. Unremitting pain for weeks. Don’t do it. So I’m already pretty fucked-up by/about dentists and oral surgeons.
But I need to get all this shitty shit repaired. So I’ve been seeing specialists in my area to get this whole thing managed and get some pretty new teefs put in my head. An important step was taking the old implants out. And that’s why I went to the oral surgeon in March– after much preparation and many visits with this surgeon and other specialists, I was finally ready to have that hardware yanked out of my jaw.
Let me back up a bit here: in 2004, I had my wisdom teeth out. I was 23, which is pretty late, but it was time. And the oral surgeon gave me Versed, which is a drug they use to knock you the fuck out. I did not react well to it. I apparently got combative, my heartrate got above 200bpm, and they almost had to call 911. But they got the teeth out, yay, hooray. That was a long time ago, but I have mentioned to anyone else who wants to render me unconscious that Versed is not a good idea.
I mentioned my paradoxical reaction to Versed to my (erstwhile) oral surgeon during our first visit, and he said “oh, we use Propofol.” So I was assured.
Well, readers, he fucking used Versed.
My last memory is of him placing the IV (on the second try, and I have great veins) and then YANKING my left arm before I passed out. No announcement that they were injecting me. Just POKE YANK BLACKNESS. I woke up about an hour later. Crying. Hysterical. Terrified. I asked one of the women in the room “Did something happen?” and she was like oh of course not you’re fine it’s totally normal to wake from anesthesia terrified and unable to stop crying for 20 minutes. They wanted to get my friend/driver Jay, to come in, but I told them not to. I was embarrassed and confused and altogether very, very upset.
Eventually they walked me out to Jay’s car and he drove me home. I had gauze stuffed in my face-hole so I couldn’t tell him what had happened, but I was obviously a mess.
Jay gets me home. My husband puts me to bed. I couldn’t really walk on my own. I spent the day sleeping it off.
It wasn’t until the next day that I was laying in bed with my husband and he noticed significant bruising on my left arm. Lemme show ya:
Those are obvious finger-marks on my arm. I was black and blue for a couple of weeks. I also discovered muscle strains in both of my forearms, which weren’t visible but were very, uh, feel-able. As the days went on, I found a lump on my head. I felt like I had whiplash, my neck and shoulders were all messed up (still are!) And a few days after the surgery, I figured out that I most likely had a concussion. So I went to see my primary doctor, who is amazing, and she said “yup, that seems like a concussion.” And then a week or so later I realized that I was obviously suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome, because the dizziness, confusion, lack of concentration and other AMAZING! FUN! SYMPTOMS! were not going away. This was also confirmed by my doctor. This isn’t my first concussion, nor is it my first Post Concussion Bullshit rodeo. It’s bullshit, in case you were wondering.
Sooooo I filled out FMLA paperwork, which was approved. I got referred for a CT scan, which thankfully is clear. And I was referred to brain injury rehab, which I’m being evaluated for on June 1st.
During the course of all this unneeded bullshit, I emailed my surgeon’s office. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know if they’d given me Versed. After a lot of hemming and hawing and “why don’t you just call?” and “I’ll have to get back to you on that” I got a 2000+ word screed from the surgeon, in the middle of which he sheepishly admitted he’d given me Versed. He had reasons, of course. It’s a very safe drug! Complications aren’t unheard of! Other drugs can also cause bad reactions! And to counteract the Versed, they pumped me full of Ketamine, which made it worse. Then they finally, finally gave me FUCKING PROPOFOL which is what I had told them I tolerated well, had experience with, was comfortable with– a drug that, without prompting, the surgeon had told me was the standard drug they used for such procedures. And they had to give me such massive amounts of Propofol to counteract the Versed and the Ketamine that I stopped breathing several times.
I was livid. I remain livid. Obviously, he’s fucking fired– which I decided after I went to a follow-up visit and he fucking POKED my healing mouth-wounds with a POKEY THING and it HURT and I swear the man is a fucking sadist. This wasn’t the first or even second time he was way too rough with me, but it was definitely the last time.
It’s over two months later, and the symptoms of the concussion are still affecting my work. It’s affecting my home life. I can’t reliably concentrate, keep track of time, retain information, or not fuck up everything all the time because of this. I have to go to rehab because of this. It has put a strain on my professional and personal relationships. It is the opposite of good. I can drive most days, because that only requires 10-20 minutes of concentration at a stretch. I can usually do that. I can make simple recipes, but I’m likely to skip steps or mess up if I try to do anything that isn’t super familiar. I can’t make decisions or figure out what the right course of action is. It has made me dependent on my husband in ways I don’t want to be. It has made me dependent on my coworkers in ways that cause me to feel shame.
The words that keep coming to mind are awful and devastating.
But Kate, you’re writing! It seems like you can still write! Yeah, I can do that. It’s one of the things I can do. Which is good, because I’m in college right now in addition to working 40 hours a week. My essays aren’t brilliant, but they’re adequate, and my grades haven’t really suffered.
But I’m exhausted all the time. And if I push myself too hard, all I can do is sleep. And “too hard” means “the way I expect to be able to perform, and how my job expects me to perform.” So it’s been problematic. They’ve been pretty great about it, but it sucks.
Ever since I started my Fitness Quest last year, I’d been feeling a lot better. I’ve had chronic pain my whole life, depression and other mental health issues for as long as I can remember. Walking around my neighborhood helped with that. Along with the pills I take every day to keep me on a relatively even keel, walking made me more emotionally healthy, gave me energy, and helped me lose over 40 lbs.
But now I don’t have enough energy to walk.
I’m used to being sick, is my point. Except, for almost a year, I wasn’t really sick. I wasn’t depressed most of the time. I wasn’t in a lot of pain. And this health crisis has put me back in the position of being feeble, of needing help, of being a fucking invalid.
I hates it, my precioussesssss.
Keep on Keepin’ On
But here’s the reason I titled this post the way I did:
I take my pills every night. I’m on Lexapro for the crazy and Yaz (birth control) for the really crazy, because I suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder so severe that, when unmedicated, I’m suicidally depressed for over half the days out of every month. Everyone hates me, is out to get me, isn’t doing their share, and I might as well just die because nothing is ever going to get better.
I’ve been on Lexapro for a few years and Yaz for about as long. And they’ve been miraculous.
You know what else is miraculous? I’ve been employed steadily for almost 5 years, first through a temp agency, and then I got hired permanently (because of a temp placement!) by the county in which I reside. I went from being on food stamps to working for a place that administers them!
The steady income, the feeling of usefulness, and just the stability of it all has also had a miraculous effect on my mental health. My longest period of unemployment in those 5 years is two weeks in between temp gigs. AND my union has a free college program, and through that I’m working on getting my AAS in Social Work. Then I’ll transfer to Portland State, which has an excellent Social Work program, to do my Bachelors and Masters degrees. This is already in the works! Do you know how much shit you can do with an MSW? A lot! A lot of shit!
It took until I was 35 to be able to show up to an office and not quit within a year or mess up so badly that I got fired. It took until I was about 37 to find the combination of drugs that keeps me relatively sane and healthy. And now I’m 40 and I have good hair, a husband I genuinely love and like, wonderful/diabolical cats, and a steady job. I don’t have trouble making rent. I have retirement benefits and good health insurance. I’m the breadwinner in my relationship. I don’t have to worry that I’m going to have to choose between food and gas. I have a car that hasn’t exploded yet. It’s all good, and a lot of it is better than good. A lot of things are great.
And I’m grateful. So incredibly grateful.
My mental illness was so bad for so long that my brain spent most of my life, from the age of 10 or 11, intermittently trying to kill me. I had calmer, better times, but they were short. And it always came back to the depression and the borderline and all the havoc they caused in my relationships and the inability to keep a job and the kinda-sorta being homeless and the calls to my Mom that scared the shit out of her because her daughter just wanted to die and couldn’t think of a good reason to keep going.
I kept going. But it took until I was 29 to learn what it felt like to not wake up and immediately feel overwhelmed with dread, and that little peaceful little meadow in the dark forest was a place I only stayed in for about nine months. Other than that, my life was pretty fucking awful from the time I was 11 until I was in my late thirties. It took a couple stays in the loony bin, going through (and this is not an exaggeration) at least 20 therapists, trying more medications than I can count, and fucking up a whole lot for me to get here. I wrecked friendships, relationships, people, myself. Oh, and a few cars.
Looking back on all that, it’s hard to tell anyone else that they should go through what I went through because eventually! you might!?! be happy!!! but goddamnit, I’m so glad I didn’t die. Because things right now, other than the head injury and the stupidity that it entails, are awesome.
Did I mention that I have good hair?
I long suspected that if you could just remove all the nasty mental illness shit, I’d be a pretty happy person. And it’s true! Isn’t that a trip?
This might not be the message of hope that Hallmark wants to sell you, but let me repeat it. I am so glad I didn’t die.
I might have to start wearing a helmet, though. Concussions are a bitch.
I turned 35 two days ago. I was pretty freaked-out by that number, but I’m feeling okay about it now. I still feel about 16, deep down. I’m trying to treat this birthday like a New Year, in that I’m making resolutions and trying to just… make my life better. You know?
It’s been months and months of sitting on my ass, feeling decrepit and sorry for myself, and I’m sick of it. I’m not back to 100% and there are things I can’t reasonably do, but there are a lot of things I can do and should at least try.
So I’m visiting doctors to try to get better, and taking my pills to try to stay sane, and I still feel like crap and kind of like dying, but there’s hope here as well, and that’s keeping me going.
When I turned 30, I freaked the hell out. I’m glad I’m not doing that now. Getting older is so weird. I don’t feel different, except in the ways that I do. Older, wiser maybe, a lot more exhausted. Today I’m swinging between panic and excitement.
So this post is just checking in, I guess. Hello, Internet. I’m still here.
“Don’t borrow trouble” is something my mom says to me when I’m worrying about something I have no control over. It means that it’s silly to stress out about things before you know what you’re up against. I think it’s a pretty good idea, but it doesn’t always work.
At the beginning of summer this year, I started having weird symptoms. Some of them could be dismissed as symptoms of known or suspected illnesses, but all of them together seemed like something I should pay attention to.
Strange visual disturbances (flashes of light)
Minor aphasia (words coming out jumbled or incorrect)
Minor ataxia (lack of coordination, especially in my right hand)
Inattention/lack of focus
Short-term memory loss
This was in addition to the joint pain, headaches, stomach issues, and other assorted FUN! things I always have going on. The above symptoms were either new or worsened.
The extra-alarming thing about all these symptoms is that I’d experienced them back in early 2012. At the time I blamed them on the car accident I’d had in November of 2011, and my neurologist diagnosed me with Post-Concussion Syndrome.
PCS doesn’t reappear 3.5 years later. I have had no recent head trauma. So it’s gotta be something else, and it’s not a coincidence.
I’m still having that FUN! assortment of symptoms, but with some new, exciting ones too!
Worsening lack of coordination in both hands
I’m spacey pretty much all the time
Petichiae (clusters of burst blood vessels under the skin)
Those who know me might think I’m something of a hypochondriac, but this isn’t true. I just happen to often be hyperaware of any weird things going on in my body because I have so much annoying shit wrong with me already. I might unnecessarily jump to conclusions, but I don’t diagnose myself off WebMD. I talk to real doctors, I research things, and I don’t “borrow trouble.”
…but I’ve had my suspicions on this one. And it’s because of The West Wing. Yes, the TV show that ran from 1999-2007. It’s a really great show, you should watch it.
Martin Sheen plays an idealized president. It’s unrealistic and wonderful. Anyway, fairly early into the show (maybe the beginning of season two?) we find out that President Bartlet has a chronic, incurable disease. It causes a bunch of crises and good TV drama. Yay.
It planted an idea in my head.
But I try not to borrow trouble.
I’m trying to get disability. I went and got evaluated by a doctor last week as part of that (long, arduous) process, and when I told him my symptoms, he asked…
“Have you ever been screened for multiple sclerosis?”
But that’s what I’ve been thinking too.
I have an appointment with a neurologist in two weeks. I am not panicking, or not much. I am trying not to borrow trouble. But I’ve done a LOT of reading, and… damn. It sure sounds like MS. There are plenty of other things it could be. But none of them fit quite like MS does.
It could also be a brain tumor! I wouldn’t prefer a brain tumor.
It could not, however, be “nothing,” as someone recently suggested. This is not “nothing.” Trust me. Something is wrong, and I have a feeling it’s going to change my life in ways I can’t yet predict.
I don’t know what’s wrong yet. I am trying not to panic. But every night I find myself researching MS, learning how it’s diagnosed and treated, wondering how it’ll affect my life, whether it’ll be mostly annoying or totally devastating. It manifests differently for everyone, it seems. Some are inconvenienced. Some are crippled.
I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep.
They’ll do blood tests, and probably an MRI, and probably a spinal tap. Those are to rule things out more than anything else, because there’s no definitive test for MS in a living patient. They can find indicators, but they can’t prove it. It’s just an educated guess. Which will probably involve a spinal tap. I am not looking forward to the spinal tap.
I’m not really looking for advice right now. Since I don’t know what I’m up against, I don’t know how to fight it yet. But I think I’m going to buy a day planner to keep track of my health, mood, level of activity, food intake, and other related things.
I also don’t really want to be told to keep my chin up. This is scary and I’m being as brave as I know how to be.
About eight months ago, I started hanging out with T. T is awesome. In mid-July I went over to his place after a party and sort of never left. It is a good thing and we’re happy and I’m sure I’ll tell you all more about him soon.
I am not dead, in case you were wondering.
I had this idea in my head of writing some big thought-piece about feelings and blame and letting things go, but I am hung over and in pain (I threw out my back!) so I think I’ll just not do that right now.
A couple times in the last week-or-so, a person has said said “I’ve been reading your blog, and it sounds like you’re doing a lot better.”
The last six months of my life have all been after. After that point in September when I realized that it seemed like a perfectly rational thing to just kill myself. So I called my mother, and I got some help, and… nothing really changed. Things got worse, for awhile. Am I better than I was when things were worse? Certainly I feel better, most of the time, than I did at the end of December when I walked into the emergency room and told them I was thinking of killing myself, and could use some immediate assistance. I feel better than I did in early January, going back to that same hospital every day to sit in a room of strangers and try to just make it until 3:30 when I could go home and sleep or cry or whatever far away from hostile eyes.
But I haven’t really come around to the point where it doesn’t seem like a perfectly rational idea to kill myself if things don’t get drastically better soon. I said at the beginning of the year that if 2014 is as terrible as 2013 was, I don’t see the point in continuing.
It feels like a waste of resources. I am exhausted all the time. I am sick all the time, actually physically ill. The other night I vomited out the door of my cab between fares and still kept trying to work for another two hours. I know that sometimes we have to soldier on through bad days, but I have had so many bad days and so few very good ones that, in my darker moments, there just doesn’t seem to be any point. Other people have to take care of me because I can’t take care of myself. I’m awful to be around sometimes. I want it to stop.
What changed in September was that, for the first time, my suicidal thoughts weren’t out of sheer desperation. I certainly felt desperate and frantic, but there was this cool, calculated core of the thought underneath when it just made sense to give up. Not to make the pain stop, but to stop wasting time and energy trying to make this life work.
When my brother’s wife decided to shut me out last March, after we’d been best friends for almost three years, something broke in me. The way things disintegrated with my roommate D only reinforced my feelings of being unlovable and broken. I can’t hold a job. I have no energy. All my optimism comes in short-lived spurts, and that’s when I usually post to this blog. That’s the face I show. I try to insulate the people I care about from the worst of what I’m feeling.
I will whine and bitch about a stubbed toe, but I’ll bleed to death alone in the dark without making a peep, to be melodramatic about it. I hide my pain behind smaller pain. People assume that if I were really hurt, I’d say something, because when has Kate ever held back from expressing herself?
All the damned time. That’s when.
I am not in active crisis right now, at this moment. But things aren’t looking great. I have a new car and an awesome kid in my life. It’s spring, and we’re in the midst of a stretch of absolutely gorgeous days.
But it isn’t enough. None of it is enough. I feel like I’m decaying, corroding, stagnating.
I had a panic attack on the way to the grocery store today, and Jeremy had to bring me home. I am terrified of driving and constantly feel like I’m going to get into an accident, which is backed up by the fact that I got a ticket last week for making a dangerous left turn into oncoming traffic, and I was almost hit by a car. But I scream at Jeremy whenever he makes a “mistake” when he drives and constantly criticize him. So I’m terrified of being a passenger, too.
On Saturday, Jeremy and I drove out into Mt. Hood National Forest and put 190 miles on the Civic in one afternoon. It was a great day. I only screamed at him a few times for not observing proper following distance or for making lane-changes that I thought were “indecisive.” When we weren’t around other cars, I was fine. I was in two serious car accidents in less than two years, remember. And lately, more than makes sense, I’m in constant fear of getting into another which, consequently, makes me a worse driver. I hate being in cars, much of the time, and I am a cab driver.
And if someone treated me the way I treat my boyfriend, I would have left them a long time ago. I dragged him into my therapy session the other day (since he drove me there) and my shrink said that it’s not my job to tell him how to react to my outbursts. This may be true, but I still find myself horrified by them. I don’t want to be that sort of person. And I don’t know how to stop, except by stopping to be any sort of living person at all.
I need to have a good summer. I will spend it in nature as much as possible. I will try to sing more, in all seasons, because it makes me happy. And keep holding on, as hard and as long as I can.