Monday, May 28, 2012

my story is much too sad to be told...

but practically everything leaves me totally cold --
The only exception I know is the case
When I'm out on a quiet spree
Fighting vainly the old ennui
And I suddenly turn and see
Your fabulous face.

-- "I Get A Kick Out of You," lyrics by Cole Porter

Sung by Frank Sinatra

One of the many troubles with this is I have nobody's fabulous face to turn and see. But oh, lawdy, that is another 100 posts or so. I'm not getting into it now.

It's a beautiful day. Sunny, warm, bit of a breeze. I spent a leisurely amount of time at the gym, got a nap, played infinite rounds of Words with Friends, did a little shopping. So far there is absolutely nothing wrong with this day.

Except that I woke up.

Except that I made myself get up and do stuff, rather than wallow.

Except that this sunny, warm, beautiful day would only be perfect for me if I could spend it in bed, curled in a ball, rocking back and forth and wishing the misery would just END, please.

One of my dearest friends is a psychologist who specializes in positive psychology. (Yep, happiness has its own subfield. Says a lot about the emotional state of mankind these days, n'est-ce pas?) For the past 40-odd days, I've been doing a daily "gratitude list" -- looking back over the day and trying to figure out what was good about it, and how to reframe it if it sucked.

Doing those lists *has* shown me there are things to be grateful for. I know a huge one is that I have a lot of people who love me and would be upset if I checked out.

It doesn't matter. I figure you all will get over it. Me, I'm tired of hurting. I am beyond tired of mood swings that occur within the same day (whatever happened to getting weeks, at least?). I am tired of having to put on a happy face when I'm not happy. I am not wired to be happy. Chalk it up to chemicals or conditioning or whatever you please, but I got life's short end of the stick when it comes to love and success and peace and happiness. I got abuse and hate and pain. *Other* people got happy.

So no matter how many of those lists I do, I can't see it the happiness sticking. Right now, all I can see is that everything hurts, and bad stuff sticks around longer than good stuff, which to me appears to be ephemeral.

I have lost, or never even gotten, many of the more enjoyable things in life because of my mental health. I mean really, all things being equal, would you want to get involved with someone -- in any form -- as big of a mess as I am? Who would voluntarily consider the pros and cons and find the pros win, come hell or high water? So far the answer's "no one." I suspect that is where it will remain. Nobody ever wants the defective ones....and I pretty much define the word "defective" in most major areas.

I am putting this out there because I feel like I need to explain what it feels like when I get this way. I don't know how to describe just how much it hurts, but I need to try. It's like I have boulders tied to the outside of my body, and something between a permanent fire and a twisting, very sharp knife on the inside. That's why I cut, actually -- the physical pain takes away the emotional pain. Briefly. I'd still rather not be here.

I don't buy into the whole heaven and hell thing, but if there is a god cruel and capricious enough to send people to eternal torment simply for deciding when to call it a life by themselves -- hell isn't going to hurt any worse than life did for me, so bring it on. My conception of what happens after death is eternal nothingness. I think it sounds blissful. Peace and blackness ... no one can touch me, no one can hurt me, including my brain.

I don't think anyone will be able to turn me permanently to the happy side. My bad wiring is going to keep dragging me down like this at intervals. So it goes....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

so now what?

Yesterday my official "notification of decision -- fully favorable" for my disability claim came in the mail.

It's really true. It's really going to happen. I'm really going to be forcibly retired before I'm out of my 40s.

Why, you are probably asking, did I file a claim if I wasn't interested in having it come through?

Well, there's the need thing. I haven't been able to hold a 40-hour job in years now. The only way I've survived is through the kindness of a very generous man who also happens to be a psychologist, so he understands mental health (or lack thereof) and what I can and can't do. He's let me work as I can for him. Someone else I met via that website has also employed me from time to time. I've written off and on for the weekly newspaper here, did a brief stint at the Bullseye (plenty of previous blog entries on that), one serving lunch to old folks at a senior center -- lots of things.

But as my mental health has deteriorated, so has my inability to do much that's meaningful. When you can't even get out of bed long enough to take a shower and get dressed because you feel so damn bad, much less clean your apartment or fix yourself lunch, work isn't really a priority.

My psychiatrist thinks I need this. My therapist thinks I need this. Everyone on earth thinks I need this, and I'll even grudgingly admit I do.

But you know? At the same time, I don't want it. I'd rather contribute than mooch. I earned it -- I worked for decades, paid into the system, am now getting my tax dollars back out -- but nevertheless, it's hard on the pride. Not to mention it's hard to figure out WTF I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I wasn't set to retire till I was 67. That's another 20 years. So now what do I do with my days, since I officially have nothing to do and nowhere to go? Should I take up an instrument? Learn to bungee jump? Play Words with Friends 8 hours a day? What is out there for me?

I can work a little bit and still receive benefits. I'm told that I can have a trial period to test it out if I ever decide I'm healthy enough for full-time again. I can't see that ever happening. Just over the last two years things have declined so badly that I can't see them getting better, just continuing to get worse.

WTH am I supposed to do with myself now?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

it's not just a state, it's a state of mind

Two significant things happened to me last week: I won my federal disability case, and I got to see Kansas – a gigantically important band of my youth – in concert.

The disability thing kind of sucks, to be honest. I won in record time because it was clear to all involved that yes indeed, I am severely mentally ill and no longer able to work, or to function as well as the average 40-something adult.

I can assure you that this is not the way I intended my life to turn out. The guys from Kansas kind of nailed it with this song, which originally came out in 1976. I was 11. It saved my life more than once. I’m not exaggerating.

I'm woven in a fantasy, I can't believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
And with each passing day I feel a little
more like something dear was lost
It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between,
All I am, and all that I would ever want be
It's just a travesty, towering, marking
off the boundaries my spirit would erase

There was a beautiful young girl in my area, 13 or 14 years old, who a few weeks ago decided killing herself was a good response to being bullied.

I was nearly that girl.

Kansas and their counterparts, Styx, got me through. I was a sensitive kid, loved to write, loved poetry, and these songs spoke deeply to me. If I could just get up to my room, close the door and crank the records, I would be OK for awhile. It’s not like anyone would listen to me (my parents blew off my depression as teen angst), so I had to find help somewhere else. Help from complete strangers who had no idea they were helping me worked fine.

To pass beyond is what I seek, I fear that I may be too weak
And those are few who've seen it through to glimpse the other side,
The promised land is waiting like a maiden that is soon to be a bride
The moment is a masterpiece, the weight of indecision's in the air
It's standing there, the symbol and the sum of all that's me
It's just a travesty, towering, blocking out the light and blinding me
I want to see

Mercifully, I had one teacher who tried. Would you believe we’re still in touch? Eighth grade was many decades ago. I don’t think he even really knew the depths of the problems I was having, whether with my peers (who were pretty heartless) or my parents. But he was the best mediator ever, and he listened. It helped.

Life went on, again not as planned, nor as most people get through it. I quit college to chase after a guy who claimed to love me. (I was beyond wrong.) I did finally get a degree – two of them, actually – and then kept getting jobs that, for the most part, I enjoyed but didn’t pay. My mental health – battered by years of maltreatment and a rotten sense of self-worth – continued to deteriorate. And now, while my friends who grew up to be doctors and lawyers and architects are advancing their careers, I no longer have one. It’s hard. I was good at what I did, and now I largely have to give it up.

Gold and diamonds cast a spell, it's not for me I know it well
The riches that I seek are waiting on the other side
There's more that I can measure in the treasure of the love that I can find
And though it's always been with me, I must tear down the Wall and let it be
All I am, and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross

That last verse? Always left me sobbing. Did last Friday, too. How can you rightly say you’ve lost nothing when you’ve lost everything? These guys have been singing this song for 36 years now. They must have a clue. I would love it if someone would find one for me.

But, unlike that 13-year-old girl – I’m still here. There are plenty of days I wish I wasn’t, but I am. I am totally unafraid to die and totally unafraid of what lies beyond. Maybe that’s my clue: I’ll unravel my purpose if I figure out why I’ve stuck around. It’s not a bad challenge for anyone: Is there loss or joy behind your Wall?

... plus ca meme chose.

Sometimes -- as in, when I have the $10 to do so -- I take my laundry to a laundromat by my house. It's in between an Indian restaurant and a place where you can get things like turkey hunting permits. Very eclectic little group of businesses there.

There is both a washer and a dryer in the basement of the house I rent, but they're elderly and small and slow and laundry is a task I'd just rather get over with.

One day, rather than read the inevitable Jehovah's Witnesses magazines, I chose to play on Facebook on my phone. I posted a status saying where I was and that my Oxi Clean stain stick had failed me for the first time -- and it failed on my Ryan Braun T-shirt. (Ryan Braun is the left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, my favorite team. He was embroiled in some controversy this past offseason but was vindicated.)I asked if that should be considered justice or irony.

S., who I met in CCD class in second grade as they got us ready for First Communion, and who is a giant hockey freak, immediately posted: "All I want to know is, do you still have your Bernie Federko jersey?"

Bernie played minor league hockey in S.'s and my hometown for a couple of years around 6th or 7th grade. I loved him, though I couldn't tell you why. So I saved my allowance, and I bought a cheap jersey (the kind you couldn't put in the dryer or it would melt PCBs all over everything), and when it came, I walked up to the T-shirt shop at the mall and had his name lettered across the back. And then I wore it to school every chance I could find, because I thought I looked cool as hell.

I was blown away that S. would remember that. I sat there with my head in my hands for a solid 10 minutes, trying to pick apart and process my feelings. When I felt like I could properly respond, I simply said "Wow -- I can't believe you remember that. Thank you for not thinking I was a dork."

His reply was almost instant: "Remember it like yesterday. And I *never* thought you were a dork. I always loved the way you represented."

Let's review, shall we? 13-old-girl. On what then was considered the larger side, though it now is considered the ideal weight for my height. (I took a lot of crap for my weight as a kid, and none of it was justified, if you look back at old pix. But that's another post.) Glasses. Dressed funny, for a girl. Heavily into sports instead of nail polish and hair goop. (One friend said he wondered later if I were a lesbian because I was into sports and wore a lot of flannel.) Stood the entire rest of my 7th grade English class to a spelling bee -- and won. In other words, pretty nerdy and not a little outside of the mainstream.

And somebody didn't think I was weird.

I wanted to say, "WHY didn't you say that then?," but realized that there isn't a 13-year-old kid on the planet who doesn't feel like an alien.

It's been 30-odd (very odd) years since 7th grade. It blows me away to know how people *really* thought of me as opposed to how I *thought* they thought of me. I could have averted so much depression....but, live and learn.

plus ca change

Well! Welcome back, little blog. It's been awhile. I emphatically do not wish to revisit 2011, not one bit of it, so I'll not be telling why I essentially blew off an entire year (and a half). That's not to say it wasn't eventful, though, not by any means. And if I tell you the ultimate end result -- that I'm now on disability because of 2011's goings-on -- you'll understand why ye olde blog here is making a comeback: I need something to do. I've not yet figured out how to cope with being forcibly retired at age 47. In the meantime, I do what I always do -- I write. So read on.