Thursday, May 21, 2020

Four Years -- For Real!

It's my soberversary!  1462 days. 


Back when I first started my current job, so probably more than 15 years ago now, a co-worker was quietly celebrating HER four-year soberversary and I remember thinking that was both impressive and stunningly unattainable.

Yet here I am.

Me, of all people...someone who started thinking "gee I ought to quit drinking; it would probably be really good for me" back in my twenties.  Yeah, well, it took a couple decades but I got here and it's a good place to be.

It's hard at first - really hard, not gonna lie - but every passing day makes it that much easier to keep going. Now it's just part of who I am rather than A Big Thing.

In fact, it's so much a part of the background that I'm not doing that much to celebrate: grocery-store bakery cake because of tradition.  Thanks to COVID even though I shopped fancy cakes and Jeni ice cream and a couple online clothing stores I just didn't feel comfortable dropping much coin during a time of such economic uncertainty.  My job itself is safe - praise be - but the possibility of pay cut is always still a thing so it feels more wrong to spend money than to save it and quietly enjoy this major milestone on my own.

Because really, it's all about the struggle in my head just like it's all about the struggle in your head(s.)

For sure this is the best thing I've done for my physical and emotional well-being ever. Hands down. No contest. Everything else pales beside it.

I do have one nice treat:  my dear friend - the one so dear I call her my sister - sent me a top I thought for sure would be way too small and not only does it fit but it looks fantastic on me so I'm wearing that today.  Still shut up in my office most of the time same as every other day but knowing I look great is the perfect accent for this day, I think.

For my handful of regular followers, the Zoloft is doing its job. Everything is still just as grim as it was but I'm not crying or raging over it any more and seem to be much closer to what I consider my emotional baseline. The increasingly complicated things my healthcare system in general and my department in particular are having to do for Covid are annoying but tolerable as opposed to devastatingly upsetting and that's a major win.

Wherever you are on your own journey, keep at it. Eventually it sticks.

Love to all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Day 1432

1432 saw birth of the Ghent Altarpiece and death of a Cypriot king. It's also a month to the day till my four-year soberversary.

Blogfriends it's been rough. Not the sobriety; all the rest of it. This virus has brought out the "People Gonna People" in everybody and I'm too emotionally fragile from the year I just had to be very good at dealing with any of it. Which is why I electronically asked my primary care doc about a referral to a head doc. I kinda knew I needed help getting to a better place but the final trigger was one of those dumb online quizzes where I scored an eight of eight and thought "maybe I should stop waiting to see if it gets better on its own." Rest of family visibly relieved; that was interesting. So now I'm waiting to hear back which can take up to three days which tomorrow will be so I will re-send or something on Thursday if I haven't heard.

I'm still mostly functional just not very happy. But I'm working on changing that.

I'm so glad I got sober first. And until I typed it for you guys up there it didn't even register that today was the it's good I wrote a blog post.  I remember when each month was a huge milestone and I just couldn't even think of being where I am right now. The idea that the whole front-and-center of it all would just....go away...would have blown my mind. Completely.  And that's totally okay because we can only do what we can do right now.

It gets better but it takes a while to get really good. Keep chipping away at it. All of it is a learning experience. And times like right now? It's really sucking but damn at least I know it's not really sucking because of the booze, y'know? And I know how much -worse- it would suck with booze on board along with everything else. So there's that. Even now, feeling pretty crap, it's absolutely a given that sober crap is better.

Early bedtime always helps. Peace out, y'all. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Day Fourteen Something

...hang on, I'm looking: Day 1422. Another couple months and it will be Columbus Year. 

The actual year 1422 was pretty weird too - Hundred Years War and Crusades still in play but at the end of August King Henry 5th of England died then on my mother's birthday King Charles 6th of France died.

And I'm totally distracting myself from the issue at hand which is namely I feel miserable. Time of Pandemic was one too many things in my already full life. I find myself full of rage with sadness stuffed in the chinks. For days on end. It's like this virus has ripped the thin veneer of "nice; mostly civilized" off of -everything- and left all the ugly open to air out. I see it catalyzing pre-existing dividing lines and creating new ones and it's just so TIRESOME as in soul-grindingly wearying. People keep debating what is or isn't best and this is just at my micro level; I stopped watching television generally and TV news specifically years ago.

The trouble is, as I said last time, people gonna people....and now way too many everybodys have to jockey for position about what the right thing actually is, and what they should do to promote their OWN causes and the slope from noble to base just gets steeper every day. And yes of course we should do the things that keep the most people safe but even just what we've already -done- is going to make this year really freaking suck no matter how you look at it and I just got DONE with a year of more than my fair share of "suck" by any reasonable standards so I'm especially bitter and sad right now.  And the fact that so many people have called me their "rock" over the years, and the fact that I AM generally really emotionally strong, both make it that much more anger-inducing because nobody's used to ME being sad so they tend not to know what to do with it.

And that's fair since I don't know what to do with myself either. Going for a walk helped somewhat as at least I was a well-exercised depressive so I had a side of "accomplishment" with my sad; the other side of that was cleaning the bathroom.  However my Zoom-based knitgroup was a little more than I could handle so I bowed out after an hour. There's another Zoom-based social thing tonight I might try....or I might not. I"m having a super hard time with "cordial" just now.  Might do what I've -been- doing which is World of Warcraft Classic either with or without familiy members. And knitting. Virtual destruction and actual creation; I guess that's as good a way to maintain sanity - or attempt to do so - as any.  But I still cry seemingly out of the blue and my outlook is definitely way more Eeyore than Pooh for sure. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Day 1412

Yes, Blogfriends I'm still here and still sober...but boy am I sick of 2020. Y'all are too, no doubt.

Anne Lamott often says "Grace bats last" and I sure hope she's right. Love is bigger than hate but chaos ultimately wins over order. In Time of Pandemic I have realized and keep realizing that people gonna people. BOY are people gonna people. It hasn't hit our area much yet - our first local positive case was on March 11 and we're still in the mid two-digit figures which means as of this writing nobody in my immediate circle -- family, friends, close co-workers -- has displayed symptoms of or tested positive for COVID19. I am, of course, grateful for this. Very.

However that doesn't knock a thing off the university. [family lexicon; source]

The whole rest of my life is full of stuff. Just full. It's been fucking hard as hell for a really long time and I'm really sick of it but there's nothing for it but to keep on living through it.  Which I am just so glad to be doing without having to think so much about booze the way I used to.

Oh which reminds me: "food and beverage" is the magic phrase keeping liquor stores open in my state. Convenience stores - where the nicotine products are sold - fall under "food" and often "gas" so they're okay too.  And praise be they are -- can you imagine the other way?!?  Oh. My. Not good.

But I am SOOOooooo grateful not to have to fuck around with any of that shit or especially its side effects. I'm sleeping poorly as-is; like I needed the three ayem dehydrated thing too?  This is better.

Stay strong...yes I'm telling myself as much as all you fine people.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Day 1356

Oh Blogfriends I know it's been quite a while because life just keeps coming at me hard.

But I've reached the number of sober days where it starts looking more recognizeably like a date-- I looked up the year 1356 and this is what we have:

Of those the Battle of Poitiers is the only one I'd ever even remotely heard of and that was pretty darned remotely.

Anyhow back to mememememe me. I'm tired. I have the day off because in a little while I'll be driving Spouse to his six-months-post-transplant visit three hours away and we both have come to dread the six hours of car time for at most ninety minutes of total non-car time and that's being very generous usually it's just under an hour. We've already had one episode of Youngest Duckling deciding to stop taking the med for a while and now that she's back on them she doesn't like her flat affect so there's angst there and I'm offering a therapist's ear....the problems are different for Eldest but more therapist ear there too and of course this is all while working full time.

And now that Spouse is in NY for this clinic visit we're back up to three dogs again. It's A Real Lot. Just all the time there's -something- y'know? I dunno how the fuck I could even dream of beginning to manage all of it if I were still drinking so I'm grateful all over again every day that I'm not.

And sure the thought has been there now and again but there's two things staying my hand: 1) It just doesn't fucking help. I've done that experiment a million times and although in the short term it's blissful "short term" is only about ninety minutes tops and then it's all downhill and 2) then I'd have shame on top of every OTHER problem. No thanks. Easier to just NOT do a thing. Well and now it's got momentum of its own.

Enough so that somehow I've become the family substance guru and my biggest advice is always this: I would never dream of telling anyone else how to handle their substances since I had such a terrible time with my own for so long. Also nobody will ever hear even the kindest words till they want to hear them.

I had a wonderful little overnight to meet a friend and visit the biggest yarn store in this part of my country Sunday into Monday. Bought a ton of yarn, almost all of it half off. That was great but also sadly brings into even sharper contrast just how Not Calm my regular life is. Theoretically things will get better and I hope that actually proves to be true.

Keep at it. Whatever it is.

Peace out.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Day 1325

An Interlude - not MY family at all for a change! 

Yesterday I had to go to a viewing. One of my favorite tech’s husband. I made the diagnosis right around Christmas off malignant ascites fluid. Bad adenocarcinoma with skin mets at presentation. Unknown primary - there was a lung nodule but nobody needled it and colonoscopy was negative.. Doesn’t really matter where it’s started as he died within a week or ten days. Little suffering. 

On Friday I got a panicked call from his doc who is a Glamour Girl I’ve never really liked all that much - either internal medicine or FP but quick got involved in the information system stuff because doesn’t like grunt work. Smart but not -as- smart as her elegant good looks have everyone convinced she is (yeah that’s probably some of my own ugly showing.)  Anyhow she said his widow wanted to know where the cancer started and asked her to call back and she was clearly nervous. So I calmed her down. Soothing words and tone. I said we’d never know for sure but given the whole picture probably pancreas. Which is a good thing to tell The Lay People anyhow as “pancreas bad” is part of the communal gestalt. So fine she wanted to babble on phone about how she kept suggesting he get this or that but he didn’t want the Co pays blah blah and I’m thinking that yeah, skin Mets at time of presentation kinda suggests really independent patient in a big way. I’m also thinking “ah...this is a bunch of guilt she wants shriven by me.” I -really- don’ got time but I say some  more nice things and tell her that I will be at viewing and that I will tell the widow same thing about pancreas if it comes up. Can’t do better than that, right? 

So fine, viewing HUGE. Whole town lined up. I never met or even heard guy’s name prior to diagnosing his illness so I am sucker punched to find he looks like my husband, was an animal nut like my husband, all the pictures are with their dogs, he clearly really loved family, they were married same year we were...I was hit with big waves of empathy and survivor guilt. Dealing with it but choking up myself because I’m instantly so sad. Guess who falls into line behind me? Glamour Girl Doc. Joy.

At least she doesn’t want to chat in line. So fine we get to the part of the people-snake where we can see the widow with adult kids on each side. The person in front of me is spending a really long time talking to an adult kid just in front of my tech the new widow. I’m patiently waiting because we don’t rush these things. Glamour Girl jumps ahead of me and the person to start talking to the new widow. Well, okay. Gets her outta there sooner, right?

I wait for the talker to finish, shake hands of the kids  “hi I’m Samantha I work with X—-” and get to the widow. She’s happy to see me; we talk. I do in fact repeat the pancreas thing but I was right; she doesn’t care where it started any more. Told me the one thing she regretted was bringing him to the hospital at the end. So that’s all fine.

I almost walked right by the viewing area as he was cremated and the little box was in front of a kneeler —where Glamour Girl was still kneeling after my extended wait and chat. Silent but eyes shut. So I waited...deliberately thinking nothing at all because who am I to dis any faith practice? Finally she crosses herself and leaves. So I kneel, make like I’m praying, look appropriate for what feels like enough seconds and get up to leave. I’m putting my coat on in the vestibule thinking “survived THAT and it was the right thing to do” when Glamour Girl pops up at my left putting HER coat on too.


We walked out together and I got another version of how she feels bad he came to her with dysphagia and she wanted to get a CT scan but he didn’t want the copay and a lot more in the same vein and she used the phrase “and I -had- to respect his wishes” at least three times in less than five minutes and I was thinking “lady this isn’t -about- YOU” and also “the family must’ve known that’s how he was” (especially after what New Widow said about keeping him home.) 

So I said “Frost. The poet, you know? Frost?” (I said it that way because I could NOT come up with “Robert” —  my brain kept giving me “Jack” which I knew was wrong and John didn’t seem right either.) Anyhow she shut up and maybe nodded so I continued

“Frost said ‘ I hold it to be the fundamental right of anyone to go to hell in his own way.’”

She got a super shocked look on her face, said “or Heaven!״ and walked away fast the other direction.

So now I’m the asshole, right? 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Day 1322

Well blogfriends it's a new year and a new decade huzzah!!   I thought I'd be sharing a well-after-the-fact Work Thing that knocked me for a helluva loop back before Christmas...but the Universe runs at lightspeed and bigger news completely displaced it.

On Sunday (which was, lemmesee...oh yeah, the 29th) I took Youngest Duckling to the ER in a florid psychotic state. Pure mania, complete inability to separate what was real from what was unreal, big delusions. Spent most of that day helping Security keep her in the ED bay long enough to get her admitted which was...challenging.  She was one of the funniest psychotics I've ever helped restrain but it's still hard to hear "you tricked me into thinking you were my mother" multiple times in one day, disease or not. She called my friend the security guard a "dickhole" during one of her escape attempts; that stood out among all the more garden-variety obscenity. 

I was thinking "well this is schizophrenia, pure and simple" and was surprised the docs were all hemming and hawing and "well we need to cast a wide net" and "we need to consider possible toxin exposure" and "let's take this a step at a time."  Looking back at what had happened over the previous few days the events were so classic you could have lifted them from a psych textbook. So why all the fuss?

Medicine is such that twenty years is a big chunk of time and my training is dated.

I’m not supposed to say the S-Word because the disease is now broken down based on how long you have had symptoms. What she had is now considered an “initial psychotic break” and with proper meds and support some people may never have another. The next step up the ladder is Schizoaffective Disorder which is "they had another episode somewhere in weeks to months" but the actual S-Word now requires symptoms present for six months or longer. 

And what would the one hallmark symptom be? Here it is: unable to distinguish between real  and unreal experiences. That’s still The Thing and that’s what she did all over the place in the ER. BOY did she ever. Once you’ve seen it in real life you don’t ever forget it and I did a whole inpatient psych rotation so I’ve seen several variations on the theme. My big takeaway is that we are putting this new time-limit thing on top of the same old disease process mostly to make it less awful. Which makes sense: who likes something that hits lovely vibrant 18-25 year olds with a lifelong chronic condition?

Yeah, well...I literally learned how to read in part on those Time-Life Science and Nature books you buy a month at a time which had an article about the wonders of Thorazine so I’ve never been particularly scared of schizophrenia. I’ve known my whole life others including my mother were terrified of even the word but I see - and always have seen - this as totally just like insulin-dependent diabetes. Some people get that under control too; some don’t. I have, in addition to Carrie Fisher, been thinking of Mary Tyler Moore a lot recently.

In any case the treatment is the same for all three things: antipsychotic medication. So it seems the disease itself hasn’t changed, really. This new "initial" "affective" "real diagnosis" seems to be PR for “take your damned meds.” I see this event as showing us that her wonderful creative joyous self has a brain which can break in a really powerful way so that makes her a little more fragile than the rest of us now.  

She got admitted Sunday night and took us on a wild chase around the ward during which I learned this old fat body can still sprint if it has to -- I outran three nurses to catch her myself because I thought "ohmighawd there's a stairwell at the end of that hallway" as she flew by.  That was after she'd had two doses of Ativan and oral Haldol so she got intramuscular Haldol and I helped hold her for the shot. There's something I never thought I'd be doing but well, here we are. Monday she was starting to come back to Earth and she got released home with me on New Year's Eve Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday night was hard because she couldn't seem to understand why I wasn't going to let her go to a New Year's Eve party at her friend's house even after we'd talked about it twice. She got tearful...but then was sound asleep by 8:15 so I had time to sew my ripped-up heart back together.  Yesterday wasn't bad but this morning when I got up at 6:15 I was surprised to see her awake in her room and when I asked when she woke up she said "four thirty" as if that were as normal as eight or we aren't there yet. 

The psychiatrist discharged her with only a week of the same antipsychotic her uncle takes because she plans to wean her off and see what happens. THAT is all part of this new approach too and freaks me out a bit because I'm thinking "damn, we just got her back from outer space; you wanna encourage taking off AGAIN?!?" but my friend the chief of psych says, "we do that now because if someone has an initial psychotic break, goes on meds for their whole life and never has another one we don't know if they needed to be on the meds, y'know, and they have side effects....but if they go off meds and have a -second- episode  then they get lifelong" which is how I think this is gonna go. 

So ain't that just a kick in the head? I'm glad I've got years of sobriety under my belt already because this might've been a big enough trigger if I hadn't.  I did Liver okay and I did Shoulder okay but Brain is just the one thing too many. 

Buy hey, I will survive and so will everyone else.  One thing I've learned over the past year: I'm one of the emotionally strongest motherfuckers I know.