The wall, redux — with demons on the side

Sooner or later, deep and chronic illness (like, oh, let’s take an example at random, CRPS) will bring you face-to-face with your worst demons. It’s only a question of when, and precisely how.

When I came to adulthood, I realized that I felt a powerful need to earn my right to take up space and breathe the air. You’d think I’d be a cringing slave with that underlying attitude, but I wasn’t. I felt I deserved good pay, reasonable work/life conditions, and common courtesy, because that was fair; I just didn’t deserve to live.

Once I could no longer work, but had to fight like mad to live, this was a bit stressful. Like many, I almost didn’t make it. But then, as the very deepest trough began fading into memory, I noticed that something remarkable had happened.

Rewind about 10 years… I was a nurse for eight years, which put me in a critical relationship to others at critical points in their lives. I might have dealt with 10 patients in an hour, but, in the moment that I was dealing with each person, that was the most important person in my life. I may have coded hundreds of people, but every life I fought for, I fought for with all I had.

There were no caveats or conditions: if you were my patient, you had my absolute attention every moment I was with you.

I think this healer outranks me, but you can see
how focused he is on his patient. It’s like that.

I found that it’s impossible for me to work hard for someone’s survival, and not come to care about them – no matter who or what they are.

Fast forward to where we started, after the deepest trough, around early 2010… I had spent several years increasingly incapacitated, used up all my money, all my favors, all my savings, and lost a lot of friends – some of them to the Grim Reaper.

I won’t go into the brutal and abusive bureaucracy of California EDD or Oakland Social Security offices, because if you haven’t been through it, you wouldn’t believe me. That bad. Worse, even.

I woke up one spring day, with a strange sense of dawning inside. It took an hour or two to wake up, and to realize that I’d been fighting so hard, for so long, for my own survival, that I had become important to myself.

I no longer felt I needed to earn the right to live.

Ever since that time, I’ve never had a serious case of any kind of block – writer’s block, self-care block, learning block, anything – that lasted more than a couple days, unless it was explicitly disease-related.

Then, with this move to a strange area, with no connections, near a city I almost loathe… To get real care, for the first time in years, from seven highly skilled and capable professionals…

I hit a wall. Not just a block, but a huge, massive, precision-crafted, towering, deeply bedded, gateless wall.

Since writing “Frustration at the wall“, I’ve been faking it in the hope of making it. That’s a lot of weeks to keep running up against the same damn wall!

I finally started talking about it – I’m a writer; I’m a woman; I process by words; let’s move on – and began to get unscrambled. Then I had the deeply disconcerting pleasure of having my brain picked apart, cleaned with a dental pick, and neatly reassembled by the deliciously incisive Dr. Faye Weinstein. 

I can’t help thinking that the following is going to strike a few chords with some of my lovely readers…

I am, as she said with characteristic precision, “a helpful, compulsively self-reliant minimizer.” Really, why should I trust these people, who wield the power of Gods over what happens to me?

There’s a deep part of me that says “blow that, let’s go hide instead” and off I go, hiding behind advising on Facebook and diving into books and catching up on others’ crises; my condition is not that bad, so my care is not really that important, and it’s not like these people care more for me than their own crap anyway, so I’m on my own really.

My distraction activity is all very worthy, so I needn’t justify it. But, well, so much for the many new things I need to do to put together my own health…

Unconscious reactivity could be the death of me yet.

I said this illness would raise all your demons, even the ones you’ve hammered a stake through the hearts of. It turns out that the squat and fetid cranks who propped up my old conviction that I “don’t deserve to live” are still there, farting wetly and hawking loogies.

With apologies to Heironymous Bosch.

The demons of our earliest perils can shape our responses to major change forever. The trick is to see them for what they are, face them honestly, and put them back where they belong: in the past.

(Easier said… I think a booger just landed in my hair. At least, I hope it was a booger.)

To add to that, with years of excruciating work behind me and more ahead, my old motto of “change or die” doesn’t carry the same weight: Yes, part of me wants to lie down and die. The frantic, aching, endless weariness is beyond description.

But change is more interesting. A lot more interesting. And I only get to do this life once.

Conscious curiosity could be the birth of me yet. With luck.

With a better sense of what I’m doing, I’m preparing to turn and, with tactful and gentle persistence, come to terms with those monsters.

I might as well. I’m going to be here awhile.

Speaking of which…

Marathon training update

After one day to recover from the trip south, I was able to pull off my .8 mile route up and down this hill, and recover enough a few hours later to unpack the car (that’s a lot of steps!) and get some things done. Today was a lot of appointments, which involved walking at least a mile on city surfaces.

On Thursday or Friday, I hope to increase my hill walking to 1.1 or 1.2 miles. We shall see. No more overdoing.

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Words, words, and words, with a poetry chaser

I have logical and philosophical objections to certain words used to describe me or what I do. I don’t expect anyone to change the way they speak, but feel free to entertain yourself by mulling two ideas and reading one egregious rhyme (think Lewis Carroll meets either Timothy Leary or Tom Lehrer, I’m not sure which.)

Word 1: Disabled

Hah! I am extremely able, thank yeeew. With both hands behind my back and my head held under water, I am still able. I’m able to add 2 and 2, for instance, or quote that wonderful bit from Twelfth Night that starts, “I’d build me a willow cabin at your gate, and wait upon my soul within the house …” Mind you, if you’re holding me underwater, it would be hard to check that, but I can still do it, I assure you.

I am handicapped. Like a runty little horse that has to have 30 pounds of lead stuffed into its saddle before it gets into the race. Like a golfer who’s being scored by a drunk with a broken calculator. I have exactly the same tasks to accomplish as anyone else in the race or on the course, but I have some added burdens that make it rather harder to succeed.

Word 2: Recovery

Why should I want to re-cover? Of all the covers that have been ripped off, I can’t say I think all that many need to go back on. I love all this fresh air. I love the lack of artifice. I love the inward freedom of having so much stuffing removed.

I don’t need recovering. Appropriate padding, yes; portable cushions, yes please, by all means. But upholstery is just one big refuge for dust mites and dander, metaphorical and otherwise.

I aim to heal. Healing from any profound physical or mental insult (and CRPS is certainly both!) does not mean going back to what or who or how I was before, it means finding a new way forward. There is no way back, and if there were, I have no reason (given how things played out) to think that returning there would be good for my health!

No, it’s forward for me: man the lifeboats, or woman them of course, but I’ll head for new horizons rather than try to wade back through the hideous swamp I sometimes think I’m climbing out of.

The Rhyme: “Re-cover and Heel — an overstretched metaphor”

Before you read further, let it be clearly understood that I love dogs, I have always loved dogs, and I’m old enough to use the word “bitch” in its traditional sense of female dog. In this case, an upholstered one…

The brocade bitch took a turn for the worse
and bit off the toe of a shoe.
The shoe kicked back with a bitter laugh
And said, “That the worst you can do?”

Upholstery torn, the bitch barked out,
“You’re badly in need of a nurse!”
The shoe stomped off and hollered back,
You’ll soon be in need of a hearse!”

So the bitch went home to patch things up
While the shoe sought places new.
She’s jacquard now, otherwise fine;
He’s Prada, Gucci, and Diesel too.

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Standards

Driving requires licensure, even though you can only knock off a few people at a time & do maybe half a million dollars worth of damage.
Carrying a gun requires licensure, even though you can shoot only a handful of your work or school’s population before getting taken down.
But what about things that allow you to screw things up for generations? I wonder about how recklessly we leap into things like abusive relationships and electing con artists. (Almost a tautology.)
Without changing existing syllabi (or syllabuses), and with only minor logistical adjustments, it seems promising to institute the following requirements:
* Before voting, passing a 9th-grade civics exam and a course in basic logic & critical thinking. Refreshers required every 4 years, increasing to 6 years after age 35.
* On entering your first sexual relationship, passing an 8th-grade course in effective communication… regardless of how old — or young — both partners are at the time. (Because of the strange nature of some pederasts, this should bring some child-abuse cases to light; a desirable side-effect.)
* Before moving in together, passing high-school level home economics (including hygeine) AND a basic financial management course. Everyone does both. Divide the tasks afterwards if you like.
* Before getting married, passing a course in negotiation & mediation. Also adult versions of safety, hygeine, and personal financial management.
* Before breeding, a 6-month intensive course in parenting (including models from Dr. Spock to Attachment Parenting) and developmental psychology. Also, screening for psychoses and serious personality disorders — not to exclude them (there’s no eliminating these from the gene pool) but to provide pertinent training and prepare appropriate backup and support for nutcase, partner, and child.
Wackos raise some very gifted & capable kids, so excluding them from the parenting pool doesn’t make sense as a social strategy.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to have kids.

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