Friday, 19 February 2016

I'm Tangled


I don't exactly know why, but now much more than when I was younger I am tortured by confusion.  Sometimes it's almost constant, gripping, daily, painful confusion.  Not a lack of lucidity or confusion about my surroundings or what's happening, but rather, confusion about purpose, meaning, my interpretation of my past, present and what I should strive for in my future.  I don't understand anymore how to make sense of what I should or do want.

Once I seemed to feel fairly certain that my own perspective was accurate, as many young people do I guess.  I suppose it was when I was married that I retained the habit of questioning my interpretations.  I had little else to focus on during those years and spent so much time thinking, writing, talking, reading about my relationship, trying to make sense of it, and trying over and over to determine if something I was doing was responsible for the pain within it. My spouse, also, disagreed with my perspective on so many fundamental issues. Thus everything I thought and felt became something I questioned the validity of, and I still feel that way.  I have an ongoing inability to understand if I can trust my analysis of life.  Is my perspective valid?  Accurate?  Reasonable?  Rational?  I am constantly wavering; attached one minute or day to my interpretation and then in another, backtracking, uncertain, distrustful of and apologetic for it.

I don't know why I feel so much more angst than I once did.  I did not used to describe myself as a depressed person.  For many years I impressed upon my therapist that anxiety was my problem, not depression.  Even when I started this blog 4 years ago I described myself as someone who found and felt easy joy in simple places despite the difficult of joy.  It's so hard for me to feel that blossoming of joy now.  Why?  Have I simply "been through too much"?  Become jaded, tired by my life experiences?  Did I spend so many years so desperately ill that I didn't have time to dwell on these other facets of life?  Is it biochemical?  If so, a natural biochemical shift or the result of one of my medications?

It of course doesn't help that I never feel entirely well physically, which is a permanent, ongoing drain.  And that I lost most of my 20s to illness which leads me in the peculiar place of being a 34 year old with a life that straddles the border of one my age and one much younger.

It is a tangle and a mess that I don't know how to sort out and am not sure I have the energy for anyway.  I feel caught in a spider's web, turning around and pulling this limb and then that from sticky strands of thought.  I spend a lot of time lying down wishing I had the will to be productive and wishing I understood what productive even looked like.  And then I feel badly about myself for being this; not who I would've wanted to be.  An ongoing strain to my parents, and certainly not what they would've wanted for me.  Sad that despite the lie we are told as children, working hard doesn't mean we all get to have a good or easy life and that I may never have real rest.

But I'm so tired.  I do just want a long stretch of ease and rest.  Love and peace and simplicity and understanding.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Two Good

On Tuesday I will have an interview at a hospice here in order to become a volunteer.  (Because they are a Medicare funded institution, standards for volunteers are required to be as high as for employees; thus, interviewing and extensive training.)  I hope to become a vigil and/or respite volunteer; that is, someone who sits with a person who is actively dying to give their family time to take a break, or, in case there isn't family, to ensure that nobody dies alone.  The dignified dying movement seems profoundly important to me and I look forward to being a part of it.

In the summer I'll have a small exhibit of my jewelry and photography at an arts center here, and at that same center I will teach jewelry workshops in the fall.  I'm really excited because I love both metalsmithing and teaching.

I am slowly finding some of the opportunities I moved here hoping for.  It feels productive and meaningful.  It's validating the notion that living in a city - especially one with an active art scene - is better for me 

In other ways I'm still struggling with sadness and general life confusion quite a bit.



Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Jane

The day before Thanksgiving, 2015, I received an email telling me that my baptismal sponsor, Jane, had unexpectedly died.  No!  Not Jane, hilarious, sarcastic Jane who had taken me under her wing the very hour I stepped into St. Andrew's, taught me how to be an Episcopalian, and pulled me towards the church community I became, for a time, deeply enfolded within.

Yes, dear, kind Jane and her crass, witty mouth.  Jane who made her own rules, stepped over them, around them.  Jane who never missed a Thursday Eucharist, and made sure I didn't either.  Who embraced her faith with all her heart, who cried when talking to me about the perfect love one can find only from God.  Tolerant, loving Jane who nodded her head to all the ways we live and hold faiths.  Endlessly giving Jane who still brought her ex husband a plate after Community Cafe each week.  Jane who went out of her way to make sure that anyone - anyone - who walked into the church hungry, or cold, did not walk out that way.

Jane who tried to drag us one by one to the Women's Club to help organize the piles of dusty old trinkets sold in the thrift store there; and who would buy all items of Christian relevance to distribute to her friends.  Like this wooden cross given to me by her on the day I was baptized with her by my side.


Jane who was 30 years my senior but as much a sisterfriend as a godmother.  Fixture of the church Jane.  Ever present Jane.  Jane whose endlessly annoying requests for Cookie Jam lives no longer ping on my Facebook.

I will never get to say goodbye to Jane.  I will never get to say thank you, although she knew how I loved her.  What will haunt me for all of my life is that I will never get to say I'm sorry.  I never stepped foot into my beloved St. Andrew's again after meeting a man I went on to date, a staunch atheist.  I easily slipped back into the secular world I have always been a part of.  Jane called.  She called many times.  She left messages and texted and tried to pull me back into the arms of St. Andrews.  Ashamed to have given up the church, yet ashamed to have found meaning there, torn between, I did not call her back.

I fiercely hope that you are resting in the place that you fervently believed you would find after this life.  How I loved you, dear Jane.



Monday, 8 February 2016

Deadened

As a child and a teenager poetry and prose tumbled into my head. I wrote un-selfconsciously. They flowed from me almost as if I were merely the catcher of the stories of the people and their lives that I wrote about. Poems appeared with a rush of adrenaline at sudden moments, urgent in my mind until I materialized them onto a piece of paper where they could rest in permanency.

At age 17 I began taking an SSRI, a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. I took it to help control the anxiety triggered by a serious but then undiagnosed genetic disorder. Within weeks of beginning the medication I had a sense that a part of me had gone to sleep. It felt like, in a subtle way, I was no longer fully present, or that I was watching my life from a slight distance.

But the medication helped to control my anxiety. Perhaps the sacrifice of that little third eye that had closed was necessary; perhaps that little part of who I am was inextricably necessary for the formation of terrible fears. I was able to leave home, attend college, and learn to speak to other people without terror. There is unavoidable gratitude for that.

It seems that that spark, though, that part of me now dormant, now watching sleepily from far away, was also in some way one of the nourishing sources of my creativity. For, in many ways that, too, went to sleep. Writing for me now is clunky. It feels less natural, more pained and forced. I must think and sometimes agonize over each word and sentence rather than feeling them flow from me. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a poem but it has been years.

On several occasions I have taken breaks from my medication for a few months. Most of these times were triggered by a sense that I had grown strong enough on my own that the drug was unnecessary. Once or twice I quit because, after reading articles questioning the efficacy of SSRIs at all, I angrily felt as if I and my mind had been callously bought some pharmaceutical company (for what it's worth, studies that find that SSRIs may not be helpful for mild to moderate symptoms have shown time and again that they are for severe anxiety and depression).

When I did, as the effects of the medication rinsed away, poems and stories and visions began to appear again in my mind. A poem would suddenly arise nearly fully formed as I showered, or gazed at the sky, or drove, and it would be accompanied by a mild euphoria. My mind was colorful again, alive, inhabited by beautiful characters and creativity. The colors in the universe within me became vibrant again, and twinkled with the joy of imagination.

Each time also ended in the return of unbelievably anxiety. I have never found words to describe the unimaginable level of fear that can inhabit me. It swelled to fill my life, and the peaks of catastrophic adrenaline would triggered the symptoms of my chronic illness. I have hypokalemic periodic paralysis, a neuromuscular disorder with several triggers, one of which is adrenaline and stress. I would eventually be caught in a sickening, debilitating circle of unrelenting fear, terrible weakness, nausea and arrhythmias that pulsed through me day and night for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. It was necessary that I came to consider treatment of my anxiety to be a necessary aspect of the treatment of my disease.

Thus after several of these disastrously failed experiments I became a weary convert. My SSRI helps to maintain a life that is livable, and peace must be made with its likely permanent place in my story, my body and in my mind.

Most days I do not think about the pill I take, but sometimes I am reminded with grief of the sacrifice I will have to make for all my life. I have had to put a vital, beautiful part of myself to sleep, and it is a part I deeply cherish. I will always feel as if I am not quite fully here. And I grieve not only over the products of that spark of light - the poems and stories and essays that I would write - but also for the joyful experience of having a rich inner life.

I am certain that I am not alone. There must be many of us here, now, who are contending with these trade-offs - some merely inconvenient and others tragic. Squelching, perhaps, the painful artist's temperament and its fruits in exchange for the ability to bear living at all.