I’m Still Me Under All This (Part 1)

What do you do when the fuzzy mess that has been your memory breaks open and things you thought you had put behind you years ago come rushing back to hit you in a tangled mass, bringing with them emotional chaos and feelings that suddenly your medications can’t deal with adequately? When you feel like you’ve been reincarnated but you haven’t died, and you have to live through the mistakes, circumstances, events from your childhood all over again in your adult life in an attempt to find some clue, some hint, anything that will link when your brain broke to the present moment. All to find out why you are making the same mistakes in this second half of your life. How do we go from being innocent, guileless, guiltless children to the insecure, self-doubting adult we are today, punishing ourselves for unknown crimes by attempting to be perfect, do everything just right, so things will be okay? The fear of not doing a good job, the fear of letting people down who are depending on you, like the ones waiting for you to edit their manuscripts.

The manuscripts. This was the job you wanted to do, for a long time, and now I can’t even begin to work on them. I look and the words make no sense. What used to be my natural ability to sense their flow is gone. It all sounds wrong, yet I can’t find the words through the void in my brain to give the advice on how to make it better. Take out this word. Replace this. Awkward. I can manage those. Deadlines loom. I’ve been working for months and I’m destitute, completely dependent on someone else to take care of me. Maybe it’s not a surprise I’m having a hard time finding the motivation, when I have to ask for everything I need, just like a child. There’s that child again. She keeps coming back.

I had a dream I was drowning yesterday. There was another person there. I don’t remember who. I didn’t drown. I was fine. Buoyancy, I suppose you could call it. In my dream I had it. Where is it now? Resiliency? I don’t know where that went, either. It’s lurking in my sometimes inappropriately gallows sense of humor, I suppose.

So many things are happening right now I’m spinning. I hate spinning, it makes me dizzy and I don’t like feeling dizzy. I’m clumsy enough as it is, always running into walls and doorjambs. I’ve perfected a maneuver for avoiding the doorjambs, most of the time. I’ve done a better job at avoiding them than my beloved cat, who just slides into them head first at full tilt, then sits there looking stunned before shaking his head and walking away. That’s resiliency. With the wall, it’s my arms that take the brunt of the force, to at least keep me from walking completely into them. My arm stops me before the rest of me follows. At least I’m not a zombie—I would have disintegrated into bits by now from all of my architectural collisions.

But why, then, after living forty one years, am I falling apart? First my accidentally self-inflicted editing injury, pulverizing my left ulnar nerve into neuropathy and my left hand into atrophy before surgery. My first surgery since childhood when I had tubes put in my ears. My parents thought I was ignoring them. I just couldn’t hear. Then my gallbladder decided it was ready to part ways and take its polyps with it. Next was a kidney stone, blasted into bits by laser like an asteroid. That one had to be done twice because of sneaky fragments that hid away, deciding my kidney was more inviting than wherever biohazardous medical detritus goes (probably an incinerator—I won’t tell it that). Between those were white blood cells in samples where they shouldn’t be, and a round of antibiotics. Finally, I thought, done with those things.

My kidneys have decided otherwise, determined to keep my life interesting. I learned about nerves with my elbow. Now I’m learning about creatinine levels, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and stages of chronic kidney disease. My GFR last time, after a 24-hour sample, was 53. That puts me in Stage 3. It’s a very clever thing, this disease. It has a silent phase that can last for as long as 20 or more years. But it may not be CKD—I don’t know exactly what is causing this. Neither does my PCP or one of the other doctors at my clinic, so I’m going to see a Nephrologist. That sounds very scary and like something to do with death. Or Egyptology. It just means someone who specializes in kidneys. They’re actually fascinating organs, and do amazing things for the body. They filter your blood and keep it clean, basically. The lower your GFR, the more damage your kidneys have, so mine come in at, “kidney damage with moderately low GFR,” (taken from WebMD, which has a lot of good information on kidneys). It’s a figure out what’s going on and watch and wait stage. You can go down to a GFR of 30 and stay at Stage 3.

Whatever the case, I need to change my lifestyle. That means exercise. If I were a heroine in a novel, that would be my fatal flaw, my Achilles heel, the area I need to grow. I need to eat better. I’ll learn more about that—I’m learning now, but it’s a little tricky for a vegetarian to find protein that isn’t high in  phosphorus, who isn’t my friend.

My mind and my kidneys are unraveling comorbidly then. All the things I don’t want coming back are, and what I want to be healthy isn’t. My therapy for Self-Defeating Behaviors suddenly turned into my life cracking open over determining how perfection interferes with my life. A smaller thing, I thought. I have been in therapy for years and years, many different therapists. This one, though, she is a little like me. She’s the first therapist I felt actually could empathize with me, and wasn’t just nodding her head to encourage me to keep talking. She listens, and she asks hard questions. She made me start to think, and now I can’t stop. The timing isn’t very good—it’s like a one-two punch, but considering how much my thinking is bringing up, revealing, hooking together with little claws like Velcro, the events in my childhood to the events of my adult life—it had to be done. It’s similar to pulling off a band-aid, only it feels more like duct tape.

My search for perfection didn’t just start with the difficulties I was having at work for the past couple of years. Or, as I reflected, quite a few of the jobs I’ve had, once I stopped to think about it. My reincarnated adult self started making connections, and then couldn’t stop. The overused cliché that hindsight is 20/20 isn’t always right. For one thing, I wear progressives, and even then my eyesight can’t be corrected to 20/20, so things are still a little fuzzy. Maybe that’s all right, though, because things don’t repeat themselves in exactly the same way. The way we do things as children and the way we do them as adults changes, which is why, when you first look back, similarities might not seem obvious. It’s not precisely the way we do them that’s always the important thing, though, it’s our motivations behind what we do that are the penultimate answer. Why do I try to do things perfectly? And why do I keep trying, when I never get the result I want? I’m still working on that. “Why,” as my counselor asked, “do I feel the need to keep that level of stress in my life?”

My boyfriend believes strongly in the healing powers and properties of stones and crystals. I want to. When things are already set in motion, can belief in something stop them? I believe some people are so closely attuned to things they do react immediately—a little boy I worked with who had autism loved being outside, so I started showing him different stones. I’d bring a new one every day. He would put them, unerringly, exactly on the chakra they aligned with. I asked my boyfriend about it afterward, out of curiosity because I don’t know much about chakras, and he confirmed it. This little nonverbal eight year old boy innately knew about the stones from the metaphysical level. One day he took one and wouldn’t give it back. I thought, if he feels that strongly about it, he can keep it. It was a stone listed as being very good for people with autism.

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