Monthly Archives: October 2012

A matter of life and death

I’m not sure where to begin…

Today I got a call from my Mom — my favorite uncle, her brother, passed away this morning.

This isn’t a complete surprise; Uncle Eddie turned 90 earlier this year and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late this summer.  But recently he had been doing pretty well — he was out of the hospital, at his home in Texas, and from all reports, up to his usual shenanigans.

So, it hit us hard, even though we knew in the back of our minds that the end wasn’t too far away.

He’d been a Texan for about the last 20 or so years.  Once he retired, he decided that the cold and snow of Chicago pretty much sucked and he headed to warmer climes.  One winter in Texas was all it took to convert him to a full-timer.

My Mom had always wanted him to be back here, though — she missed having her older brother around. She was almost 20 years younger than him and so they grew closer only once she got older — and then he moved away.  But with his diagnosis, she had finally convinced him to come back north.  Of course, he never made it — his flight would have been today — and he passed away peacefully in his adopted homeland.

Uncle Eddie, for as long as I can remember, was the “fun” uncle.  It was almost stereotypical in the way that he held the position as the rogue in the family.  In my lifetime, he had always been divorced and prowling the town, gambling and drinking and having fun.  He had fun teasing all of us kids and we could always be sure to catch grief from him for one thing or another whenever he was around.

This is my most memorable Uncle Eddie story:  back when I was 16, I wanted a dog more than anything in the world (my parents, while being dog lovers in theory, never wanted the reality of dog ownership) and Uncle Eddie had a dog, Bootsie, who was an awesome miniature Lassie look-a-like.  Now, this was also the winter that he wanted to test out living in the sun of Texas rather than dealing with the cold here — but he didn’t think he could take Bootsie with him.

So, what did he do?  He asked me if I’d watch her while he was gone.  I was SO EXCITED!  I’d be getting a dog!!  And a dog I already loved!  What a deal!! Of course, I said yes before he’d even finished asking… I was like a kid souped up on a bag full of Halloween candy, I was so excited.  Now, here’s the fun part:  do you think he asked my parents first?  Of course not.  He knew they’d say no.  But, he *also* knew that once he had gotten me all worked up about it, that they’d give in because it’d be easier to watch Bootsie than having to deal with grief-stricken, disappointed, devastated, overly-dramatic me for an entire winter.  He won that battle, and my Mom, while outwardly seething a bit, was inwardly chuckling at his antics.

I’m going to miss him.  I’m proud of the way that when he was in his late 70’s, he decided that he needed to learn how to use a computer and did so — almost entirely on his own (when he needed help, he’d go to Best Buy and stalk out the computer staff for assistance).  I loved the way that he always had a great sense of humor about most any situation and the that he could laugh away any tension in the room.  I was envious of the way he could play cards like a shark, always knowing what everyone else had in the their hand at any given time because he was so observant and smart.

His life reminds me that it’s good to take chances and change the scenery sometimes. That sometimes it’s better to roll with things than fight them. And that standing up for what you believe in plays an important part in making you the person you are.

I can still hear this, uttered by so many people at so many family parties:  “Oh, that Edward… he’s such a character…”

Love you.  Miss you, Uncle Eddie.

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Leap of faith

I have to admit:  I’m scared.

Coming up on Friday, I have that appointment with a psychiatrist to discuss getting a prescription for some sort of anti-depressant. This was my therapist’s idea and I initially was resistant to it (“I don’t need no stinkin’ help!”), but as time has passed I’ve been swayed by her arguments.  Basically, I’ve gotten to a breaking point where I know that something has to change and this seems like one of the few flotation devices left in this ocean in which I’m drowning.

So, what am I scared of, exactly?

(note:  if the doctor is any sort of professional, I understand that my fears are unfounded, but, frankly, logic has very little bearing on how afraid I am)

  • I’m scared that I’ll go into this appointment and the doctor will think that I’m either lying or it’s all in my head. This plays on a couple of fears of mine — first, the fear of asking for help, making myself vulnerable and basically being rebuffed and laughed at for my attempt.  Second, the fear that I should be able to fix this myself by “looking on the bright side” and simply “deciding to be happy” (because it’s just that easy, didn’t you know?)
  • I’m scared of being utterly intimidated and overwhelmed at the appointment. Let’s face it:  this whole situation makes me want to curl up into a ball and pretend like it doesn’t exist (see how well that’s worked so far?).  In the face of a doctor that might not have the best bedside manner, I worry that I’ll clam up and not ask the questions I need to ask for fear of sounding dumb or weak or unintelligent.
  • I’m scared about all the potential side effects — everything from dizziness to weight gain to decreased sexual desire (though, with the current state of my dating affairs, this might be a bonus) to tiredness to hair loss to extra limbs growing out of my chest (who really reads all the fine print?).  What if all I’m doing is trading in one problem for another?
  • But probably the thing that I’m scared most about is this: the appointment will go fine, the doctor will listen and sympathize, tell me that things will get better…and then I’ll be prescribed medication and it won’t work.  That I’ll still feel sad. And like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No way out. That this pervading loneliness is my destiny.  That I’m too broken to fix.

Yea, that last one, that’s the one that keeps me up at night.  Classic fear of failure, but with stakes that take my breath away.  What if I’m just too broken.

But having run out of ways to make this better on my own, I know I need to make this leap to try and save myself.  So, I will go to the doctor’s office on Friday (after having shrugged on my bravery coat of armor) and hope for the best.  Hope that my random choice of doctor from my insurance list is someone who will listen and understand and be kind.  Hope that there’s…. hope, I suppose.

That’s all I really want.

Happy

I’m really struggling these days, so I thought I’d switch gears around here and list some of the things that make me smile, laugh and be happy.

  1. Sometimes I forget how happy music makes me.  The other day I was feeling especially down, but proud of myself because I had forced myself to go for a run.  As a reward, I brought a big speaker into the bathroom with me, got my favorite playlist going, and belted out the songs while showering.  This was surprisingly therapeutic (though my neighbors may not have appreciated it) and I think it’s only a matter of time before I’m “discovered”.
  2. The upside to some of the insomnia I’ve been having is that once or twice a week I get out of bed extra early and take Belle out for a dark, quiet, peaceful morning walk.  We hit the sidewalk around 4:30am, so there’s not a whole lot going on, and the crisp, fall air wakes me up in a way that my alarm clock never can.
  3. I’ve always had an anti-green thumb: I’m pretty sure the underground plant network warned all plants to stay away from my house or face the dire consequences.  But since my roommate moved in a year and a half ago, I became the caretaker of the two plants she brought with (both from her mother’s funeral).  Talk about pressure!  They were both doing poorly when they arrived — her last place of residence had her (and the plants) living in the basement and both the cats and dog got at them.  Somehow, someway, I managed to turn them around — now one of them is big enough to stage a coup on the house, and the other looks all perky and green instead of mostly dead.  Every time I look at these plants I feel a slice of pride for making them grow.
  4. I work in I.T. and because it’s for a small, private company, I basically have my hand in anything computer-related, from servers to network to security to hardware to software.  But what I most like doing is helping people solve their problems.  About two weeks, I managed to salvage a guy’s computer — he had really mucked it up — and I later got an email from him:  “I’m married but I have to tell you that I love love love you… thanks for much for your help.”  That made me smile for days.
  5. I’ve started getting more consistent with getting back to running, hoping that through sheer force of will I can make myself feel better (running has always been how I’ve kept my moods in check).  Even though it hasn’t really had that overall “pick me up” effect that I was hoping for, I will say that there’s no better feeling than finishing a run — especially a long one, like the 9 miler I did this weekend — and knowing it was all me.  No one helped, I didn’t cheat it, I pushed my way through it and it’s entirely MY gold star.
  6. At night when Belle climbs onto the bed, she burrows and snuggles into my body, settles herself in and then lets out this big, contented sigh and falls asleep.  Makes me love her even more (until she starts to snore, of course).
  7. Every year, I take 3 of my best friends out for their birthdays.  It’s something we plan months in advance (they all have husbands and kids so they are notoriously difficult to schedule something with), and each one of us looks forward to it.  We haven’t done this even once without having at least one long, drawn out, can’t breathe laugh-fest at the table … and there’s nothing better for the soul than laughter shared among friends.
  8. No matter how bad my outlook gets, I know that if I ever go into a really bad place that there will be people around me who will notice and help pull me out.  The comfort I get from that is beyond words.

So, what’s your make-you-happy thing?

Full circle

Well, things got interesting late last week.

Remember how my roommate, K., had done the stereotypical lesbian two-dates-and-move-in-with-her-girlfriend thing?  That was about 6 months ago, and apparently they’ve now hit the relationship expiration date:  my roommate has left her and moved back in with me. I kind of knew that it was going to happen… they had been fighting and bickering for 5 of the 6 months they were together — they didn’t give themselves a chance to ease into the relationship and missed that special window of time when it’s easy to dump someone because you’re not trying to pick out curtains with them at the same time as you’re trying to get rid of them.

So, last week, I got a call at work:  “Is it okay if I move back in?”  How could I say no?  I knew she was unhappy — one of those relationships where when it’s good, it’s great, but it’s more often bad or worse — but I wasn’t actually expecting her to cut bait and leave.  I got home that day, saw her big ass bottle of raspberry vodka on the counter and to my surprise, knew she had followed through. K. isn’t one for being on her own, much, but end it she did — I’m proud of her for doing so.  She had been staying because it was easy, but not necessarily because it was the right thing to do, ya know?

I’m ambivalent about her moving back in, to be honest.  To be fair, she’s one of my most favorite people in the world and I’ve found that it’s good to have someone in the house again — not that talking to my dog Belle wasn’t satisfying conversation.  And having K. around on a regular basis gives me less chance to wallow in my moods — and for someone who messes with depression, wallowing is like the gateway drug for a full-on depressive binge. Wallowing = seriously not good for me.

But her being around makes my relatively new healthy decisions a little more difficult to make on a daily basis:  K’s one of those lean, muscular, in-shape types who eats junk food non-stop and has some of the unhealthiest habits I’ve ever seen (especially for someone who’s in the fitness industry — she’s a personal trainer).  She’s aware and supportive of my situation, but unfortunately I like to use food to bond with people.  Nothing like spending time with someone eating pizza and ice cream to cement a friendship, right?  See, I know K. won’t say no to that kind of invitation, while if I cook all healthy and such, she’s likely to go out and find someone else to have dinner with.  I’d rather her eat with me.  See how that works?  Companionship wins out over healthy eating every damn time. I suppose I’m feeding one of my needs, just not necessarily the healthy one.

And then there’s the whole bit about how I have an on-again-off-again impossibly unrequited crush on her.  She’s not interested — this much I’m quite sure of — but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally having weird bouts of jealousy when it comes to her bringing home girls.  I can’t help it, I know it’s not rational, but I don’t like her being with other girls while she’s in my house. It also doesn’t help that her bedroom is directly above mine… it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what’s going on up there, if you know what I mean.

With her having moved out, the crush was a thing of the past — out of sight, out of mind, basically — but now that she’s back, it’s like I’ve got to go through the withdrawal process again. Which kinda sucks. At least there are no sex buddies hanging around yet, but that’s just a matter of time.

Overall I’m hoping for good things from this second round of roommate-ing together.  She’s the extrovert to my introvert and it’s good for me to be actively pulled out of my own head like that.  I also know this is a challenge for me:  instead of going out of my way to do things for her, I’ve got to live my life the way I want to… if she comes along for the ride, great, but if not, that’s okay too.

I need to do things to like myself, rather than doing things for K. to like me, if that makes sense.  And I need to let her live her life without my judgment or interference.  Be K’s best friend and not her weird stalker, wanna-be-your-girlfriend friend.

That’s all.  Easy, right?

If nothing else, day to day life just got a whole lot more interesting.  I’ll take it.

Back with a vengeance

Over at The Bloggess, she says something incredibly wise:  depression is a lying bastard and life will be brighter again.

(an aside – if you’ve never heard of The Bloggess, go there right now and read! She’s awesome and it’s much better than being here.  Plus, I’ll wait for you to come back.)

I’m struggling to keep this in mind — that this monster that keeps climbing on my back is doing nothing but whispering lies in my ear.  Nothing good or positive or healthy comes from this voice.  You’re boring.  And ugly.  And will always be alone.  And never have sex ever again.  No one in the world wants you.  That’s what it tells me.  Among other things.  (I mean, if it could toss in something helpful, that’d be nice, though.  Perhaps a reminder to change the filter on the furnace or something like that?)

When I’m at my most logical, I can see the fallacy behind these words.  No, I haven’t found someone to be with, but does that mean it’ll never happen?  Of course not.  And I’m quite sure that my stable of friends would argue with me if I told them I was ugly or boring.  If I were as awful a person as the monster tells me, I’d be utterly alone in this world.  And that is far from the truth.

And yet, I’ve been really challenged to work my head past these feelings and move forward. It’s hard to battle something that doesn’t play fair, ya know?

I had made an early August appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about going on some meds, but in the end, I cancelled that appointment.  See, for a few weeks at the end of July, life was good.  Really good.  I had met a girl.  Someone I liked! I thought she was cute and good company and everything she said to me indicated that she felt the same.  The only downside?  She lived about 2.5 hours from me.

It ended up being the relationship that never was.  After the initial date, we made — and she cancelled — 5 more, all with good, plausible reasons.  But fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me 5 times, who’s the idiot?  Whether the excuses were real or not, it was clear that I was a very low priority and if it’s that way in the beginning?  It’s never going to get better.  You can’t make someone love you. Or even meet up for a drink with you, as it turns out.

After that I went all to hell — much worse than before.  But I had already cancelled the psych appointment.  And when I finally called back, she wasn’t taking new appointments anymore.

For weeks I wallowed and dwelled and hated my life.  It was crying binges during the day and spending entire weekends where the only conversation I had (talking to the dog doesn’t count!) was with the checkout person at Trader Joe’s.  I ate with abandon and my only exercise consisted of using the remote control and doing 12oz bicep curls with my drinks. It wasn’t much of an existence, that’s for sure.

But very recently, part of me woke up and decided that if nothing else, I could control my eating and health.  I decided that even if I didn’t have the motivation to work out, I could eat healthy and watch calories.  I think things got so out of control that I picked the one thing that I *could* control.  If even just a little bit.

And so, I joined myfitnesspal.com and started tracking food.  Joined in with the community.  Even managed to get myself a dozen or so friends that check in on me.  And that’s been good.

In the spirit of trying to take care of myself, I also went through my insurance and found another random psychiatrist who was accepting new patients and made an appointment (I have another 3 weeks to wait)… one of those things that sounds easy as pie but is impossibly difficult for me to do (that’s a blog for another time).

So, we’ll see what happens.  This mood/depression/whatever has been hanging around most of the year, and it’s definitely been bearing down on me lately. Despite the fact that a potential girlfriend made me feel better, I don’t believe getting rid of the depression is that simple.  I think the uplift would have been temporary and would have gone away eventually, with or without someone in my life.  In the end, I need to fix myself, not distract myself.

So, while the depression has been back with a vengeance, perhaps I might be crawling back up as well.  At least I feel like I’m making some healthy decisions in spite of myself.  With every good choice I make, it makes a little easier to make the next one.  I’ve started doing a bare amount of exercise.  And I even promise not to cancel the psych appointment, no matter what’s going on by then. Because I need to remember how depression can lie … life will get better. Sometimes you just need to take the first steps.

I have absolutely no clue how this happened…

…but my college diploma turned 20 this year.  I mean, really?  Where has the time gone?  I can’t wrap my head around any kind of mathematics that allows this to be true.

I’m not usually very big on reunions.  Partially because I’m too lazy to be bothered, partially because those kinds of social scenes aren’t my thing, partially because I haven’t really been in a good place and so I’m not exactly rarin’ to get out there and answer the “how have you been” and “what are you up to” questions.

But, I went anyway — peer pressure can be a wonderful thing, right?  I headed out Friday afternoon to go back to campus — a place I haven’t been in 15 years — to meet up with one of my best friends from college.  It had been about 5 years since I had seen her last, and of all the activity this weekend promised, this was the one part that I was really looking forward to:  catching up with her, being able to go beyond the niceties and talk about how life really was treating us.

What I didn’t realize, though, was that over the course of an entire weekend, I would get to spend approximately 20 minutes with just her.  Her family is lovely — her husband, in fact, was part of our group in college and so I know him quite well — but the family wasn’t who I wanted to catch up with.

Instead of much-needed chat time with someone very dear to me, I spent the weekend engaged in banal small talk with people I barely remembered, repeatedly saying, “No, I’m not married.  No, I don’t have kids.”  At least that’s what it felt like.  I went for the promise of connecting with an old friend and in its place I got a my very own form of nightmare socializing.

One part of the weekend that I enjoyed, though, was getting the chance to walk around and see the new buildings (they went on a building spree as soon as I left… apparently, they just needed my tuition dollars to get it started…).  The fall colors were beautiful — it reminded me of all the good that came from those years and how much I envied all the students milling around.

(And on a side note, all these young kids walking around campus — when did they start allowing 14 year olds to go to college?? Damn, I feel old…)

Still, though, the visit was tinged with melancholy.  During college, I had a close group of friends who I love with all my heart, but in the 20 years since we left campus, we’ve gone in entirely different directions.  They are all straight, married with kids and deeply faithful to the church.  And me?  Single, childless, gay and not really a fan of any religious institution.  As a group, I love them for who they were and what they meant to me, but it’s a little weird to realize that if I were meeting them for the first time today, we likely wouldn’t become close friends at all.  Or even meet in the first place, realistically.

The stark differences between who am I now and (literally) every classmate that I ran into made me just a little sad and lonely.  Not that I want what they have, but – in the moment – the craving for what the world considers a “normal life” was overwhelming.  Even a slightly left-of-center life would be okay — somehow, not having a girlfriend/partner-in-crime by this point in my life makes me feel like I’ve somehow failed at what everyone else has succeeded at.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons that I usually avoid these sorts of occasions: I work hard not to get too down on myself about my life situation, but it’s impossible not to consider it when my past comes charging back into my present with a debilitating awkwardness.

But it’s time to shake it off and move forward. It was good to reconnect with my friends and reminisce over times long since gone, and  I’ll enjoy keeping in “Facebook touch” with them, hearing all about their families and activities.  But, it’s also worth it to realize that sometimes the past is best off staying there, that there’s a reason that it’s that way.  A reminder that who I was isn’t necessarily who I have to be today, that I can appreciate my friends for what they did for me then, without needing them to be something for me now.

What a trip!

I’m back. Actually, I’ve been back from my Colorado Adventure for a long time now, but have been taking my own sweet time in collecting my thoughts to present out to the public. It was fun.  And challenging.  And dug far more deeply into feelings and emotions and crap like that than I ever anticipated.  Basically, I spent the week dripping water:  either sweat or tears.

It wasn’t like I didn’t know ahead of time, but I was still surprised at the frequency of Kumbaya  moments throughout the week — occasions to not only delve inward and examine my most basic thoughts, attitudes and motivations, but to then also share them with this group of strangers.  Now, the inward part? I’m not so bad at that.  In fact, I have to actively shut that off at times because my tendency to over-think is legendary.  But the outward sharing of these emotions and revelations?  Um, yea.  That’s not so much in my wheelhouse.

It sounds stupid when I put it in writing, but you want to know what my biggest inhibitor to sharing publicly is?  I’m a cryer.  And not just that, but I was not blessed with the ability to cry and talk all at the same time — it’s one or the other for me.  And since anything vaguely emotional makes me cry (not just my own stuff, but other people’s stuff, too), I spent the week in a state of tears which made it incredibly uncomfortable to speak out loud.

And I wondered *why* exactly I was crying so much.  Part of it were the stories of the other women:  some tragic, some heartfelt, all of them emotional.  When confronted with outward pouring like that, I can’t help but cry along with.  It’s just my nature.

But some of the crying was just me.  Sad about where my life is at.  Upset at myself for thinking like that.  Lonely because I haven’t found someone yet. Basically, an overall “why me?” whining fest. It felt selfish, in a way.  But I suppose the whole trip was supposed to be about me working on me.  And the crying is part of that.

Still, I got a lot out of the week.  Of course, the hiking and mountain biking were everything I imagined they would be.  I do wish that I had made good on my commitment to be in better shape for it, though — it would have been more rewarding had I been able to catch my breath at one point or another.  And on an emotional level, I connected with a few individuals and had some great conversations that spurred some different ways of thinking.

I left the mountains really considering how to change my life.  And I’m not sure that I’ve completely figured it out yet, but at least there are a few more ideas pinballing around in my brain.  Hopefully all those tears won’t go to waste.