We’ve been here for over a month. The floors are oak that someone put carpet over but someone else ripped the carpet out, thank goodness . It’s somewhat drafty and badly insulated. Apparently our gutters aren’t great. The fan in the bathroom needs fixing. The kitchen is too small.
We hosted people in the backyard approximately every other day for the first month we were here. Now it’s cold and the backyard is soggy. There are some tomatoes that I should bring inside. I ate a pear right off the tree a few weeks ago and it was delicious. I got a tan but now that it’s cold I look kind of sallow. The cats settled in nicely. Husband and I manage to both be in the too-small kitchen without wanting to murder each other, and we’re both sort of amazed that this is so. The tub is pretty big and I spend a lot of time in there. The furnace is noisy and we don’t run it very much. My office is the warmest room. The bedroom is barely big enough for a bed and a dresser. We’ve managed to keep the place pretty tidy. My office is the only room that is a mess, but it’s getting better.
I’m a mess, but I’m trying to get better.
My job is trying to suck the life out of me, but now that I have a mortgage I’m not allowed to tell anyone to fuck themselves. I still love a lot about what I do, but management isn’t very kind to someone with brain damage. Downright unhelpful, actually. Last week was panic and this week is numb. Next week will likely be panic again.
I sit in my cold house with my warm cats and find peace wherever I can. I nest in my warm office with my cold thoughts and try to remember that things have a way of turning out okay, because I know this to be true. Most of the time, things turn out okay. I keep telling myself that.
It’s weird to be in such a bipolar state. Some things are going so well while other things are going so terribly. And I’m bouncing back and forth between elation and despair.
The house is really very nice and we’re quite happy to be here. I wish everything else was going so well.
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 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.
The artist formerly known as “my husband” will still be known as “my husband,” but we’ve agreed that his new nickname here is Tall Glass of Bourbon, or TGB. I may also just call him T, as I have in the past.
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.
In 2016, I got a temp job working for the Bureau of Labor and Industries. I worked front desk there for about six months. During my time there, I met Amanda, who first got my attention because she wore amazing lipstick. I decided I would be her friend. We both moved on from BOLI pretty quickly, and once we were both out, I invited her to lunch.
Because I’ve had some bad luck with friends in the past, I made it a point not to put much pressure on the relationship. We hung out about every six months; we would shop at the MAC counter and/or go to lunch. It worked. It was simple. I’d made a friend. She came to my parties and bought us towels for our housewarming a couple years back.
Last year, I got married. My husband and I had a simple, Dude-ist ceremony officiated by our friend, Jordan. We needed witnesses, so I asked Amanda. She came with her husband. And she decided her gift to me would be personal training sessions, because that’s what she does now.
We met for sessions a few times, and then Covid happened. We resumed in the summer, masked and distanced. When cases started going up again, we put the sessions on hold. And then we started meeting about once every week or so on my lunch breaks downtown, just to chat and get some (masked, distanced) social time.
Around Christmas, Amanda stopped texting me back as often. I noticed. I brought it up to my husband, and he said “Maybe she’s busy. Don’t think too much of it.” So I tried not to.
But in the past couple of months, I couldn’t shake the feeling. She’d respond to messages eventually, but she wasn’t volunteering anything. She wasn’t asking to meet up, and she wasn’t initiating conversations. Last week I was pretty worried about it, and so My husband said I should message her. I did. She responded. It seemed fine.
But I still couldn’t shake the feeling. So this morning I sent what was intended to be a lighthearted message, and I got the response you see above.
When I was in California from 2010-2012, I had two parties at my Mom’s, where I was living. Both of them were very well-attended. At the second one, a few people came up to me to tell me that I had awesome friends and sure knew how to throw a party. There are people from that time whom I still talk to, which is nice. But none of them live close by. And I’ve fallen out of touch with most of them. I’ve been written off by a few of them, too.
The past eight years have been awful for friendships. In March, 2013, my sister-in-law (who was also one of my best friends,) cut me off very suddenly and said a bunch of terrible things to me while doing it. We were living together at the time, so I moved out as quickly as I could. My brother also stopped talking to me for awhile, but I’d gotten pretty used to that by that point.
In May 2013, I moved in with my friend Dee, which was pretty much a disaster. I couldn’t keep a job, and I had trouble paying rent. In August of 2013, one of her friends said he’d replace my brakes and I’d only have to pay for the parts. I drove over to where he lived, and as soon as he got the wheels off my car, he started trying to extort more money from me. On the way to the ATM so I could take out cash to pay for the new brakes, he told me that someone had once refused to pay him for his work, and he’d cut that person’s brake line. I was freaked out. I gave him another $40, which I had to call my mother to have her send to me. He wanted an extra $200 or so. Over the next few weeks, he kept trying to intimidate me into giving him more money. I refused. And on Friday, September 13th, my brakes failed on the highway at 50mph, and I steered my car into a ditch so as not to hit anyone else. I’m pretty sure that this friend-of-a-friend tried to murder me. I was lucky that my only injuries were from trying to get out of the car, which had flipped onto the driver’s side. Love that Volvo engineering.
(Dee treated me like I was crazy for thinking her friend had tried to kill me, even when I told her he’d bragged about doing it before. When I confronted him about it a few years later, right in front of Dee, he said “I don’t want to talk about that.” Apparently that didn’t make much of an impression on her, either.)
Eleven days after the car accident, on September 24th, I lost my job, and on the 25th I checked myself into a psych facility because all I wanted to do was die. I spent the next few months in a hell of unemployment and (catastrophically) failed medications.
In January, 2014, Dee kicked me out. Someone else took me in. That was a disaster, too.
I hooked up with my husband in July, 2014, and we’ve pretty much lived together ever since. My housing is finally stable, but I haven’t really succeeded in making new friends. Some of his friends like me. But if we got a divorce, he’d get them in the split.
Amanda was the first person in a long time I’d made friends with all on my own.
My heart is broken. I’ve spent the past hour or so googling “why don’t people like me” and “how to make friends.” It’s pathetic.
I know that there are parts of me that could use a bit of a polish. I tend to talk too much when I’m nervous, and I’m almost always nervous. When people tell stories I have a tendency to say ME TOO and then elaborate, and some people feel like I’m one-upping or talking over them. I’m working on that. My humor can be abrasive, but I’ve toned it way back. Former coworkers who I considered friends dropped me without telling me why. I feel unlovable. I don’t trust anyone not to turn their back on me or ghost me, because it’s happened so many times now.
Last week I told my husband that there’s a voice in my head that says “nobody likes you, and they’re right.”