Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sinus Surgery - Part Two - Days One through Five

Squick warning, particularly for day five.

Day One-  Woke up blearily when Wendell had to leave for the matinee.  I couldn't breathe through my nose at all because of the packing, so my mouth/throat were extra dry.  He took my dogs out and told me to go back to bed.  I took yet another shower, rinsed my sinuses, changed the bandage for the fifty-billionth time, and texted my sister to come over around 1p instead on noon.  I woke up around 1p.  Took another shower did a sinus rinse, and grabbed some gauze but didn't tape it in place because my skin was becoming unbelievably irritated.  Then stumbled downstairs and threw some leftover frozen waffles in the toaster over.  I took my antibiotics, steroids, more Tylenol, an ice-pack for my nose/eyes (Nurse Helpful had thoughtfully given it to me on my way out the door and it definitely did help stop the bleeding as she said it would), and stumbled to the couch with my back-pillow and blanket.  My sister showed up around then and made herself at home on the couch next to me.  She had a big bio-chem test she was studying for.  She grabbed me the waffles and some water when the timer went off.

I put on Ever After while she studied and I was buried in my dogs and cat.  It was pretty great.  After the movie, I dozed off for awhile.  My head was more painful that the previous day, but my throat was way better.  The packing in my nose made "M" and "N" noises all but impossible to say and my speech was all clogged up and stilted.

After I woke up Shea told me Carl was coming over after work and bringing Jimmy Johns, which quite frankly sounded amazing.  We held off putting on another movie until she got there.  We had dinner, and then watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which was fun.  My sisters were both great, though Carl is a bit squeamish.  But still, they grabbed me things when I needed them.  The only reasons I had to get up were to go to the bathroom from my extensive fluid intake and to rinse my sinuses.  It was actually nice.

When Wendell got home at 11:30 (the show ran long, which I wasn't thrilled about) I was seriously starting to hurt.  My head was killing me.  My eyes were killing me.  I was so dizzy and weak from the anesthesia that I could barely function.  I'd been cheating most of the day by taking Tylenol every 3.5 hours and that had been enough, but it wasn't then.  Despite my worries about how I'd react to the Codeine laced Tylenol, I took it, and gradually my pain eased.  My face was a bit swollen, though I think not as much as most people would expect (I don't have a tendency to swell very much thankfully).  Wendell got me to bed, happily the drainage had stopped already so no taped in place gauze pad (Shea told me when she had her surgery she had this sling type thing that looped over her ears so she didn't have to tape.  I was jealous), and it took me forever to fall asleep (thanks steroids).

Day Two-  More frustrating that Day One.  I had Janey and Kate taking care of me, and they were lovely, but I know Kate is a bit squeamish, so even though she didn't ask me to, I tried to be more circumspect about the drainage.  I also felt bad about her walking my crazy excitable saluki, so I tried to take the dogs out some this day.  It did add a layer of stress I wasn't thrilled about.

We watched Road to El Dorado, which I all but dozed through and then Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I was way more tired than I had been the previous day and also felt weaker, shakier, and dizzier.  Janey got there after Hunchback and brough soup and bread and potstickers.  They managed my kitchen quite well and we ate while watching several episodes of iZombie.

They left shortly before Wendell got home from strike (of the first location's space).  He came home and it was fantastic to see him as always.  In general, the pain was better this day, but everything else was worse.  I took the Codeine laced Tylenol at the same time of night as the previous time, as a precaution.

I felt bad, but the next day was Wendell's only day off and he'd scheduled a dentist appointment and a doctor's appointment for his leg that has been crampy for about a month now.  He told me he'd cancel them, which I was also dissatisfied with.  It was pretty much a lose lose situation.  I desperately wanted him home, but he also had stuff he needed to do.

It took, once again, quite awhile to fall asleep.

Day Three- Wendell did end up cancelling/rescheduling his appointments, and I was so grateful he had.  This was my worst day.  I got woken up by a call confirming my post-op appointment on Wednesday, a call from a nurse checking in on me, and a call from my surgeon, before we actually decided to get up.  I actually don't remember it particularly well.  I was so weak and dizzy.  I could finally go the full four hours in between doses of Tyelnol, but that was about the only upside.  We spent most of the day on the couch watching Buffy.  We actually finished the series, which was rather exciting. I spent a lot of the day playing Kingdom Hearts Unchained, which Kate and Janey had introduced me to the day before.

I started getting clotting out with the sinus rinses this day and the one right before bed was extensive and freaked me out a bit.  The steroids did a number on me this day.  It took me 3+ hours to get to sleep, though once I was asleep, I slept in until 1.  I felt really bad for Wendell, who got to sleep significantly sooner, but also had to get up far far earlier than I did.

Day Four-  My first day alone with no one else around; also my first day with lessened dizziness and little weakness/shakiness.  I took yet another shower with sinus rinse, though this time I shaved, washed, and washed my hair.  My boss called me in the middle of washing my hair to see if I'd be back on Thursday as planned or not.  I told her that if I continued to feel like I was this day, then I would be.

She assured me that I could change my mind if need be.  I spent pretty much the entire day playing Kingdom Hearts Unchained and Wendell got home at 7.  We watched some Angel and then headed to bed.  This was the absolute worst night for getting to sleep.  It took me 4+ hours, and I needed to be up at 7:30 for my post-op appointment.

Day Five (Today)- Woke up after not enough sleep.  It was terrible.  Wendell drove me to the post-op appointment, happily at the campus that is only fifteen minutes away.  I got all checked in early and filled out the survey about how I was feeling in regards to my head.  My answers were mostly: feeling terribly obstructed and dizzy, which was unsurprising.  A nurse took us back and then my surgeon came in not too long later.

She asked me how I was doing and joked that she'd been waiting for me to call to see if I could get the packing out sooner.  She told me this would be the worst follow-up appointment, maybe even worse than all of the recovery from surgery.

It pretty much was.  She numbed my nose with a numbing spray and Afrin.  It tastes terrible (I remember from the first appointment I ever had with her), but I couldn't taste it because of the packing to keep my turbinates stiff as they healed.  She then clip the suture in my left nasal passage with forceps and scissors, which was this strange releasing of pressure.  She used forceps to pull the left packing out of my nose and oh dear god did it hurt.  The two packing pieces were attached via string, so when she pulled the left one out, the right one had to slide all the way up in my nose.  She then clipped them apart and pulled the right one out.

She let me have a bit of a breather then.  I felt like I was going to pass out, so she applied more numbing spray (this time I could taste it).  She then vacuumed out both sides of my nasal passages and said it was looking great.  It was so weird then, because I could suddenly breathe through my nose, and not just partially, I could breathe deeply and well (even with the left over drainage).  She told me that I could gently blow my nose from here on out and to continue irrigating.  The fact that my pain had been so mild was good and a bit surprising, she said.  Also, the turbinates had added significant difficulty to my recovery (which wasn't fun, but wasn't as bad as I'd expected), but she thought it'd be worth it.  The grossest part for me is that she warned me the clotting was going to get grosser for a few days and might even include bits of bone.

I made an appointment to see her next Friday and all was good.  My nose bled a little after I left, but not that bad considering the trauma it underwent.

We went home then (boy let me tell you was I grateful Wendell was driving) and went back to bed for a couple of hours, though it took me an hour and a half to actually get to sleep.  As predicted, the first sinus rinse was terrible, but they've been getting better since then.  I also got a message from a student I stage managed for forever ago, asking me about the turbinate surgery, which he needs to have done in the next few months.

I finally got to sleep for the last half hour of our nap and woke up when Wendell had to leave with my nose so dry and painful I was in tears.  He brought me saline spray which I used and it immediately helped.  I then turned off the fan and took an extremely steamy shower to humidify the room and that helped a ton.  I feel asleep again for several more hours, warm washcloth tucked against my nose, and I woke up feeling dry, but way better than I had.

Between the saline spray and nasal irrigation I've managed to keep it pretty moist and not that painful.  My weakness is almost completely gone and my dizziness is markedly better.  I mostly puttered about the rest of the day, though I did go get gas and pick up my tapering down dose of steroids.  While I was at the drug store I also picked up a travel sized humidifier, which has helped a ton.  I'm going back to work (thankfully follow spot and not crew) tomorrow and intend to bring it with me.  Wendell also bought me a special eye ice-mask, which helps an unbelievable amount.  So I'm going to look so stylish tomorrow.  So all and all, things are looking up.

Oh, and my doctor said I can take something to help me sleep, so my recovery is in an excellent place now.

Sinus Surgery - Part One - Day Of

Squick warning.  Going to talk about the details of my sinus surgery.

I had sinus surgery on Friday, and not the short easy kind either, where they only drain one or two of your sinuses.  They cleaned out all of my sinuses endoscopically.  In addition to that, my surgeon reduced my inferior turbinates.  As it was explained to me, the turbinates (there are three sets, but it's the lowest set that's most often troublesome) are features of bone and mucus lining that warm and humidify the air coming in through your nose.  Over time, or just naturally in some people, they can become enlarged and create obstructions, even in an otherwise perfectly healthy airway.  Mine were obstructing a perfectly unhealthy nasal passage, so we opted for a reduction.

My surgery was scheduled for noon.  Wendell and I arrived at the hospital twenty minutes early, got all checked in, and were taken back to the first room promptly at ten.  The nurse who took us back was completely uncommunicative, to the point of just handing me the urine sample cup and looking at me expectantly.  When I came back, he basically just grunted and gestured to the pants, gown, and robe I was supposed to change into and then walked away.

After I changed, I had a new nurse, who went over my medical history.  She noted that I had sensitivity to antidepressants, and was pleased that my pre-op appointment nurse had noted down that detail.  She then checked to make sure I hadn't taken any blood-thinners (Asprin, Advil, etc) in the past ten days, had taken two special antibiotic showers, and checked when I'd last eaten.  Funny thing was my answer was always (I got asked this question by literally everyone): I ate at midnight when I got home.  This invariably led me to a conversation about what I do for work that means I get home so late.  I wasn't allowed to have water after 8am either, which I assured them I hadn't.

After she finished her analysis, she took us down several floors and plopped me down in a reclining chair in the corner.  At this point a different nurse came over and gave me a warm blanket.  Yet another nurse came over to get my IV started.  It took me great lengths to convince he to put the IV in my right hand, since I'm left handed.  And all that effort was for naught, because she tried three different times in my right hand and couldn't get it to work any of those times.  I would like to note that I've donated blood quite a few times and had IVs before and never have I had a problem with the nurse not being able to get my vein.  I'm also glad that this nurse used lidocain (which I'm not used to), otherwise the whole process would have been both annoying and unusually painful.  She finally used a heat pack to warm my left hand and got that vein on the first try.  That nurse then went on to mess up several times on two of the other three people in the room (the third person got his IV done by a different nurse, who succeeded first try).

We waited for probably another half hour before another nurse (the one who'd done the other guy's IV) gave me another blanket and told me, without me asking, that she'd check to see how the surgery prior to mine was going.  She came back within a minute and told me that they were out of surgery and my anesthesiologist, operating nurse, and surgeon would all be back to see me shortly.  It was probably about 11:15 at this point.

My anesthesiologist stopped by about 15 minutes later and we had a good chat.  He listened when I said I had family history of sensitivity (my grandpa gets a dose that a normal ten year-old gets).  And I told him last time that I'd have nausea for months afterward.  He nodded and took notes and told me that he'd use a different form of anesthesia and that he'd also give me an anti-nausea patch that is frequently used by sailors.  Then he said he'd be back with the patch and some Tylenol, which would also help him out.

My surgeon came back a few minutes after he left and went over all the details that she'd gone over with me at my last appointment.  She emphasized that I should use nasal irrigation a minimum of 4-6 times a day, but if I wanted to do more, that would only help.    I asked if I should start that day and she said it couldn't hurt if I was feeling up to it, but I could wait until tomorrow.  She said she prescribed me antibiotics to help my body not reject packing if she had to use it to keep my turbinates stiffened and also Tylenol with a bit of Codeine in case I needed it for the pain.  And she reaffirmed that afterward I needed to cough and sneeze with my mouth open and I wouldn't be allowed to blow my nose.

She went back to prep for surgery and then my anesthesiologist came back and put the anti-nausea patch behind my ear (which he warned me would give me dry mouth) and gave me Tylenol with a small (much desired) sip of water.  On his heals, my operating nurse came back, it was shortly after noon (my scheduled surgery time), and asked me again about food and water, and chattered away until she was ready to take me back.  She went Wendell upstairs and then we went into the operating room.  I got up on operating table and they had me position myself.  They wrapped some things around my legs to make sure I had good circulation and didn't end up with clotting.  They then put a pure oxygen mask on me and presumably turned on the anesthesia drugs because I was only awake for at most 30 more seconds.

I woke up in recovery feeling shocking sharp compared to the last time I'd woken up after anesthesia. The very first thing I noticed was that it was after 5:00pm.  Wendell had to leave for work at 5:30, which meant I was going to have to drive home with my grandpa, who's a terrible driver.  Panic hit me and I resolved to get out of the hospital as fast as I possibly could.

I closed my mouth on something hard and unyielding, which I promptly spat out.  It was a bloody piece of tooth, which likely chipped off as they were removing the breathing tube.  I know I mumbled something about a "tooth" and the nurses clucking and telling me "everything was normal".  Frustrated, and knowing that a chipped tooth wasn't normal, I gave it up.  A nurse then tried to give me ice chips, which I thought was water.  I spat it out immediately since it made my desert-dry mouth and throat immediately worse.  "Water would be lovely," I remember saying.  I figured if I could form sentences, especially polite ones, then that would help me leave sooner.  She pressed the ice chip spoon to my mouth again and I kept my mouth shut, categorically refusing.  "You need ice chips first.  Otherwise you'll get nauseous."  I fought down my frustration; "I'm not nauseous at all.  Please may I have water?"  She tried to put the ice chip spoon in my mouth while I was speaking, which I wasn't super happy about.  Finally she gave up  and brought back the same cup, this time with some water.  She tried to hold the spoon for me again and I grabbed the cup and drank down the water, finally getting a brief respite from the terrible dry-mouth/throat problem.

From there it was on to the next order of business.  I needed to pee something awful.  I'd meant to ask before I'd gone back to the operating room, but got swept up in the sea of medical professionals.  Once again, I remember being very polite: "May I please use the bathroom?"  "Oh, the bathroom, the bathroom.  She needs to use the bathroom.  Where's that bedpan?"  They all clucked.  As soon as I heard the word bedpan, I resolved to wait until they'd actually let me use a toilet.  They did find the bedpan, and once again, I categorically refused.

This whole time, the nurses were going on and on about where my prescriptions had gone.  They weren't in the chart and where could they possibly have gone (my surgeon was operating on a different campus because some other surgeon had cancelled their surgery days, so neither the nursing staff nor my surgeon were used to working with each other).  I tried to tell them that the pain really wasn't particularly bad and that I could pick them up from my own pharmacy after I got home.  They, unsurprisingly, were having none of it.

As the time marched onward, I got more panicky and started to cry.  My sinuses were ridiculously full and pressing on my eyes, so I found this hardly surprising.  It alarmed the nurses though, who redoubled their efforts to find my prescriptions.  I tried to explain that I just cry at the drop of a hat; it's just how I am and that they shouldn't be concerned.  They didn't believe me, and Wendell points out that he doesn't really blame them for me being concerned about me crying.

Finally (though it was only about 5:15 when I convinced them I was feeling very well indeed, thank you), they took me up to the second phase of recovery.  We passed a bathroom at that point and I pretty much made the nurses pull my bed over then and there. A nurse, quite annoyed, helped me get into the bathroom, hung my IV from a hook, and stood there expectantly.  I waved her out and blessedly went to the bathroom.  Then I washed my hands as best I could with the IV still in, grabbed the IV, and made my way over to the reclining chair they indicated was mine.  The exertion had caused blood and drainage from my nose to pick up and soak the gauze drip pad taped below my nose and the same frustrated nurse went about changing it (including pulling the tape off none-to-gently) without saying a word.  I remember protesting, confused as to what was happening, at which point she explained what she was doing.

  The same nurse, who was quite finished with me at this point, told me that they didn't want me to stress me out.  I noted that perhaps not being able to see my loved ones, but knowing they were literally twenty feet away would stress me out more.  She either didn't hear me or (more likely, I suspect) pretended she didn't hear me.  That nurse then strapped the blood pressure cuff on my arm.  I figured what that meant, but she didn't really explain that she needed to take my blood pressure.

She started taking my blood pressure without telling me and I remember asking for water.  She told me I could have ice chips in a second and I once again tried my very best to default to polite.  "My throat and mouth are very dry from the anti-nausea patch and the tube.  Water would be lovely."

My grandparents and Wendell were brought back then, but they insisted that only one person was allowed to be with me at a time.  The other people had to wait on the other side of the cloth partition.  I tried to point out how silly it was that they were allowed to be in the room but not see me.  Wendell came over and the nurse asked him once again about the prescriptions.  He told her that the surgeon had brought them out to him, and he'd brought them to the pharmacist.  My grandpa was picking them up at that very moment.  She complained about how normally they stayed with the chart and that's not how things should of been done and he sorta shrugged.  But then he came over to me and kissed me on the forehead and I started to cry again, because I really desperately wanted to go home with him and not my grandparents.  I asked why the surgery had taken so long, and hour and a half longer than the maximum I was scheduled for and he said all they knew was there had been some technical difficulties; nothing had gone wrong with the surgery, but some type of technological problem had slowed them down.  He did tell me that the surgeon had needed to put packing in to keep my turbinates from getting "floppy", and that she'd take them out at the post-op appointment, I then told him how much I wanted to go home with him(it was 5:35 at this point, already past when he needed to leave).  He, being the wonderful person he is (and already knowing the answer), went and asked Nurse Grumpy, who thankfully had gone to go get me water.  The nurse told him no, it was against policy, and that I need to have my vitals taken three times.

He came back and informed me of that and then the nurse gave me the water.  I asked her how many times she had taken my vitals so far and she said just once.  Annoyed, I went to drink and she started taking my blood pressure again and told me I had to hold still and not drink.  I know I responded with frustration at that point, but I don't remember what I said; I think something about actually giving me some warning.  My vitals were more stable at that point though (140s over 70s as opposed to 150s over 70s).  At that point it was 5:40 and Wendell really had to leave.  I started pretty much sobbing at that point and couldn't stop, even though I saw he felt terrible about having to leave.  I was proud of myself for not asking if he could just be a little late to work, because I desperately wanted to.

When Wendell left, my grandma came in.  The first thing I remember her saying was that my surgeon was beautiful (which she is).  I agreed, somewhat confused and non-plussed.  She also rehashed the technical difficulty story.  I'm pretty sure she was at a loss of what to say.  Finally Nurse Grumpy's shift was over and she explained to the new nurse that I really wanted to go home, but I still had one more set of vitals left in five minutes.  The new nurse, fresh and actually sympathetic, bless her responded to my desires with alacrity.  She told me she was going to change my dressing one more time and I asked about my inhaler.  She gave me that while she prepped the dressing and got it all in place.  She then checked the giant mug of water that I'd inhaled and was impressed to find it empty.  She suggested that she refill it and I take it with me.  I declined at first, knowing I'd need to pee soon, but she pointed out it would help with the dry-mouth/throat and I agreed.  My grandma also pointed out how useful the mugs could be, which I agreed to, confused.  The nurse heartily agreed though and said they threw them out anyway.

My grandpa had returned from the pharmacy at this point and the new nurse suggested that he and my grandmother go get the car.  By the time she finished with my last set of vitals, getting the IV out, and me dressed, that they'd probably be ready.  She suggested lots of fluid and cough drops for the dry/sore throat, and then handed them a bag of medical tape and gauze to change the dressing as often as needed.  So off they went and she did exactly as she told me she was going to.  She took my blood pressure, after warning me she was going to.  it was in the 120s over 70s, which is normal for me, and I remarked that it had returned to usual.  She seemed both pleased with the result and pleased that I'd noticed it'd returned to normal.  She then took my IV out and I asked about clothes.  She pointed to the bag in the corner, which I'd over looked and asked me if I needed help.  I emphatically declined and she went to go get me more water and a wheel chair.

I got dressed as quickly as possible and felt so good to be in my own, comfortable, warm clothing.  I pulled back the cloth partition, fully intending to walk to the parking lot if she wasn't back with the wheelchair yet.  As Wendell pointed out later, the nurse probably suspected as much and got back with the wheelchair just in time.  I got into it before she could help and she handed me the water.  Then she wheeled me out to the parking lot (I think I genuinely could have walked there, it wasn't far, but taking the wheelchair was probably better) and my grandparents were just showing up with the car.  It was a few minutes after 6:00 when I got in the car.  The whole recovery process had remarkably taken less than an hour.

I got up from the wheelchair and into the car; pretending not to hear the offers of assistance.  I got all buckled into the front seat and we were away almost immediately.  In retrospect, my grandparents had the air blowing in the car on the way home, which caused my throat to dry out immediately, which was extremely painful.  My head also started to ache and I got super dizzy, with my grandpa driving his jerky-stick-shift ways (yes, I realized there are good manual drivers, but I don't think my grandpa is in that category anymore).  We took surface streets a long time before getting on I90 (again, my surgeon was scheduled in Seattle, about 30 minutes west of her normal campus and my home), which only made things worse.  Luckily, my grandpa had Tylenol on him and he gave me two, after asking me extensively if I'd had any pain medication already (I hadn't, the nurses had been clear on that fact).  Frustratingly, they left the bag with the gauze, tape, and, most importantly, my inhaler in the trunk (seriously, who does that?).  My grandpa offer to pull over and I vehemently refused, knowing I wouldn't want to get back in the car with him once he'd stopped.  I also knew I'd hurt his feelings by saying so, so I just said something about wanting to get home as soon as possible.

On the surface streets, my motion sickness, courtesy of my first anesthesia experience, was acting up and I asked them for the motion sickness bag that they must have sent with us.  Turns out, probably in my haste, they didn't send up with a motion sickness bag.  My grandma handed me a clothe bag, which she assured me was washable.  I was aghast and resolved to hold it in, if it got really bad.  Luckily at that point we got on the freeway and the nausea eased up.  And I will say, my anesthesiologist was a wizard.  That was the only time I got nauseous at all.  I was worried when I removed the anti-nausea patch yesterday, but no nausea at all!  Which made recovery a whole hell of a lot better.

The rest of the drive home was a bit of a blur.  I was miserable.  My grandpa merges too close both behind and in front of people and tends to go under the speed limit.  My throat also got progressively more painful was we continued.  I do remember formulating a plan for when I got home: change the dressing (maybe just hold it in place, because the tape was painful), two cough drops, more water, popsicle, sleep.  Finally we pulled into my place and my grandpa did a horrible job parking.  As he went to straighten out, I basically just told him I had to get out.  I then asked my grandma for the key, which she annoyingly, had to look for, which took entirely too long.  I burst in the front door with my water in hand.  I made my way up the first set of stairs and stumbled to the bookshelf and popped in the two cough drops, which immediately soothed my throat.  My grandparents had gotten in the door at this point and as I headed up the second flight of stairs to my bedroom and bathroom, asked if I needed anything.  I told them "Popsicle" as best I could with my ruined throat.  They said "What?"  And I said "Popsicle" to which they repeated "Popsicle", so I know they heard me.

I got up to the bathroom and the two giant mugs of water caught up to me.  I then stumbled back to my bed and sat there for a bit.  Both Wendell's cats  wanted in and I let them.  I waited for my popsicle.  Or my grandparents.  Or really any attention at all.  And it didn't come.  It was probably about 7:00, fifteen minutes after we'd gotten home by the time I stumbled back to the stairs.  "Can I have a popsicle?"  I plaintively called.  I felt pathetic, but I wasn't up to stairs again so soon and my throat really fucking hurt.  Finally my grandma brought one up to me.  I spat out the remnants of the cough drops and ate the popsicle.  I couldn't taste it, but it eased my throat even better than the cough drops.  My grandma then went back downstairs, leaving me alone (and sad again).  She hadn't even brought me my phone so I could text other loved ones to tell them I was doing okay and my throat was too sore to call down.

After a bit longer just sitting there, I stumbled back to the bathroom and tried my tea-pot style Netti-Pot (for sinus irrigation).  It did very little.  The saline solution and drainage are supposed to come back out the other nostril, but I was too congested/inflamed/fulling of gauze packing for it to do so.  Still, I did it to both nostrils and then got myself back to bed, which Wendell had thoughtfully set up for me with a back pillow (so I could remain sitting up) and a favorite blanket.  I know I dozed off for a bit and then woke up, again wondering why no one had even checked on me.  I could hear sounds of them banging around in the kitchen, but no one actually talking to me.

This time I did brave the stairs and got all the way to the dining room table.  My grandmother asked if I was hungry, and I informed her I was starving.  She asked if I wanted soup and I said no, it sounded terrible.  She told me that my first meal was supposed to be liquid, because of the nausea.  I once again told her I wasn't nauseous and hadn't been nauseous at all except for the motion sickness.  She sounded surprised, but started warming up soup all the same (she did at least listen when I told her that I didn't want the canned stuff that they had very genuinely thoughtfully brough; I wanted the stuff in the fridge).  I went to the freezer and got myself my own fucking popsicle, which again helped.  I also took the potato salad out of the fridge and took it with me to the dining room table.  Then my grandmother presented me with the soup that I didn't want and she spied the potato salad.  "You're not supposed to have potato salad yet, miss."  She warned me.  I'm pretty sure I just ignored her.  She gave me some chicken soup broth, not even with meat or noodles.  She told me I could have meat and noodles after I finished that.  I took one sip and burned my mouth at which point I pushed it away, saying "hot" and dug into my potato salad.  It had be twenty hours since I eaten and I was utterly ravenous.  My grandmother gave up protesting when I made it clear I was going to eat the potato salad regardless of what she said.  I did go back to the broth when it was cooler and then she did bring me another, less hot, bowl.  In retrospect, the soup would have been fine if it hadn't been warmed at all.

I asked my grandparents if my surgeon had said anything about taking a shower, because I'd forgotten to ask.  I felt desperately dirty and suspected the steam would make my throat hurt less.  She told me she hadn't said anything and that'd I'd need to wait until Monday to call and ask.  I told her that wouldn't be happening and went back upstairs (with my phone this time), fairly safe in my assumption that they wouldn't follow me.  I texted both my sisters, dad (who took my mom to Hawaii for her 50th birthday and they're both feeling very guilty about leaving me with less help), and Wendell.  Carl was brief, but sympathetic; similarly with my dad.  Shea I texted at length, since she wants to go into nursing, and told her I should have had her drive me home from the hospital.  We both realized this would have been a preferable answer, especially since she had been free.

Wendell was glad I was feeling as well as I was and somewhat surprised at it (as I was myself).  He got increasingly frustrated by my descriptions of my grandparent's actions, which I felt vindicated about.  And I think I must have expressed entirely too many times, that I wanted him to be home.

I called my mom then and chatted briefly.  Told her I was feeling actually much better than anticipated; not any worse than my worst sinus infection, at any rate.  She was glad for me.  I did go into length about feeling ignored and completely unhelped by my grandparents, which she was surprised and sympathetic about.  She also told Shea, who was babysitting me the next day to actually pay attention to me.  She, Shea, and Wendell all figured that it was probably alright to take a shower that day.

I dozed badly for another hour, took more Tylenol around 9 and went to the office to check on my dogs and cat, who had been extremely good and quiet all day (Wendell had taken them out before work, because he's the best).  They were super happy to see me, but also very calm, and knew something was up.  I let them out and followed them downstairs, where one of Wendell's cats had made himself at home in the living room with my grandparents.  I don't remember talking much with my grandparents this time, though I got another popsicle.  They expressed surprise that I'd let my dogs out and I know I was defense, pointing out that they were being very good actually (thankfully my grandparents did agree on that subject).  I sat down at the dining room table and my little dog jumped onto my lap and my grandmother went to push him out.  I think I actually did push down my annoyance successfully that time.  He was being a little wriggly, but very good, and more importantly, I had invited him into my lap.

In frustration, I went back upstairs with my dogs and Wendell's big tom cat, intending to sleep until Wendell got home.  The dogs settled down very nicely, again being very gentle with me.  Wendell's cats both settled down and I felt asleep with four animals in the bed with me.  I woke up several times: to both my grandparents using the other bathroom and then to my kitty crying for dinner (thankfully my grandparents did find her cat food).

I woke up for good to some type of loud noise from the kitchen, this set off my dogs, which was frustrating, but not unexpected the way my night had been going.  It was about 10:45 (Wendell was off at 11 and about 15 minutes away from home).  I stalled and puttered about, looking at my phone and using the Netti-Pot again with a similar amount of success. Finally at about 10:55 I went downstairs and thankfully my grandparents were packing up to go.  We chatted about nothing for awhile and Wendell finally got home at which point they practically ran away.

Now, I'm not being entirely fair.  I'm sure they were trying to be helpful.  It had been a stressful day for them too and it was long past their bed times.  I know I wasn't particularly grateful, and I did feel guilty about it.  But I also ask, how fair is it to put the burden of playing host on the person who had five hour long surgery that day?  They were treating me like a recalcitrant child, not like a convalescing adult.  In our texts Wendell's phrasing was: "You're disabled, not regressed.  And not even that disabled it seems like.  They're treating you like you're five."  And this was my exact problem with Nurse Grumpy and my grandparents.

Unlike I expect, I was perfectly cognizant and shocking functional, essentially from the moment I got into recovery.  I couldn't always make my throat express what I needed articulately, but there were people who could understand me perfectly, so I couldn't have been doing that bad of a job communicating.  The whole time I felt like I was being treated like someone completely incompetent.  I felt like a child again, which is pretty much exactly how I felt.  If I say I'm not nauseous, then take my word for it.  I know my own body.  I know my own limits.  Other people do not get to tell me what is best for me.  If I want water, even if I am nauseous, then give me water.  At worst, I throw up, which admittedly is not great, but hey, at least you respected my autonomy.  There's so many attitudes in our culture that lead to: know, I know better about your own body than you.  And I admit, nurses and doctors have extensive medical training.  But if I tell you I can handle drinking water because I'm not nauseous, then believe me.  If I tell you the pain in my shoulder feels mechanical and not muscular, then perhaps at least pursue that course of action.  Don't blow me off.

Sigh.  Now I'm all worked up.  The end of the night was lovely however.  Wendell came home and took my dogs out and kissed me on the forehead and gave me some spaghetti.  And then because I was still starving, made me a tuna fish sandwhich, and even went back and cut it into smaller bites so I could eat it easier (where my upper right wisdom tooth (mine are still in-tact and useable) was chipped was hurting me (still is some; I need to look into that more thoroughly)).  And he told me about the show, which he'd made it too alright.  And my sub did really well.  And a bunch of stuff happened and people asked about me, but I was pretty exhausted and not all of the information penetrated.  Then we went up to the bedroom and I asked if I could sterilize and use his squeeze bottle sinus rinse instead, since mine wasn't working, and he said yes.

And I finally got to take my shower (I'd held off because I knew my grandparents would lecture me about it (which Wendell was seriously unhappy about)).  As I suspected, the steam helped a lot.  The sinus rinse bottle also was more effective.  I then got into bed and chatted with Wendell about all the things that had happened since he'd left.  I took more Tylenol and eventually fell asleep, sitting up, just like I was supposed to.  I got to sleep quickly because I hadn't taken the anti-inflammatory steroids that day, but couldn't stay asleep.  I woke up every three hours, when the Tylenol first started to wear off and I would take more, take another shower, and rinse my sinuses.  All in all, aside from the frustrating treatment of my recovery, my first night after my surgery went much better than expected.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Year Long Sinus Adventure

During the last three weeks of the winter show last year (January/February 2015) I got my first ever sinus infect.  I took me probably a month and a half to recognize it and get antibiotics (so the antibiotics ended around the beginning of April).  The antibiotics worked great and I was actually back to hiking with my dogs.

Around June, I started getting chronic congestion; nothing bad, but considering I don't have seasonal allergies, unusual.  The first week of August, it all came to a head.  I was dizzy, congested, fatigued, had horrible sinus and ear pain and it all hit me severely over the course of two days.  I got antibiotics on the fourth day luckily, though it took a bit to convince my doctor that yes, it was in fact a sinus infection even though it'd only been a few days.  The antibiotics did their job.

Around September, only a few weeks after my antibiotic regiment ended, my chronic congestion came back.  And then in November, I got sick with a sinus infection, yet again. So antibiotics it was.  Right after I had ended them, I got the worst cold imaginable and actually had to get someone to cover my track at work.  My doctor said it was too soon to be another sinus infection and to wait and see if it held on.  But she did refer me to a specialist.

Well, my symptoms did get better, so it probably was a cold.  But in February I did get another full blown sinus infection, and this time I didn't hesitate, I called the specialist and got an appointment three days after my symptoms manifested.  Like my second sinus infection, my symptoms progressed quickly and by the time I saw the doctor I was a peak un healthiness and unhappiness.

The specialist was a saint.  She saw I was miserable and looked at my sinuses and saw they were inflamed.  She prescribed a three week, super heavy course of antibiotics, a steroidal nasal spray, and ear drops.  She also told me to use nasal irrigation at least once a day.  Then, after the sinus infection had a chance to clear up, I was scheduled for a CT scan and follow up.  And I followed all the instructions.  I took my meds every single day.  After the first three days, I felt better.  After five days had passed though, I started tech for my current show and I have never been so miserably sick in my life, including the cold from hell from the previous December.

I don't even remember most of tech.  I sat next to my (very very warm) follow spot, wrapped in a blanket, running a fever and barely able to stand long enough to execute my cues (we called the booth The Plague Ward for that tech because I had a sinus infection with added virus and the light board programmer had strep with an added virus).  Four days into tech, I was so bad I could barely remember my name.  I called the nurse's hotline and she told me I'd probably caught a virus that had been going around and that she was going to ask the specialist to prescribe me steroids to help.  Well, thankfully the doctor did prescribe me steroids, and they did help, and did get me through the rest of tech.  There was about a 36 hour stretch where I felt almost healthy.  But I was super careful not to overdo it, despite feeling better.  Then about a week later (still with one week of heavy antibiotics to go), I caught yet another cold, one that settled deep in my throat.

The day that my antibiotics ended, I went in for my CT scan.  They had me in and out in under twenty minutes which was awesome.  The technician asked if they were doing the CT because they thought I needed surgery.  I said that they hadn't explicitly said but I suspected that'd be the case.  He assured me it was quite a common case and procedure.  And indeed, I did suspect that I'd need surgery, since I was having the exact same symptoms that my sister had been having the previous year.  She had a sinus endoscopy and she's been healthy ever since.

So, three days later, I went back to the specialist for the follow up, so she could read my results.  She came in and noted I looked better and inquired what percentage I was feeling better and I said around 70%.  She then asked me when I had last felt 100% better and I told her, gulping to avoid tears, that I honestly didn't remember.  It was at that point that I hadn't even been able to hike or even go to the dog park since June the year before.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Depression Revisited

Depression is one of those things that's talked about frequently, but I feel like most of what I've read about it is from an outside perspective.  I've had family members and friends have it, but they always treated it like it was something not to be talked about.  And maybe for them, it was, and that's completely valid.  But for me, I feel like I'm lying by not talking about it, by not acknowledging it.

Last year was tough.  You're welcome to read my year in review post, which will give some context.  In short, a large percentage of my family was majorly ill and work stopped rewarding and recognizing my hard work.  I've been through tough times before, but this time it was extra triggering.  My family has always been largely healthy, and while I'm good with coping with crises, it does take a toll.  But what was harder was that I felt work had declared me incompetent.  They had been so complimentary and then suddenly they turned around gave me shitty assignments and no explanations.  It shook my confidence completely.

I've struggled with self-esteem before, but never in the way of believing that I was incompetent professionally.  And once I began to question that, I started to destroy myself with my doubt.  And so, as the work problems piled up, one after another, I sank further and further into depression. While I've read many descriptions of depression, my favorite being Hyperbole and a Half's which resonated with me, even before I got depressed, but none of them made it so I truly got it.  I don't think anyone who's never been clinically depressed can really get it, though they certainly can be empathetic without that.

It's not overwhelming sadness, which was an image that persistent, even after reading countless accounts detailing that wasn't what depression was.  Hopelessness and despair come the closest to describing it emotionally.  The image that stuck with me on my worst days was just standing among the utter wreckage of my life.  People did love me.  People did think I was competent.  But unless they explicitly said that to me, I didn't believe it.  Couldn't believe it  Even when they said it explicitly, my belief in the truth of their assertion was dubious.  I was incapable of believe that I was worth anything: worth anyone's time, love, effort.  I still am some days.  And that is just incredibly hard.

Going through this has made it so much easier for me to empathize and understand other people suffering from depression.  And it's just not a rational thing.  Some days I'll fail at something, more often minor than major, and it'll trigger my depression (luckily for me, just for a day or so, and sometimes, blessedly, less).  But some days I'll just wake up not feeling myself.  Not feeling much of anything aside from that I'm a failure.

So what do I do?  Anti-depressants nearly destroyed me in an entirely different way.  Everyone I've talked to says that it takes awhile to find the correct dosage and drug, but if the side effects and/or withdrawal symptoms are even half that severe, I can't subject myself to that again.  The side effects and withdrawal symptoms were the most unpleasant things I have ever experienced.  I should have talked to my doctor when things got that bad, but I wasn't even capable of picking up the phone some days, let alone going into the clinic.

The point?  I guess to just share my experience, but also to ask everyone reading this to pay attention to your friends, especially ones you think might be majorly depressed.  I guarantee no one realized I was as bad as I was.  And I was asking for helping.  I was talking about it as much as I could so that someone would just come over and sit with me.  But not explicitly and not as well as I would have had I been feeling myself in the first place.  And when you're already bad at asking for help, it becomes so much harder with depression.

Note: It's interesting reading my first post on depression, which was when the extremely low dosage (5mg) of the anti-depressant was actually working.  Though even that level of dose was tough to adjust to.  I desperately wish my doctor hadn't decided to up my dosage to 10mg. But what's past is past.

Another Year in Review

Having read my last year in review, I'm pleased with the format, so I'm going to use it again.

TL;DR Version: Fell off the face of the earth with my friends and felt extremely guilty about it.  Worked seven shows (crewed three, stage managed two, production managed two, production assisted two).  Adopted a new dog.  Got incredibly screwed over at work because of nepotism.  My union forgot I existed.  My family had three surgeries in eight months and I injured my shoulder badly.  I started dating the most amazing guy.


January: Ran the show with flying people in it some more (show runs are really freakin long).  The show transfer went shockingly well and I had two lovely people to carpool with for my first show commuting from my new apartment.  Shea moved out of her apartment because of a mold infestation, which was the cause of her terrible migraines and sinus infections.  Didn't get the production management job, but got offered interim production manager for three months, which was the strangest phone conversation I've ever had.

February:  Closed the previous show.  99 shows, 7 flights per show, and no flights aborted or unsafe.  I'd call that an amazing track record.  Spent my first Valentine's Day alone in seven years, and by alone, I mean partying with friends, including my ex (my life's weird, okay)?  Started my stint as interim production manager.  I was production manager for the original staged reading, which I'd stage managed the year before and also for the spring kid's show (which I was also stage managing).  Office work was bizarre and not my favorite, although getting to set my own schedule was bitchin.  Also!  I adopted a seventh month old, smooth-coat, Saluki puppy named Ash.  I got to take him (and Argos) into the office with me, which was super convenient timing.  Started work on a massive sighthounds of the world poster.  Had my first sinus infection ever, which was awful.

March:  Started rehearsals for the kid's show I mentioned before.  I had the best asms anyone could ever ask for.  Opened the stage reading, which was as fantastic as the previous year's.  Although the second night of the reading, I had to go up onstage and address the audience because they were having technical difficulties with the sound.  Balancing production management and stage management while not going into overtime was nearly impossible, though I got better at managing it as the time went on.  I pulled Ash from the obedience class I enrolled him in, when the trainer basically told me that she wasn't willing to work with us (he's leash reactive (though not aggressive, to be very clear) and gets excited when there are other dogs around him and he's on a leash).  They fired my old direct boss (who I loved, but was going to leave anyway) but then didn't actually have proven cause (which the union helped prove) and so he left without technically being fired.  Riley and one of my ex-roommates (who I can't for the life of me remember the pseudonym for) started dating (again (this is the second time)).  I was a little freaked out and frustrated at first, but I think I did handle it maturely.

April:  Opened the kid's show.  It was a huge success, considering we had 42 people backstage in that tiny, tiny space (that's not even including the four of us in the booth).  We did have an epidemic of the flu hit the cast, and were worried that we might have to cancel shows.  The new production manager showed up the week of tech, which was terrible, especially because he's fresh out of college and doesn't know what he's doing at all; so basically I got to train him....that was awkward (the kids program manager did tell me that she didn't offer me the job not because I wasn't qualified but because she thought I wouldn't take it, and that I'd done amazingly in the interim, which assuaged some of the bad feelings).  Got offered production assistant for the first show (at the theatre I normally work at), props on the second, production assistant on the fourth, and props on the fifth (this information will become incredibly relevant).  We lucked out though and pulled through.  Went on a solo backpacking trip for three days with the dogs in between closing the one show and starting the next.  It was slightly reckless, but I took precautions and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  Started teching the final show of the season as props.  Went to the dog park and dinner with my ex-roommate who's dating Riley (must remember to look up pseudonym), which was lovely, and, I feel like, cleared the air.

May:  Injured my right shoulder while trying to operate an Austrian curtain that pulled above my head.  After I realized what was injuring be, we adjusted the pull to be below my head height, but I was in a whole lot of pain.  My track for that show was extremely difficult in a different way than normal.  I had to balance props with rail pulls, umbilical paging (making sure the cable umbilical attached to the motorized band platform didn't tear out), and Austrian curtain swagging.  The four very different tasks were immensely difficult to balance.  It would have been easier if I had been the one in costume, then I could have just balanced props and onstage set moves, but there was only one of us in costume and they wanted it to be a guy.  Started flirting rather heavily with the coworker I'd mentioned before who is a good friend (Wendell).  Also, I realized that my union status had lapsed due to hand-waving and bullshit, bullshit, grumble, grumble, reasons that never ever became clear.  Finally, I emailed back to accept the positions I was offered, but never received confirmation that I would be working them.  My other direct boss for crew work got promoted to a new position that they created just for her, and we all hoped that would make grand changes.  Shea had surgery to fix a deviated septum that had developed from breaking her nose twice the previous year.  They hoped it would help with her sinus infections.

June: Got involved with Wendell.  It was so so fantastic.  Being involved with a Dom is just exactly what I needed.  And it helps that we mesh so well in other ways too.  We really didn't intend for it to become "serious" or even "dating" initially.  Struggled through running the show with an injured shoulder.  Got an MRI and saw the first ever orthopedist that I've ever liked (I did extensive, extensive research).  He told me I'd severely compromised the acromion-clavicular joint (AC joint) and had developed Bursitis because of a calcification on the end of my clavical (which I'd also had (and they'd removed) on my left clavical).  Basically, it was just pain management, unless I wanted to undergo a very minor surgery to buzz off the calcification (which I didn't).  I emailed the union at least four times and got no responses.  Wendell decided to apply for the open boss position (which he is incredibly qualified for), which meant there was an open motor position, which I emailed both the production manager and stage ops supervisor (the new position that had just been created) to tell them I was interested. Oh, and because I don't mention her nearly enough, Wendell adores Fae (my kitty) and she adores him; it's adorable.

July:  Transferred the show to the new town.  Pulled my deltoid on my first rail pull and had to have someone sub in to do my rail pulls (which was awful).  My dad had a second blood clot that resulted in a pulmonary embolism, which occurred almost as soon as they eased him off the blood thinners he was on.  They kept him in for more extensive testing this time.  I continued to pester the powers-that-be about if I would get a motor position and was told not until they filled the two positions for my immediate bosses.  Also continued to harass the union and after many more emails and a well-placed call, I finally got an interview and a retest scheduled for the next month.  Wendell broke up with the other woman he was seeing, but they said they'd reassess in a month; though he still was/is seeing another woman under very specific circumstances off and on.  Wendell got the promotion and it was awesome and well deserved!

August:  Closed the show; the last weekend, I had a massive sinus infection that came on suddenly.  I was dizzy, disoriented, exhausted, headachy, and feverish.  I couldn't even drive, Wendell ended up spending the entire weekend helping me make it through the show and taking care of me.  A few days later, we ended up talking about where our relationship was going and he told me he loved me.  From there is was just a small step to dating ((So much for keeping it casual) yes, I know, my love life is weird (Wendell's is weirder though! Okay?!)).  I aced my union retest/interview and my status was finally finally above-board again.  Continued to get put-off by the stage ops supervisor about what shows I would officially be working, and whether I'd work motors, though she heavily hinted that she wanted me there. She did tell me that we'd talk during tech for the first show of the season. Started in rehearsals as production assistant (yay asisstant assistant stage manager (my favorite......) for the first show of the season.  It took awhile for the sm and asm to trust I knew what I was doing, but once they did, they trusted me and we worked well together.  Worked on my birthday, for the first time ever (it's normally in between seasons) and also my birthday turned out really poorly.  Wendell and his ex-girlfriend decided to start hooking-up again and chose the day after my boyfriend.  He'd promised her that he wouldn't see me the day before he saw her, so he wasn't going to come over on my birthday.  He was rather vague on all of those details, however, so I completely misunderstood and thought he was coming over and ended up feeling completely deserted.  He felt terrible, he did end up coming over, and we talked until the early hours of the morning, trying to make the situation better.  He admitted that he didn't really even want to hook up with his ex anymore, but had fallen back into old habits because it was easy.  They're still friends, but not more than that anymore.  That was really the biggest misunderstanding we've had so far.  Doctors finally discovered that my dad had a condition where a vein in his left leg was deteriorating and he'd likely need surgery.  Oh and my mom discovered that she had an extremely aggressive form of skin cancer.  They scheduled surgery for less than a week later.  (Oh wow, a lot happened in August).

September:  My mom had her surgery.  They took a huge chunk out of her arm and had to remove four of her lymph nodes to make sure the cancer hadn't spread.  The day before her surgery, Wendell's car broke down, so he ended up borrowing my car for a week and I borrowed my mom;s  We went into tech for the first show of the season and it turns out tech as a production assistant is really fucking boring.  Also the stage ops supervisor put off my meeting with her three times (I wasn't really surprised, but really fucking annoyed).  The last time I actually showed up to have the meeting and she didn't show up until an hour and a half after she said she'd be at the theatre.  I sent her an angry email basically saying I needed confirmation and she responded saying: props for two, production assistant for four, key grip for five (a demotion and pay-cut).  I responded that we needed to meet and we finally set a time.  We talked and what she had to say was a lot of temporizing and in many cases, insulting.  I turned her down for show five, and she said that she'd work on getting me a different offer.  Turns out they decided to hire the new master electrician's girlfriend, who had never crewed before with the theatre and never worked with or even really seen the motors in action before, as motor operator.  I'm still bitter and pissed.  Anyway, we opened the first show and I walked away because my job was complete and I started officiating high school volleyball again.  I began a very slow, but concerted effort to de-clutter my apartment (I actually adore the results so far).

October:  Stage managed the same fundraiser as last year.  It went extremely well and was a lot of fun.  Continued to officiate volleyball, which was mostly fun.  The stage ops supervisor got back to me with a new offer, saying that I could have props for show five instead (exactly what I was originally offered).  I said: fine.  I was working the opposite schedule from Wendell for this stretch, which really sucked.  At the end of the month, started tech for the show I'm currently working.  It was a fairly easy and straightforward tech.  Working with Wendell as my boss was a slight adjustment, but the biggest problem I had was how hurt and bitter I was with the company.  It didn't help that they'd budgeted extremely poorly for the crew hours and so Wendell had to fight them for every spare bit of time that we actively needed.  My dad's surgery was scheduled to be at the end of the month, but the doctor didn't submit it to insurance in time so they had to reschedule, but they didn't know that until day of (this meant I had to pick up the dogs in the middle of tech, which was pretty brutal).

November: This month was such a blur.  We continued to fight management about the amount of time we needed for our call.  They insisted on only four hours (not four and a half), for a three hour show.  The day they finally mandated that, I found out during dinner and sobbed the entire time.  Poor Wendell felt so bad for having to tell me the bad news (the props track generally takes the longest to set up, tear down, and maintenance).  We're making it work now.  Sorta.  But the crew is amazing and I really enjoy the show, so I'm feeling better about that.  My dad had surgery the day after that proclamation was made and in my depression, I completely forgot to show up to the hospital.  I felt awful about it, but he's recovering so well now at least.  Ash got treated for a bladder infection (it seems to be helping immensely).  I went to see my doctor for a physical and also to talk to her about the amount of depression and anxiety I'd been suffering from.  It's easy to list all these things that happened categorically, with no feelings attached, but the stuff with the union, work, and my family hit me really really hard.  It was just one stress on top of another and I wasn't myself at all.  My doctor (who I love), agreed that it was depression and prescribed for me a mild anti-depressant (so no more alcohol for me for a minimum of three, more likely six, months).  I also made the decision, that I couldn't emotionally handle working show five and scheduled yet another meeting with the stage ops supervisor.

December: My talk with the stage ops supervisor was at the beginning of the month.  I went into it with pages of arguments as to why she should move me to show four.  Turns out that I didn't need any of them.  I told her I couldn't handle working show five and she said that she'd switch me; that easy.  After everything I'd gone through, it was anti-climatic.  However, I have never felt so relieved.  Emotionally, things have been uphill since then.  The cold from hell went through the company and I managed to catch it, and the worst case of it, at that.  It was the worst regular cold that I have ever had (it was definitely up there with bronchitis, pneumonia, and the flu).  It manifested during the Friday evening show and got steadily worse throughout the weekend.  By the Sunday matinee, Wendell and the asm told me that they were calling in a sub to run the show that evening (she'd be running it dry, having never shadowed my track).  I felt so sick that I actually agreed without a fight, though I felt horribly guilty when the sub messed up and they had to hold the show. A week after that, my doctor upped my anti-depressant dosage my 5mg and it went so so badly.  I got so anxious in crowds and around people that my throat tightened up and I had a full on anxiety attack, which meant I couldn't even enjoy Christmas with my friends.

January: I'll save most of this month for next year's review, but after having two full anxiety attacks, one during work, I stopped taking to 10mg dose entirely.  This, predictably, sent me into withdrawals, which entailed terrible anxiety and depression, including suicidal thoughts.  It was terrible.  The most terrible thing I've been through.  But I got through, with a lot of support from Wendell; and though the depression has stuck around, it's actually more manageable than it was before and it's less frequent.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Misunderstood: In Defense of Myself

Every child, every teenager, goes through that: Nobody gets me phase.  Right?  I'm not fond of absolutes, so saying every is a toss-up to me, but I think that in general, that statement is pretty true.  Adults tend to laugh because "they've been there", of course the kid "is being dramatic", and "will be okay".

I've heard all of this so often throughout my life; it's no wonder I believed it.  Growing up, I felt like a stranger to everyone I interacted with.  As a child, I just wanted to be an adult, and wasn't afraid to tell anyone.  I generally didn't relate to other kids around me very well.  Sure, I made friends, but more often than not, I found myself explaining to them my thoughts and feeling; having to justify my view.  No, I'm not mad you went off campus for lunch without me when I had to make-up a test.  But, yes, I am hurt that you didn't tell me that you went, when I would normally have been invited..  The fine line, that fine distinction, I had trouble articulating as a kid/teenager.

Or, I would foul a pass in a volleyball game and the coach would tell me what to do better and I would respond with "I know".  It wasn't the most conducive or coachable response; I understand that now.  However, the coach's response of: "then why didn't you do it in the first place?"  always frustrated me.  I could never explain that I knew the theory of how to do it correctly, but just hadn't been able to get my muscles to do what I wanted.

In college I had this problem with Riley a lot, but rarely with other people.  I missed my high school friends and I hated being misunderstood, so my solution was generally to just avoid befriending people.  It's funny, in high school, I didn't start actually making friends until right before I transferred at the end of my sophomore year, when I know longer had anything left to lose.  Similarly, I didn't make friends until my senior year of college, when it didn't really matter if I was going to be misunderstood so I took more chances.  The pain of people just not getting me has been with me most of my life.

So when I moved in with my high school friends, the only people I feel like ever understood me up to that point in my life, I hoped it would go well.  It ultimately didn't and I feel for very much the same reasons as usual.  I had the opposite schedule of everyone, so I could rarely go to events.  When people would schedule events but not invite me/tell me about them and then I found after the fact, I would get upset.  More than once I came home unexpectedly early for some reason and found an empty apartment, not because they didn't want me at the event but because they knew I was busy.  My frustration stemmed not from the fact that they didn't plan events that I could go to (basically an impossibility) but from the fact that they didn't tell me about events that I couldn't go to.  And it reached the point where they stopped telling me about events entirely because they were afraid I would be mad I wasn't invited (again, not why I was upset in the first place); this logic always seemed circuitous to me.

When we lived in the apartment together, we had a dinner schedule and people signed up to take days.  But, when I was in tech and someone chose not to make dinner that night and I got home expecting dinner, I got angry.  I wasn't angry that there wasn't food.  I wasn't angry because I was hungry.  I was angry that they hadn't texted me and told me there was no dinner.  Not having food at home was a solvable problem, but I hadn't been given the opportunity to solve the problem because of lack of communication.  For me, it's always been those fine distinctions that people just don't seem to get about me.

I am constantly seen as being angry.  When I got left in a subway station in New York alone, when I finally caught up to my friends, I was told that I was having a tantrum and over-reacting.  My fear and hurt and anger at the situation was completely glossed over.  And even if I was over-reacting (which I'm not convinced I was), my emotions were declared invalid.  More often than not, people withheld information from me "because they were scared I'd be angry", which of course only upset me more.  I couldn't convince them that if they'd only given me the information up-front, I wouldn't have been angry at all.  So in that situation with my apartment, like my relationship with my family, I gained a reputation for be angry.  People began to treat me like I was always going to lash out at them and so it became increasingly difficult not to do something.  It's not to say that I don't have a temper.  I undoubtedly do.  I would also say that it is now firmly in hand though.

And my complex and guilt about anger now is almost crippling.  It's new baggage that I'm beginning to work through, with some success, I'd say.  But the first time I got truly angry with Wendell I just hugged myself and sobbed so hard I shook and felt like I would tear myself to pieces, trying to withhold my anger, to feel some other way entirely.  When I could finally speak, I stated my case in clipped tones and I apologized for being angry.  And Wendell complemented me on how well I had expressed myself (once I could speak again).  I was so shocked I stopped crying and couldn't only stare at him.  There has been one or two times where we've gotten angry at each other unjustly, but most of the time, I will explain while I'm mad and generally Wendell will say: you're right.  And I'll apologize for being angry and he'll say something like: no, you get to be angry when I do something that stupid.  I'm still shocked every time it happens.  And even when I am justifiably angry (which apparently is more of the time than I realized (?), I get near crippling anxiety.

The other reputation I seem to constantly get throughout my life is that I'm stubborn.  And like my reputation for being angry, it's not completely unjustified.  I was incredibly stubborn as a child.  If my parents told me to do something, I frequently wouldn't just because they had told me to.  But like with the anger, I've gotten better at choosing my battlefield.  I've frequently taken to saying (these days): "that's not a hill I'm going to die on".  But people still call me stubborn, because when someone does something I truly believe is wrong (morally/procedurally/legally/etc), then I am going to say something.  And if someone presents pressing evidence that I'm wrong, then I am going to concede.  I generally even try to say the words: "I was wrong" because someone, it's frequently just important for people to hear those specific words.

I said them to my mother the other day about something inconsequential and she joked that she need a tape recorder to record them because they shocked her so much.  And I turned to Wendell and told her that I say them all the time when I actually am wrong and he immediately and vehemently backed me up.  There's a fine line between being stubborn for the sake of pride and being stubborn because what's right needs to be stood up for and I'm trying hard to find it.

But that's the problem.  I'm changing constantly.  I've changed hugely and while my stubbornness and temper are things that will always be there, they're things I try to use and not let rule me now.  People aren't seeing the changes in me though.  They think they know me, when they either never did or no longer do.  And it is so frustrating and hurtful to me, because I am striving every day to be a better person.

So having Wendell just get me is the most incredible thing I could ever ask for.  To start explaining my motives and have him say "I know..." and then finish my explanation for me, demonstrating that he does know exactly how I'm feeling; that he exactly understands my motivations.  I don't constantly have to justify myself to him.  He's never assuming the worst of me.  The other night we fought (we do fight, but they've always been minor thus far) because I criticized a fix he'd made a work. While my criticisms were valid, he was hurt.  And his point that he hadn't had time to fine-tune his fix, in my opinion, made my criticisms unnecessarily cruel.  When I tried to apologize, he wasn't ready to hear me yet, and rebuffed me, so we both ended up feeling hurt.  By the end of the show though, we had talked through all of this to the point of understanding each other and ended the fight with thanking each other for being understanding.

That's a new situation for me.  It's an incredible situation for me.  I hate fighting with him and thankfully it's rare.  But I am so happy that thus far we've been able to talk through things not only civilly but to the point where we gain new insight into each other.

Maybe all I've ever needed was a single person to actually get me.  I'm not sure, but I'm more at peace with this than I really ever have been.

Though that statement isn't entirely fair.  Janey gets me and really always have and she's always been a wonderful supportive friend.  She's just in the middle of two groups of people that she understands both of but whom don't understand each other.


About a month ago, I started taking extremely mild anti-depressants.  About a month ago, my work troubles and my family's health problems finally took a turn for the better.  I'm not sure which one has helped lift my depression, but I'm so grateful.

Between my mother's cancer, my father's two pulmonary embolisms, and my sister's chronic and plaguing sinus infections and headaches, there's been a lot of family stress.  Between trouble with my standing in my union, being passed over for a different position by someone new who had less experience, and by being saddled with a position I'm not fond of, there's been a lot of work stress.  And these two sources of stress have, together, created a nigh irrepressible weight that I'm constantly struggling under.

As with everyone person, I've struggled with self-esteem throughout my life; believing that I am competent, capable, and worth other people's time.  Generally, I've mostly gotten to the point where I do believe that most of the time.  So, when people tell me that I'm not good at something, I can evaluate their opinion critically to see if I believe them or not.  The situation at work, with the new and less experience people be promoted above me (and several other coworkers) shattered my confidence.  And once it was shattered, the depression settled in, and I just couldn't regain my confidence and belief in my self-worth.

That's what I've found with the depression is that it isn't just sadness, as I've read in so many articles by people with depression.  For me, it typically manifests in this inescapable and irrepressible sense that I'm not worth anyone's time.  And where normally my self-esteem would kick in at that point and logically point to all the evidence to the contrary, with the depression hanging over me, I found that none of that evidence meant anything.  The feeling was going to remain and it was not going to let me shake it.

I'm personifying the depression, but that's not for literary effect, that's because it's how it felt; how it feels.  It this thing I live with that I can't escape or run from or hide from.  It imposed an overwhelming sense of futility and while it never, thankfully thankfully, got to the point where I didn't see the point in life, it definitely got to there point where I could see how people could get to that point.

And the overwhelming guilt I felt when burdening my boyfriend with all this baggage was one of the hardest parts.  We've been friends for awhile now, so he's seen me without the depression.  But the depression started right around the time that we got involved and so we've never really been together without it looming there between us.  He didn't leave though.  After my breakup with Riley and the fallout that caused between my friends and I, I was truly terrified that I'd scare him away.  I told him that and he laughed and told me he still liked me and that I didn't always have to be good company.

And when I told my family, they were shocked.  But they didn't run away either.  They didn't necessarily help either, but they didn't run.  If they had run; if my boyfriend had decided that while he loved me, the depression was too much, I truly wouldn't have blamed him, but I don't know what I would have done.  This thing stripped away every defense I had against doubting myself.  If I hadn't had that external support, getting through, surviving (and I do mean that in the least dire way) to get my on internal support back, wouldn't have been almost insurmountably harder.

So I'm grateful.  Endlessly grateful that they have helped me.  And understood that I can't always do this on my own.