Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unexpected Upswing

I've been feeling much better since Tuesday. At some point, I suddenly realized that although I was sad, I wasn't scared or anxious. I'd always thought that after both of my parents died, I'd feel horribly alone. I don't. Instead -- and please don't take this the wrong way, because I loved both Mom and Dad very dearly, and I know they loved me too -- I feel about sixty thousand tons lighter.

I sat down to figure this out. It didn't take long. As long as I can remember, I've dreaded my parents' deaths; furthermore, I was deeply afraid that both of them would have horrible deaths. Mom had cancer twice, remember; Dad's father committed suicide before I was born, and Dad went through his own suicidal stretches, although none recently. Mom was expected to die in 1964 and Dad in 1977. Both of them had plenty of scares after those long-ago dates. I can't remember how many times, during one or another medical crisis, I've geared myself up and thought, "Okay, this is it."

Instead, they both died in their mid-eighties, relatively peacefully, with their pain controlled by hospice and with at least one loved one nearby. I'm not saying that chronic heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are fun ways to go, but they aren't the tragedies I'd always feared.

I don't have to dread their deaths anymore. I only realized what a deep, baseline condition this chronic terror was when it wasn't there anymore.

This change is huge. I'm now wondering how much of my previous depression was really anticipatory mourning for them (or possibly, as my therapist friend Wendy has suggested, complicated grief). I'm not saying I don't have my biochemical issues -- given my genes, it would be a miracle if I didn't -- but I now suspect that there was a lot more situational stuff affecting my moods than anyone ever realized.

And instead of dreading my own aging process, I'm now actively looking forward to it.

Gary and I have long needed new heating ducts in the house, and also a new deck (and then there are the floors and the need for interior paint, but those can wait a bit). We'd already decided to go ahead and have the ducts put in, since we won't have to help pay to have Mom in a nursing home. On Wednesday I decided that before the summer's over, I want us to get the new deck, too.

In September, I'll turn fifty. I want to throw myself a big birthday party out on the deck. I'll hire Charlene, my fiddle teacher, to play for a few hours, and I'll invite everybody I know.

I never do stuff like this. I think the last time I had an actual birthday party was when I was in my twenties, and that was organized by friends. I've never thrown myself one. But since my parents are no longer here to be happy I was born, well, other people can be happy instead.

Just looking forward to this makes me happy. I'm still sad, too, but I know both Mom and Dad would want me to be making plans and looking forward to things.

After a long conversation with Wendy, I've also decided to start getting off meds as soon as possible. I see my psychiatrist next on May 5. Meanwhile, I've made an appointment with a therapist for next week. I found this guy on the web, but his site appeals to me, and I talked to him on the phone for quite a while today. He's very sympathetic to the fact that medication can dampen creativity -- he says he's had a lot of clients with that issue -- and he has an arts background himself, as well as eleven years of counseling experience. He's a fellow progressive who does cool work I admire (therapy groups for women in jail, for instance), and he's also lost his second parent within the last year, so he knows that territory. He's not on my insurance, but nobody I'm interested in seeing is, so I'm just going to bite the bullet and pay full price. Because he's an LCSW rather than a PhD, he's more reasonable than some other folks. I love social workers. Social workers and librarians are the Secret Rulers of the Universe. And if it doesn't work out, well, I'll find somebody else.

So I've achieved movement on several fronts, although I'm still moving far too slowly on work matters. Wendy strongly urged me to get an extension on turning my grades in, but that would only prolong the agony.

Oh, and I went to an aquasize class today. I didn't even hit anyone on the head with my noodle this time, although I wasn't terribly graceful with it, either. At one point the instructor looked at me and said, laughing, "Well, that's not exactly what I was looking for, but you're doing something, so I'll take it."

That's kinda my approach to life right now. Any something is a good thing.


  1. I know what you mean. After my parents passed away I said to my husband, "I just feel terrible saying this, but right now I mostly just feel relief that this is all over". And I adored my parents just like you. A few years have passed now and I can think of them and remember the good times (oh yes, occasionally I get a little teary still) but I feel so free. Sounds like you are progressing nicely. Good luck with giving up the meds.

  2. Anonymous11:27 AM

    I threw myself a 50th b-day party two Novembers ago. A band, pizza, and a bunch of friends and family. I had a blast.

    I'm intrigued by what you say about medications and creativity. I'd never heard that before. Damn---something else to worry about.

    Jeff P.

  3. Heather4:40 PM

    It's kind of amazing when you realize how much certain circumstances can affect your mood. I've been watching my mother die by inches for the past 13 years, struggling all the while with depression, and I really wonder what my reaction will be when she finally, blessedly, passes. Talk therapy seems to have every good intention, but for results, I swear by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And horses and cats, but that might just be me ;). My thoughts are with you, I hope you know you are not alone.

  4. Anonymous5:24 PM

    This all makes me very happy to hear. I'm looking forward to updates on the therapy, meds, home improvements, and party plans.



  5. Keep on keeping on! Prayers continuing... Relief is such a huge and normal piece and yet a lot of folks don't talk about it.

  6. Anonymous9:20 AM

    What a long thoughtful post - I am so glad to hear that life is bringing you upswings as well as downswings.

    I highly recommend big birthday parties! I've had great ones for both my 40th (all my friends jammed into my teeny tiny apartment with a chocolate cake at midnight on Mardi Gras) and my 50th (ratatouille and ice cream cake with yet more friends just a few days after a beautiful house-blessing for my bright new house). I look forward to hearing all about your big birthday on the new outdoor deck in due season.

    As the semester winds down here in Rochester, I hope you can say the same about yours. Good luck with all that grading, and may summer come soon for you.




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