Annus Horribilis

Grace Under Pressure
2011. Sucked. For me and it seems for most everyone else.

May 2012 be better for us all, because I don't think I can cope with anything much worse.

Feeling Much Better

Grace Under Pressure
Many thanks for the concern. I have contacted an allergist but haven't heard back yet; while I don't think I need thousands of tests, I do think it's a good idea to follow up. I feel better, although today I just feel wiped out. It's the last day of steroids, so maybe that's whats causing it. Just want to go to bed and sleep - so instead I'm putting away laundry and cleaning out the closets!

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I'm still Here

Grace Under Pressure
Barely, I think.

Tale of shock that literally took my breath away.Collapse )

I'm sorry if this is really long, but I wanted to get this all down before I forgot the details. I'm not asking for sympathy, just telling a story. The sympathy will come when the bills start rolling in!

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We Get Too Soon Old.

Grace Under Pressure
My friend Bill, the one I stayed with in San Diego, called me a few hours ago. His brother Chris died yesterday evening. Chris was 41, and living with his parents in Arizona, a victim of the bad economy as well as some bad decisions of his own. Bill had told me the last few times we talked about how worried the parents were about Chris, how he seemed to have withdrawn and was very depressed. But thankfully for small mercies, it wasn't a suicide. The parents found him on the bathroom floor, shaving cream on his face. There will be an autopsy.

Bill is in shock. I guess I am, too, and before I explain, I want to say I cannot imagine what the parents are feeling. My heart is with them; I wish I could take away some of the pain they must be feeling. As it is, I can't. I can't even say I'm sorry.

A long time ago, when I was young and slightly more stupid than I am now, I met Bill at college. After various experiences I will not detail yet, I fell in love with him, as much as someone who didn't have any idea what love was supposed to be like could. Yet I always felt there was something missing with Bill. He was so closed with his emotions, so afraid to feel or express anything. (Many years later, I understood why. But, as I said, I was younger and stupider then.) I knew he loved me, but there was always this distance I felt, like I could never get through to him.

He took me home to meet his parents one Christmas, and I met his brother Chris. Chris was, to put it euphemistically, troubled. Emotionally fragile is how I would put it, he was emo before emo was mocked, and I always believed his parents should have spent the money on a good therapist and psychiatrist instead of sending him away to a school that was more designed for recovering substance abusers than the mentally ill. (Some people just have their brains wired differently than the average. His mother, a Very Devout Catholic, never could quite grasp that mental illness doesn't always mean a crazy person in a straitjacket.) Chris was passionate about the things that mattered to him, and he could get very angry when those things didn't matter as much to others. High-strung is a good descriptor.

When I moved to DC to be with Bill, Chris would come down to visit on occasion. And this is the part where I admit my mistakes and acknowledge my shame: I fell in love with Chris. And Chris? I believe to this day that he truly loved me, possibly more than anyone else ever has.

To make an already long story shorter, I left Bill to be with his brother Chris. It was wrong, and whenever I think about it, I cringe with shame. I hurt Bill terribly, and for that I will never forgive myself. I was twenty years old and desperate to be loved. I can look back now and see that it was my own horrible childhood that drove me to be wanted by someone, by anyone, so I would feel useful and needed - the equivalent of love to an emotionally neglected child. I was wrong. I did a very bad thing, and I think that karma paid me back in spades.

But Chris? Was not an innocent in all this. He wanted someone to drive the demons plaguing him away, and when I couldn't do that, he turned to self medication. He drank and smoked a lot. Then a lot more. Two years later, it reached a head. He was drinking 30 bottles of beer - a case and a six-pack - a day. His temper got shorter and shorter. I found myself apologizing more and more for nothing, trying to avoid doing anything that could possibly upset him. But even I had enough when he began seeing an old girlfriend and lying to me about it. The drinking, the temper, the anger, the lies: I said enough, and broke it off. It was as ugly as you can imagine.

Fast forward many years. Bill and I are friends again through the miracle of kind-hearted fate. Sometimes he volunteers information about his brother, sometimes I ask. Chris sort of wandered through life, settling in upstate NY for over a decade. He worked, he drank, he did whatever else he did. He drank a lot; both Bill and I know he was an alcoholic, but his parents were blind to it. (Father always has three or four glasses of scotch in the evening; Mother must have her half-bottle of wine. Facing his alcoholism would mean they had to face their own dependencies, just as admitting Chris had mental problems would be admitting they weren't perfect parents.) He made some pretty bad decisions about work and finances and burned through his inheritance from his grandparents. With nothing left, he moved in with his parents.

About six months ago, he contacted me on Facebook. I took a long time to answer; that period of my life is over and I didn't want to open old scars, or jeopardize my friendship with Bill. I did communicate with him, but only at arm's length and never about anything too deep. He wanted to call me and talk, but I refused, telling him I simply could not handle his drama in my life until I had worked through my issues in therapy. True to the person he always was, he got very angry with me, typing a three AM drunken rant about my grudge-holding and bitterness, demanding I talk to him.

Now he's dead, and I don't regret not talking to him before he died. I mourn a wasted life that could have been so much more after his death as much as I mourned it over the phone with his brother a month ago. I ache for his parents as much as I wish I could make them face their role in his misery, as well as the legacy of anxiety and withdrawal they left to Bill. I never threw away Chris's letters or mix tapes (hey, it was 20 years ago); I take them out every so often as a reminder of what Could Have Been and Never Would Be. I always believed he would drink himself to death; perhaps this was a kinder way. I wish life had been better for him, but I can't change the past. Maybe the best legacy he gave me was when I left him; that was the first time in my life I ever had the courage to say "no" and to do what was best for me.

I don't know what else to say, except I'm sorry. For Bill, for Chris, and a little bit for me.

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Writer's Block: Above and beyond

Grace Under Pressure
What do you think happens after you die?


The same stuff that happens before you're born.
Grace Under Pressure
Stayed home sick from work today. I joked yesterday about taking a mental health day, then WHAM! Felt fine until about 6 last night; by nine I was snuffling and wheezing. So much for karma.

I've been keeping busy lately cleaning and painting the upstairs apartment. I posted at the end of August how the neighbors from hell moved out. Well, they were worse than I could have imagined. Maggots. Roaches. Brown toilet. Moldy shower. Sticky, black carpeting. Filthy, filthy pigs, and what's worse, the county knew about the living conditions because the older child is autistic, as I guessed, and social workers were coming to their apartment to do intervention visits. I have pictures up here. (Yes, I trust you all.) I don't understand how people can live like that, and even less how they can think that's appropriate for raising children. I alternate between pity and disgust.

Anyway, I didn't truly realize how much noise they made until they left. And how wonderful it is to sleep without having to use a white noise machine and earplugs, and being able to sleep for several hours straight instead of waking up at every bang and thud. So after talking with the landlord, I decided to move upstairs. It's more or less starting from scratch; the carpeting and kitchen floor had to be ripped up and thrown away, and the bathroom fixtures need to be replaced. Every square inch has to be scrubbed clean and repainted. But in exchange for my labor, I get to do things my way, and to take all the time I need to move in. It's a little like home remodeling, without the hassle of actually owning. And as usual for my workaholic self, the busier I am, the less I think about my problems, which can't be all bad.

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Oh Hell to the Fucking NO!

Guido Big Bird
"Many [tea party] activists joke that telling people they are part of the tea party is akin to disclosing that they are gay, exposing themselves to anger and ridicule by taking a step they describe as deeply cathartic."


Source

Just shut the fuck up.

OB Tasteless: Although if it encourages more teabagger suicides from the shame and ostracism of being outed as racist, classist, ethically challenged douchebags then I'm all for it.

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Twixt and Tween

Grace Under Pressure
Yes, I have a Facebook account. No, I am not interested in crossposting anything between here and there. For anyone, ever. Facebook keeps me in touch with people I know in real life (or in some cases would love to meet someday). LJ keeps me in touch with people I really like to talk with or to listen to. These two groups have a very small Venn diagram intersection.

If someone were to crosspost something I wrote, I'm not the type of person to get my panties in a twist. If I really want something to stay private, I don't say anything public. Less private but sensitive is on Dreamwidth. I'm gentlehum_mel there; ask and you shall be added. (I try to find people but I still get a little hinky about invading someone's privacy to ask to be friended - I don't want to force myself on anyone.) Whatever you, my friends, write stays here and goes nowhere else. Ever. What you write elsewhere stays there. Your words, you have control over their dissemination.

Invite codes available for Dreamwidth if anyone would like one.

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Thwarted

Grace Under Pressure
Yesterday was a perfectly lovely day with the sun shining, the birds singing, and my head pounding so badly all the plans I had to Get Things Done went for naught. So I decided to post meaningless tidbits about my life instead, waiting for the pills to kick in. Consider this a two day update, since I never did feel quite right yesterday.

The upstairs neighbors from hell have moved, or at least are staying elsewhere now. They were getting some boxes and small things out yesterday morning when I woke up (which is what woke me up, the inevitable thudding, banging, and dropping) but I haven't heard or seen anything since. At least they didn't leave the water running, which I expected coming from two people that selfish and clueless. Friday the male half of the duo was screaming at his friends who were helping him move out the TV and the sofa that they weren't doing anything right, prompting a shouting match in the middle of the street with the van owner telling upstairs dude that he "is an asshole." Dude, I could have told you that! Now perhaps I can get my bathroom sink fixed? It's only been two months without it!

This afternoon I am working on sanding and plastering the patches where the old plaster washed away in the bathroom.

Bought a book of poetry on a whim the other day, an anthology of modern poems, and to my surprise, am enjoying it very much. It seems as if there has been a bit of a swing back toward structure in poems; not necessarily rhyme, but very strong emphasis on meter. It's soothing to read a few before bed.

I'm also starting to try to meditate. I don't know how successful I will be at that; I've never had much luck stilling my mind and focusing unless it's in the pursuit of work (and the less said about work, the better). I keep berating myself for all the things I'm not doing because it always seems as if no matter what I accomplish I could and should do more. That's not healthy for anyone to do. There's a place in the world for good enough.

And, and this is a big and, I am trying to reach out more to others. It's so easy to isolate myself, and I tend to fall into a state where I feel I have nothing worthwhile to contribute or to say because my life is really so very boring looking at it. Maybe posting like this is a way of seeking approval.

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Alles Klar

Grace Under Pressure
I had to undergo an ultrasound to be sure, but sometimes a lump is just a lump.

My breasts are sore as hell though, especially the larger right one. After an Aleve, bed, and hopefully a little more sleep than last night.

Thanks for the support.

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Trying Hard to Find a Rhyme

Grace Under Pressure
I can't sleep, which is expected but inconvenient, as I've been up since four in the morning and I could use some rest. So here I am, playing silly games and trying in general to put things out of my mind for a night. Why is it so hard to put things out of your mind when you are out of your mind?

I bought a book of poetry yesterday on a whim, and to my surprise like most of what I have read. That's something I miss not going to school, not being able to read new works and discuss them with others. I read, but it seems so haphazard what I find and to be honest it's easier to stick with tried-and-true genres and interests rather than to branch out and work at something new. I've been trying a few free ebooks but for some reason I just can't get used to reading fiction on a computer screen. Commentary, history, non-fiction, all work fine in pixels for me, but novels and short stories and poetry just seem more true and real in black ink on a white or off-white page.

This is too much deep thought for trying to sleep. Back to Marble Lines.

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Testing 1...2...3

Grace Under Pressure
A new account, for a new paradigm. Or at least an attempt at it. This is for me, personal and private, personal and public, to say what I need to say without fear.

I'm scared.

Quiet Hushed Mouth

Grace Under Pressure
On the premise that you shouldn't say anything if you haven't anything nice to say, and the corollary ("Stifle yourself, Edith!"), I have been remaining very quiet and still over here. Most of the people on LJ seem to have more than their fair share of problems, and mine are mostly the same old same old. I keep working, at this point for the health insurance if nothing else, because the rest of the job is driving me to frustrated tears. Keep fighting the depression, hoping with what little I have left that someday some of the positive thoughts from the exercises will stick to my frontal lobe. I'm trying for the equivalent of "Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!"; I'd be well-pleased with "I don't suck all that badly."

I'm not sure whether it's the above-average heat this summer or the depression or both, but I barely seem to have enough energy to get the everyday living tasks done, let alone take the steps to work on getting better. It's my fault I've settled into auto-pilot life, but the slope looks so steep from the bottom of the valley. Still, I hold a tiny bit of hope (literally, because I bought one of those silly little polished rocks that has the word "hope" carved into it, so I can hold Hope in the palm of my hand) that there will be an end, or at least a lessening of the misery. I must keep trying. What's the alternative? And at least Ariel Kitty is there, day after day, night after night, loving me in her quiet zen way.

Oh, and I have a mammogram scheduled for Tuesday. It's my first one, since I turned 40 this year. But it's not a baseline, it's a diagnostic, because the doctor found a "thickening" in my left breast during my annual exam last week. I thought I had until menopause for these problems to crop up, given the family history, but I always did like to be early. I know that all odds say it will be nothing, but the spectre is there, and it's keeping me awake at night. How will I find the energy to fight if the worst happens - and will I want to?

I know you're not baseball fans but...

Grace Under Pressure
...the Voice of God and of the New York Yankees, Bob Sheppard, has died at age 99, and with him goes an era. I'm listening over and over to Bernie Williams' "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in tribute.

I remember the first game my father took me to, in 1977. I remember that voice announcing Craig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson. And all the other games, all the other players, home and away, with dignity, without exaggeration or tricks, just simple elegance and clear, crisp diction upon which I have tried to model my public speaking voice.

I am not a person of any faith, but may the angels watch over you, Dear Bob.

On My Own

Grace Under Pressure
I've been living alone for a little over a year now. Truth be told, I really enjoy the solitude. I like doing things my way, and even though I feel a bit guilty for not having housekeeping standards up to those I grew up with, I am pretty good at keeping up with things considering I work full time and have to fight this damned energy-draining depression.

But emotionally this past year has been harder than I ever thought it could be. I've come closer to suicide than I ever did in the past, and there's not a day I don't sob and cry, sometimes over nothing, sometimes over everything. I wish I could have been one of those people who can take everything in stride, who could have learned to deal with my ex's situation better, who could have just accepted. I miss him so much. I have her in my life as a close and dear friend, but it's not the same. I miss having someone I could turn to, someone who I knew loved me and wanted me, someone to hold me once in a while. But I wasn't strong enough to live that way, and I couldn't get over the bad things. She's happier now, too, has made great strides in living full-time and self-acceptance, and it gladdens me to see her so happy. When I'm not mourning my loss, that is.

So many losses. Susan, my therapist, says I'm "resilient". That I've made progress in healing, in learning, in accepting, in making changes. But I don't think so. I feel like every day I slip further and further backwards into the pain and the self-loathing and hatred I grew up with, that I know so well. Wouldn't it be nice if one day, just one day, I believed I deserved to live just because I was alive? Instead I know that I'm not meant to be here, that I'm a mistake created from hatred and fear, that in order to justify the air I breathe I must be, above all, useful, and never, never, never want or need anything.

That's so hard to overcome. I can check the thoughts a thousand times, stop them, tell myself anything else, and still they come, unbidden. When I'm tired or stressed I can't fight them, they take over, and make me more tired and more stressed. It's so tempting to walk down to the railroad tracks and just wait. But I can't. I have to keep going. Why? I don't know, I'm not sure. There still seems to be some small spark inside. Maybe it's nothing more than stubbornness.

Writer's Block: Family Is…

Grace Under Pressure
What does family mean to you?


Distance. Safe, safe distance.

Naughty

Grace Under Pressure
I played hookey from work today so I could stay home and clean.

Um, OK...

Grace Under Pressure
In the past week, both my therapist and my psychiatrist have suggested, gently and otherwise, that I might be better off were I to take a leave of absence from work and enter an inpatient or partial hospitalization mental health setting.

Perhaps my level of general fuckedupedness is higher than I thought.

Silence is Tin

Grace Under Pressure
I've been quiet lately, I know. Having some wild mood swings; I'm not manic, but the littlest thing sets me off, and most of those little things are work-related. Corporate staged an intervention at our store because the annual popularity poll results showed we peons were a bunch of malcontents. In other words, we didn't give management high enough ratings on what swell people they were, so an investigation was begun to see why were we so negative. Choosing to ignore the reasons they were given (most of which focus on the utter lack of personnel management training given at the store level, and the utter lack of any type of consistency or long-term planning at a corporate level, coupled with a healthy amount of inept micro-management and bureaucracy at all levels in between), the powers-that-be decided that the best way to make us happy was to have our management get more involved with the workers. In essence, the solution to being unhappy being micro-managed is to micro-manage us more.

Fantastic. This would be wonderful. Maybe I could get a little help, as I am falling further and further behind in completing the required paperwork, which has more than doubled in the past year.

Uh, no. See, I am the worst person at my job my 2nd level supervisor has ever seen. I don't do anything the "right" way, but when I ask her to please describe to me how she wants it, or better still, to show me the proper methods, I get, "Later - I'm busy now and don't have the time." It's hard to function when one knows that everything one completes will be wrong in some unspecified way, and there's no direction as to what is "right", except to know it's not what you did. And to be told, on top of it, that you should always have a smile on your face because "I don't like to see unhappy people." I explained very carefully that I am not and will never be a perky and super-cheerful person. I am on the tranquilizers and the anti-depressants because I need them to feel all right; not super happy, not bubbly, but OK enough not to want to crawl into a dark place and die. "Well, you tell your doctor to give you better drugs, because I want to see you smiling every time I come to your office," is not appropriate. I told HR that, too, but that went nowhere fast. And did I mention she has no idea how to do anything that my job requires? Not one single task?

This too shall pass, however. It's retail management. They turn over faster than pancakes at IHOP after the baptist church lets out on Sunday.

And speaking of the meds, my doctor and I were working on adjusting them to the proper combination. Were. I haven't been able to see my doctor since February. Three appointments canceled due to incompetence of the scheduling staff or weather or just because. I understand that things happen, but when I received the call Friday afternoon informing me that my Monday appointment was canceled, and is now rescheduled for May 28th, I asked in a normal tone of voice, whether it was possible to get in any sooner.

[snotty voice] Well, we don't have any cancellations.
[Me] Yes, but it will have been three months, and I don't have enough medication to last until the next visit.
[SV] *sigh* Well, most people don't see the doctor that often.
[Me] She was working with me to adjust my medications properly, that's why I was seeing her every month, and that's why the prescriptions were short-term. (Not that it's any of the receptionist's business, I think to myself.) Could I get refills at least to hold me over until I can see her?
[SV] *siiiiiiigggggghhh* We're not supposed to do that without a doctor visit.
[Me] You are the ones that have canceled my appointments. I haven't missed any. This isn't my fault. When can I stop by to get those refills?
[SV] Well it's not our fault, either.
[Me] I understand, and I'm not blaming you (except for when you scheduled me for the wrong doctor in your system but wrote down the correct doctor on my card, and then told me *I should have known better* when I handed you the card to prove I wasn't insane, even though it was for the same day of week and time frame I usually see my doctor, but I kept my mouth shut), but I need to make sure I have my medications. How can we do this?
[SV] *huff* Hold on. (Places me on hold for 7 minutes, 38 seconds. Yes, I have a timer on my work phone.)
[SV] If you have to, you can stop in next week and we'll see what we can do.
[Me] Thank you. I will do that.

Ah, the joys of the mental health system.

So, as you might be able to surmise, one of the reasons I have been so quiet is because I don't want to whine about all the shit. I'm sure everyone deals with much the same things, probably much more capably than I do, without getting upset about it. I haven't learned yet how to be zen, how to let it all roll off my back without getting upset (without caring?) about any of it. I still need that external validation, those voices from outside telling me I'm doing OK, that I'm good enough, and I'm net getting very much of that right now. I'm afraid to post here, for fear I'll be shot down, lectured that it's not so bad, that others have it much worse, that I'm whining about nothing, that if I just tried harder, worked harder, did better I would be fine.

So I keep my head down, and my mouth shut, and I plod on. What else is there to do?

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

Grace Under Pressure
It's finally here. I am so nervous I'm shaking; that will be remedied once I get through security and get a tranquilizer in me. Hope to be able to post a few pictures along the way. Will try to remind myself to have fun and not worry about coming home.

ETA: Safely at the airport looking at what appears to be a way-too-small metal tube. The flight crew just boarded so it won't be too long now. The clonazepam and Dramamine have been swallowed and I've got my mala to count off my mantras. Will post later from sunny San Diego!

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