Friday, April 24, 2015

Surgery can have complications.

It's been a month since my gall bladder was removed. Eating has been easier. Life has been better. Then Tuesday rolled around this week. I was sitting on the couch when I realized I was having pain around my navel. That's the site from which the gall bladder was removed. But it's been a month. I decided to just go to bed.

Wednesday the pain was worse and extended from my belly button upward about three inches. By the afternoon I was having pain when I stood up after sitting. That didn't seem good, so I called my surgeon's nurse who made an appointment for me on Friday. Yesterday the pain increased to the point that I was not really functioning at all. Natalie took me to the emergency room where they poked me, took tons of blood, did a CT scan, and gave me drugs that took away the pain and also my ability to move, speak, or think.

The tests came back and showed a very healthy me. Surprise!

Today my surgeon checked me over and this is the diagnosis: My body hates stitches. Apparently the dissolvable stitching inside of me takes about three months to be gone, and in the meantime, my muscles are rebelling. The stitches have caused some bleeding and swelling (read: PAIN). So I'm told to continue as much physical activity as my body will tolerate (currently none), take NSAIDS every 4 hours, and use ice to help control the swelling. If the pain isn't reduced drastically or gone in two weeks, I'm looking at more surgery. My brain can't figure out what that means, exactly, since I'm still going to have to have stitches of some sort.

In the meantime, I'm not loving the time necessary for practicing. I have many performances in the next couple of weeks. I'm really hoping the pain eases up by Monday.

Also, the weather is gorgeous right now. I need to be out running.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just in case you were wondering how it feels to have PTSD (yes, I know you weren't wondering, and that's okay)

People are problematic. Under the best of circumstances, with the best of intentions, people are still problematic. We need them--we want them--but they highlight our insecurities and vulnerabilities in dramatically uncomfortable ways. I spent a large part of my therapy time and my therapy blog discussing how difficult it was for me to navigate people and relationships.

One reason those who live with PTSD have difficulty with relationships is that the disorder amplifies whatever one is feeling. This can be wonderful when connecting with another person. The depth of love feels amazing. The bonding seems permanent. And when reality returns and I remember that what I was feeling was completely off the scale in comparison to what the other person was feeling (thank you so much, PTSD), I feel betrayed and angry--not at the other person, but at myself. At PTSD. At the entire world.

I am loyal. I am dependable. And this is completely attributable to PTSD. I'm not going to forget a date, a phone call, or a meeting because I am connected with people in the wrong way. It's normal for people to forget. Those with PTSD, however, do not understand that. The result of this warps my thinking: If they really cared, they wouldn't forget. They would make time for me. I make time for them. I don't forget. Why don't they care?

I've had to step back and realize that my reality is wrong. Forgetting has nothing to do with caring. It has to do with living. I've had to understand that my brain works differently from one not shaped by trauma. Mine focuses with depth and clarity on things that other brains label as less important. My understanding of the workings of human relationships is basically wrong. The black/white reasoning I apply does not translate well into the day-to-day interactions of real people.

I spent years feeling hurt and forgotten by people because I did not understand what PTSD was doing to me. Normal human behavior was confusing and painful for me to process. Finally, I simply stopped forming relationships outside of the one I had with Aaron. It was too hard. I just did not understand how things worked in casual or close friendships. I still socialized. I was warm and friendly and funny. But I refused to allow myself to bond with people, nor did I allow them access to the reality of who I really was. This can be lonely.

I remember ignoring the loneliness for many years. I was busy. I had children and jobs and hobbies. And I read. I practiced the piano. I taught students. I immersed myself in fitness and details of my own solitary life. And I felt content. Except one day when my children were with my parents, Aaron was at work, and I had a day to myself dedicated to spring cleaning, the loneliness caught up with me, I fell to knees and allowed myself to whisper the words,"I'm lonely." I stayed there for about 10 minutes, refusing to cry, repressing the intense emotions--and then I got up and ferociously cleaned my house.

A decade ago, when I began therapy, I identified relationships as a place I needed work. And I worked on that as ferociously as I cleaned my house that day. I looked at every scary part of me. I identified the powerful effect that PTSD had on my social actions, emotions, and thought patterns. I learned about normal human social behavior and used that knowledge as I tried to navigate the process of allowing myself to have relationships with other people.

I would like to say that I'm better today. I think I'm better at knowing when I'm wrong, or understanding that there are just things that people do without malice or forethought--things that can feel unintentionally hurtful to me. For awhile, in my most important/close relationships, I tried telling the other person what was happening inside of me. Initially, this was welcomed. After a few years, it just became hackneyed. Why, if I understood what was happening, couldn't I change? Why did the same emotional misunderstandings occur repeatedly? Why hadn't I done something about this?

All very good questions. I, myself, would like to know the answers. All I know is that right now, I can't seem to change anything. The best I can do is say, "I understand that I'm built wrong. I understand that my feelings are aberrant. I understand that it's not easy to have a relationship with someone like me. I understand."

It feels unfair sometimes. I try to have a good attitude. And I really do try to work on managing what PTSD throws at me. I try to balance what is real for me with what is normal for others. I'm trying. But there are definitely times when I wish someone could say to me, "I understand that it's difficult. I appreciate what you're doing. And it's okay--I can wait for you to get it right someday."

Monday, April 20, 2015

"...the poets are at their windows because it is their job for which they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon..." -- Billy Collins

My post titles very rarely have anything to do with the content following them. Most of the time I just write whatever words are circling inside my head. I like them. I don't, however, want to write a post about them, so they just go at the beginning, and I write whatever follows-- pertinent or not.

Natalie wants to plant flowers this spring. We haven't done this for nearly three years. We've just allowed the perennials to fill the tiny garden space in our front yard as we've spent the summers traveling or catching up on other things. Our annual tradition used to be that I would take my kids to the greenhouse and allow them to choose five or six plants each. Then we would go home and plant them. There was no landscaping scheme to follow-- we simply placed the tallest plants behind the shorter ones, then waited a couple of weeks for the flowers to bloom. Chris was less enthusiastic about this than Alex and Natalie, but he's always marched to the beat of a different, but very lovely, drummer.

It would be nice to return to the planting tradition, haphazard though it is. I love having flowers in front of my house, mixed in with tomatoes and herbs. As my children have grown to adulthood, though, I'm noticing that while they miss many of our traditions-- some of which were instituted simply to occupy small hands and abundant energy-- they don't really want them. I understand that. There are many things I did as a child that were fun and I miss them, but I'm okay if I don't do them anymore. We'll see how Nat's enthusiasm holds out as planting time approaches.

I'm trying the 30-20-10 training program for running for the next few weeks. It's supposed to have better overall results than just running and I need to increase my stamina. The theory is that one begins with a slow run (30 seconds), amps up to a moderate run (20 seconds), followed by a 10-second sprint. This is repeated five times and sandwiched between a moderate 1K run. It's not as long as what I'm used to, and I'm a little nervous that I won't be able to run for as long if I don't continue doing it regularly, but my PT assures me that this will allow me to run longer and with less effort because it's pushing my cardio fitness to a higher level. I'm not sure I believe her. She also thinks I should lift a 25-pound weight (three sets of 12) with one arm while maintaining perfect plank position with my other three limbs. Form is everything, she tells me. I would glare at her, but I'm too busy maintaining position and staring at the floor... and trying not to die.

I'm hoping the spring snow gets tired of hanging around soon. It will take 2-3 days for the ground to dry out enough for me to run on the ridge, but I'm antsy to get up there. A couple of weeks ago tiny wildflowers were carpeting the trails. I want to see them again.

On a side-note, I'm still not having great luck managing PTSD. Nightmares are rampant, and today I was trying to manage panic attacks among other things. It's frustrating. Someone posted an article on Facebook about vets with PTSD, how they don't get adequate care, and how their suicide rates are lamentable. I'm not a vet. I'm just a rape survivor. I read their stories and mine is paltry by comparison. That doesn't make the PTSD go away, though. Nothing makes it go away. Nathan tells me I'm amazing-- that the things I do to manage the symptoms are "simply awesome." Then he tells me maybe it's time for me to find a "self-project" to help fill some of the void I'm feeling right now. I'm not sure what that means, quite honestly. I'm a little bit afraid to pursue it. I have a habit of being extreme when it comes to creating/finishing assignments he gives me. I have no idea what I will end up with should this "self-project" come to fruition. I have a feeling it will be frightening.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"There's not much downside to being rich other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money." -- Bill Murray

When I'm actively blogging, I don't usually go two weeks without posting. The first two weeks of April, however, often find me too busy to think, let alone write. This year was a little more frantic than most. The first week of April did not find me preparing taxes. Instead I was sitting on my couch, too weak to do anything but hate the fact that I had the stomach flu. The bug floated around different family members for nearly three weeks. Only Natalie escaped.

Being incapacitated by flu made the final week of tax preparation even more unpleasant than normal. Add to that the fact that I got a call letting me know I'd be sitting at the court as a potential juror on April 15th-- subtract that day from available work days. So from April 6th to 11th I was working about 12-hour days to get all my returns finished (I needed the 13th and 14th for my own return).

When I got to the courthouse on Wednesday, I had two things on my mind: 1. I was tired, and 2. I was not going to be any use on a jury. Also, I was scheduled the following day to be accompanying choirs at the CU Jazz Festival in Greeley. I pled my case-- no release from jury duty. So I just made sure I asked lots of questions about the questions they were asking us. And I was unsure about being able to make unbiased decisions, given the parameters of the questions asked by the lawyers. And in the end, I was not a jury member. This is good. I needed to go home and rest.

The trip to Greeley was canceled the next day due to a 60+ car pileup on the freeway leading in that direction. The road was closed for three days for cleanup. This is also good. I needed another day of relative rest.

Friday was crazy, as I had bumped all my Thursday work so I could go to Greeley, and by the time I found out I wouldn't be going, it was too late to rescind the bumped work. So yesterday, I did pretty much nothing. All day. I thought about working and cleaning. That's all.

I think tomorrow will be a good work day. I'm actually looking forward to it. I admit to being a little daunted by all the performances piling up in April and May. And I'll be teaching at summer music institute the second week of June. I'm thinking it might be necessary for me to run away to Star Valley for a while toward the end of that month and stay for a couple of weeks. I need to do something to regroup.

Our spring snowstorm of all last week is leaving today. I've loved it. The temperatures stayed between 30 and 40 degrees, and the snow is plentiful, wet, and absolutely lovely. Our air has been filled with birdsong. The robins made a birdbath beneath our trampoline (which we desperately need to disassemble and discard). Beneath the snow our blossoms are waiting. I think we'll see them in a couple of weeks. We're supposed to have rain next week. I love spring storms.

I have a lot going on in my head right now. I've spent a lot of time trying to make sense of it over the past few weeks. Maybe now that taxes are finished I'll be able to sort through it all. I'd like that.