day 5

 

E. and I pull up to where Nels is waiting for us, after his appointment. He’s on the side of the rather busy road, standing upright like a little reed – playing his new (to him) trumpet. The sight of him cheers me immensely. It’s been a hard few days. The kids are in school, and while it’s hardly the free time extravaganza people without children might guess it to be (for instance: in five days I’ve had to drive out to the school three times; I am also literally a soccer mom which is a big time-suck); all the same it is a change.

Later, on the yoga mat: lying prone, sweating into my kerchief, not looking so “pinup-cute” as I get called regularly. Rumpled and tired, my wrists a slight throbbing agony. I patiently wait to return back to flow. I’m so tired I’m pretty good at just being on the mat. In general, my mind doesn’t race like it used to.

Home: sewing a heavy, disagreeable vintage wool fabric. It’s hot. The kittens race around the room and Hutch follows me with his steady brown eyes, wishing with every fiber of his being for me to give him Nels’ lunch chicken bone. Ralph on his way, after getting groceries. Sunlight through the curtains, the sounds of children (not all of them mine) laughing in the living room. Preoccupation. Planning. And then: gently setting aside the plans. I’m here now. I can do now.

Night falls. Ralph and Phee are off on a run. Nels asks, “What is for dinner, mom?” I am longing for hot shower and a bed to fall into. Tomorrow: a meeting, more yoga, soccer. Tomorrow: fabrics in the mail; a new project.

But that – is tomorrow.

Pre-Colonoscopy

“What’s the buzz?” – or, about three weeks somehow shoehorned into just a couple days

The last few days have been growth days. Doing new things. New, often scary things. Being very busy; busier than I am normally

For instance I am hustling to finish up my projects from the Bundle Up! boys’ blog tour. Typically in my tailoring work I stroll with my head back, cockily finishing up before deadlines, like a Boss. However this time around my fabric order was freakishly late – the fabrics arrived last Thursday. And even then I might have had time but a medical project reared its head. Thursday afternoon I prepped for, and Friday I underwent – a colonoscopy.

Pre-procedure: tired, tired, at the tail end of a thirty-six hour fast, and ready for my Twilight Sleep:

Pre-Colonoscopy

(the “Shadow of the Vampire” look I put down to a puke-green “gown”, hospital lighting, and a very special adventure the day before.) That said I’m not sure if anyone’s done so well during a prep and colonoscopy as I did. (Is that something to be proud of?)

Post-procedure, I slept most the day.

Saturday, feeling quite amazing and energetic, I got to sewing as quick as I could. But of course: kids, housework. A long-lost friend resurfaced and needed some time. And of course – before I forget: we put together the Event Page on Facebook, printed the tickets, and rolled out the poster for our upcoming benefit for a local animal rescue:

(For the love of god, buy a ticket or donate to the cause. We put up our household grocery money to reserve the Theatre and secure film licensing – $750!)

And today?

Well, today. Ralph and I tried out for lead parts in a local production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Yes. Yes, we really did.

Ralph & I Off To Audition

(we both channeled the late and great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly)

I didn’t mean to have such a busy week, but when things get busy I get very “one thing at a time” – and sometimes I don’t notice how many “things” I strung together.

I guess out of everything… I mean I am proud of myself for stretching, for reaching out and doing things scary. But the auditions? That is huge for me. Not that long ago the only people who’d heard me sing were my children.

I’ve had a lot of adventures the last few days. I’m ready for a little rest.

Some people in the home, however, continue on much as before. So after a very busy last five days, I leave you with some precious Cat Serenity.

Just An Old Hat

Champions

Pip, Sleeping

 

twice blessed

My first experience with the benzodiazepine I am currently taking, was back in 2011. A doctor – whom I trusted, and still trust – prescribed it to help me with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, and onset insomnia. He told me this low dose would help, and was very safe. He specifically told me it was a very low dose and I could take it for years with no ill effects.

I took the medicine, with some misgivings. It was primarily this faith in the doctor that kept me willing to dose myself with a nightly sleep aid – although I couldn’t deny it was very helpful. Even so, I worried. As I got, and stayed sober, my avocational work in a treatment center taught me a fear of pills that was perhaps overblown. I was brought alongside many, many people who were addicted to pill medications (those still using, and those who had successfully stopped). I heard story after story of the various medications people took in good faith – only to became addicted to. Some quickly, some slowly. Some ended up on heroin, some smoking pills all day long, some dumping almost anything into their system in any way – through needle, ingestion, snorting, smoking. Many people afflicted with prescription addiction end up doctor-shopping, or embroiled in even more unsafe activities – buying pills off the street, stealing, or hustling. One man I know would in goodnatured fashion offer to help older women with chores or yardwork – then tell a sad story about being cut off by a doctor who didn’t understand, so he could get what he needed. In the hundreds (thousands?) of addicts’ stories I have heard, the natural fear of self-poisoning and the desire to be good citizens was inevitably overcome by their body’s need for balance – to feel good, to sleep, to work, to feel okay, to feel normal.

On the one hand these stories scared me; on the other, my medication worked as intended, and I was conscientious. I took my medication exactly as prescribed by this good doctor. I discussed my medication with trusted friends in Recovery, who had experience with such matters. I met with my doctor every few months and brought up the medication, and my concerns at taking a medicine long-term. He assured me each time that this medicine was safe to take for years, and that I could quit any time without ill effects. He told me I was trustworthy.

After about a year, I stopped taking the medicine – cold turkey. I had some trouble sleeping at first (as I read in my journal), and then life continued on.

I didn’t take medication for almost two years.

But in late April this year I visited my doctor and told him my sleep problems had kept up these last two years, and seemed to be worsening. He prescribed the same medicine, and the same dosage.

Back to sleep. Night-anxiety – solved. Instantly. No more waking up after only moments asleep, with a feeling of panic almost impossible to describe. Relief – finally.

But my newfound regimen was to be short-lived. On June 1st I read an illuminating article on the use of benzodiazepines – an article that said, to wit, that many doctors are prescribing a powerful medicine for the long term, and that this is not wise. (The article is worth reading carefully; many people you care about – perhaps even yourself – are affected!) Even though I’d only been taking the medicine for five weeks when I read the article, I was already ready to re-investigate continuing this treatment. I looked further into this particular drug, and testimonies from those who took it long-term (by this I mean, any regular use over two weeks in duration). I became curious that perhaps some of my two years’ of sleep problems might be related to my original abrupt cessation of dosage – since I hadn’t known any better than to stop abruptly.

I have been tapering the medicine, in a conservative and responsible fashion, and with my doctor’s help, since June 1st.

It took about a week for drug withdrawal symptoms to set in. They are mild (especially compared to some!); nevertheless, they are unpleasant.

But – drug dependence is easier the second time around. Or it has been, for me. I know healing is possible, and I am patient. I am very grateful for this. I am not angry my doctor prescribed a medicine, and a course of medicine, that wasn’t right for me. He was not trying to harm me. He was trying to do the right thing.

One quibble. The article above is a good one, and may perhaps prepare people to be wary of these particular drugs, or be in a position to support those who decide to stop taking them. However I dislike the concept, or the phrase, “accidental addict”. I dislike the term “addict” anyway, unless self-applied (people first language, please!). And anyway – what bollocks! No one ever sets their sights on becoming an addict. We all use medicine. We seek alleviation from symptoms. We have a drink to relax. We start smoking to take the edge off our stressful day. And we use our medicine – “recreational”, “alternative”, self-prescribed or prescribed by a doctor, socially-supported or illicit – because we seek relief. One day we begin to know we might be overdoing it. But by then we aren’t in great shape. And the next day, overnight it seems, we find ourselves in a predicament. Our bodies are deranged; disabled. Healing – should we embark on the journey, should we even believe it possible – takes time.

My family and friends support me. My doctor supports me, and I support myself. I write here not because I think anyone in particular is owed an explanation. I write here because I write to be honest, and to be myself – and I tell my story, as long as I don’t harm others in telling it. I also write here because I know others who have these kinds of troubles, sometimes read my blog – and find hope, and support. I have received emails, texts, comments, letters, and phone calls over the years that tell me addiction and compulsion touch many, many lives. I can’t do much to end the stigma and shame of drug addiction, drug dependence, alcoholism, eating disorders, mental disorders, or any number of “invisible illnesses” that plague so many. But I can do a little, and telling my story is a part of that.

I am looking forward to being drug-free again; this time, without the horrid and longterm symptoms of cold-turkey cessation. Life is an adventure. Let’s see what happens next!

 

leiden

I ask Ralph to slow down – “or pull over,” I amend. I feel so ill I’m almost certain I will vomit.

He pulls into a boat launch; the kids make faint, empathetic noises as I exit the car. I place my daughter’s just-now-finished band concert blazer on her lap, and close the car door, walk over to the edge of the clearing. Under a grove of trees and I hear something up high – a small nest of baby birds, perhaps? Three magnificently large fungi adorn one of the birch trees, about twelve feet up. I focus on these and breathe through my nose. There isn’t enough fresh clean air to calm my aching head, to soothe that sickness that roils in my chest.

Soon we are back on the road as my illness, though still with me, is manageable. In the passenger-side window my skin looks terrible; rough, pallid, green. I focus on the words Ralph says; I ask about his day.

We’re installed on bleachers to watch the end-of-year music concert for my daughter’s school. My daughter looks so adult; she shakes her hair, black and teal, out of her face. When did she get so grown? She has the most animated, happy face of the children there. She is wearing a bit of eyeshadow and slumps slim and sophisticated in her black suit. She is so gorgeous. It’s like on one hand I understand when people say she looks like me but on the other hand I watch her from far off and I think How can she be so beautiful? Maybe when she is up close I worry about feeding her and parenting her and caring for her and getting her new socks. And when I see her in the crowd it’s like a wild thing, something precious. I used to call her Creature, and it wasn’t kind when I did. But now she’s a Creature, a sense of humor, a quick wit. She never turns away from a hug from me,  and she returns the embrace with such presence and tenderness; one of those blessings money can’t buy.

It is time for her band performance. Her slide positions on the trombone are swift and decisive. She is focused but not tense. I am glad to watch, sitting here swaying in overcrowded bleachers, despite being ill I am glad I made it here. I know I don’t have to do anything but pay attention. That, I can do.

We leave earlier than my son would like; he has found friends on the playground. He shouts at us that we have to go home. We’ve a dinner to prepare, laundry to wash, pets to feed and love up on.

I’m tired; but sleep with come eventually.

Tomorrow, the sun will come out tomorrow!

catch me i’m falling

I would like to offer my readership an apology. I “owe” a few tutorial posts (I am well-aware of this!), and I have not been writing as much as I’d like.

Some of this is circumstantial – just, getting out of balance. As of this week I have committed to two sewing projects – and a design sketch – that I haven’t yet started. My creative exploits have been put on the back burner as I meet commitments to family and community. I am trying to be very patient with my limitations, as it is end-of-school-year for my daughter and I have a little work to do there. Ralph has had a few professional and personal activities that have kept him from home a night or two – and that adds up.

But most relevant: I have not been feeling well. I am experiencing medical problems that are quite distracting and often disabling. It isn’t a complex illness to describe and it is one I am looking forward to sharing in the next few days; but I don’t feel like writing about it now. I am under a sewing deadline at the moment; when this is finished (tomorrow evening), I will take stock of what I said I would accomplish, and make a plan.

Paradoxically, it has been a commitment or two that keep me in relative good cheer. I have a few volunteer engagements I’ve been faithful to for almost three years. Today I sat in my standard Wednesday afternoon meeting, and served as the meeting’s chair. While I listened to others talking, I wondered if the individuals there knew how much it meant to me, to have a place to go, and a purpose, and to be asked to help, a group of “strangers”. No fame. No pay. No reputation. No one gives a shit. All of this makes it deeply meaningful (because I’m a Buddhist, and we are weird). Dizzy and nauseated, I breathe deep, close my eyes, and meditate on the gladness I am alive. There is something very special about caring for people I will never see again. About pouring my heart out, just emptying it out, with no regard to where things go. Because I know I’m doing something helpful but I don’t know what I’m doing, exactly.

Home and my children are themselves: energetic, lively, clever, loving, and vibrant. I am ill and sensitive to noise; on the drive home (Ralph in the driver’s seat) I put my hands on my face. “Mama, are you sick?” Nels immediately asks in alarm. “I am, little guy.” The sunset is beautiful and the car has a full tank of gas and I’ve got makings for tomorrow’s dinner in the fridge (fried chicken, corn on the cob, coleslaw and homemade biscuits) and surely I’ll survive the night.

you’re motoring / what’s your price for flight?

My dog Hutch and I have some kind of bromance going on. But it’s not one of these rude, crass, and fumbly kinds like you’re seeing in so many films today. No our bromance is like – Appaloosa‘s. Or Casablanca‘s. Or “ST:TOS”‘s. Like we’re talking TOP NOTCH bromance. A classic one.

Ralph and the kids are camping this weekend and I’m still sick, and stumbling around like I’m high. Today I was too ill to do much but drink water, eat food brought to me, and care for the pets. As it was, the walk for my dog just about did me in.

It’s ironic – or maybe it’s not, because I never really do “get” what irony is – that the first weekend in a very very long time I have it to myself, I am too sick to do anything really. To sick even for the modest assignments I’d given myself – housework, a sewing project, a few gatherings. Tonight a girlfriend invited me out to a dishy movie and I’m too sick to sit in a theatre. That is just: BALLS.

I’m patient, though. I no longer think of being ill as some persecution or trial. It is rather practice. Practicing patience. Today I had the opportunity of helping out a few friends who called me, and one acquaintance who wanted to borrow something. In fact it was rather odd that just by breathing in and out, and being willing to take calls, I was still able to help people – even in my weakened condition.

Lights out on the porch: windchimes and a summery balm to the air. I’d like to be out running around but it’s okay to be in and having a fever too. #sanguineAF, that’s me.

where you feel like your eyeballs are all itchy and about to crack into gritty dust

I had wonderful, productive plans for the day. Instead, by the time we arrived home after the bike trip to and from Nels’ Homeschool Swim date, I was feverish, dizzy, and dissolving into a periodic but nasty cough.

 

Into bed for me, then. Now and then I rise to do a few chores, and fix a plate – before falling back into my fan-cooled bedroom and playing Hour Six-Million of some crime drama. Meanwhile my children enjoy the sun, their friends, and a trip to their grandmother’s for a movie date. Ralph mows the lawn, runs errands, prepares dinner, and makes an evening meeting.

So yeah – besides a few caring phone calls to friends, and some housework, and being loving to my family, I was shit-all useful today. But this afternoon I did have someone tell me that reading my blog helped her a great deal in taking the plunge to homeschool. That is a really wonderful thing to hear. No matter if my writing is crap or it’s okay or whatever, I pledge to continue as long as I can.

I keep thinking about a vacation. Somewhere sunny where we can swim. I am ready to swim in open water as long as it is clear water and there aren’t horrible weeds in there trying to murder my ass. In fact, now that I am such a strong swimmer, I can see how much I would adore snorkeling. I tell Ralph today, “I love just swimming and swimming and swimming and it’s only when you take the breath that it’s kind of a drag.” Now that is something I wouldn’t have guessed I’d think, a few months ago!

My daughter, this evening. She’s doing that thing where she keeps growing into the wonderful young woman she is:

 

OK.

*falls back into bed, weakly calling for popsicles*

bravery is required

Spring emerges. Skunk cabbage, and newts in the small freshwater streams. Flowers have erupted from the still-cold and seemingly-inhospitable earth. It felt like things weren’t going to change. It was dark. The light is spilling in.

Tonight I flush a pain prescription; yet, afterwards, I feel foolish and uncertain. What I’m really trying to do is stop struggling. The most insane of struggles that I take up, time and time again: fighting my fears.

Stop worrying. I am beginning to think one day I will lose a kidney. Despite my efforts, despite the care of physicians. For a person who has a severe fear of even minor surgical procedures, the concept of something like that is very difficult.

And it feels wasteful to flush drugs I could sell on the street. Yes, I am shocked I even have such a thought, however fleeting. I have never sold drugs and I do not think that is ethical behavior. I know it isn’t legal. And yet the thought occurs because my mind has been overrun with fear. How will I provide for my family, how can we make Rent.

It is the most powerful seduction: there is something I can do, there is an action I can take Right Now, that will sort out my life.

In the car the other day, a beloved friend and I were talking. I said – in gratitude – “God supports me,” and she responded, “Well. I support myself. I provide for myself.” I drove on for a bit and then I said, “There is a lot of suffering in that idea.”

I am going to stop saying “God” when what I mean are the three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. I am shy about Buddhism because where I live it is a minority faith tradition. If you say “God” people might be prejudiced but at least they might not be outright bigoted about it all.

I can be a little bit brave. A little at a time.

i’m sorry i haven’t written much of late, but:

I am experiencing high call volume.

And by that I mean, a double-dose of kidney problems. That’s right. BOTH kidneys.

 

I laugh (and I post a clip from one of the best movies of all time, and before I die there is nothing I’d like more than to star in a stage adaptation), but the truth is this has been most discouraging. I don’t know how I got through Sunday night and Monday, but by Tuesday night I had capitulated and taken some prescribed, and narcotic, pain medicine. I take the medicine at night which means I feel pain, nausea, and awfulness during the day. But taking the medicine during the day would mean doing nothing during the day. I have at the very least to drive and pick up my daughter from school.

It isn’t like my kidneys to take this long to pass stones, and it isn’t like them to both be seizing at the same time. I can wait a while longer but then another CAT scan or xray, and possibly another procedure, may be in my future. Expense, radiation, needles, fear, vomiting, invasion – and my husband, doing more than his share while I recover.

I will write more soon; promise. Thank you for your patience.

TIME FOR GO TO BED

Today I swam a long swim, hustled money from one old rotten tree stump to another (to cover bills about to post), did the housework, got my kiddos where they needed to be, took an alcoholic and an addict sans vehicle to two back-to-back meetings, and swooped in to pick up and foster a kitten displaced by an evacuation in Hoquiam.

Beyond tired. No quips here; and I lack the stamina to write a bit more about it, really.

Crashing into bed in 3, 2, 1…