It’s been almost a year and a half since my last post – way too long.
When I left off in August 2015, things were Not Good ™. I languished in a cramped suburban apartment across the lane from a pile driving construction zone basically cut off from an accessible train and a close living hub when I could not overcome driving anxiety or afford an expensive $20 plus cab ride one way. Friends did what they could. The long battle with Winston, the black dog of depression left me in financial shambles. I had to weather a waiting game while my credit healed. Meanwhile I entered like an emotional Big Sleep where everything felt temporary and unimportant. Since I would restart my life when I finally found a place to land, why bother with anything while in a holding pattern? Needless to say, motivation and I were estranged. Everything took a nosedive except for knitting, a hobby I took up as a mental distraction and life line. Except for last year’s aborted attempts, I did not write. There was no there there.
I drifted along this way for 18 months.
Then four month ago, the credit gods smiled and I found a condo downtown in a leafy little village, two blocks from the train and no more than four blocks from shops, doctors, the movie theater and anything else I regularly need. The grocery is only a six block drive down side streets. As I cheered over this, a spectacular streak of bad luck brought me up short with a day in the hospital (mine), eye surgery (mine), another hospital stay (Patty the Pomeranian), another dental surgery (mine), and yet more future bills, courtesy of Patty. Really wish I knew which Fates I offended; I could knit them a conciliatory sweater for Christmas.
Anyway now it’s time to slip back into the stream of things, rejoin life and start writing again.
So, as chef Justin Wilson used to say in his best corny Cajun accent: How y’all are?
[The 4th anniversary of my “accidental” blog passed on December 28th. It was a very change filled interesting year to say the least. Surprising of all was how Real Life and fandom collided in such an unexpected way. I wrote this piece several months ago, thinking I would use it to conclude a series about The Crucible. However in a way it summarizes the mishmash of thoughts inspired over the past year. It’s a good time to share it now.]
I spent last night with a friend discussing how a series of events have been clicking into place, one after other, like dominoes falling, hitting the next one and the next, cascading down the line as they needed to. She suggested that the dominoes may always have been there, waiting for the right angle for me to see them – pointing the way to what I needed. I’d bought the tickets to see The Crucible on September 10th and 11th, knowing I’d probably not be able to go. For months, I said I’d go only if A, B, and C happened – in order by September 5th. As time went on, chances grew slimmer and slimmer. But then amazing things happened.
I thought it started in June with a friend rushing over to help sort my financial mess. Click. All caused by my illness and subsequent retirement. Click click. Calling the realtor I’d consulted the year before who immediately leaped in the cash breach of fixing up the condo. Click. Rousing out of my inertia to whip the place into shape (no small feat). Click. Signing the listing agreement and going live in 12 days. Click. Finding a seller in just 11 days. Click. Being housed and supported by incredible friends pending the move and closing. Click. Weathering a bumpy process but finally closing on September 5th. Click. Booking a flight, room and flying to London in three days flat. Click. Moving about town despite being in physically bad shape. Click.
All to see a play right?
Picture or it didn’t happen. Richard Armitage and me. 92nd ST Y, NYC.
That wasn’t the big domino. To explain I’ll have to back up – to my childhood. Amidst all the dysfunctional drama, I came away feeling like I didn’t matter, as if I were invisible. Of course as an adult (and with lots of therapy), I understood it wasn’t true but the realization never sank past a superficial level. That critical inner voice always whispered otherwise; and I had to keep correcting that tape again and again. This explains why I was so disconcerted at the Proust cast party when Richard Armitage kept watching me and Zan. After all, how could my crush display any curiosity towards me? I felt – naked – in my glaring visibility. His glances said: I see you. Who are you? Subconsciously, it confused me that he would think I mattered enough to inspire curiosity.
After the party, the inner voice returned, brushing the episode aside: he just wondered what the hell both of us were doing there. Who was I after all. Running up to London, I half-feared he might remember me. He’d seen me long enough at the party. What if he knew I was *gasp* a fan? (After all, if your crush remembers you’re a fan, it’s hard to really deny it, ya know?). Oh no, they said. He meets hundreds of people. You’re good. So part of me wanted to be safe in my perceived invisibility. Seems a bit ridiculous, but this is what I told myself.
During the first two stage doors, he was still too emotionally enmeshed in his role to interact fully with the fans. A veil existed between him and us. He kept his head down, uttered thanks somewhat robot-like, and scrawled his autograph. However after the last performance, he dropped the character and was fully present. I observed him animatedly replying to fans but not speaking first.
I expected maybe a fleeting eye contact and a signature. Instead, he glanced at me fleetingly, look down, began to write, looked back up at me and said: hello. And waited for me to answer.
I’m sure that inner voice died of shock. Surely in that moment, my mind was a void. I thought nothing, heard nothing, and saw only two blue eyes staring at me, judiang in the flesh dressed in a black coat standing on a small sidewalk outside a London theater, recognized, awaiting a simple reply. I see you. I remember you. Hi there. I reflexively answered hello back. And it was over. I turned to my grinning London friend. “Why didn’t you tell me he’d recognize me?” I exclaimed. “Because, I knew he would,” she answered, as if to say: why not – you needed that to happen.
So me, the anti-fangurl, went to London and what I unwittingly got from the crush himself was – inarguable validation. It’s pretty hard to think I’m invisible and don’t matter when the crush somehow remembers me months later, does a double-take and speaks first. I haven’t heard that particular inner voice since. Click.
Don’t forget, my friend said, that couldn’t have happened had not been for the Proust party. Click.
So after years of therapy, I learned a final lesson in accepting my value as a person. And it makes it easier to accept others’ good estimation and opinion of me.
The car’s engine hums smoothly. I nervously clutch the gear, ready to shift into “Reverse” and take a deep breath.
Jodi, my psyche id, grumbles from the back seat. “Did you turn on the heat? It’s still cold in here.”
I pause to fiddle with the controls. “It’ll take time for the engine to warm up.”
Jada, my superego, clears her throat from the passenger side. “How can you be cold? You’re an id.”
Jodi pouts. “Still get cold. I notice we’re all bundled in coats just like Judi’s.”
Quiet One, my ego now called Julie, snickers in the back. “We are Judi. Just don’t make her more nervous than she already is.”
Jodi sighs. “I know she hasn’t driven in 20 years! She just needs to relax and forget that she’s maneuvering two tons of steel out onto the road with other moving tons of steel and reach the movie theater.”
I shrink a little. “Right.”
Julie elbows Jodi. “Ready when you are.”
Jada clears her throat again.
I shift gears, back out of the space and start making laps around the building ring road to familiarize myself with the controls.
Jada beams. “You’re doing well!”
Jodi leans forward points over my shoulder. “OMG!”
I nearly stamp on the brakes, looking for an oncoming diesel. “What? WHAT?”
Her surprisingly manicured finger points more. “The windshield is fogging up!”
Can a psyche fog windows? I was pretty sure I’d stopped breathing. Pulling over near the meadow, I fiddle some more. The window defogs.
Jada frowns. “It’s sunny out. You should put on some shades.”
Now suddenly aware of the sun, I squint. “Don’t have them with me…”
Jodi tuts. “We should go back for them.”
I add, frustration rising, “… because I can’t find them!” I stare pointedly in the rear view mirror back at Jodi.
Julie intercedes. “Another time maybe? We should be getting to the theater.”
I nod nervously, head to the main road and stop at the light.
Jodi sits back and chirps brightly. “Let’s kick it. I can taste that popcorn now.”
Jada frowns. “If we’re heading just across this street, shouldn’t we be in the middle lane?”
Uh oh. I peer at the chalky road where salt has whited out the lines. “I think we are.” It looks like the middle.
The left turn light flashes. A car behind me honks.
Jodi yelps. “OMG, we’re in the wrong lane! What will we do?”
I grit my teeth. Can I murder myself – just a little piece? Was she always this excitable? “There’s nothing I can do.”
Julie suddenly speaks. “It’s okay. We’re straddling the line just a little. Just shoot across when you can.”
The light turns green. I cross the road and head onto the mall’s ring road.
Jada nods encouragingly. “Nice right turn.”
Jodi is ever helpful. “Look out, stop sign!”
I grip the wheel. “I can see the stop signs!”
She’s relentless. “And watch out for that woman walking to that car…”
“She’s forty feet away!”
Jodi takes umbrage. “Well, you don’t have to yell. You know gals, Judi seems way too stressed. Say, you’re passing up parking spaces….”
I park in a wide open area and shut off the engine, sagging in relief. Julie gives me a quiet nod of approval. “You done good.”
Jada pats my hand and smiles.
Jodi cheers. “Told you we would get here alright. We’re a team. Now we can see the movie and drive back home.”
I’m the excited owner of a new car. Since I still don’t have my new driving glasses, the dealership kindly drove me and Red (yes, she has a name) home. She’s now resting comfortably in tenants’ parking awaiting her first foray across to the mall to see Selma at the newly reopened, super fancy AMC Theater. My friends and I went to dinner to celebrate and I’m beyond stuffed, tired too. The suburban metamorphosis continues.
As you already know, I’ve transplanted from the city with its public transportation and no car to the middle of suburbia with its endless malls and no car. In fact, I reside across the street from a major mall. But like most of these developments, the mall covers literally acres. I can’t, say, walk from here to the cinema, or Target, or any of other stores and restaurants. I need a car. Did I mention I sold my last car in 1996 and haven’t driven in 20 years?
I learned to drive at age 26. Prior to that time, my poor vision and lazy eye stopped short of the legal requirements. Then with a good eye doctor who gradually changed my prescription glasses over time, my vision improved to 20/40. Overjoyed, I took a driving course and got my license. But that happiness bubble burst when I started sharing the road with all the other guy. Let’s face it, city driving can be harrowing. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad driver. But city driving required such defensive maneuvering that I developed anxiety. By this I mean I was anxious – not panic stricken). So I stopped driving. Then I became engaged and a bought car in anticipation of living in a new house in the burbs. When things went south, I took the car back to the city where I drove it seldom. Why did I need it? Public transportation and taxis took me anywhere I needed to go. I sold the car (but kept the license).
Flash forward to now with friends driving me around. They haven’t seemed to mind but we all know I could benefit from more freedom to get myself around – like across the street to the mall. So where does the anxiety enter? Over the years, I’ve had two types of anxiety dreams: the first has me forgetting to attend classes until finals; the other has me driving, sometimes well, sometimes badly. I’d awake glad I didn’t even own a car. Everybody with whom I talked have reassured me that suburban driving is much easier and less stressful, especially if I venture out between 10AM and 4PM. I could refresh my skills by driving around parking lots and going short distances. My confidence would grow; the anxiety would lessen, and everything would work out. And with eye surgeries, my vision has improved even more. I want to believe them.
The allure of freedom bested anxiety today. My friend (who is knowledgeable about car buying and leasing) and I went to a car dealership, asked questions and started crunching numbers. (I drove a little but my friend took it out on the major road). After extensive back and forth, I got the best deal for my financial situation. The salesman expects me back tomorrow to finalize the deal. I feel anxious and little fearful. But buying a car will force me to deal with the anxiety issue and get out on my own. As with other things that have happened to me over the past six months, a strange feeling of karma came into play during the talks, as if a way had been cleared for me to have this car. Even my friend remarked on the strange unexpected turn of things in my favor. I’m not the mystical sort, but even it gave me pause.
So I just missed the deadline for yesterday’s post. Ordinarily I write for the next day but this time, I’ve been leaving things until the night of that day’s post. Oddly since retiring, I’ve not fallen into a routine. Before, I fit my life into the limited free available after work. Blogging didn’t pose such a big problem; a three hour post-dinner deadline always loomed. Now with all the time in the world – you’d think I would write reams. That’s not been the case. After 25 years working, it’s hilarious to develop time management problems in retirement. This goes back to an issue I touched on last year. I spent my time always reacting to negative motivation on the job (i.e., work deadlines, micromanaging etc). Now I have to be proactive; all the impetus must come from within. But that’s one of the problems with/recovering from depression – finding the mysterious self-motivation.
Then I wonder about other people with illnesses who seem to have no problem in the respect. People like Stephen Fry who acts, produces, lectures, hosts, blogs, geeks, writes, advocates and seemingly has his fingers in every UK entertainment pie despite being bi-polar. Closer to home, The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson writes books and a hilarious bawdy off-kilter blog even with depressive and anxiety disorders. Both of these people manage to regiment their time quite well. Are they juggling many balls to stay ahead of their illnesses, or is The Secret keeping busy and productive with many things.
Maybe I’m suffering from too much time on my hands.
Since you made it this far, here’s a treat – a man who doesn’t have enough time on his hands. I’d love to ask him about time management.
I’m stuck in a stage of grief. I gaze out the window overlooking a snowy prairie and a charmingly named furniture store called The Dump, and a mental tape in my head plays: I’m only here temporarily. My motivation wanes. I consider trial leasing a car to acquire a bit more independence here in the ‘burbs, despite not having driven for 20 years. I’m only here temporarily. The determination leeches away. My friends and family reassure me that my apartment is lovely and decorated beautifully, it’s really not much smaller than the condo. I’m only here temporarily. Satisfaction dwindles. I sit at the computer poised to say – something. I’m only here temporarily. The procrastination kicks in.
I am only here temporarily, until the summer of 2016 when my credit has healed enough to let me purchase something. But that’s over 18 months away – a year and a half of living to do. But as the days go by and I go through the motions, something inside keeps me from smoothly accepting the permanence of this particular transition. What I knew is completely gone against my will: the job, the career, the mental wherewithal, the condo, the lifestyle. It’s so damn final. I recognize nothing but my friends. They ask how am I doing in the ‘burbs and I always answer: adjusting. How long does it take to adjust? My pragmatic self is silent – strangely so. I check in on my sartorial psyche Jodi, Jada, and Julie but they are silent too. Well, not Jodi; I suspect she’s the one resisting change, resisting acceptance. I’m not sure what to do for her.
This feeds a kind of mental paralysis. I procrastinate and magnify issues until I’m an inert, anxious, fearful blob. There are things I need to do: physical therapy, going for the final post-cataract exam, getting new glasses, test driving, exploring my new world, writing. Those same baby steps, all over again. I think about toddlers and their determination to walk just like everybody else. After three and half years of barely holding my life together with spit and wire, I want a “normal” existence too. If psychological acceptance isn’t happening right now, then determination and discipline is the only way through.
So I plant my butt in a chair and type while that tape plays: I’m only here temporarily, and remind myself that I don’t need an ideal setting to pour out my thoughts. While my psyche still mourns for what was lost, part of me must look forward and do something. If you can’t write about the fandom or HIM, Dr. G. says with a twinkle in her eye, then write what you feel now.
Happy New Year all! Hope you enjoyed your holidays. Mine was festive and filling – very filling – which leads me to one of two resolutions I made. Usually I resolve to not make resolutions because I’ll be sure to keep that one. But this year I really need to accomplish two things. The second is to lose the all the weight gained during my dark period. I’ve done it before and will do it again.
The first is to WRITE. Dr. G. mandated that I park my butt and put fingers to the keyboard. Every day. One story. One paragraph. One word. It doesn’t matter what about what as long as I discipline myself to get the words out and over the dreaded Writer’s Block. I’d love to talk about whatshisname, that Armitage dude, but first I need to examine what’s obstructing the flow. Then I’ll tackle The Crucible, RA’s surprising effect on me, the Marlise Boland debacle, my final opinion on Thorin, a certain blog nomination, and my place in fandom now.
So this is me, writing. You, Dear Reader, will keep me honest. Go ahead. Hold my feet to the fire. This is important.
In honor of the fresh snow on the ground, the oncoming winter storm, and my love of the fluffy stuff, I present a favorite song probably posted already, but hey, this is a new January. So here is Winter Wonderland sung by Johnny Mathis.
Last summer I talked about transitioning from major depression to “normal life,” but that’s turned out to contain it’s own triumphs, setbacks and pitfalls crisscrossing each other. So now I’m at the junction of several smaller transitions in the middle of one overarching one:
Ongoing move from working to retired life and the resulting changing identity;
Moving away from intense psychological and physical stress and their conditioned responses;
Dealing with the ongoing residual fallout from the stress and the confounding battle with inertia;
Dealing with the drastically different changes in living environment;
Just deal –
Jodi butts in. “Hello all! Judi’s id here. She does get boring doesn’t she?”
Jada coughs delicately. “This is Judi’s post.”
Jodi waves a hand. “And if you’ve forgotten, Jada is Judi’s superego which leaves Quiet One over there.”
Quiet One sighs. “I’ve been calling myself Julie for months. Do keep up.”
Jodi sighs. But you’re still so…quiet.”
Julie nods. “I speak up when it’s important.”
Jada arches a brow at Jodi. “THAT, she does especially when you get a bit too rowdy.”
Jodi huffs. “How was that incident in London too rowdy? I wasn’t even looking at him!”
Jada coughs delicately again. “We talked about this, dear.”
Jodi’s mouth opens then snaps shut. “Well. Anyway, what Judi was trying to say was – ”
I gape at the trio. “Hold on now! London wasn’t Vegas. Nothing happened there we can’t talk about.”
All three stare at me.
I carry on, suddenly feeling insecure. “Erm, er, so. Can I continue with my post?”
Jodi tuts. “But it’s sooo dry. Can’t we just recap and get on with talking about London? I love talking about London.”
I scowl. “I can recap. I wanted to say that-”
Jodi jumps in. “She wanted to say that she was depressed being a totally stressed out, mentally and physically sick, broke mess who couldn’t see her way clear, and now she’s a less stressed, mentally better, physically creaky, solvent mess in a new home who can’t figure out where to go next with all the possibilities! Right Judi?”
Jada purses her lips. “Wellll, maybe that was a bit… harsh.”
Julie snickers. “I think Judi means to say that her situation is constantly evolving, but for the better, with small transitions coming fast along the way. Now she has to learn to adjust to adjusting – learn new behaviors for her new world.”
I sigh. “Thanks Julie. Yes, I’m trying to adjust to adjusting and not being able to predict what happens next. Very aptly put. It’s such a strange feeling. Don’t think I’m very good at it.”
Julie pats my hand. “You’re doing great. As Dr. G. says, don’t rush it. Just consider plans and chart a schedule.”
Jodi sits up brightly. “Okay! So can we talk about London now? You know, that Armitage bloke.”
I blink tiredly. “What?”
A soprano voice sings out. “Have no fear, FAN GURL is here!”
If you’ve been following my trials and tribulations over the last 3 1/2 years, then you know about the ups and downs of my illness, the battle, the job fiasco, the retirement, and the endless climb back to a fully functional life. It caused an enormous financial strain I wasn’t mentally equipped to handle last year. Then there was a severe relapse this past winter (which I will talk about another time) followed by the financial problems coming home to roost. Suddenly I was land rich but so broke that friends and family stepped in to keep me afloat and offer grave advice. So I bit the bullet – it was time to sell. I called the realtor and signed the listing agreement. Life came to a standstill while I dedicated all my energies to parting with a place and community I loved and don’t want to leave.
Nine days after signing on the dotted line, the condo was on the market. Fourteen groups, an open house, and 11 days later, I had a contract. The final dates materialized: closing day – Sept 5; walk-through Sept 4; moving day – Sept 3. Two days until I leave; four days until financial solvency returns. The move will be very bittersweet. So what will I do now?
Because I won’t have a positive cash flow until after the closing, making final arrangements for a new place is on hold. I’m in communication with one place and will get the ball rolling the moment the money hits my account. In the meantime, my stuff goes into storage and I will stay with friends until things are sorted. Patty the pomeranian is at her foster parent’s house during the transition. Friends are texting, skyping, calling and making sure I stay focused. (I’ll have to post later about my friends. I may not have many, but the ones I have are absolutely incredible. They are truly good, loving people. Getting choked up just thinking about all they have done.)
Men have just taken away the sofa that’s just too big to fit properly in apartments. It was 22 years old, so it had a good life. It still looks good, so it will give another owner happiness. The place is 95% packed. In the next 24 hours, I’ll pack this computer. Then the movers arrive first thing Wednesday and take away my stuff. Then I’ll sweep, leave the keys for the realtor, and head to the train station with my suitcase. It will be an austere send-off but that’s best. Another door in my life will close, while another opens. My friends say to look at this as a new adventure and I’m trying hard.
I will try to keep up with you all via iDevices.
Oh, you may want to look for me on Twitter next week because of… things. Just sayin’.
The good news is I’m blazing my way back, although your mileage may vary on how good that is. Like any egotistical writer, I’ll assume you’ve been whispering in corners brows furrowed, worrying and wondering what happened to my blatherings, snark, and deathless prose possibly about Richard Armitage. Don’t worry, I’ve stashed months and months of thoughts on all three.
The bad news my depression went all wibbly wobbly. No, Winston the black dog of gloom didn’t return. Instead my hormones have been thrown into chaos by that horrid phase of womanhood, MENOPAUSE. I could rant for days on the subject, but let’s just say that the turmoil negated the efficacy of the anti-depressives and stopped me in my tracks. Not only did the blogging stop, everything else did as well. Now that things seem to be settling and the meds work agreeing to agree, another window of opportunity presents itself to start pushing the proverbial ball back uphill.
The crazy is that today seems like a new year to me when I rise yet again, dust myself off and make resolutions: start blogging again, fire up Scrivener and write again, and think of life in terms of a story to tell. Surprisingly, I miss writing – not that I’m a great storyteller – but the mechanics of thinking about things and translating the story from my mind to the medium. I suspect the habit of regularly blogging ignited something internally. Dr. G. also believes that blogging is beneficial to psychological processing. So you see, it’s what the doctor orders.
I’m not sure whether to blog every day, but I’ll share thoughts about the latest doings of Mr. A. or maybe let The Man tell you. Any ideas are welcome.
No, I haven’t dropped off the earth. I’m still doing pretty well, give or take a few days; and I haven’t forgotten you all while I foray into writerdom. So what’s happening? Why no posts? Well, I have a problem. It’s worse than hemorrhoids, worse than constipation. It’s even worse than MENOPAUSE (that’s a whole ‘nother post).
My multi-tasker is broken.
You know, that skill set that allows you to do ten things at once, not well, but still multiple things. I excelled at keeping balls in the air in the past even when plagued by Winston, the black dog of depression. However, Winston ran amok this time and broke a few things, mainly what the diagnostic manuals call concentration, persistence and pace. These abilities are more precious than a Ming dynasty vase and crucial to performing daily functions – like working. When I retired, Dr. G. and I assumed relief from the stress would help put the pieces back together again. Well, the answer has been yes and no. Yes, I can concentrate better, complete more detailed tasks, and work on ongoing projects; the foray into writing original fiction has been better than what I anticipated.
But I can’t seem to multi-task to save my life. You know, doing more than one thing each day: writing fiction and exercising; writing fiction and dieting properly, writing fiction and blogging. Things normal people accomplish in their daily schedules. Now that I’ve progressed to more detailed tasks and I want to, say, write AND blog in the same day, the gal in the control room says: sorry, the multi-tasker is still broken; did you insure this thing? I don’t even know what that insurance would look like.
Therefore, I’ll blog when I can. Right now, I’m still prepping for NaNoWriMo which kicks off next month. Since it’s an exercise in total creative writing obsessiveness immersion, I don’t expect to be even eating then. I’m also preparing to formally submit a short story for publication for the first time ever. Then I’ll wait eight weeks for my first rejection letter ever. I’m really chuffed.
But don’t worry, the psych pose wants a summit to discuss problems (the newly named Julie has more to say, to the chagrin of Jada and Jodi); Patty the pom hints at divorcing me if her attention allotment drops any more; and The Man is overdue for another adventure. (Speaking of The Man, I submitted one of his stories for review. Reviewers that got it loved him; the ones who didn’t asked: why doesn’t he have a name?) I’ll try to post when I can and see if I can find the warranty on my multi-tasker.
Remember when you’re in a particular mood, everything you see and hear reinforces that mood? I’m in an extended version of that. I take five medications to keep myself even keel. For two years as the number of pills rose and fell, I groused that I had to take even one. Eventually, as the number crept up, I became resigned to the idea of ingesting medication cocktails, something which horrified me since my job dealt with mainly failed therapeutic and pharmaceutical attempts to gain “normalcy.” I referred sarcastically to them as my “Happy Pills” because they weren’t actually making me happy. The idea of being upbeat and happy was as alien and weird as my perky friend chirped when my backpack was stolen in London: “well, we’ve never been to a British police station before!” (No, I didn’t smack her). However as the depression receded, I realized that the little compressed rolls of chemicals really were my happy pills. Now I’m horrified not at the number but at the niggling fear that I might have forgotten to take them. (That’s usually just a momentary fear of relapse).
This has been the lock screen on my iPhone. I found the smiley faces in an app program and edited the words. The old me would have found the picture corny and nauseating overkill; adding the words would have been inconceivable. Now both the picture and words have meaning. Each pill says that I need and must not forget them; if they fail, then there will be other pills to take their place. They aren’t a cure or a panacea; only a means by which I can live life fully. The words remind me to live that life and appreciate it, no matter how small the activity. So each morning when I wake feeling contented and exhilarated, I revel that feeling. If my new sheets feels especially soft, I roll around in them. When I opened the blinds finally and washed the bedroom windows after three years, I felt pride in the accomplishment instead of fixating on the dirt and the cobweb. (Yikes!) When completing a task, I congratulate myself. When speaking to a neighbor, I smile. When petting Patty, cheer that she’s happy, healthy and groomed. I concentrate on the positive side of things. So I understand my friend a little better now. While I might not bounce to the police station, I do stay “GOOD morning” to people and mean it. ***
*** Don’t worry. I’ve got a gallon of Snarky Pills on the side too. I’ll take one tomorrow. SHHHH!
As some of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook may have noticed, I’ve been socializing my heart out this summer. Reconnecting with the world has been a bit scary but fun: scary because I always feel a little trepidation that there might be awkwardness or resentment after letting so much time lapse; fun because I discover the fear is all in my mind and the relationships pick up as if we chatted last month. Summer is half over and I still have two trips and four get-togethers to go, not counting the usual treks to the burbs. It’s funny. While depressed, I felt all alone and couldn’t remember knowing anybody hardly. Now, I realize my social web is much broader than I recalled. Mental illness truly is a hideous liar.
As you might have guessed, my mood has been rock solid stable for two months and counting. It seems Dr. G. and I have found the Holy Grail, otherwise known as the right medication cocktail. I’m chuffed. Patty, my little Pomeranian is too. She’s been happy and talkative (which may or may not be a good thing). At least she’s enjoying all the attention she’s getting from visitors.
There’s been another development. Once the depression receded, I realized my vision had worsened. Thinking I simply needed new glasses, I visited the optometrist, who alarmingly sent me to the ophthalmologist. It turns out that my cataracts (at my age!) had accelerated; vision in my good eye has worsened to the point that I need the thing removed. The first surgery is scheduled for late October. If all goes well, the second surgery on the left eye occurs about a month later. They will implant corrective lenses so that I might not need thick glasses for the first time in my life. So, there may be a silver lining in yet another dark cloud this year.
2013 has been a hell of a year and it’s only July.
I sit staring out the windshield as the bus trundles down South Boul Mich, musing to myself that Dr. G. will be happy to mark one more week of mood stability. Back-to-back good progress reports feels so unusual and satisfying. I breathe deeply and let out a happy sigh.
Quiet One, my personality ego, sighs suddenly beside me.
I startle and whisper furiously. “Wha??? What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be out in public!”
She turns an amused smile towards me. “You know I’m a figment of your imagination. Just think to me.”
Jodi, my id, pipes up in the seat behind me. “Try not moving your lips.”
Jada, my superego, beside her, murmurs. “I told you not to startle her.”
My Pomeranian Patty pops her head out of my capacious bag and grins. I don’t recall packing her.
The lady across the aisle throws me a curious glance. I clamp my mouth shut and think-whisper. “It’s just that you all never come out in public.. ”
Quiet One glances out the window at the passing greenery. “I wanted to talk to you.”
Jodi leans forward and whispers in my ear. “She’s coming out.”
I blink. This is total news to me. “WHAT?”
Quiet One turns and glares at her. “Didn’t you promise to not eavesdrop and zip it?”
Patty shakes her head.
Jodi slumps in her seat, arms akimbo.
Quiet One continues. “Judi, we need to talk about you and me – our relationship.”
I tense slightly. Did we have relationship problems? I don’t really know because my ego is an enigma to me. I can’t recall much of our past together and well – she’s so damn quiet. She resembles a younger, thinner, wiser, smarter version of the ideal me. Her image seems to brighten or flatten according to my mood like a lights on a dimmer switch. Apparently, today my mood is fabulous because Quiet One looks vibrant in a bright orange tropical sundress and Jackie O. sunglasses. I notice the other two wear sundresses as well, but not as loudly as Quiet One. I look down at my white capri pants and t-shirt. Apparently my personality trio is going places. Even Patty has a bright green wee scarf around her neck. Need to step up my game.
I clear my throat. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
She pauses briefly. “I want to tell you about me – who I am.”
I perk up. “Oh, I know who you are. You’re my “ego.”” After all, if the other two were id and superego, by process of elimination, what’s left.
Jodi pipes up again. “Judi’s sooo Freudian, isn’t she?”
Jada elbows her silent.
Quiet One sighs.
Quiet One demurs. “Nope. I’m not part of that Freudian psycho-sexual dynamic. I’m more than your sense of self – I’m something higher. I embody the sense there’s something more outside of yourself, bridge the gap between the isolation within and the greater focus without. I kept you going when during the worst, because somehow you knew things could get better – would get better. That was me. I embody your aspirations, passions, striving – I’m your higher self.”
She glances back at her compadres. “It doesn’t mean I’m better than you two, just that I’m another interpretation of a different aspect.”
With a change in medication regimen, my mood has been stabilized on the positive side of neutral for almost three weeks. This has been the longest stretch since the London trip in June 2011. Dr. G. tried this regimen previously, but wondered if it would work sans work stress. Voila! I feel good. I know there’s no cure for depression, but I hope this regimen has a long viability.
So why haven’t I been blogging? Interesting question. I mulled over this for some time with Dr. G. Why haven’t I been motivated to blog since I feel so good? The answer: because I feel so good. Good feelings are a positive motivation, but my entire life has been controlled by reflex reactions to dire external consequences. Negative motivation is an entrenched behavior, and such a thing is very, very difficult to change. Musing that I want to do X, so it gets done is an unusual and unfamiliar concept. Distraction and desperation motivated the previous long stretch of blogging. Now, what’s stressful about happy feelings? Dr. G., who has been pushing blogging big time, suggested working up to writing my novel (did I mention that?) as a motivation. But realization of a real book won’t happen for years; it doesn’t have the punch of immediacy. No pressure? Oh dear. No matter my real or imagined excuses, I’ve decided to allot time every morning after rising to blog, write – type something. Let’s see how this goes.
So what have I been doing for almost three weeks? Making busy work and plans. Firstly, there will be no more snap decisions – retirement was enough. I need to move forward with careful consideration. The condo sale is on hold because 1) I love the place and am not ready for any emotional fallout from suddenly wrenching myself away, and 2) I don’t know where to land and certainly don’t want to move someplace I don’t want to be, and 3) I can feasibly stay for another year while I sort things (repairs, painting, clean-out, etc.). I’ll have more than enough time to research living in other parts of the city or the suburbs while becoming mentally and physically fit.
Also, I’ve been PC video gaming, namely playing RIFT. Now don’t laugh; this has been therapeutic. I played game therapy for psych rehab in the wilds of Ohio with my friend a few weeks ago. The first half of the week, she beat me easily, every single game. Ridiculously simple-minded and silly mistakes characterized my play. I used to be a damn good player and this secretly chapped my ass. However, because of focus and concentration issues, my ability to persist in either has eroded badly. It’s been like an atrophying muscle. So I hunkered down and exercised it over the week. By the end of the trip, I finally won several games. So when RIFT went “free to play,” I decided to check it out again. Gaming requires extended periods of concentration. The characters embark on missions called quests, work on trade skills, duel, etc. etc. etc. It’s a massive time sink. After an initial stretch of play, my interest quickly waned but then I discovered a game aspect called Dimensions. A dimension is the player’s own world crafted with special items. If it’s not sold in-game, it has to be made or recreated (morphed). For example, there is no item called a turkey dinner platter, so it must be recreated. I must break the image down into parts and conceptualize what obtainable items can be rotated, flipped, sized, pushed, and pulled to look like a real turkey dinner platter (3 burlap bags, 6 decorative sweetberries, and a patterned urn). The morphing requires a lot of focus and thought. So, I’ve been crafting in my own dimension (my inner decorator is happy) while gaming, and exercising focus and concentration. Bizarre, eh? But it’s working. Eventually, this interest will wane (after I finish six more tiers), but that focus muscle will be a little stronger.
The Great Room. Most of the furniture is crafted.
Everything crafted but the walls and floor.
My character and her dog in a top hat of course, Kirby.
I built EVERYTHING – including the house.
Luxurious bathroom. I made that.
So, I suppose the odd gaming has created a POSITIVE motivation in psych rehab. Who knew?
I can’t post until I explain what’s happened with me, and that’s been difficult. So, I’ll just spit it out: my depression finally forced me to retire last Tuesday, ignominiously ending an almost 25 year career in government. A few colleagues acknowledged my departure by treating me to lunch. Dejected and conflicted, I left carrying a box and bag of all my things. This occurred at least nine years too early. It was definitely not what I had ever envisioned, so somehow, I had failed.
That is what a younger remnant of myself wailed -the 30-something lawyer focused on attaining the badges of my profession: law firm partnership, high salary, husband, McMansion, two kids, and a dog. As time passed and old classmates burned out in their jobs, divorced, and seem to go batshit crazy, I learned to redefine success for myself. But my younger self wailed, and I let her – overnight. After thrashing it out with Dr. G., I realized what really happened.
Let me start again. Here is my story.
Shortly after Christmas, Mother Nature (read: menopause) kicked in. If you’ve been following my depression saga for past two years, things didn’t just worsen, they went straight to hell. Friends reported I sounded like a 45 rpm record played at 33 1/3. I couldn’t work. I called Mayo Clinic which took me almost immediately in February. Armed with more hormone patches and pills, my condition improved, but functioning did not. I wasn’t sad but supremely apathetic and detached from the world. I had shut down, withdrawn, and built walls around myself, as if I were in survivor mode under siege. Dr. G. was baffled. I was baffled – in a uninterested way. Even my dwindling bank balance didn’t faze me. Dimly, I knew the point of hospitalization loomed close. Then, a series of events happened.
I published a post -the usual pot stirrer variety – hoping to stimulate my mind. Long story short, a reaction provoked a fit of rage in me so OTP and uncharacteristic that I realized that counseling and medication would not fix the problem. The rage created a two day window of clarity. I felt glad for the clarity but disturbed why only rage could pierce the fog. Clearly, the bizarre apathy signaled something different. My family intervened, spoke of moving me and getting nursing care. Oh shit.
Many readers don’t know that at work, while management paid lip service to being hospitable towards my illness, their actions declared the opposite. Even with union intervention, they created a miserable, soul-sucking environment. Meanwhile headquarters “encouraged” old (read: 50+) and sick (read: me) out the door. In recent years, management mentality has morphed to the soulless corporate variety. The old guard, like me, do not enjoy the buffer or support from the caprices of bureaucratic decision-making. So it was a race between recovering from an indefinite illness and being either fired or forced onto disability (a financially poor option).
During the window of clarity, I returned to the office for a day. Just as my mind flatly refused to work, a colleague (and surprising champion) dropped information on my desk. The gist was that I could feasibly retire early. I checked with Human Resources. It was true. But I needed money before interim payments began; I was flat broke. While dumping months of mail out of my box, I discovered income sources I’d either forgotten or didn’t realize. A few calls and the checks were in the mail. (No, really. I got one already).
So, six weeks after the fit of rage, I retired. A few friends I liked treated me to a farewell luncheon. One later came to my office and thanked me for 25 years of public service on behalf of the agency and the public, which management didn’t do. He told me my work had been appreciated. He thought this was the best thing for me, now I could get well. He understood I was sad but reassured me I’d feel better the next day. Then he carried my stuff to the taxi and waved.
So that’s what really happened. He and Dr. G. were right. The next morning, I awoke and felt – fine. A dear buddy drove over to get me on a proper eating and sleep regimen. I talked, ate, laughed and went to the movies (twice). I’m preparing to sell the condo for something less expensive. The loss of toxic stress has increased the groggy side effect of my med, so Dr. G. REDUCED the dosage. How about that? I looked at the blue sky and budding greenery and sensed – joy? The last time I felt this good was June 2011 during the London trip.
I spent 28 years in a profession I didn’t particularly like, and 25 years in a job which grew increasing toxic. Yes, I still have a depressive disorder, but the endless drip of professional poison was psychologically killing me. I lasted long enough in a high paying job to retire early on a nice pension. While I can’t live in the style to which I was accustomed, it’s a damn sight better than other situations. I served the public for almost 25 years and am proud of my work. I’m young enough to start a part-time second career in a more nurturing field. I’ve gone from no options seven weeks ago to having too many. As Dr. G. said, it’s like the universe conspired to move me out of the old bad and into the new.
I lie on my bed replaying the same game of Spider Solitaire on the iPhone. Their voices rise and fall in the next room. My personality, id Jada, superego Jodi, and ego Quiet One have been warring since it arrived. I’m resolutely indifferent. Let them sort it.
Patty lies with head on paws beside me, just within reach. She watches me intently, but I ignore her.
My fingers tap the screen, undoing moves. I’m determined not to break my winning streak; a superstitious dread of the probable deadlock has taken hold. I’ve never been superstitious. Is this a new thing?
I sense another presence beside us but still don’t look up. Jodi’s voice rises again as she angrily berates Jada, her voice cracking with emotion. Jada murmurs calming words. Happy go lucky Jodi? This doesn’t bode well. The silence stretches as the visitor waits patiently for my acknowledgment. I sigh, knowing I can’t win.
I glance finally at Quiet One. She sits regarding me, her face unreadable. Her kimono has changed from a colorful motif to a disturbing plain gray. Suddenly, I feel inexplicably small. Not able to hold her gaze, I stare at the small screen in confusion.
Quiet One arm reaches across me; clearly she’s petting Patty.
She says simply, “she’s afraid of losing her freedom.”
My eyes closed as if to blot out everything. Jada has been upset since I refused to read the postcard they received. I resent her histrionics. I’m afraid too; I dont want any message from him either. I imagine Winston returning, running as fast as his doggy legs will carry him. Sending a postcard to make sure I wouldn’t miss his arrival, the little bastard.
Quiet One pauses and says with a hint of finality in her voice, “we can’t do this without you.”
I sigh, resigned. Indeed, they can’t. Progress will stall until I accept my fears. What if Winston comes back?
Party sits up. She has the postcard in her mouth. Finally, I reach for it.
It starts, “hi” in dark crayon. This isn’t Winston.
“I’m struck by the crude, barely formed letters and imagine her tongue stuck out in concentration, little fingers gripping the crayon as she struggled with her first letter.
“whar r yu? I ned to see yu. Im skard! plees kom. luv judy.”
It isn’t Winston causing havoc but Little Judi, the small me, the ever present remnant from my past. Driven by memories and fears she is too young to understand, she reacts viscerally to events happening to my adult self. The latest salvo has rocked her apparently. I’d forgotten her. Again.
Jada and Jodi join Quiet One at my bedside. They will me to be strong and pull myself together. Closing my eyes again, I inhale deeply.
Patty licks my hand and I stroke her soft fur. Time to carry on.
[Many of you have been following my struggle with depression humorously referred to as Winston. If you’re interested in reading those posts, they start here. In addition to medication, resolving the depression requires overhaul and reintegration of pieces of one’s self. It’s a very serious and trying business. I wrote the following many months ago but never published it.]
I’m sorry little Judi.
Tonight I sat in therapy feeling misery and sadness, and things came back to you again. She told me to picture my earliest sadness, and again you appeared in the old living room, ready to go, dressed in a bright blue jumper, white peter pan blouse, white tights, wine Buster Brown shoes. Nobody’s around. It’s just you standing there, small, lost, inconsequential. You’re looking down a long empty hallway. I can’t remember why.
I’ve seen you before many times over the years. They told me to talk to you; I talked to you. They said to hug you and tell you everything would be alright. I hugged you and said everything would be alright. But you always looked the same, so I had to do it again. Each time, you always looked the same. Damnable inarticulate child, you wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, where it hurt, so we could put a bandage there and I could finally get on with my life. So I had to keep reassuring you. But when you would look up with those sad eyes, I knew you didn’t believe me.
Tonight she said to send you colors of emotions to see how you would react. I imagined. You stood there holding big balls of orange and green light in each small hand, looking even more sad and lost. You were me, but separate from me, something outside of myself that I left in the past. I needed to move on the best way I could, so I left you behind.
I told her I wanted to reclaim the creative parts of myself I’d lost, find my true self in the pieces that broke off. I imagined going back and collecting the bits of myself like seashells and dropping them into a bucket. Then we would put the pieces together in some meaningful way and I would Find Myself. But I could never collect you because you weren’t small enough. Then I would be angry and frustrated that such a small child could be so larger than life, an immovable object. Then I would cry for myself, always my adult self.
Tonight I looked at you and realized I’d treated you the same way others had. I said what they told me to say and hugged like they told me do, all the while hoping for some change for me in the present because I couldn’t connect with you in the past. You were a stranger who resembled pictures of my younger self, a small, lost, inconsequential child. I couldn’t remember and didn’t care what you thought and felt; I just wanted you to respond to my hollow words and distant hugs. No wonder you didn’t believe me.
But you kept standing there, quietly waiting, hoping I would notice you, just you did with everybody else. Tonight, as you held those spheres of color, looking so sad and lost, I cried, but not for myself as I’ve always done. I finally cried for you. I felt so sorry for you. For the first time, my adult self in the present felt a connection to you in the past. You weren’t a strange child; you were my child.
So when she said to conjure up a life where you wouldn’t feel so sad and lonely, I imagined a place where you could play with other children and took you to the playground myself. I coaxed you to the monkey bars and watched you mingle tentatively. I heard children’s laughter. I’m not sure if it was yours yet. Among all the pants and tops, you looked out of place in the blue jumper and white tights that you refused to change. But it’s early yet. Small steps. I took a mental picture and framed it, to remind us things will be different.
I’m so sorry little Judi. Things will be better. I see you now.
I rise slowly from the buff arms of Morpheus in faint regret. He smells so springtime fresh. Who knew? Pulling the pillow closer, I try to catch a few more winks but it’s no use. My eyes open and scan the bedding. Snowy white pillow. Snowy white soft duvet flowing to mahogany posts – wait, snowy white linen? I can hardly get my laundry done once a month. This isn’t my room. I sit bolt upright.
Jada, my superego, sitting on one side of the bed, sighs. Jodi, my id, adjusts her flowing skirt. Quiet One, my ego, stares apparently engrossed with something outside the bay windows. Something leafy green rushes past.
Jodi grins widely. “You really do like to nap, don’t you.”
I groan. “Ohh, not you again.”
Jada fiddles with her matched cream two-piece sweater set. “You know you’re supposed to meditate instead of nap. It’s not good to throw off the schedule.”
I open my mouth to ask what schedule but stare harder at Jada. She still looks prim, only expensively so. Two strands of pearls, gray Anne Klein skirt – I peer over the bed’s edge – yup, Ferragamo pumps. Jodi wears a vividly orange retro ’50s couture number paired with some strappy gold Jimmy Choos. A flowing intricately painted silk kimono wraps Quiet One. Whoa. My psyche has come up in the world. Another leafy green blur rushes past the window.
I eye the baby blue patterned wallpaper and tastefully coordinated rug and drapes. “Er, where the hell am I?”
Jodi sighs impatiently. “You’re in your own bedroom, in your own flat of course, just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.”
Jada frowns, concerned. “Oh dear. You really should have adjusted by now. Maybe you should ring Dr. G.?”
Quiet One speaks up. “Don’t worry. She’s always disoriented when she first wakes. After she pets Patty, she’ll remember.” There’s a happy yap and the red pomeranian jumps onto the bed and into my lap. Good grief, she’s groomed too.
I gape at the suddenly chatty Quiet One. She turns her head slightly towards me, a faint smile on her lips. Instead of hanging back in the shadows, she’s lit by the afternoon sun. There’s a curious look of expectation in her eyes. This is new. Patty nudges me for attention and I pet her.
Jada adds a prompt. “You’re in London. Remember?”
London? Panic suddenly rises. I’m in London and don’t remember? Frantically, I glance around for the only culprit, Winston.
Jada pats my hand. “Just take a deep breath, luv.” Both Jada and Jodi look to Quiet One.
A corner of Quiet One’s mouth curves up. “Winston is gone.”
They all nod. Patty chuffs affirmatively.
I try to unscramble my thoughts. Winston is gone. Yes, Winston is gone and everything changed. I joined life, socialized, exercised, found hobbies, started to write –.
Jodi pats her upswept French twist. “You’re in London researching your second book, a murder mystery. You were frustrated about the plot so you took a nap.”
Jada chides. “Instead of meditating!”
Shock hits. A writer? I’m a writer and a successful one? I feel breathless. Could it be true? I’m distracted but another green blur falling past the window.
“What the hell is that?”
Quiet One’s face breaks into a beautiful smile that lights up her eyes. She looks content, self-assured. I’m enthralled. Do I really look like that?
“Come see. He’s been pulling ivy off his house all afternoon.”
I leap off the bed, nearly tripping on my red silk pajamas. Nice.
Looking over the fence, I spot a tall man toiling in the neighboring yard. Toned muscles ripple underneath a now grubby t-shirt and jeans as he pulls at the vines. He raises his dark head and I can see light eyes in a finely chiseled face. White teeth flash. He sees me looking and waves.
Oh. My. God.
Jodi and Jada peer over our shoulders.
Jada pokes me. “Wave back, dear. And close your mouth.”
Jodi smiles wryly. “Mmmmmhmmm. I’m so glad this place was a steal.”
I gawp at them, then laugh. “Okay, I have to be dreaming.” I wonder what I’d eaten before the nap so I can have it again.
Quiet One stares for a moment. She arches a brow. “You do you really want a pinch?”
I open my mouth and then close it. Hmmmm.
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