Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Same Old

Hate to be negative, but I write best when I write about what is genuine inside of me. Unfortunately, for those of you that prefer the glass half full, I have struggled with depression for years.

I woke up twice last night with hot flashes. It made me wonder if menopause is adding to my decline. I know that the older I get, the less I seem able to cope. You would think that with age comes wisdom and experience. For me, it seems like I just carry the accumulation of blows without ever fully healing. Nothing has changed drastically in my life, I just don’t cope as well anymore.

The last couple of days have been bad again. Yesterday I couldn’t force myself out of bed until 11, and then by 1 I had a full on crying spell. I panicked. I was so scared that I was having another breakdown like I did in August. And I promised myself I would never go there again. What happened?

Unlike lots of depressed people, I don’t isolate when I tank, I reach out. I followed my gut and turned to an interesting trio of people. One was my doctor. The upshot of that, is that we are going to mess with my meds a bit. I am waiting to hear from her today to figure out which option we are taking. I only want to try one strategy at a time so you can know what and if it works.

The second person I called was my former pastor. I don’t have contact with him anymore and I have no idea what made me reach out to him. He called me back relatively quickly. The upshot of that is that he is going to meet with me sometime in the near future. Quite honestly, there really isn’t anything to say that is going to make things better. Yet the alternative is to do nothing but live in the hopelessness. So I am waiting to hear back on his schedule.

The third person I called was my former spiritual director. I haven’t seen her in years. I expected to leave a message but she answered. I found myself unable to spit much out verbally. She told me to come right over.

In the end, she said what I suspected. There really aren’t any words of inspiration to offer. But she was willing to try to help me on an energy level which she did. The conversation did yield one shift in my articulation of how I feel. I have no idea if it is an important shift or not, but it is all I have.

The bottom line is this. I don’t want to exist. Suicide is not an option. Now what?

The trigger has been the same for almost four decades now. I keep describing it the same way. I hate being alone. I am very capable of being alone, just don’t like it. Can’t seem to accept it. But after talking with her, I wondered if it is more accurate to say this: I hate knowing there is no one out there in the world that loves me in the way a healthy significant other loves. Then I realize I sound like a child having a temper tantrum. So I can’t have what I want. That is everybody’s story. Why does it crush me in a way that seems to be so different from everyone else?

I have no idea.

The other thought we touched on, was that maybe fleeting moments is all there is to experience. I had two months with Jay. I had six weeks with the salesperson I dated a few years ago, and I had five months with Tim during the time when he was dying. The most powerful connection was definitely with Jay. That doesn’t seem like much time in a life of 50 years, but maybe that is more than most people get?

I’ve been pondering on that, but the end result doesn’t really change much. I’m still left with where I am at. Which is where I am usually at. Where I have been at most of my adult life. This thing I am missing in my life seems to be larger than the big picture of my life. I see it happening but I don’t know how to change it. I have pockets of good times and experiences, but the rabbit holes are just a matter of time. And the older I get, the less time I have in between the episodes. The episodes result in going to sleep and praying that I don’t wake up the next day.

It’s no way to live, but what choice do I have?


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Preaching to the Choir

My dad moved into assisted living this week. I burned the candle at both ends for a couple of weeks, but he applied, got accepted and moved in rather quickly. On move in day, we had finished all the paperwork but the moving truck hadn’t arrived so we decided to go shopping for some items he needed for his new apartment.

I do not generally enjoy shopping, but this was actually kind of fun. I felt like a mom with a kid going off to college that needed to furnish his dorm room. We went in with a list. The windows are all new and sometimes people don’t even use curtains anymore but Dad is old school. He had the curtains already, but he needed new curtain rods.

We went to the appropriate aisle and I was prepared with the measurements from the maintenance man. There are so many options for curtain rods now. Dad? Well, he wanted those plain white metal ones that bend in an “L” at the end. I did my best to try to change his mind. “Dad, there are so many cute ones. How about this one?  Or this kind? Or this? They aren’t that much more expensive.” Nope. The curtains cover these rods anyway so what does it matter? “Jeeze, Dad. You’re no fun. I can’t believe you are picking the boring ones.” There was an older lady, probably close to Dad’s age in the same aisle. I heard her snicker a bit at our conversation.

We moved on to the next item on the list. We happened to bump into that same woman. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she followed us. She walks up to me, puts her hand on my arm and says ever so firmly, “Now young lady, you know that your opinion doesn’t matter one bit. After all, it is HIS house and he should pick out what he wants.”

I was a bit taken aback, but I thought she was really going to be embarrassed when I pulled those old, ugly white curtain rods out of my cart and showed her that he indeed makes his own decisions. I said that he always calls the shot but I like to rib him a little. It’s what we do.

She was having none of it. She went on to say that, “Someday, YOU will be a senior citizen too and THEN you will understand things.” Her disgust of me was crystal clear. My mind was racing. Me? The one who tends to my dad’s every need? Surely she should know that my sister and I both worked in nursing homes. There was no McDonald’s jobs. We took care of the elderly. Surely she should know that when I lived in Chicago I set up an “Adopt a Grandparent” program for those elderly folks that had no family. I have a lifetime of being respectful to senior citizens.

Her final parting shot (as if the first two weren’t enough) was, “My goodness. Your father and I were certainly raised very differently than your generation was.”

Huh.

She couldn’t have been more wrong about me. It got me thinking though. Jay pointed out to me that people like us go to all the trouble in our heads (or out loud) to defend ourselves when really we don’t owe anyone an explanation. But we even if there is no one to hear, we have to justify ourselves to ourselves. Crazy.

I also wondered how many times I have heard a snippet of our conversation and thought that I had accurately surmised the dynamics with all of my expertise and experience. What the hell do I actually know anyway? I can be pretty accurate with my intuition, but it’s nowhere near 100%. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I have an urge to confront a total stranger (or a beloved person for that matter).


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Exceptional

I’ve noticed that people fit into categories. Take waiters, for instance.

There are those who don’t do their job. They goof up your order. Your food is cold. Maybe they charge you the wrong amount.

There are those who just do their job, the minimum amount. When I go to Denny’s and ask for a cappuccino, they say, “We only have iced, no hot.” Fair enough. Hot is not on their menu.

Then there is Sharon. She is Summer’s and my favorite waitress at Denny’s. We ask to be in her section. When I ask Sharon for a cappuccino, she says,”We only have iced, but why don’t I put a cup in the microwave for you?” Now that is exceptional service. She isn’t required to go the extra mile, but she suggests it and then she does it. Summer and I always make sure we tell her how much we appreciate her. We both have lives that involve taking care of others. We love going to Denny’s for an hour and having Sharon take care of us. It means the world to us.

People are like that in general. There are those who just aren’t around when you need them. You don’t even ask because you know they aren’t going to say yes. Maybe it isn’t their “job” or maybe it is, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t going to.

There are those who help, but only if it is convenient for them. “Sure, I can do that because I don’t have anything else going on.” Sometimes this is the hardest group of people to deal with. It’s not like they never do anything, so they can easily defend themselves. Often times, these are the people who say, “All you have to do is ask. Any time, day or night. I’m here for you.” And they believe that it’s true. Often, there is little insight into their own behavior. Self-awareness is not one of their fortes. You are grateful for what they offer, but you know there are great limitations to what they will do.

Then there are those exceptional Sharons in the world. They are the ones that actually sacrifice. Sacrifice. Give something up for someone else. I’ve come across a few exceptionals lately.

One is Dad’s urologist. I asked her for her phone number so I could reach her any time of day or night. She gave it to me immediately. I’ve had to text her a number of times with all of his emergencies. She responds every time.

Monday was Labor Day. Dad was out of a medical supply that I frantically tried over two and a half hoursto find. It was beyond ridiculous. His doc and I texted several times. I traced lead after lead after lead just hitting brick walls thanks to medical bureaucracy, which generally has no common sense whatsoever. Eventually, I came across Eric’s name, the district manager. He said he lived in Syracuse and wondered if I could meet him half way. Syracuse is over two hours away. I could do it because I was desperate. But then Dad’s is another 45 minutes away.

Eric called back and said that no way was he asking me to drive on a holiday. He drove over two hours to arrive directly at Dad’s apartment with plenty of medical supplies. Then he apologized to me for having to call several times to find the right place. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe he did that for us. I don’t care if it was his company’s fault that Dad had run out. That man didn’t have to do that. It was a holiday for him too. I couldn’t even explain to him that I could care less that it was a holiday. But I was truthfully overwhelmed with the last five days with Dad’s enormous medical responsibilities. I had spent hours and hours every single day to care for him, canceling work, etc.. I could have cried for joy when he said he would take care of it. Total stranger. Eric, you rock!

The next day, the nurse from the doc’s office called. I had put a call in earlier because Dad was also out of his medication samples and needed a script. She called me back to inform me that he needed authorization from insurance and it would take several days. She said she would bring me samples. Where could I meet her? She chose a diner between our houses and I met her there. I asked if I could buy her breakfast. She said she would eat with me but that I wasn’t going to buy. She handed me 12 bottles of samples. I absolutely insisted I buy breakfast. Almost total stranger. Amy, you rock.

We all have legitimate bitches and complaints about the world we live in, and the people who occupy that world with us. But I don’t ever want to lose sight of those who are exceptional. They are truly out there. I try to sacrifice for others, but I fail at times. Thanks to those of you who remind us what it means to care sacrificially about others.