If you can’t stop my pain, you may as well just shoot me!

pills_variety_crop380wI try to be a pragmatic user of medications. I think we have them for a reason and the reason was all mine when I found myself in rehabilitation and unable to perform the most mundane tasks because of intense pain. Having said that, let me add that I thought I possessed a healthy but wary attitude toward all drugs, especially narcotics. I realize now that my perception of pain-killing opioids was informed by my family of origin which was rife with alcoholism and other drug addictions. My father died of complications from his years of drinking excessively. My brother died of an alcohol and drug overdose. Obviously my viewpoint was skewed.

Over the years of my adulthood I have learned to enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and I once took a Vicodin at the emergency room when I had what we believe was a gall bladder event. Triage sent me home with four tablets and told me perhaps I should take only a half since the whole tablet knocked me silly. I ended up throwing out 3 1/2 of them. That experience didn’t do a thing to quell my fear of drugs. In fact, quite the opposite.  Imagine going from that kind of trepidation about taking pain killers to begging for them back in October after my accident. That’s some serious pain.

I don’t remember exactly how long I lay in that hospital bed without any real help for my pain. I know that the therapists came to my room twice a day and laboriously tried to get me to a sitting position but the pain was agonizing and I couldn’t do it. I told them I needed to see a doctor so they sent one to see me. She said she understood I wanted/needed something for pain. I explained that I had to have something if I were going to be able to get up and get well. She left an order. I don’t know what it was but it helped about as much as an aspirin. Even one of my caregivers told me that was not what I needed; that it was not going to help my kind of pain. More time wasted while my muscles continued to atrophy.

Then I got a stroke of good luck. A staff member stopped by one day and asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn’t making progress because of the pain. She informed me that there was a doctor on staff (I think fairly new there.) who knew all about pain management. She said, “You need to see him. He’s very good.”

I tried not to get my hopes too high but I asked my daytime nurse (CNA) to ask him to see me the next day. In fact I pleaded, “Don’t let him leave tomorrow until he’s seen me.” She promised she wouldn’t. (I have this mental image of her with a lasso around him, dragging him back down the hall. 🙂 )

I don’t think she had to rope him but by golly he showed up and my rehabilitation took a one-eighty turn and I was on my way back. My relief was palpable.

I’ve thought a great deal about what Dr. H (H is for hero.) does that makes him an effective and outstanding doctor. I’ve recently been back at the facility for additional therapy and I saw him in the gym talking to a patient. She was in a wheelchair. He got down in a squat to look her in the face and talk to her. That’s when it all came flooding back to me. That’s what he does. And much more.

He came into my room, introduced himself, looked me in the eyes and we talked. He listened. What I said mattered. He showed no sign of being in a hurry. I was the only patient he had in that moment. This wasn’t one of those 3-5 minute visits. We talked until we said what we needed to communicate to each other. I understood him. He understood me. He made me a partner in my care. That matters a great deal to me. I monitored my medication about as carefully as he did. And guess what? I’m not addicted. That had been a big concern for me.

Dr. H is very young for one so perfectly attuned to his patients needs and concerns. I believe that medical personnel can be taught a great deal about compassion and patient care. But I don’t believe this doctor had to be taught that aspect of caring. He cares about people. He has a good heart. And it shines as he goes about his work. He’s very good indeed, and I’m enormously grateful.

Another letter to my ex-husband.

Sometimes an idea for a post pops into my head. If the notion pays the rent and takes up residence, I feel compelled to write it out.photo-43

I have noticed for months that there is one post I wrote early in my blogging days which continues to get attention. It’s called “A letter to my ex-husband.” and it consistently receives 50-60 clicks a week. I think this is telling me that there are new “victims” every day who seek comfort and company on the internet. Hopefully, they are seeking to lose that feeling of being the victim. What I know is that most are in a great deal of emotional distress.

Then I start to wonder, “Should I revisit that post? Should I write an update?” I seldom return to old posts. It’s rather like a sixteen-year-old backtracking to read what she wrote in her diary as a twelve-year-old — naïve and poorly written.

Dear D,

I have just read and re-read the open letter I wrote to you back in November, 2010. I stand by what I wrote. If I were composing the same letter today I might not use the Pearl Harbor metaphor but I’m not sorry I used it then. That’s how I felt at the time. I hope my writing is somewhat improved since those days.

I’m happy to say that I no longer dwell on the difficulties of that period in our history. My life moves along with more happy times than not as I try to focus on those most important in my life — my family. I must admit, though, that I still miss your family. At the time, I felt as if I had suffered multiple amputations but those wounds have mostly healed.

I have come to realize the we have a history — you, your family and I. And I know now that it’s mine to keep. No one, no divorce, no would-be interloper can ever take that away from me. I’m free to remember the happy times, and sad, as I choose. I even have a couple of pictures of you on display in my house. There’s one of you and two cute little granddaughters, all of you wearing identical Harley Davidson t-shirts. There’s the one of you and me and H when she was baptized  in your grandmother’s christening gown. When someone who doesn’t know you sees the latter and asks me if that’s my ex, I always say, “Yes, it is. Wasn’t he a handsome fellow.”

As I was reading the old letter and starting to write this post, I remembered the disconcerting dizziness of feeling as if I were on a merry-go-round back when I first heard the infamous divorce announcement. My mind would get in a loop and I had a hard time escaping the negative and unhelpful self-conversations. I even dreamed about carousels and their eerie, hypnotic music. I would feel it slowing and think it was slow enough to step off. But, alas, I would stumble and fall in a teary puddle every time.

My son-in-law recently told me about going to a colleague’s office to discuss a work-related matter. Instead of addressing the issue at hand, she looked at him and stated, “My husband is having an affair.” He asked me why she had said that to him. They weren’t buddies or anything so why would she do that? My immediate response was, “That’s all she could think about.” In other words, she was on the merry-go-round. It takes a while to get off. I had to ask the same “What did I do wrong?” question over and over before I finally let it go as unanswerable.

You’d think one carnival ride would be metaphor enough for one in the throes of despair. Not for me. I went straight from the carousel to a giant roller coaster. And sometimes the two merged into a monstrous nightmare.photo-73 This new ride came along when I stopped asking hypothetical questions and started to figure out what I must do to take care of me. I allowed my anger at you and at my situation to spring into action.

Anger can be a wonderful resource and motivator. It enabled me to start taking care of important divorce-related issues. Things like feeding myself properly, getting enough sleep and starting to raise my consciousness about financial matters and finding the right attorney to help me with my decision-making.

During this period the roller coaster started going up fairly often and I would feel pretty good. Fear would strike and I would crash back down. In between there were loop-de-loops when I was upside down and inside out and didn’t know what I was doing. One wise person named John told me, “Some things just take time.” He was right. As I found my sense of humor again and enabled my positive attitude, I came through and am better for it. I truly hope you are too.

Life is good as I remember our happy times together.

Fondly, Pat

 

 

I (heart) San Francisco.

I have nine grandchildren. Anyone who reads my blog or has ever met me knows this fact about me.photo-61 Being a grandmother is my best job yet. As each grandchild graduates from high school, I try to take him/her on a trip. Last year I took grandchild #3 to San Francisco. (I wrote about it here.) This year grandchild #4 requested the same trip. I think, initially, the attraction of the City by the Bay is its frequent presence in television programs and movies. I’m happy to report, though, that there is a great deal more depth than that in today’s youth and once they find themselves in the city, they are as captivated as I am by the history, the art, the people, et al.

photo-50
Flowers, flowers
everywhere, we should have worn some in our hair.

 

Chinatown is a must. We went there twice. The colors, the smells, the lanterns, the people. photo-44 photo-45Wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Some people told us not to miss Pier 39, others told us it was nothing but an amusement park. I disagree with the latter. It’s much more than that.photo-52 One of my granddaughter’s favorite things there was observing the sea lions from above.photo-62 There was one grumpy old fellow (or gal) who defended his territory with a vengeance. Fascinating to watch.

The only thing Iphoto-43 saw that gave the pier an amusement park feel was the carousel. We didn’t ride it but it has some imaginative and interesting animals for those who are so inclined.

photo-46I don’t know why I’m fascinated by the piano-playing stairway, but I am.photo-60 On the left is a photo of granddaughter #3 playing us a lively tune. On the right is this year’s traveler doing the same.

There’s a wonderful produce kiosk on the pier. Fresh fruits and vegetables galore.photo-59  photo-58Ranier cherries and freshly picked strawberries. Does life get any better? Yum!

Almost everyone who goes to San Francisco wants to visit the crookedest road in the country, or so they say. It’s very difficult to get a good shot of the curviness of the road with a phone camera. photo-42I was intrigued by this fairytale-like entry to one of the houses on Lombard Street so I’m showing you that instead.

We had lunch in Sausalito–best crab cake I’ve ever eaten.photo-63



Last year we didn’t make it to Haight Ashbury. I’m happy to say we went there this trip. I, being an old hippie, enjoyed that part of the trip more than my daughter and granddaughter did. photo-47It was (and still is) much romanticized. Truthfully, the only thing I find romantic about it is some of the architecture. photo-49I like the painted ladies. Many of them are being well cared for now and are simply lovely to look at. I think my travel buddies enjoyed the “ladies” too. And H (age 18) loved the huge music/poster store on Haight Street.

I went “heart” seeking again this year. I wrote about the hearts last year so I won’t repeat myself. I will leave you with a photo one of my favorite this-year hearts along with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world.photo-54

 


Updates, discoveries and funnies.

I used the weather as an excuse to skip my walk this morning.  It rained all night–hard.photo-18 I know this because I woke up several times. That’s another excuse for not walking. Too little sleep.

I dreamed between spurts of wakefulness. I can recall this morning what I think was a brief encounter with my ex. Simpler times.  We were together, doing mundane tasks, together. Talking. Smiling. There was no anger, no angst. I would like to think my level of acceptance has risen to higher ground. I’m at peace.

I must say, though, that I am not quite so peaceful about my eye. Excited but not quite settled. I still wear a guard over my eye at night. That’s probably one reason for the wakefulness.  I’m still putting drops in my eye three times a day.  That’s down from four times.  And it’s one medication instead of the three this time last week.

The most important aspect of this scenario–my vision–is a work in progress.  The cataract surgery has achieved the desired goal. Increased clarity of color became evident after a few days.  It’s a miracle!

The cornea transplant benefits are more gradual. I have a very skilled doctor, and the surgery went well. He tells me that I will notice maximum visual benefits at about two months, or possibly three. I smile as I write this because I’m imagining how I would have been climbing the walls if I’d had this surgery in my middle age. I have much more patience now. I see differences almost daily and am confident I will reach the desired peak in a timely fashion. And in the end the result should be a major improvement.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to take care of myself the entire time except for needing a driver the first few days. I have discovered anew how generous and kind family and friends are. They have brought me food and sent cards.  Some have texted or emailed.  Some have called. Four different people took me for  birthday lunches, to all my favorite places. I am a lucky woman.

Moving along to the funnies part of this post. I love jamiedouglasillustration.com.  Many months ago I was searching the net for a bluebird of happiness. I came upon the illustration below.  It’s aptly named The Disillusioned Bluebird of Happiness. At the time, I contacted Jamie and asked if I could include it in one of my posts. He said I could as long as I gave him credit. In the meantime I lost my train of thought as to the bluebird and went on to other posts. But I saved this picture and I look at it from time to time because  it always makes me giggle. Thank you, Jamie, for entertaining me. Your illustrations remind me to hone my sense of humor and not to take life too seriously.  Other readers, check out Jamie’s blog.  You’ll be glad you did.Disillusioned-Bluebird-of-Happiness-38

One last thing to my favorite bloggers.  For some reason many of your email blog reminders have been sent to my Spam folder.  I don’t know why but am correcting those errors. Apparently it’s been going on for a while–maybe since I got my new computer. Aaaaargh!!

The eyes have it.

I love the eyes of babies and small children.blue_eyes_cute_baby-wide  They’re bright and clear and focused.  Their blues are bluer and their browns are browner than an older person’s.

I’m having surgery on one of my fading blue eyes this Friday.  I considered putting a photo of my eye(s) in this post but I kept remembering some of the adjectives writers use to describe eyes of the ancients and decided it wasn’t a good idea.  Bleary, filmy, cloudy, searching, cobwebby, murky are a few that come to mind.  I regret to report that any one of those words, or all of them, could be used to describe my eyes these days.

I was 53 when the ophthalmologist diagnosed my Fuchs corneal dystrophy.  He told me at the time that I would eventually need surgery to restore/improve vision.  Recently, my eye care specialist and I decided it was time.

For about a century the gold standard treatment for this condition has been corneal transplant.  In recent years doctors have learned to do a modified version of the transplant (DSEK).  A complete corneal transplant requires about a year for full recovery.  DSEK requires only 6 to 8 weeks.  My timing is good.  A two month recovery sounds way better than twelve.

I am fortunate to have family and friends to help out the first few days of my adventure.  My sweet daughter will take me to the surgical hospital and stay with me the first day.  (This is an outpatient procedure.)  She’s going to hang out with me while I lie flat on my back for the first 24 hours.  I have a friend/neighbor who insists she’s bringing food. There are other friends who have sworn to spring me and take me to lunch when I feel up to it but still can’t drive.  I might learn to like being pampered.  It’s been a long time.

Bring on the eye shield.  I’ll pretend to be a pirate.  Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Pretending to be normal.

201200003769_003The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. ~ Alfred Adler

Definition of normal:  not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; free from mental disorder — Merriam-Webster

I stashed this picture and the beginnings of a post in my files a long time ago, knowing that one day I wanted to write about it, but having no idea what I wanted to say.  It seemed important to me at the time.  Also, I love the cheerful, happy women in Suzy Toronto’s work.

At the time, I think I was exhausted by trying to be normal.  At the same time I wondered, “Why would I want to be normal?  I want to be more than normal.  I want to sparkle. I want to shine.  I want to leave my mark!”  The sad truth is I couldn’t get to normal, so how was I ever going to sparkle, let alone shine?  What on earth was wrong with me?

I have mentioned before that my family is rife with alcoholics/drug addicts.  I don’t remember having talked about the other family scourge–depression and/or anxiety.  I think that if I made a list of relatives who suffer from depression, it would be longer than the list of those who do not.  Most of my life I would have put my name on the those-who-do-not list.  Even after having taken an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help me through my divorce, I still would have considered myself a non-depressed person.  I have, in the past two or three years, admitted that I sometimes have bouts of depression.  But did I consider myself a depressed person?  Never!

This last bout of functioning-well-below-normal depression has changed my mind.  “And why is that?” you might ask.  I’m still trying to figure out the answer.  This time it went on and on for a very long time–close to a year, I think.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was tired.  I was so very, very sad.  I was short-tempered, impatient, critical.  The biggest clue of all was, I think, that I started to have numerous physical symptoms.  Test after medical test turned up nothing.  I started to realize that the chest pain I went to the emergency room for was probably an anxiety or panic attack.  The digestive symptoms I was having may have been due to what was eating me rather than what I was or was not eating.

I have spent a lifetime resisting the depressed label.  There are a couple of reasons for my attitude toward this particular illness: 1) I don’t like to admit to being less than healthy (as in it seems like a weakness to me), and 2) there is too much stigma still attached to any type of mental illness.  Number two is changing slowly but there’s much educating to be done before it becomes just another illness.

I believe that my reasons for thinking the way I did probably come from my attitudes toward my parents as I reached adulthood.  I saw my mother as weak because she played the poor-pitiful-me role her entire life.  I needed her to pull herself up and take control of the family.  I realize now that she couldn’t.  I saw my father as the drunk who didn’t provide well for his family.  I know now that he suffered from depression, too, and was likely drinking because of the anxiety and depression.  His drinking then exacerbated the problem.  I now believe that both parents did the best they could under very trying circumstances.

I’m happy to report that I no longer have to pretend to be normal.  I feel normal.  I’m not sure I’m shining just yet, but I’m beginning to notice a few sparks on a fairly regular basis.  I’m planning to sparkle soon.  About two months ago, after taking a long, but gentle look, at myself, and recognizing that I have spent most of my adult life depressed and anxious, I decided to be kind to me and I put myself back on antidepressant medication.  One month ago I told my doctor what I had done.  She asked many, many questions about how I had been and how I was on medication.  She agreed with me.  I did the right thing.

photo(9)Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post should do what I did.  If you think you are depressed, please see an appropriate professional.

I’ll do my crying in the rain (while mowing the lawn!?)

Sometimes we must make our own light.  This fixture resides in a local restaurant.  It’s made of items that would ordinarily be thrown in the trash.  I like that. ~ Pat

I don’t know why, but lately as I’ve mowed the lawn, I’ve had tears streaming down my face.  Yesterday it started to rain while I was mowing.  The irony made me grin.  There I was mowing in the rain, smiling and  crying at the same time.  I could imagine my neighbor talking to me over the fence and not realizing I was crying because the tears would mix with the raindrops.

Maybe I was crying because the recent afternoon showers have made my weedy lawn grow at an alarming rate and I’m having to mow more often.  Maybe the tears aren’t tears at all, but beads of perspiration.  (It’s that hot and humid.)  Maybe those bald spots in my yard where even weeds don’t grow are depressing me.  Maybe I’m longing for the help of the lawn boy (teenager) who mowed for me last year, and lamenting the notion that I can’t afford him this year.

Or maybe the tears are not for me at all.  Maybe they are tears of love and support for family and friends who need support right now.  What better time to shed them than while my mind is free as I pace back and forth, trying physically to make order and neatness in my surroundings, at the same time trying mentally to make order for my friends and family who feel as if they are living in chaos where nothing makes sense.

This post and my tears and prayers are for P whose father died yesterday after a tragic accident.  For my blogger friend U whose beloved daughter recently died unexpectedly.  For A whose darling boy died, the result of a seizure, at age eighteen.  For my cyber-friend J whose mother was recently diagnosed with cancer.  For my friend C whose dear son is fighting demons that none of us can understand.  For my precious daughter who is ill but not yet diagnosed.

God gave us unlimited tears because She knew these sorrows would sometimes come at us in bunches and we would need them.

This song kept nudging me as I mowed.  It’s written by Carole King and sung by the Everly Brothers.  Listen if you like.