Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017


In the overall scheme of things, I know that I'm blessed and very fortunate.  I have a job, I have a place to live, I have reliable transportation, I don't want for food or beverage or clothes, and I have friends.  But, sometimes, even knowing that there are millions of people who don't have the basic necessities of life, it's hard for my rational mind to let all of that sink in.  That may also be because my rational mind isn't always the one in control nowadays.

I struggle every day to get out of bed.  I struggle every day to get out of the house, to go to work.  I struggle to do what I need to do at work and otherwise.  Outwardly, I think I appear fine.  Every day, I maintain the facade that everything is ok, that I'm ok, while inside, I have to make a conscious effort to appear that way, to maintain the illusion when I'm around people, when at times, I feel like I'm just standing at the edge of an abyss.  I think the rollercoaster aspect is what throws me off.  There will be short moments, maybe a few minutes at a time, when I am fine, really fine, and there are other times when I'm at least managing ok.  But then, there are also the moments when darkness creeps back in, and I can feel myself sinking again, and it's all I can do to hold on and stay afloat.  That those dark times still return periodically throws me off guard every time I think I've made it out.

Last Thanksgiving, my dad was already gone.  My mother had gone into the hospital several days prior to Thanksgiving, and we thought she'd be released by Thanksgiving.  But it didn't happen.  So, she spent Thanksgiving in the hospital.  Since we had already planned to have Thanksgiving at our parents' house, we still did that, bringing the food we were all going to bring anyway.  We ate Thanksgiving dinner at their house, and then we packed up a little plate and went to visit our mother in the hospital.  She wasn't really able to eat any of the stuff we brought.  She was eventually released a few days later to return home.

This Thanksgiving, the husband and I are doing our own thing, and everyone else in the family is doing their own thing as well.  This is part of the process of the water finding its own level, on the way to figuring out what the new normal is now.

And the new normal includes it being more quiet in the house than it's been for the past 15 years.  I miss the mornings with Orkid, when the husband is still asleep, and Orkid comes to find me to cuddle for a while.  I'll be sitting at my computer, and I can hear her little feet tapping on the floor as she walks over to the room.  I'll look at her, and she'll meow at me, and then she'll jump up onto my chair, and then climb on me and settle down.

I'll get to spend some time with friends during the long weekend, so that will be nice.  So many things in my mind that I'd like to get done, none of which I've been able to do for months now, and I'm not sure what the chances are that I'll actually manage to do any of them this weekend.

I hope that this Thanksgiving brings you some joy, some happiness, some laughter, and if nothing else, some peace.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

By a Thread







After a friend found out that I'd had to say goodbye to my cat this weekend, part of her comment was that I've had a lot to carry lately.  My response to her was that they say God doesn't give you more than you can handle, but without trying to be blasphemous, I feel like with all of the stuff God has to watch over in the world nowadays, He might have me confused with someone else as far as how much I can deal with.

When my father died last October, I don't think I really had much time to process what happened.  I spent a lot of time helping my siblings take care of our mother, and then because she was in the hospital a few times or needed other assistance, there always seemed to be some kind of crisis to deal with, so almost everything else was put on hold or could be subject to change at a moment's notice.

For those who haven't read my blog much and don't know, I'm a huge movie fan.  Oscar night is a big deal for me because I'm really interested, even in years when for whatever reason, I haven't seen many of the nominated movies.  Don't call me, don't visit, don't talk to me that night unless it's about the Oscars - I'm busy.  I do real-time commentary on Twitter during the broadcast about the awards, some of the fashion, whatever happens on the show.  This year, about 3/4 into the show, I got a text that something had happened with my mom, and I was the nearest person to her who could get to her the fastest.  There wasn't a choice.  I stopped watching and left the house, and Best Actor and Best Picture hadn't even been presented yet.  (So, yeah, I didn't actually get to watch the whole Best Picture "Midnight" / "La La Land" snafu that happened and instead read about it on Twitter later.)

It wasn't really until May / June that nothing major had happened in a while, and I think that's when stuff about my dad started to surface.  Feelings/memories/thoughts/reactions and such had come up a little previously, but for the most part, they had to be suppressed because there wasn't time or energy to think about them.  But 9 months later, they were making their presence known.  I was actually having a difficult enough time that I considered taking a leave of absence from work.  But the person who usually fills in for me when I'm on vacation was swamped herself, and after thinking about it for a while, I decided that I couldn't add to her load with having to cover for me while I was on a leave.  I determined to stick it out.

And then August rolled around, and my mother died.  And now, more feelings, more thoughts, more reactions.  Interspersed with not feeling anything when my brain shut everything down when it got too bad.  I was feeling awful.  My entire body hurt, and without getting too tmi, my insides were not processing well.  I knew that stress was a factor and decided to wait it out a bit before seeing my doctor, figuring the stress would subside some and then my doctor could tell me if I was feeling like crap because something was really wrong with me or if it was just stress-induced.

So, in late September, I had an appointment with my doctor.  When she walked in the room, she asked how I was, and I said that I'd been better.  She asked me what was going on.  I told her that the last time I'd seen her was in January (I'm supposed to see her every six months for a regular check-up and tests.), and at that point, I'd told her that my father had died several months prior.  She said yes, she remembered that.  So then I told her that my mother had died about 6 weeks ago.  She talked to me for a little while, and I told her about everything that hurt and felt wrong about my body.  And she did order the normal tests and a few more just to make sure, but she pretty much said that all of it was due to the stress of everything.  (Who knew that stress could turn your insides into knots.  Well, I didn't.  I mean, I know that stress definitely has an effect on your physical body, but I wasn't aware that it could have as many adverse reactions on you physically as I am now aware given that it's happened / happening to me.)  She also said that I was effectively experiencing depression, and she wanted me to see a therapist.  I had actually thought she might say something like that, and I agreed to go.

An appointment was set up for later that week, and the therapist I met with is a female.  She asked a whole boatload of questions about my entire life.  I kept having to remind myself that if I didn't tell her the absolute truth, there was no hope of her helping me.  I do have to admit that it was uncomfortable saying out loud to her things that I almost never discuss with anyone.  (And, admitting further that I still find it uncomfortable at times talking about certain medical things with doctors and other medical personnel that I don't know, and I have to remind myself that they've seen and heard everything, and this is their job, and there's no need to be embarrassed.  Well, this was 10 times worse because it was talking about feelings.)  By the end of the session, she did confirm that I did show signs of depression, and she did want to see me a few times but she didn't think I needed prolonged sessions, and she wanted me to go to group therapy for grief.  That last part kind of threw me for a loop.  Talk about my feelings to total strangers, especially feelings that I don't think are what most people expect to hear in this situation.  Hesitant and a little scared but willing to try, so I said ok.  As it turns out, the group therapy is on a cycle of sessions, so I have to wait for the next cycle to start.

And then the week after this, I had the meltdown I detailed in a prior post.  The therapist and I had talked about the option of medication to treat my depression.  I'm not against the idea but after talking through some of my questions, I decided to hold off for now, with the possibility of re-visiting in the future.  After the meltdown, I seriously thought about the medication again, but I also realized that it can be a long process in trying to figure out which meds might work for me and in what dosage, and I'm not sure I can handle the uncertainty and testing right now.

Since the meltdown, things haven't been as bad.  I don't feel awful all the time, I was actually getting some sleep, but I still didn't feel like doing much.

And then, Orkid got sick.  As I mentioned in my last post, she'd been dealing with the kidney issue for some time and it had been ok, but her downward spiral only really started about a week or so ago, and then really crashed on Thursday and Friday last week.

It just seems like in the past year, every time I think I've dug myself a bit out of a hole, more dirt gets thrown back on me.  I've sat at work today at my desk periodically crying, partly because I do miss Orkid (it was very quiet in the house last night, with no tap-tap-tap to clue me in that she was walking over to visit with me) and just being overwhelmed again with everything, so many things I haven't worked out and figured out.  I could really use some time off, but the person who normally covers for me is currently unavailable so I really can't take any time.  If I'm not here, there's literally no one to do my job right now, so it's better to have me crying at my desk in between working, struggling through, than to have no one here at all.

And on top of that, when I was told that group therapy wouldn't start for a little while, they said if I hadn't heard from them in a few weeks, I should call.  I should be calling now.  But I haven't, because that would also require me to leave the office in the mid-afternoon once a week to get to the meeting, and again, with my co-worker not being available, I'm struggling with essentially abandoning my job to go.  One of my friends is encouraging me to call about the meeting, and she likened it to putting on my own oxygen mask first before trying to help others.  I understand the sentiment, but right now, I'm feeling more like I'm the pilot of a plane, and the co-pilot is unconscious, so if I step away, there will be no one able to fly the plane.

It sounds crazy to think that with everything that's been going on for the past 13 months, losing my cat is what has the potential to send me over the edge.  I'm fighting it, but it's really difficult.  I feel like my reserves are all depleted, and the fumes are even dissipating, so I can't even rely on coasting with those.  I think the tears are the only release I have right now to continue on to the next minute, the next hour, the next day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It's Been a Hell of a Year

Sometimes, I don't know what day it is.  Heck, sometimes, I don't know what year it is.  So much has happened in the past year, well, really, 13 months, that it's hard to keep things straight sometimes.

It started in September of 2016.  In mid-September, we were given notice our dad had likely at most 2 months to live.  It ended up being about 6 weeks, mostly involving in-home hospice care, and he died in October.  The one-year anniversary is coming up this Wednesday.

After having been in the hospital a few times for various reasons since November 2016, our mother died in August of this year.  Even though doctors were still talking about tests and possible treatment, given what was happening, I had figured out about a week beforehand that there was really only going to be one outcome.

About a month ago, a friend of a friend died from a rare and aggressive form of cancer.  I'd only met him twice in the past year but had enjoyed my time with him when he'd visited with our mutual friend.  I'd hoped to see him a third time and was sad when it turned out that wasn't going to happen.

Last week, a friend's father died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  I'd never met him, but my friend had talked about him a lot, so I knew some things about him.

Of course, the last two things aren't directly related to me, but because of the situations, their deaths did have an effect on me.

And then yesterday morning, we had to put our cat down.  She had a kidney condition that we'd been managing for some time, but eventually, it was more than she could deal with.  She was to the point where she wouldn't eat or even drink water and could barely move, all of this happening in a period of a day or two, so we made the decision to let her go.

And being a student of pop psychology, one of the things I've noticed that's come out of all this is that there have been several times over the past 13 months when a switch has been flipped, when I've just tuned out to the point where I don't feel anything.  It's a really interesting sensation when it's something you've read about, and then you realize that it's happening to you right then and there.  There have been a few times when the pain, the hurt, the situations have just been so overwhelming that as a defense mechanism, my mind and my feelings just turn off because it can't handle it.  Sometimes it lasts for a few hours, sometimes it lasts for a few days.

There's so much there to process in each situation, much less having all of them happen in a relatively short period of time.  And this doesn't even take into account the normal stresses and anxiety and such associated with work and life's other happenings.

The weird thing is that I'm not entirely sure I understand what exactly death means.  I can't define it for myself.  It happened more than a year ago, in fact, it happened about 3 years ago, but one of my best friends died in August 2014, and to this day, it's like my mind thinks that he's on a business trip, and he's just too busy to talk to me right now.  That's happened before, when we wouldn't get a chance to talk for a while.  Granted, it never lasted 3 years, but it seems to be how my brain makes it ok that I don't see or hear from him.  And I think I've taken that approach to my dad and my mom as well, that they're on vacation, so that's why I haven't seen or talked to them.  Again, that's happened before, though not for this long a period of time, but at least it's a situation that makes sense to me.  I guess the mind does whatever it needs to when you need it.

There are charts that give stress points for various events that happen in your life.  I think it's pretty safe to say that my stress points are probably off the charts at the moment, so it's probably not a surprise that I'm not handling it entirely well.  More on that later.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Not About the Ketchup

Do you ever have that moment when you're having french fries at home, and you go to get the ketchup, and when you realize you're all out, you just burst into tears and have a complete meltdown?

Yeah, it's not about the ketchup.

It's just the last straw, THE thing that pushes you over the edge.

You might have big things to deal with.  You might have little things to deal with.  One or two of them at a time, you can handle.  Even 5 or 10 little things, you can handle.  But at some point, you can't take any more, and the littlest thing is what sets you off, to the point where anyone in the vicinity looks at you like you're a crazy person because you've just completely over-reacted to something that doesn't warrant that level of distress.

I had one of those moments today.

Tuesday started off not great with a doctor's appointment (details will be in a future blog post), but then I spent several hours in the afternoon chatting with a friend I haven't seen in a very long time, and then I spent the evening having dinner with the husband and some friends, including one friend who I haven't seen in a while.  All in all, it was a good day for spending time with friends, and it really did a lot to boost my spirits.  Driving home late in the evening, I knew I felt better than I had in a while.

Wednesday, some of the glow had worn off, but not all of it.  I'd even started to think about maybe hanging out with friends for part of the weekend.  By Thursday morning, though, the dark cloud was back.  The voice in my head that said, you don't really want to go to work today, do you?  Don't you just want to stay home?  You haven't been getting much work done anyway, so what's the point in going?  Besides, they won't miss you at work if you're not there.  So I had to fight past that voice to actually leave the house and go to work, and then fight not wanting to actually do anything once I got to work.

And then I got a call in the late afternoon from my doctor's office, and the nurse wanted to go through my test results.  Usually, they just send me the results.  I don't recall them calling me before.  And, as I suspected, both my cholesterol numbers and my A1C (to test for diabetes) were high, though my A1C wasn't actually as high as I had expected.  I've been indulging in a whole lot of comfort eating in the past couple months with everything that's been going on, and I haven't exercised in about 3 months, so yeah, I figured my results wouldn't be great.  The nurse kept giving me a hard time about the cholesterol, and asking me repeatedly if I'd been taking the medication I've already been on for a while.  Yes, I've been taking my meds.  No, I didn't take a break from my meds.  Yes, my numbers are that high even though I'm already on meds.  After then proceeding to the sugars results and then telling me what I should be eating instead, I finally told her that I knew exactly why both results were as bad as they were, and I had expected it.  I told her what had happened to my parents in the last year, and that it wasn't an excuse, but yeah, I've been eating bad things because I'm just trying to get through everything, and I haven't been focused on what I've been eating.  She apologized and said she understood, and we talked about a couple more things before we concluded the call.

And I spent about 20 minutes feeling worse and worse, to the point where I started to cry.  Luckily, I have an office at work, so I got up and shut the door so I could cry in private.  The results were what I thought they'd be.  Having the nurse get on me wasn't that bad, and she backed off once I explained what had been going on.  But I guess that was the tipping point, because I cried in my office for a while.  And I went through a round of "What the hell does it matter what I'm eating?  Why can't I just eat what I want?  Why does any of this matter?  All the stuff that would make me feel better are things that are going to make my numbers worse, so I guess I'm just supposed to deal with everything on my own?  Fine, I'll just sit at home by myself and I won't talk to anyone and I won't do nothing.  And I won't eat anything, that'll help my numbers, right?"

Yeah, meltdown.  At least it wasn't with an audience.  After a while, my sanity returned, and I stopped crying, so I opened my door again.  And then realized a few minutes later that I apparently wasn't quite done, so I had to close the door again for another round of crying since I didn't want to risk having someone walk in on me.  Finally, I'd stopped crying for a little while, and I felt like it was done, so I opened the door again, and I even managed to get some work done after that.  Not a lot, but some.

Not having ketchup for your fries really sucks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sleep Doesn't Come Easy


Last week, I had a dream about my mother.

We were at the old house, the old house being the house my family lived in from the time that I was about 4 or 5 until I was about 17.  It's the most common recurring location of my dreams, probably because it's where I grew up.

The house has an attached garage, connected by an adjoining door right after you enter the front door.  We never parked the cars in the garage, but rather, it was a spare bedroom, storage space, utility area.  For some reason, I'd gone in there to look for my mother but was surprised when I didn't find her.

After a little while, I noticed that she was laying in bed, facing away from me.  That seemed odd because I never knew my mother to nap much, unless she wasn't feeling well.  I remember wondering if she was sick and was about to ask if she was ok, and for her to tell me if anything was wrong so we could take her to be examined.  And then I realized, I didn't need to tell her that anymore.

I heard my mother's voice in my head (in Cantonese), "I've been gone for a lifetime, and she still doesn't know it."



Well, it hasn't been a lifetime.  My mother died just over a month ago.  And my father died in October 2016.  So, the last 12 months have left me with quite a bit to deal with.

There are moments when things feel ok, when I feel normal.  The moments come and go, and they don't generally last very long unless I've got something to focus on and I'm actually able to focus.  During the day, I have things to do, things to pay attention to, work, distractions.

The nights are difficult.  There's less going on.  Distractions fade away.  Things are quiet.  People are sleeping, resting.  Except me.  There's just me and a whirlwind of conflicted thoughts.

I've never really been very good at sleeping, even as a child.  It never occurred to me that I could ever actually have MORE trouble sleeping.  That's how it's been for the past month.  I'm awake well into the early hours of the morning, pretty much until my body is exhausted and can be awake no more.  I sleep for a little while, but then it's time to get up and go to work.  And then I spend the day very tired.  So you'd think I'd be able to sleep that next night, right?  Nope.  I'm tired and sleepy all day, but when I get home from work, even if I think I'm tired enough to go to bed early, as soon as I think about going to bed, the brain starts firing again and won't let me sleep.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  On weekends, if I don't have to be up at a certain time, I still can't sleep in.  As soon as my body is no longer exhausted, my brain wakes me up, even though I'm still tired and sleepy.

The irony of having even more difficulty sleeping now than I usually do is that when my mother would hear about my insomnia, she would tell me that I was thinking about too many things, and that was why I couldn't sleep.  She'd tell me to stop thinking about so much.

I haven't yet figured out how to quiet my brain enough to let my body rest.  I figured I'd try writing again, to see if that would help.



If you've been reading this entry, you probably got here from a link I posted.  That will be the only time I link to these sorts of posts.  I figure if you want to read more about this subject, if I manage to write any more about it, you now already know how to find your way here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Star Wars and Disneyland


Today, we attended the panel at Star Wars Celebration, Orlando called "Star Wars and Disney Parks".  First up was discussion about Star Tours.  The guests were Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald and actor Anthony Daniels.  Tom talked a bit about how the ride was developed, that he and fellow Imagineer Tony Baxter were asked to visit a company that made flight simulators who were interested in entering the entertainment industry.  When Imagineering was then subsequently in discussions with George Lucas about working on something together, George saw some information while at Imagineering about the flight simulator and asked what it was.  He then said it was the perfect tool to help create a Star Wars ride, and Imagineering and ILM starting working together on what would eventually be Star Tours.  Paul Reubens was chosen to voice Rex, the hapless robot who finds that his first flight ends up being more complicated than he'd imagined.  Tom said that George had wanted to make sure there was plenty of humour in the ride.

Anthony Daniels was asked to be part of the project because they wanted the iconic characters of R2-D2 and C-3PO to be involved in the pre-show in the queue.  Anthony came in to do the movements of 3PO, which he says were duplicated perfectly, so much so that when he stood in the queue watching the animatronic 3PO, he couldn't believe he wasn't inside the suit controlling the movements.  I laughed at the story, because it's one of my favorites, that Tom told that George had wanted more droids in the pre-show but they were so close to opening the ride, so they went to a nearby attraction, "America Sings" at the time, and stole two of the singing geese and turned them into droids for Star Tours, which is why they're referred to as the goose droids.

Discussion then turned into the changed, current version of Star Tours, billed as "The Adventures Continue".  In connection with the then-upcoming release of "The Force Awakens", a new scene on Jakku was added to the ride.  They purposely subtitled it "the Adventures Continue" so that it gave them a lot of leeway to do other things.  They announced that in connection with "The Last Jedi", a new scene would be added featuring Crait, the new planet revealed in the teaser trailer for "The Last Jedi".

And then, discussion turned to the new Star Wars lands being built in Disneyland in Anaheim and in Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando.  Several people from Imagineering and from Lucasfilm who are collaborating on the project came out to discuss the new land, which had previously been announced as opening in 2019.  Not much information has been released about the new land.  They did say that it's a remote frontier outpost on a planet with which we are not currently familiar.  The vision is to create not a set with facades but something real.  They said it wasn't a place that was being created for 2019 but rather, a place that already exists which we won't get to visit until 2019.  It will be a real town, with real characters, including an underworld, and real smells.

Both the Resistance and the First Order will have a presence in the outpost, but it will also be a place for bounty hunters and smugglers and those who don't wish to be found.  In designing the town, they looked at a lot of Star Wars concept drawings from famed artist Ralph McQuarrie.  Star Wars fans know how revered he is in being instrumental in helping to design the look and feel of Star Wars worlds.  They said that when they consider an element in the land, if it was something that Ralph McQuarrie wouldn't approve of, then maybe it would be best to leave it off.  Having the new town elements and look be influenced by Ralph McQuarrie's designs is indeed an encouraging thing for Star Wars fans to hear.

In designing the new town, it's not the same as designing a set because a set would be contained and controlled.  The new town they're designing has to look good in the daytime and the nighttime, and it has to be able to accommodate the weather elements in each locale.

The town will include many droids, some already familiar and some not.  Each will have their own story and their own personality.

There will also be various characters who inhabit the town, and guests will find themselves with the ability to help the Resistance, or support the First Order, or maybe even accept a side job from a smuggler or bounty hunter.  Guests will also be able to fly the Millenium Falcon to complete a mission with their chosen flight crew (spouse, sibling, third cousin twice removed, friend, etc).  It was stated that most guests would most likely accomplish their mission, but what kind of damage the Falcon or anything else might sustain in the process will be up to the guest and their crew.  However, if things go awry, there could be consequences and the guest might find themselves being paid a visit even after their mission is over or down the line.  Guests will in effect build a reputation based on their actions in this new town.

It was great to hear how excited everyone was in talking about this project.  All of the people working on the project are huge Star Wars fans, and they themselves are looking forward to fulfilling their own childhood dreams of being able to actually visit and spend time in a Star Wars world.  They said that they didn't just want guests to remember past adventures of other people, like having them visit Tatooine or Hoth.  They want guests to experience their own Star Wars stories in this town.

I was intrigued to hear that your history in the town could be maintained and used as an on-going story.  And I thought about how that could work.  Obviously, guests could be asked to scan their annual passes when they entered the town or flew the Falcon or visited the cantina, and that information could be tracked for future reference.  But, not everyone has an annual pass.  Some people might visit regularly but not by having an annual pass.  However, given that it's a town, I'm thinking visitors could be asked to have some kind of ID that would be issued to them.  As they interact with characters in the town, those interactions could be tracked by scanning the ID and the cumulative effect could result in more story variations, depending on what each guest in involved in.  And for those guests who don't visit as often or who would prefer to remain more anonymous during their visits, they wouldn't have to have their IDs scanned.

There is still one major concern that I have, a concern I've had since the project was first announced, heck, since the project was first rumoured.  From the very beginning, it had been indicated that the plan was to have it be a real place, a real town, with real citizens you can interact with.  That sounds great.  But a real town is going to be suffocating when 40 million people want to visit this town at the same time.  How are they going to control the guest population in this town?  Sure, they could restrict entry into the town, to control how many people enter at any given time.  However, unless they sweep the town of guests every two hours or so, which would be weird for a real town, they're going to end up having too many people staying and therefore limiting how many new guests could enter.  I can tell you right now that when I'm allowed to visit, as long as they have restrooms and refreshments, I could enter first thing in the morning and not leave until the town closes for the evening.  Heck, maybe I'll even sit at the base of an AT-AT and just people watch for a while.  I'm definitely going to explore every little detail, and I know I'm not the only one.  I'm sure they'll figure out a way to handle this.  I just can't think of what it could be.

I was excited to hear what the panelists had to say today.  I cannot even tell you how exciting I think it is, and two years is a long time away, but patience is definitely going to pay off.

Oh, and by the way, just an FYI to Imagineering and ILM, if you need people to test out visits to the new town, interactions with guests, taste tests of the local food, I'm totally available and happy to help!  I love traveling to new places!