Friday, May 20, 2011
Being Scared for No Good Reason
What comforts you when you are frightened? Do you ever get scared for no reason?
The little guy you see in the picture was a gift from my father last year when I had the hysterectomy. I was only going to be in the hospital for 24 hours and he didn't want to get me flowers that I then had to cart home. This little bunny was just the right size to hold onto that night after surgery when I was all alone and in pain. His head is the same size as my smaller cat's head and I spent that night holding onto the bunny and rubbing its head. The nurses much have thought I'd gone around the bend, but with that little bunny, the constant crying stopped and I was able to get through that long night.
Earlier this week, a paralyzing fear gripped me. I was overwhelmed with the computer and the internet, which seems to have no end and no boundaries. Facebook had been extremely unfriendly (which I think is the exact opposite of what it is supposed to be) and I had gotten stung twice by people who then "unfriended" me. The unhealthy habit of leaving my feed up all day was something I realized needs to change. I need to be able to just walk away from the computer.
I am in the midst of a total identity crisis. I do not know who I am supposed to be. Am I a writer? I like to think so, but at this point in my life, the blog seems to be the only thing I am consistently any good at. I have had no further ideas for children's books and, even if I did, I don't have the money to pay an illustrator. In fact, I have one good story that I would love to get illustrated, but again...I don't want to spend the money. I am waiting to hear on the Brave Bear story (no word from the two publishers yet) and my four pitiful attempts at writing a book have been complete and utter failures as writer's block sets in (fiction) or the book turns into a rant (non-fiction). My new "career" feels like it is falling apart in front of me, leaving me with a feeling of "now what?"
If I am not a writer, then what the hell am I?
Over the course of two weeks, two different people on Facebook took offense at some thing or things I had said and "unfriended" and "blocked" me. One of them was no surprise. I knew she had issues and I had seen some irrational behavior on her part. I get irrational behavior, believe me. I'm an expert at irrational behavior - my own. The other "unfriending" made me incredibly sad, as I really admire this woman, whose blog was an inspiration for me to start my own. She had given me some great advice on how to set it up and on my writing back in the beginning. My bipolar hypomania had unfortunately been manifesting itself in repeatedly commenting on her status updates and had begun to make her and her readers/friends uncomfortable. One of her friends believed I was stealing both ideas and writing style from her and I got nasty comments to that effect before I discovered this woman, who is both a fantastic writer/blogger and a really neat person, had both unfriended me and blocked me. I wrote her an email to apologize and she was nice enough to be honest and tell me exactly what it was I had done. Sometimes my own behavior and lack of control really stuns me. I know it's the illness, but it's also why I have so much trouble with relationships. I just can't fake sane for long enough to keep most people around.
I went into total shut down mode on Wednesday, as a very black depression descended. I've been in this place before and it's scary. I (probably manically) decided that maybe if I "decrapified" my house, I might also "decrapify" my mind. If the computer was overwhelming me, maybe the thing to do was to take a step back and turn it off. But I realized also that without the computer, I do not know who I am anymore. And that is frightening. Overwhelmingly scary, actually.
I am a forty-six year old woman who is wondering what the hell she is supposed to be doing with her life.
There have been things happening in my personal life that feed into that feeling of being totally adrift at sea. My parents have decided to move 10 hours south of me, making visits a very difficult thing. As I've written before, traveling is hard with fibromyalgia and I try not to go more than an hour or two away because of the increase in pain levels. I have had immense difficulty coming to terms with the fact that I will not at least have the option of seeing my mother whenever I want to, even though we don't really see each other that often now. I think it's the fact that I know that I can that has always been a comfort. Knowing that they will be so far away...even with video chat and email and facebook, well, it's not really making me feel that much better.
It's not that I haven't accepted their decision. Life is too short to live somewhere that you are unhappy and they have wanted to do this for a long time. I think when my mom was diagnosed with the bone cancer in January, it became clear to them that they simply could not put off this move any longer. And I 100% support that decision. Since I feel trapped by my own living situation, not in a position to move anytime soon because of the lousy housing market and the kids being firmly entrenched in their schools, I certainly cannot fault my parents for being able to make a move that they want to make. If I had the choice, we would be moving this summer. But the choice is not there.
And, Justin is applying for a passport. One of his new clients is in Europe and it is a possibility that he might have to go over there for meetings. Leaving me here with the kids, the house, and my parents 10 hours away. Our closest neighbors, who we have sometimes sort of counted on in a pinch, have been put into the awful position of the husband having to take a government contract over in Iraq for a year because of the lousy job market. Which means that if Justin goes to Europe, I do not have a "man" around to help me if I get stuck with something house related. Yes, my oldest son, who is 19, will be here, but as a mom, I still don't look at him as a man. What is it about having a kid in college? They're not really adults yet, but not ready to be independent and deal with the real world either. I know I can lean on Ben. But what college aged kid wants their mom leaning on them?
And I also wonder. Why do I feel like I have to have a man around to take care of things? Aren't I a capable adult all on my own?
All of which led to an overwhelming sense of depression and paralyzing fear. Panic attacks abounded whenever I would sign in and try to write something and Facebook seemed like a jungle, something which I might want to start navigating only with the aid of a guide.
I didn't get far in my attempts to "decrapify" the house. I got through a bunch of folders that had been sitting in Justin's office and needed to come out and tossed a bunch of paper into a box for a "to be shredded" pile. And I got our old television on Craigs List finally last night and already have a taker for that. But there is so much more that needs to be done and I am overwhelmed by that too.
Yesterday, I forced myself out to the library. A friend had recommended several books to me a long time ago and, on Tuesday, as I was searching for my calculator that has mysteriously gone missing, I came across the list she gave me. When I did a library search, I was able to put a hold on five of the books on her list. So yesterday, I forced myself out of my black depression and fear long enough to run to the library and bring home what turned out to be eight books. Thank God they have a three week renewal online, because I don't think I can get through all eight books in the initial three weeks before they are due.
But that leads right back to the question of what the hell am I? I feel immense guilt as I sit reading while Justin is overwhelmed with work. The kids are all old enough that they need minimal intervention when they are home. I know this will become a larger responsibility when they are home for the summer in three weeks, but right now, I am sort of twiddling my thumbs and that is a recipe for disaster in my internal world.
I know that I take care of things that free Justin up to do the work that he does. He doesn't have time to run the errands, deal with the kids' school problems, schedule the vet, schedule the doctors' appointments, orthodontist, dentist, follow Joey's IEP meetings and make sure the school is following the IEP, do the banking, pay the bills, do the laundry, take care of getting the house cleaned, make the phone calls for things that need to be taken care of. All things I do. But when I get to the end of my life, what will people say I was? We are so defined by our jobs, by what we did and accomplished in this life. I finished my degree and got an education. And I worked hard for ten years. And then my bipolar went out of control and I couldn't work anymore. So now what?
I don't want to turn to Justin and lay this on his shoulders because he is absolutely engulfed in work right now. He hardly has time to go to the bathroom, let alone listen to me complain about my angst over not having a job and having a hard time doing the things I am supposed to be doing to help him. If I were him, I wouldn't be feeling a whole lot of sympathy for my wife who has pretty much everything she wants and is still incredibly depressed.
So, I took a break. And now I'm back. But I'm still struggling with this depression and trying to figure out who I am and what I'm doing. When people retire, they are supposed to relax. But I'm not retired. I'm on disability. I know that many people with disabilities spend their days in front of the television and are depressed. I don't want to be one of those people. But once I get finished with clearing the crap out of the house and the kids go back to school in the fall, I have to wonder, what am I going to do with my life? Is this blog what is going to define me?
I am still working on promoting the blog and have applied to be a contributor to the Fight Like a Girl website to write about mental illness. It will be a few weeks before I hear back, but if I am accepted, it would spread in concentric circles and blow my readership through the roof. And I could then probably say with honesty, "I am a writer" when someone asks me what I do. Right now, though, my goal is to fight my way out of the darkness one more time and realize that I have value just because I am a person with value. That's really all I need to know.