Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Winter Lost: At Last, Spring

My absence from this blog has been equal to my absence from life in general. 

This past winter something inside of me broke, and I just checked out. A shattering exhaustion, the kind that only deep depression can produce, consumed me... I just could not get out of bed.

Add to that the frustration of under treated chronic pain and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

No writing, no painting. Barely present on Twitter and mostly missing from Facebook; and when I’m there it’s usually only to like others’ posts not to post anything new of my own.

Even with several med tweaks and help from my doctors, it just wasn’t enough to shake it and the months of November through February were lost to me.

Then, March came.

There is in March, of course, the promise of spring; but we also had a trip that had been planned a long time in advance that I had to make, for my own good as well as to not let my husband down. 

Somehow (with great encouragement) I managed to drag myself out of bed and through the panic attacks and crying jags was able to push through the stress nightmare that is air travel for me and get to where we were going.

As soon as we landed, I saw the sun and the palm trees and I felt a subtle shift. I was still in incredible pain, still scared of what could possibly go wrong during our trip or at home where my mother was babysitting the cat.

But after a week in an upbeat, vibrant environment I was exhausted in an entirely different way but somehow there was a tiny spark in me; and I knew at home there was another new med waiting to try to help my pain. I was anxious to get home and get started on it.

My new sun hat

My optimism did not last long. 

On day five I had an intolerable reaction to the med and it had to be stopped; it is now in the ‘fail’ column. Meeting with my doctor yesterday we decided to go back to an older med that I used to take but stopped because we felt it might be making the depression worse (quitting it didn’t help the depression get any better, we found in the end) and so I started back on that one again last night. It’s my hope that I can find SOME relief from my pain, even just to take the edge off, so that I can be drawn again back to my blank canvases and the keyboard, too. So that I can be drawn back to life.

While we were gone they had one of the worst wind storms in Michigan history—and it was THE worst power outage event ever. Almost a million people without power and with damage to houses, trees, 1200 pound power poles snapped in half like twigs. We were lucky, we kept checking the phone and the answering machine picked up every time, meaning we were spared from the power loss.

We were also lucky in that we flew in and out on good weather days and missed the airport snarls that happened because of not only the wind storm itself but the blizzards on the east coast that followed our return. We were very fortunate.

It was a good trip. Though the depression dampened my enjoyment and the pain severely limited my ability to do much other than to ride a scooter around and take in the scenery, it was a good trip. We visited relatives one day, catching up and seeing how happy they are since they retired and moved down south. It was nice to see it.

So what now? How often will I feel up to blogging? Is the depression finally beginning to lift a little now that it’s officially spring? I don’t know. It is sunny today, but I can tell it’s still cold outside, and the pounding on my roof tells me that our building was not entirely spared from damage from the high winds a few weeks back. I’m just grateful that they are repairing the damage now before this weekend’s forecast rain.

Such is life with chronic illness, let alone mental illness. You don’t know when improvement will come, if it will come. All you can do is keep trying a little more each day, keep fighting sleep, keep battling to stay out of bed. Work with your doctors and therapist and hope for the best.

I’m hoping that I won’t lose spring the way I lost winter, and I hope that spring returns the sun and a renewed sense of hope to anyone out there who, like me, might desperately be needing it.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Rain

Rain poured from the sky like tears held back too long. -FG

It’s February.

Usually one of my favorite months of the year, because it’s the shortest part of winter and signals a mental turning-of-a-corner for me. But this year I’ve slept the first week of it away, due to Bipolar depression and what was left of that virus I had, whatever it was, at the end of endless January.

I’m ready for March, please and thank you.

It’s pouring rain outside right now, unusual for this time of year, and we’re approaching a record temperature in the low 50’s though it’s too wet to get out and enjoy it. There is no sun to make it feel like a preview of spring, instead it just feels like winter got depressed, too, and doesn’t have the energy to create snow. She just cries instead.

I wish I were in the throes of writing something that truly mattered to me; another book that held my interest long enough for me to invest in the characters, and for them to reveal themselves to me.

I was looking something up last night and realized that in May it’ll be two years since WISHING CROSS STATION was released. Two years since a real book release (I’m not counting the story I posted since then on Wattpad, that was just a lark) so why do I still feel so caught up in the world of publishing when I’m no longer a part of it?

Maybe it’s the wishing I was still a part of it, somewhere deep inside of me. It becomes an addiction, I think, releasing new books; taking them from concept to finished product and sharing them with the world. That’s what I miss. Though I have a perfectly decent story sitting here that I could work with and post eventually to Wattpad as well, I’m just not motivated to do it. It’s a simple love story, it’s not GODSPEED or WISHING CROSS STATION.

Maybe I’ll never get beyond the creation of those books. Maybe I’m not meant to.

Researching and writing Wishing Cross Station was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life as a writer to date. I truly wish more people would read it.

Or maybe I’m just in another depression related block. My brain feels like sludge; I can’t wade through it to find what may be good underneath.

I’m not even writing poetry as much as I’d like right now. I think my feelings are smarting from some comments read not long ago about rhyming poetry, and I wonder again why has everyone got to hate on it so much?

It was good enough for hundreds of years’ worth of classics; it’s good enough for Rap and Hip Hop and the lyrics of just about every song ever written. What are lyrics if not rhyming poetry set to music? Why is it acceptable to write that way in one form but not another? The snobbery (yes, I said it) of poets who refuse to accept rhyming poetry as ‘real’ or ‘serious’ poetry bothers me a lot.

To be honest, I don’t get a lot of non-rhyming poetry. Don't get me wrong, some of my poems don't rhyme. But most of the time non-rhyming poems just look like words thrown up on a page that make up sentences that could be part of a letter, or a meme or microfiction, or even someone’s journal. It feels more like prose than poetry to me, and sometimes it just seems like a jumble of words thrown together in an effort to sound clever. That loses my interest very quickly.

I know it’s a controversial topic (and far be it from me to need more controversy in my life right now) but it’s blocking me poetry-wise and that bothers me. It shouldn’t upset me so much what others think at this point in my life. I can only think again it’s the depression filter that is clogged and not straining out the unhelpful things that people say and letting the helpful through to my brain and heart.

I’m not sure.

My view: there is good rhyming poetry, and good non-rhyming poetry out there (and bad examples of each as well) and we as students of poetry need to be more accepting of each other's chosen forms to support each other's endeavors. My two cents, anyway.

Current events aren’t helping anyone’s creativity lately either, and my hat is off to anyone who can even blog or write to a Twitter prompt or do anything else that’s creative right now. Because the worldwide atmosphere is tense and that tension erodes my creativity. I am trying to find a balance between staying informed and overdosing on too much information.

So that’s where I am.

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago I set out to do a painting a day in February and ended up with more than 60 paintings in the month. I haven’t painted anything in February so far and maybe I need to force myself to change that this afternoon.

The sound of the rain, the glow of my lamp and a candle or two… it’s time to create something, because my other option is giving in again and going back to sleep, and I really, really want to wake up.

Happy Tuesday. xoxo

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Off The Rails

New painting: "Girl In A Hoodie" 1/18/17

The whole world has gone mad, it seems, and I should know… I went there first.

I can’t even fathom the changes about to take place in the country of my birth, the United States. Everyone is talking about it, no one is sure what is going to happen after tomorrow and I find myself with a set of worries that I didn’t have just a year ago. Maybe I should have had them then, though I don’t know what that would have done to change the actual outcome of the situation.

I worry about everything anyway, as it is. Anxiety, my lifelong companion.

January is, did you know, the month with the highest number of suicides? I read that in multiple places this month, though I didn’t see any studies or anything to back it up, I wouldn’t doubt it.

For one thing the weather is hell on most of the country here, and people don’t tend to deal with it well. I know I don’t. I hate winter, there is nothing peaceful or welcoming about it to me. I spend my days from the beginning of autumn counting until spring will return. When snow and icy wind will give way to softer breezes and budding flowers (even if I am allergic to almost everything on the freaking planet.)

For another thing, I think that by this point in the month the shiny “New Year” ideal has worn off and people realize that Bono had it right all those years ago when he sang what he did about New Year’s Day.

In my case, Bipolar has taken me off the rails of my life again. Every time it happens, I hate it more.

Every time they increase the same tired old medications because they’re afraid to give me anything else (again, allergy risk is high for me with any medication) and I’m left too tired to function to any degree that can be considered within the realm of reasonable, I hate it. Right now I’m sleeping about sixteen or eighteen hours a day. Ridiculous.

In the past few days, at least when I’ve been awake I’ve been drawn to art and music and writing even if only in a journal, and that is a promising sign. But is this small improvement all I can hope for, for the price I pay for taking the higher doses? It would seem so. But I keep taking my pills and I keep hoping it’ll get better, because there is nothing else I can do.

It feels like the winter makes my chronic pain worse, too. In case you’re coming in on this movie late and don’t know, I have a genetic disorder that is destroying my connective tissue. So my spine is a disaster, all my joints are. This disorder is the reason they had to remove the lenses in my eyes and why I’ll always be legally blind without my glasses (and in unfavorable lighting, like extreme bright and darkness, even with aphakia glasses. My vision depends on a controlled set of conditions that I can’t really control.) They had to remove the lenses to give me any sight back at all after the lenses mutated into an obstruction that kept all light from getting in, and replacement lenses failed and had to be removed before they destroyed my left eye (they only tried one at a time because they were worried such failure may occur.)

My physical pain is now completely untreated.

I was taking Lyrica for the pain in my legs for a long while and it did help some, enough to take the edge off, but I had to stop because it was making the depression worse. Now I am left with Advil and a prayer (if I were a praying soul) and that’s it. I should be in physical therapy but in addition to expensive copays there is no way I could get to the appointments since I can’t drive. I should have massage therapy: ditto.

My doctor wants me in a gentle swim exercise class and me and my ragged joints laugh at this. Even if I could get over the OCD germ obsession to get into the pool, I’d have to wear my glasses to be able to see anything and that wouldn’t work well at all. My “constellation” of medical conditions, as they call them, make each other worse: and prevent treatment most people would get for them individually, though there really is no treatment for the connective tissue thing. It just is what it is.

Between the post-stroke disability I have had since 2000 and the connective tissue disorder, I’m already a train wreck. Add in the Bipolar/OCD/PTSD and you’ve got a recipe for, well, me. This is what I deal with every day, in addition to a stack of other health issues major and minor that frustrate me at every turn.

Just when I get one under control to some degree I’ll forget and bend over to pick something up and out goes my back. I’ll reach for something and feel a shoulder go out of the socket. Ankles turn at the slightest misstep because of the shape of my feet and the fact one leg is a little shorter than the other. Damage to my right side from use of the forearm crutch for stability all these years has become a real thing.

Why am I blogging about all of this? Maybe because I’m trying to work out in my own head why I’m so tired all the time. I’m a “spoonie” and I know that but sometimes I forget and don’t understand why I get next to nothing done in a day. Age is not helping either, my 46th birthday is this spring and I feel every single year.

Maybe I’m blogging in the hopes that those of you blessed with a measure of physical health won’t take it for granted for a second. Your sight, your sense of balance, your ability to drive a car even… things I bet most of you don’t think twice about in a day. Well, I want you to think twice. I want you to think three times, even. Because not everyone has those abilities and in this country with such limited public transportation and “benefits” that don’t even cover the cost of your insurance premiums and medications, being healthy enough to work and be independent is a gift that I wish everyone appreciated.

In the end that’s what I miss the most: my independence. I had a degree of it when I could drive before the stroke. If I’d received proper care at the time of the stroke (long story short, don’t go to the small local hospital, go to the University…) I could possibly have still kept that until I lost so much of my vision, then it was game over for driving anyway.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, and I don’t want anyone else to. I just want to get all of this out of my head and away from my thoughts so I can get on with my day, whatever the rest of it may contain. I think it might include painting something. If I publish this then I can say that it also included writing something, even though the words count, really, whether I share them or not.

Don’t take your health for granted, folks. Please take care of yourselves, prevent what ailments you can and do what you can to treat the ones you can’t prevent. There is nothing I could have done to prevent the state of my health because most of my issues are hereditary/genetic. I just got dealt a tricky hand. I know there are others with far worse situations… hence why I don’t feel sorry for myself.

I just want people to understand a little of what it’s like to live with chronic pain and illness in addition to mental illness. One of those would be a full time job, put the two together, and well, you get me.

And I’m just doing the best that I can day to day, sometimes hour to hour. It’s all any of us can do.

I’m going to be very glad, though, I must say, when January is over.