Thursday, April 8, 2010

Background: How I Put Myself Back Together Again

The process of re-building my life was slow and fraught with much frustration and anger. After 7 months on disability I was able to return to work. During the time I was off I took a computer class to gain clerical skills, assuming I was never going to work retail again. In the beginning of the semester I would struggle to walk up the hill to class and by the end of it I was walking up to class with something close to ease. Recovery was very slow. I met with a job placement agency through the Department of Rehabilitation to inquire about a different type of job. Problem: I made too much money doing what I did and the types of jobs offered were unskilled and entry-level. No dice. But the deeper damage, damage that is still being inflicted until this very day, was emotional, and it was not just me. As I withdrew from the world, friends stopped calling because I was reluctant to make plans and when I did I usually (always) cancelled. My husband shifted into pure survival mode, a phase he is just now able to recognize and beginning to take leave of. He became very unhappy and dissatisfied with life. How can you blame him? His wife was ill with a very poor prognosis for recovery, our finances were in shambles and our sex and social lives were lackluster at best. Combine that with unhappiness with his job/company/career path, not living even remotely near where he wants to live and seeing no way to improve any of this and you have a fantastic recipe for some intense, long-term depression.

So slowly I rebuilt, inch-by-inch. One foot in front of the other. Through the concerted efforts of multiple doctors and medications, tons of support from my family and a few close friends that never wavered, I was able to take two steps forward with each step back and managed to squeak out a little progress. I went from doing anything being too much to able to control my activities and in turn regulate my symptoms. The learning curve was huge. I had to deconstruct myself, learn how to do nothing. The first thing I did when I went out on disability was set my DVR to record General Hospital, a daytime soap I was into in college. I knew a significant amount of TV watching was in my future, and this is when my love affair with the television began. She has been a good friend to me through these last few years. Kept me company, kept me in the know. She has babysat me, laughed with me, cried with me, distracted me and focused me. She is always willing to engage and ready to hang-out and displays endlessly amusing reels of footage.

While I was on disability I elected to avoid narcotics. I had a prescription for Percocet that I never filled and just kinda lived with the pain. I had been down that road and hated the feeling and feared dependency. I was so exhausted all the time I was really just lying around feeling miserable and sorry for myself, anyway. My anxiety was insane and my expectations for life being constantly challenged and adjusted. I was in a state of flux. What was going to happen to me? Was I ever going to get better? What was my life going to be about? It's like I had to become okay with watching the dishes and laundry and dust pile up around me, I had no choice and fighting it only made it worse. And all the while, living in the background, is the reality that no firm diagnosis was ever given. No real problem identified. Only this vague cluster of symptoms and a looming diagnosis of exclusion. So while my world is crumbling down all around me, floating around in the back (and often front) of my mind was the doubt that what I was going through was even actually real. It was horrible. Awful. Supremely difficult.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

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