The 10 Millionth Paper Cut

I Never Wrote Holiday Hell Part II So this is it – Late. Very Late.

I’m sitting on the couch in my new place.  I’m here with my main girl, Mimzy.  The Mimster.  Mimsicle. Whimsical.  Peebody. My shadow. My little Digger.  She is my constant and devoted companion.  We are a bonded pair, constantly licking our wounds from our broken pasts and rescuing one another from loneliness – all the time.   We just had dinner.  She got her premium dog food with a couple of my sweet potato puffs – kinda like Tots, but sweet potato.  Seriously yummy.  She got my very last one.  That’s how much I love her.  My last tot.  Napoleon would be proud.

“Wait….did you say my ‘new place’?” all my millions and millions of followers are asking.  Wink.  “Why, yes I did”, I reply to the three real followers. LOL. There I go, cracking myself up again.  So, how did I get here?  The meltdown.  I got here via meltdown.

I think the appendicitis and emergency surgery pushed me over the edge.  (For details of that, visit the prior blog post- Holiday Hell.)  It wasn’t really any big deal.  Compared to the misery of lyme, it was like getting a paper cut.  But it was the 10 millionth paper cut. One paper cut is annoying, Ten million paper cuts…?

I have issues.  Don’t we all?  Like all marital challenges, there is enough blame to spread around equally. My issues and our family dynamic complications are deeply rooted in unhealthy behavioral patterns established long, long ago.  Changing these patterns requires some serious mindfulness, therapy (which I can’t afford) and causes a lot of hurt feelings.  When you begin to change, the people who have come to know your patterns, and in fact bank on them, become confused and in some cases angry.  “But wait!  You are not supposed to stand up for yourself”….

For years, I’ve felt perpetually off balance.  Boundaries were blurry and having the only child on both sides of the family meant everyone was constantly nipping at my heals to get to my baby.  Trying to balance a career, family and chronic illness was a psychological disaster in the making.  There was never anything for me. I kept pouring out of the pitcher of Linda until every last drop was gone.  Trips to the refilling station – yea, they didn’t happen.    Every decision seemed wrong, every action futile, every try a failure.  If I only knew I had an infectious disease ravaging my brain the whole time, it would have been super helpful.  Decades of misery could have been spared. So for the past decade (the worst years of the illness) my greatest accomplishments included, losing myself and my career, pissing off my family of origin and in-laws and making life miserable for everyone around me.

The past decade was a series of unending string of new lows both physically and mentally.  Whenever I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. My psyche was scrambled.  The old cliche,”I’ve become a stranger to myself” could not be more on point.  Eventually, I dried up like a fall leaf and fell to the ground waiting to be crushed into useless debris and blown away by the winter wind. It became crystal clear to me that I would not recover my health without a time out to re-group.

Before getting all judgemental, allow me to clarify: I did not choose to do this to end my marriage.  I did this in hope of saving it.  I think.  See, that’s the problem.  I have no faith in my reasoning any longer.  One thing was clear to me, though.  I owe it to my family to get well, no matter that short-term pain my need for wellness may inflict.

So just when life couldn’t be more difficult, I discovered another way to lower the bar.  I had to throw myself down one more flight of stairs.  Unemployable, with no bank account of my own from not being able to work with any consistency for so long, I waltzed out.  I got the 10 millionth paper cut and just walked away.

The day of departure was somewhere around Dec 18th.  I don’t even recall the exact day.  I just know that it was shortly before Christmas.  Talk about ruining the holidays.   I set off a nuclear bomb and walked out.  I had spent time preparing my daughter for the detonation, so she was protected from the fallout and shockwaves of the explosion. She has, without a doubt, astounding strength and maturity and we have become closer than ever.

Mimsy and I left mid-day and checked into a hotel nearby.  I called my husband that evening to let him know I was not going to be home.  The call went to voice mail.  I left a message.  Later that night he called. The conversation was short and mostly just about confirming I would not be cooking dinner.  Most likely he assumed I was at my mother’s and I didn’t volunteer that I was at a hotel and not planning on returning. I hunkered down there for two nights while I panicked about how to move forward.

Frances, a very smart and observant member of an on-line support group, threw me a life preserver the first night in the hotel.  She had walked the path I was on and stayed with me to coach me through the maze in which I found myself lost and wandering. There were two other wing-women that took turns baby sitting me while I unraveled.  Frances, Terri and Roxanne – they saved me. They got me through one of the worst chapters of my life.

During the two days of separation, I arrived at a plan.  First, I made an emergency appointment with my therapist. She doesn’t accept our insurance.  Shocker, eh? Someone needed to give me an objective reality check.  Was I making a huge mistake? Was I being totally delusional?  That was a good first step, because I left the appointment feeling empowered, reaffirmed and capable of moving forward. I was $200 poorer, but what else is new?

Next I started looking for a short-term lease for a place nearby.  Looking for housing was much easier than I thought.  It required exhausting effort, but once I found Air B&B, IMG_4882 I had three choices.  I opted for a “unit” on a farm nestled among other farms in a remote part of the county. It was fully furnished and gave off a healing energy that is indescribable. By January 14th, I was moved in and starting a new, terrifying chapter.

Step three in my big brilliant move out plan was find employment.  I knew that would be my biggest challenge.  Employment has become my single greatest source of stress.

This is the step of the plan that eludes me to date.  Feeling like a neurological failure makes looking for a job a absolute daunting task.  When I read over job descriptions with responsibilities I (at one point) could have fulfilled in my sleep, my insides liquify as questions like, “Can I pass myself off as a normal healthy person?” rise to my consciousness.  My self confidence is lacking. I feel like a serial killer trying to blend in at a church gathering. I am a lyme brain phony; an imposter trying to pass myself off as a fully functioning individual in a desperate attempt to support myself.

If I don’t get through step three of the “Walk Out” plan, I will be forced to… I can’t go there.  I refuse to entertain the option of walking back in.  Not that I won’t -one day- want to go back and resume working on my marriage.  It’s just, I would prefer to take that option because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to.  In an amazing feat of stupidity, I thought I wouldn’t have to worry if it took six months to a year to get on my feet.  I made a terrible assumption that my mother would help me.

I spent the better part of the past 53 years of my life trying to help this woman find joy and happiness.  Negative behavior pattern #1. You can’t make anyone else happy.  Period. Despite how often as a late teen and young adult I cleaned her house, prepared meals, painted her nails; all in the spirit of repairing her damage, it accomplished nothing but making me feel more pain because it was never good enough.

Once I could drive, I got a job and worked 25 hours a week so I could start to take care of as many of my own needs as I could. While talking to Saint and Savior Roxanne one day after my departure, she reminded me of how during high school I always had to do yard work and house cleaning before I could go anywhere.  How I managed to get into any college and graduate is a miracle. My SAT scores were abysmal because I didn’t have any time to prepare.  My grades, that had been fairly decent, slid because I worked too many hours. My priorities were blurry. Hearing my  father tell  my sister and I (at 10) that we were not real people until we supported ourselves probably drove my workaholism.  I couldn’t do my algebra II homework, but on evenings and weekends, I worked in the back office of the biggest and best department store in town.  I ran the service desk in the back office.  This included managing the cash at nine different registers, balancing out the master register, making bank deposits and closing up the store. Epstein’s put money in my pocket.

My parents did pay my way through Bloomsburg State College.  They wanted to.  And the fact they did hangs over my head like a guilitine. I live in guilt over that daily.  While all my housemates and best friends went on Spring Break, I went home and worked.  And I was fine with that.  After graduation I lived back with my folks till I could get on my feet. I found a great corporate job teaching classes in personal lines insurance.  I payed rent (even though my parents had no mortgage) and covered my own expenses. When I bought my first ever new car, I was met with contempt.

I never got in trouble.  I  had no time to find it.  One weekend when I was 23, I wanted to go camping with a guy I had been seeing for a while. We were going with my bestie Roxanne and her boyfriend – who was best friends with my boyfriend.  We had fantastic times mucking about New England on great adventures.  When I asked permission to go, my mother called me a slut.  I went anyway and fucked my boyfriend in her honor. Was I slut?  If I was, perhaps the pervy posters of ‘babes with power tools’ my dad had hanging in the garage established a pattern of allowing myself to be objectified by men.  Besides, he was the love of my life.  And I was 23.

I could write a best seller about my childhood.  To this day, I still have the memories of her yelling at me and sending me to my room to be punished for falling on a huge pickle jar I was carrying to the neighbor’s house – for her.  I was six.  My hand was spewing blood I was in pain and scared, but punishment was her go to plan. That is her joy.

But when push comes to shove, I thought my mother would be there for me.  Despite her age, pile of money and being a devoted daughter,  she made me feel like a street urchin tugging on her pant leg because I asked her for financial help to pay my rent for a couple months. How dare I.  She whipped through her check book and totaled up the money she volunteered to spend on my daughter when she was a competitive skater. She threw that in my face and followed up with, “It is my money and I owe you nothing.”  “Move back home.”  Of course she would say that.  She was miserable in her marriage and didn’t have the balls to leave, so naturally, she wants me to go back.  What makes my mother happy is watching her children squirm through difficult times. She always has.

HOWEVER. I do have power of attorney.  So imagine her fury when I took $2,500 from  her bank account to put a deposit on the venue for a conference on Tick Infections, Mental Illness and Suicide awareness.   Activism. It is the most impactful thing I could be doing right now.  It is what I’ve been doing for three years.  Unfortunately, that is not a paying job.  I wish I didn’t need a paying job.  But I need a paying job.  Here is the conundrum:  What ever job I could possibly land at this point would be performing meaningless tasks.  Meanwhile, the work  I do for free will have an impact on one of the most significant health and socio-political issues we face.  I cringe every time I fill out an application.

Since I continue to hear crickets drowning out the sound of my employment search, I continue to fight on behalf of all the warriors out there fighting this nightmare of a disease.   Because trying to survive all that is swirling around in my life isn’t challenging enough,  I decided to launch a major project about Lyme & Suicide Awareness for this September.  Why do I do this to myself?  I want to know.  Is it the bi-polar mania? Many people would say it must be.  But it isn’t.  It is passion.  It is feeling so helpless, that there is no risk not worth taking.  When there is nothing left to lose, you find bravery.  When you fight alongside your only child… sme.  Risking failure in effort to accomplish something worthwhile is a humbling path to walk. But am I supposed to take the the ‘sit back and do nothing road’ while I watch my beautiful baby face this the rest of her life?  No.  That won’t be happening.  As long as my lungs are taking in oxygen and weed, I will spend every ounce of time and energy that I can spare to make an impact.

The last round of treatment and appendectomy got me back to 75% of normal.  It is wonderful.  But I am still sick.  I’m just less sick than I was four months ago. How the hell do I do all this alone? One day at a time.  Deep breaths.  Meditation.  I need to write a to do list.  If I think about what I’m trying to accomplish as my end game, I pull the sheet up over the head and panic ensues. Weed stops the panic.  After a puff or two,  I look at my to do list and  pick one task and do it.  After I do one, I immediately do one more.  Clean the toilet.  Check.  Call the bank to cancel a card.  Done.  If I can psyche myself up to do two small things,  I cross them off the list and suddenly, I feel more calm and in control.  I have to plan the work and work the plan.  It’s a race against time…because I fear the relapse is inevitable.

This entry is brought to you by Rihanna. Lyrics posted below.

Lyrics

I hit a wall, I never felt so low, so low
Like a waterfall, my tears dropped to the floor, the floor
They left a swimming pool of salted crimes, crimes
Oh, what could I do to change your mind?
Nothing

I’m bracing for the pain and I am letting go
I’m using all my strength to get out of this hole

I hit a wall, I thought that I would hurt myself
Oh I was sure, your words would leave me unconscious
And on the floor I’d be lying cold, lifeless
But I hit a wall, I hit ’em all, watch the fall
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer

Yeah I hit a wall, I prayed that I would make it through, make it through
I can’t survive a life that’s without you, that’s without you, yeah
And I will rise up from the ashes now, the ashes now
Oh, the sparrow flies with just the crumbs of loving spilled, yeah

I was bracing for the pain and then I let it go
I gathered all my strength and I found myself whole

I hit a wall, I thought that I would hurt myself
Oh I was sure, your words would leave me unconscious
And on the floor I’d be lying cold, lifeless
But I hit a wall, I hit ’em all, watch the fall
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer

Written by Sia Furler, Jesse Shatkin • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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