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.