On False Starts, Melancholy, the Old Order Amish, and Pippa’s Procedure

Somedays I feel like taking off running into the woods. I’d go barefoot and not even bother to put on a coat. Maybe I’d scream as I went, some sort of crazy reflection of how much I needed to get away. I’m not even sure what I’d do once I got there, but I wouldn’t be here dealing with all of this, and that’s all that really matters. But then I remember that running into the woods would require actually leaving my room and wearing something other than flannel nightgowns marketed to the over fifty crowd, so I just switch to reading about the Old Order Amish or something else that’s entirely mind-numbing and distracting.

You see, when you’re depressed, just emerging from your covers is some sort of feat. And then to make it down the stairs and into the kitchen makes you deserving of some sort of medal. But today I managed not only to get out of bed, but to eat a (albeit entirely liquid) breakfast and to bike five miles to therapy and back because today I was going “get my stinkin’ act together and get things done.”

Then, I nearly got run over by an overly aggressive bus driver, and my two-hour long romance with becoming a productive and mostly happy member of society was over. It was a rather bad dumping, and it took over two hours of reading about Herman Cain and fuming about the GOP to be able to somewhat recover. Then, I ate a Heath Bar and contemplated the healthiness of a non-solid diet. Because just eating things like soup and yogurt would be totally doable in my world.

The rest of the day continued to be a series of false starts. “Okay, three, two, one, GO!” I would say and then not get up and go do the thing I planned. I just couldn’t do it. Everything was leaden and lethargic and I just wanted nothing more than to sleep. I didn’t even have the energy to read anything that wasn’t nonfiction. And that, my fine feathered friends, is saying a lot.

But then the cats needed to be fed and the laundry needed doing. (I’m in the process of perfecting my recipe for making white clothing even whiter.) So I finally, finally, finally left my bed and slunk downstairs with as much enthusiasm as a tired sloth (something that despite the words’ initial appearance, is not redundant).

And now it is much, much later and I’m just as melancholy. No one else is awake so I may start cracking jokes to the cats, namely Maxwell who has made it his life goal to sleep or sit on my feet all day long. If I had enough energy, I’d make some joke about how even though I had cold feet when it came time to do things, they were actually quite toasty thanks to the cat. Only I’d make it funny. Like stand-up comedy funny. And then everyone would laugh and I would be mostly content to happy forever and ever, and everyone would drink orange juice and eat organic no-sugar-added applesauce, mangos, and real (none of that “instant” or Jello junk) chocolate pudding for the rest of their days.

But tomorrow is going to be different. When I yell “GO!” things will actually happen. And if I feel like running off into the woods just to get away, I’m going to do it. Only I’ll probably wear shoes and a coat because it’s getting kind of cold out now.

In other news, dearest, darling, Pippa has an endoscopy tomorrow. She’s going to be under general anesthesia for upwards of six hours while they stick all sorts of things down her throat, and then she’ll stuck in bed for quite a while after that. Hopefully, we’ll finally get to the bottom of what’s happening with her stomach, and they’ll figure out whether they need to put in a pacemaker. I’ve sent her many pictures of our cats, and she’s said that if she dies, I will get all of her clothes. There wasn’t any word about the future of her bedspread, but I fully plan on keeping it in my possession no matter how she comes out of this procedure. Alive, dead, zombie, reincarnated chicken, she’s not getting it back (until she asks for it and I reluctantly return it).

(To be clear: Pippa’s test is a totally routine procedure, and there is an incredibly, incredibly, incredibly microscopic chance that she will die. Somehow, we’ve both found it amusing, calming, and helpful to joke about the seriousness of it. A little levity makes anything in life easier.)

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

On Boating, Mirrors, and Victory

Today was another day of feeling dizzy and off. The odd sensations of floating/boating haven’t ceased. I felt like I was paddling a canoe through first period. Second period, I floated around in an inner tube. Third, I spent in a row boat. By forth, I left for a very long sail for Nantucket with lots of breaks for dead man floats. I haven’t yet returned, and as of right now, it doesn’t appear that a return ticket was booked.

So by the time I got home, I was done. Really, really, really, really done. But rather than letting myself slid over into freak out mode, I decided to get creative. Whenever I get freaked out by side effects, I have a panic attack, and that panic attack is almost always the result of disassociation. To fix that I parked myself in front of the huge mirror on the wall at the foot of the stairs. I could sit on the stairs and see my whole body and behind me. That way I would know that it was me. I grabbed some yellow rice and chicken from the fridge, made popcorn, and poured myself some juice into this awesome cup that I made when I was five.

 

I have two observations about this mug. One: I clearly have excellent potential to become an artist and Two: I have never been good at accurately depicting my body.

Then, I turned on my iPod and just sat there and watched myself eat. I still felt like was the model of buoyancy and that I was gaining pounds by the mouthful, but I wasn’t panicking. I was just sitting there, eating food and waiting it all out. It’s the first time a long time that coping skills have been an hundred percent effective in the face of side effects. Maybe it was my Rainy Tuesday playlist or yellow rice that did it, but I’d like to think that it was me, that I did something entirely right for once, and that I can overcome my challenges all by myself.

Victories like that one twenty minutes ago are never as loud as my failures (Crying in English, crying at lunch, crying in French, etc.). Mostly, they go unrecognized. I write them off as flukes and tell no one or the people around me don’t notice. But I am going to tell you, whoever is reading this blog, about this one. I’m going to make sure that you know about it. And in doing that, I am going to make sure that I am not going to let it slip by the wayside either. I’ll build on what just happened today. I’ll force it to become a pattern. I’ll make it so that I never panic about side effects again. I will. Just watch me.

On a completely unrelated note, I have suddenly been forced into the position of hand-washing police in my house because people around here apparently haven’t passed pre-school health.

On Sad Ruminations

Today, I went to school for the second day in a row–something that I’m supposedly supposed to celebrate. (They call me a “writer” because of word choices like that.) As I sat in the Large Group Instruction room this morning, choosing my next elective (the history of the 2000s), I was met the overwhelming disappointment that my “celebrations of achievement” are all just living up to the norm. They’re nothing exemplary at all.

No one else gets high-fives for attending class or not crying. But I do, because I’m different. And that different hurts. It hurts so much. That different makes me feel entirely alone a lot of the time. It makes me awkward, unwieldy, scary. I’m not like the rest. I don’t fit in. People don’t know how to respond to me, and I don’t know how to respond to them.

I know that everyone is insecure, even the people that I idolize, but I am sure that this suspicion of awkwardness is well grounded in fact. I miss pop-culture references. It takes me minutes or days to figure out dirty jokes. “What’s the difference between deer nuts and beer nuts? One’s a dollar fifty, the other’s under a buck.” left me confused for about a week. (As it turns out the joke is not about deer poop, as I initially thought after two days’ reflection.) I tend to repeat things, ask abstract questions (Do you ever think that people would still like you if they could see inside of your brain? Do you ever think about how abstract the concept of money is? Isn’t our ability to communicate amazing?), or just have no idea how to talk to someone (Namely, boys. I really suck at talking to boys. They’re intimidating, and rarely seem to like me.).

So it’s nights like tonight that leave me thinking: Will I ever be independent? Will I ever leave home? Will I ever go to college? Will I ever be loved by someone else? Will I ever get married? Will I ever be able to have children? Will I ever be halfway normal?

Somedays, like today, I would do anything to be taken off of all of these brand new medications and to go back to January or December when I spent weeks in bed. Sure, I was horribly, horribly depressed, but I owned my brain. I didn’t forget where I was or wander around the hallway in circles for half an hour wondering where I was supposed to be or what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was floating or that I was actually hovering above my own head, looking at the world with a bird’s eye view. I didn’t feel as I do now, as if I am caught on a boat, being gently pushed by waves, leg muscles constantly shifting to maintain balance. I’ve got a royal case of “sea-legs” which hasn’t halted for weeks, and it scares me. It really, really does. The knowledge that this is how the rest of my life will be is terrifying and makes me incredibly unhappy.

And as my thoughts spiral and I start to sob, I think about how my classmates don’t know how lucky they are. How incredibly, incredibly lucky. They are all leaving for college next year. They have beautiful, rosy futures. They have lives that don’t revolve around doctors’ visits. They’ve never spent time in a psych ward or months in outpatient clinics. I don’t think they know how much I am jealous of them and how very much I admire them. Those incredibly lucky and wonderful people are why I fought to go back to my high school and not to some therapeutic boarding school; they’re why I try to go to school every day; they’re why I love my classes so much; they’re why a lot of this pain is worth it. I’m going to miss them so much when they all leave. So, so much.

But despite all of this, I have my courage, and I have my hope. I must stop crying, and I must begin my work once more. I am determined to force the answers to my questions to become “yes.”

Ella the Oversized Lab Rat

I missed school today after having attended for nine straight days. Last night, I had another really bad, vivid dream from the Geodon that woke me up at four a.m., and by the time for getting up to go to school rolled around, I became convinced that if I got anywhere near the train tracks, I would be hit and killed. After a minor freak out, I went back to sleep. To continue this series of unfortunate events, I woke up in a panic at nine, thinking that I was about to drown in the ocean and that I was in trouble for not protecting a little kid well enough.

This morning wasn’t my finest moment.

However, I was able to climb out of bed and get a lot of work done. I finished my homework on Shakespeare’s sonnets (five pages!) and spent some more time outlining my thesis. Hopefully, “Kate Chopin: Feminist or Liberationist?” is going to be a work to rival the Iliad and Grapes of Wrath. At the very least, it’ll be as good as The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (a book I’ve never read, but I feel that I can accurately assume it’s worth). I’ve already got a legal pad full of notes, a binder with around twenty marked-up critical essays, and six pages of pre-writing.

Sadly, things weren’t exactly looking up. I started a new medication called Oxcarbazepine/Trileptal on Friday, and it’s been making me feel funny. Funny in a I-really-don’t-feel-normal-or-like-myself sort of way. It’s not enjoyable and led to a near full-blown panic attack on Saturday. Thankfully, my Dad put on my favorite movie, Miracle, and I calmed down.

On days like today, I just feel like an oversized lab rat. Every time I go to the psychiatrist my medication changes, as we continue in our quest to find the perfect chemical cocktail. Let’s see how Ella’s liver metabolizes this! Let’s see how her brain reacts to that! We accidentally sedated her? Whoops!

During therapy, we worked on a plan for me to be “my own best advocate” and to “own my body” (which totally sounds like it belongs on a NOW campaign poster for women’s empowerment) when speaking to the psychiatrist about my adverse reactions. Unfortunately, I know that if I can’t tolerate this medication, then electric shock therapy is left uncomfortably close to the top of the list. And no matter how intimidated I am by diplomas from medical school and dislike this new medication, I’d take it any day over ECT.

In the car home, I tried to broach the subject with my mother. That discussion did not go well, and I was told, “You just need to be patient. It’ll improve.” I sat in the car and cried while she and Pippa went into the grocery store to pick up seltzer. I just want my head back. I want my thoughts to be solely mine. I want to know that when I look down at my body that I am the one controlling it.

It’s evening now, and I’m sitting on my bed, surrounded by cats, full of hope that things will improve. Because things have to. I refuse to believe that the world is a cruel place.

Ella the Tennis Ball Cannon

Today, I went to my psychiatrist. We talked about adding a new medication, I learned that I had to eat food when I take my Geodon, and then I got compared to a tennis ball cannon.

It went something like this:

I started talking about how I was concerned that because I’m on so much medication, my brain doesn’t fully belong to me anymore, that I’m being controlled by chemicals that I swallow twice a day.

So she said, “Ella–gee, I don’t know how to phrase this–you’re like one of those machines that shoots tennis balls. You know, one of the machines that you use when you’re practicing whacking the ball back over the net.”

“Yes?” I said, wondering where on earth she was going with it.

“You were born with your brain going like this,” she mimes tennis balls flying out of a machine really, really quickly, “and most people’s brains are moving like this,” she mimes tennis balls moving at a reasonable space.

I nod and remind myself that it creeps people out when you look them straight in the eye for too long.

“You’re a high end machine, the super deluxe model, but frequently you move so quickly that your battery runs out or you need oil or lubricant. That’s what the medication is.”

I’m envisioning one of these babies:

“But you’re the one of the best machines out there. It’s like how a fancy Mercedes needs a lot of upkeep.” She continues to talk about how smart and good at things I am, it’s just that I need some help, and that I’m lucky that I’m not one of these:

So everybody, as of today I am now an official tennis ball launcher/shooter/thing that requires a lot of work. Very expensive work. Work that you need really good insurance to help pay for. But I’m excellent at preparing athletes for the French Open.

On Disassociation and Strapping Blades to Your Feet

Last night, I had a psychotic episode at midnight that lasted until one in the morning. Then, I attempted to go ice skating this afternoon. I soon became convinced that I was going to fall over and get cut up by someone skating over me.

These past twenty-four hours have been a blast and a half.

Weight Unhappiness

I’ve been having such problems with body image lately. This happens every time I start get to a stable weight or see a picture of me wearing a bathing suit. Now, I know that I am somewhere between 110 and 115–right were I need to be at five foot four–and on the lower end of that range, but those numbers still freak me out. Last year, at this time, I was down to 100 or maybe even less. And I also know that being at this weight is healthy and is supposed to make my medication work better. Supposedly, I’ll have fewer mood swings, I’ll be less obsessive, compulsive, anxious, and depressed. But while my head feels loads clearer, and I have been able to get a lot more homework done, I do not feel much happier. Not at all.

Love and Spider-Webs

I’ve been trying to write an email to a friend who has been struggling with similar issues as me. Try as I might, it continues to come out wrong. Rather, it doesn’t come out at all. The words are stuck in my head and never make it down to my fingers.

I want to tell her that everything will be okay. Someday. Not now. Not tomorrow. But someday. We just need to keep plugging along and have hope. Because, really, hope’s all we’ve got. But hope is certainly something worth living for. And with our hope in hand, we know that there will be sunny afternoons and mornings; laughter in the evenings; and peace in our heads when we lie in bed late at night. Just not now. But in a little while. Someday. Maybe soon.

I want to tell her that there is such beauty in the world. No matter how dark our minds are. No matter scary the outside world may seem with all of those people who keep moving, moving, moving and talking, talking, talking until it’s just a cacophony of sound and color. No matter how much we want to put our hands over our ears, close our eyes, and rock back and forth. There is such beauty. There’s snow on the ground right now. And come spring, that air that’s the perfect temperature will envelop us, and we’ll flop onto the damp grass. And it will be lovely in that moment. It will. Because there is such beauty, and it’s worth sticking around to see.

I want to tell her that there is so much love, in spite of everything. That there are too many people to hold close. Too many cats to pet, too many dogs to run with. That just because we’re messed up doesn’t mean that we’re unlovable. That we aren’t loved despite our differences. We’re loved because of them. That our parents would cut off all of their limbs before loosing us, because they love us so much. We could lose everything, and there would still be that love. That love will never, never, never go away. No matter how much everything collapses. It’s worth slamming back against the darkness for all of those people. Hanging on so that we can love them back. And holding each other up with love. That love matters more than anything else.

I want her to know that our demons are only demons and not anything more. Sure, they are a part of us. And perhaps they always will be. But they don’t define us. We’re ourselves when we’ve pushed the demons into hiding. When we’re cheerful and rosy. The dark thoughts and electric jolts of anxiety don’t outshine our ability to read or write. Sometimes we can’t get out of bed. Sometimes we can’t move or speak or open our eyes. Sometimes we can’t do a whole slew of other things. But we can still give awesome hugs. And we can still get out of bed or move or speak or open our eyes. It just happens a little later. A little later on. They’re only demons after all and not our whole selves. We’re too good for that.

I want her to know that there is some sort of romance in the life that we lead. That the power to feel emotions more intensely than others can be a good thing. Such a good and wondrous thing. That the picture of the postcard that I saved from PostSecret many months ago is entirely true. We are a special breed. I firmly believe that if we can feel darkness as deeply as we do, then our happiness can also outshine “normalcy.” We have these moments when we feel a burst of joy, right where that ball of anxiety is normally lodged, and we just know that maybe a few of those scarier times when we thought that nothing could ever be better were worth it.

It is too easy to feel alone. But we never are. We’re standing at the center of a spider-web. That little dot at the center. And all the strands that stick out from that dot to form the first band is our family. And the next, our friends. And after that, our doctors. All the way out until we’ve covered every piece of grass from every place we’ve loved and every grain of sand from every beach upon which we’ve stood. Until it’s all there. Surrounding us and twinkling with dew. And it is lovely, and we aren’t alone any longer. But when the sun comes up and the dew dries, it’s harder to see, but it’s still there. We just have to learn to trust it.

I want her to know that she isn’t lost. We’re right where we’re supposed to be. We’re loved and supported, even when we can’t feel it. We have our spider-webs and our beauty and our gifts and ourselves and it’s never too late for things to start being right. We’re not lost if we’re doing everything we can to push our demons into hiding. Besides, it’s impossible to be lost when you’re loved.

I want her to know that she is understood. That there are so many people reaching out their hands to us, asking to help, asking us to let them in, asking to relieve some of the pain. We just have to learn to let them. We have to hold out our arms and ask for help, cry out for it, when the darkness threatens to swallow us whole. They know that we need help. Sometimes, we just have to learn to better ask for it.

Most of all, I want her to know that I care. That even if she doesn’t think that anyone else does (And they do, oh I promise her that they do.), I care. I am here. I am here with an open laptop and phone. I am here waiting to listen. To understand. To crack horrible, terrible, horrendous jokes. To listen when she cries. To try to offer some sort of advice. I am here. Ready. Waiting. Even at three a.m. I am here. And I care. Just like everyone else in her spider web. And I am holding out my arms, begging for her to let me in when she needs it.

[Insert name here], I am here. And I love you.