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Friday, Darwin is leaving for a conference. He'll be gone for a week. This is the longest we've been apart since we got married. (The second-longest was when I stayed in the hospital for three days.) Neither of us is looking forward to this aspect of his trip.

However, I decided to take advantage. Max will be at his mother's the weekend Darwin leaves, so I can take a trip, too. A change of scene might help buck the depression. But where to go? After some consideration, I settled on Chicago. It's close enough to drive (making the travel cheaper), I know the city a little, and there's lots to do.

I can also do exactly what I want to do, eat where I want to eat, see what I want to see, without worrying about anyone else's wants or needs. I can be self-centered for a few days.

I scared up a place to stay on AirBnB, which is still cheaper than a hotel. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do. I always like to have an idea of what I'm going to see and do, though I also build flexibility into my schedule. Any ideas, folks? The Willis (Sears) Tower might be fun again, and I always like the aquarium and the boardwalk, but what else?

And I'm taking my bike. I have a bike rack on the car, and with a bike, I can park the vehicle and not worry about finding a new spot. Chicago traffic being what it is, biking will be faster than walking in a lot of places. A perfect idea!

So I'm running away for a weekend.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
I'm running faster these days. My treadmill has a speed scale of 1 to 10, and while I don't know how fast 10 is, I know it's faster than I can handle for more than a couple seconds. Usually I start out walking at 3.5 for a couple minutes, then speed up to 5 over the course of another couple minutes, then go faster until I hit 5.8 or 6.

But lately I've been rushing past 5 and into 6, finishing at 6.7 or even 7. I'm flying! Yesterday, I got up to 7.5 and pushed up to 8 for a minute or two before cooling down.

I'm trying to outrun the trauma. I hope it'll work, eventually. It's certainly helping my physical health.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Last week was all mountains and valleys. One moment I was fine. Hell, I was =great=. My weight went down below 200, and I celebrated. I was getting together lesson plans for teaching THE COLOR PURPLE (a new unit for me), and it was awesome. I went running in a warm rainstorm, and it was cool!

A few minutes later, the hospital visit would come crashing back down on me. Memories of the pain; the splayed, helpless posture; the gun=shaped instrument the doctor shoved into my urethra and waggled back and forth. I obsess over details, poring over medical statements and lab reports to glean clues about what happened to me while I was unconscious. I also discovered the cardiologist who ran a thousand tests on my heart and reported everything as completely normal, diagnosed me as having "an abnormal EKG," along with a hospital code for "short QT syndrome." Now I have to get hold of his office to find out what's going on.

After I completed the x-ray and the 24-hour urine sample (which I had to FedEx to the lab, a whole process by itself), I called the urologist's office. Did I still need to come in to get the other two stones removed? I realized I was secretly, deeply hoping the answer would be "no," that I had managed to pass the stones without noticing. I told myself this was extremely unlikely--the stones are four and five millimeters, not something that would exit easily or without pain. But I still hoped.

The receptionist said she would have to get hold of the doctor and call me back to answer.

I waited all day, trying not to obsess, and failing. By the next day, there was no call. Finally I called again. The receptionist--a different one--checked the computer and said that I did need to make an appointment for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). "The scheduling service will call you," she said.

"Will it require sedation?" I asked.

"Not full sedation," she said. "More like a twilight state."

And that was that. But I hadn't realized how much I'd been hoping everything was over until I hung up the phone and started to shake. The disappointment was enormous. More than anything, I didn't want to go back to that building for more anesthesia, more people poking and prodding and staring.

I'm going to press for Darwin to be in the room while the procedure takes place. It will make me feel better. He's agreed to it.

That evening at 5:15, I came up from the basement and discovered a voice mail from the urologist's office on my phone. They had called a few seconds ago. A pang went through me, but also hope. Maybe they were calling to say doctor had reviewed the x-ray and seen the stones were gone. I called back and got a recording that the office closed at 5:00, please call again later. Oh, I was upset. Why had they called me and left a message I couldn't return?

Again, I tried not to obsess all night and failed. I watched endless videos of ESWL procedures on YouTube, and couldn't make myself stop. The first thought I had when I woke up in the morning was of the procedure and images of me lying naked and semi-conscious on the table. Maybe I could get out of it!

The morning crawled by. Finally I got a chance to call the office. "Oh yes," the receptionist said, "the doctor ordered ESWL for you. The scheduling service will call later."

It was just crossed wires. The office hadn't made a note that I had called them the first time, so I was still on the list of people to get hold of.

A few hours later, the scheduling service called. I could come in November 3 or November 22, which is the day before Thanksgiving. Now, last year I went in for gall bladder surgery during Thanksgiving week. I had to go through a rigor-morale of bureaucratic crap--doctors notes, forms, emailed statements--to "prove" to the school district that I really was going in for surgery and not just skiving off during a holiday weekend. The surgery also left me bed-ridden and wiped out Thanksgiving. Not again. Also, I just wanted to get it over with. So November 3 it was.

The scheduler rattled off a long list of instructions--the surgeon's office would call the night before with an exact time, nothing to eat the night before (even though I wasn't being put fully under--pff!), no blood-thinning medications the week before, and so on. Then she hung up.

I shook again for several minutes. I can't seem to help that, either.

One small plus, I suppose. A different doctor will perform the ESWL, and it's a man. This makes me feel a little better. I know it shouldn't bother me that the urologist who did all the other procedures was a woman, but it does. I'm going to see about changing to him permanently after all this is over. The other urologist was perfectly nice, but the wiring in my head can't get passed the fact that she's a woman pulling and hauling and doing painful things to intimate parts of me, and it ties my stomach into writhing knots. That's just the way it is.

Writing this blog ties my stomach into knots, too. I'm pushing through it as a way to confront it. Will it work? Dunno. I process my world in words, so that's what I'm doing.

I keep trying to climb the mountains so I can enjoy being on the peak, even if it's only temporary. The problem is, I sabotage myself. I get to a high, and then think, "But this is only temporary. You're going to hurt in a minute. Watch this!" And my mind sends me another hospital image.

Working on it. Working on it.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Last week I started running again, for the first time since the Great Hospital Debacle.

The previous time I had surgery (November of last year), I couldn't run for about two months. I spent a lot of time sitting, which meant a gained weight, weight that I couldn't seem to shake even after I started running again. It was still with me when I had surgery again this year.

But after this latest trip to the hospital, I lost a chunk of weight because anxiety kept me from eating. I decided to take advantage of this and keep going. When the awful stent was removed and I could move without pain, I climbed back on the treadmill.

I wondered if I'd lost my previous fitness. You'll remember that my resting pulse rate is in the low 50s, which panicked the hospital into running a dozen tests on my heart and putting a pissant heart monitor on me for three days even after the tests came back normal. It was my punishment for all the running. But when you stop running, your fitness level tends to drop quickly.

For my first run, I told myself not to push. However, I found myself accelerating fairly quickly and almost reached my normal pace, which peaks at speed 6 out of 10 on my treadmill. (I have no idea how fast this is in MPH.)

I decided I was going to run more. My previous goal was to run at least four times per week, five whenever possible. I punched the goal up to running every day. So far, I've only missed one.

Now, two weeks after I started back up, I regularly push past speed 6 and peak at speed 6.5. Today, I hit 7. I want to do more of that. Running and staring at a TV show lets me escape the wyrms that chews my mind for a while. And I've lost eight pounds. My goal is to lose 10 more, then see if I want to keep going. I've found that I can focus on "lose 10 pounds for now" better than I can focus on "lose 20 pounds overall." So that's what I'm doing.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
My previous entry on dealing with post-operation depression was a little dark, to say the least, but it needed to be said.

I'm moving forward. Monday night at the Untitled Writers Group meeting was a case in point.

This was the first meeting I'd attended since the hospital--another sore point for me. I despise missing writers group and become angry when I can't go. The anger was made even worse because my absence was caused by an outside force that ripped me out of the group for a month without my consent. I was supposed to be critiqued at the first meeting I missed, and on the novel that I now can't write, and all this pushed me further into the mess of resentment, fear, and self-blame over all these events.

The group had held my manuscript over, so at my return, I was to receive critiques on it. I was both nervous and unnerved. Right now, I tend divide my life into BEFORE and AFTER the hospital. BEFORE was when my life was normal. AFTER is when my life changed. This manuscript had been written BEFORE, and I wasn't sure how I'd take a critique on it. I've been a member of this group for decades now, and I hadn't been this nervous since my very first meeting.

Before the meeting started, one of the members asked how things had been going with me post-hospital, and I told them. (These are extremely close friends, and over the years, most of our secrets have been revealed to each other in one way or another.) As you might expect, this made me feel a little better. I talk about these things with Darwin and my counselor, but talking to a group of writers made a difference.

Then the group members gave the critique. It was over a set of chapters in my WIP, and the section was a departure for me--some of the chapters were in prose, and others were written as an epistolary (in letters). It went well, and I handled it just fine, which was a further relief.

And then . . .

The

David, one of the members, In his critique, he mused it might be worth exploring the idea of writing the entire novel as an epistolary. In my response, I said the idea has merit, but would mean a tremendous amount of work 50,000 words in, so it wasn't something I'd probably try.

And then I walked outside.

Lenny (my counselor) takes an exercise approach to therapy. He gave me a number of activities and exercises to do that he hopes might help. When I told him about losing my writing and how terrified it made me (a lot of my identity is tied to my work), he suggested that I try writing stuff I knew would never go anywhere--pieces of a short story, character sketches, descriptive scenes. This might jog my writing forward by "proving" to myself that I can still do it. The trouble with that approach is that I've always hated writing exercises because they take up what little writing time I get each day for something that I know I'll just trash, so I didn't do anything with Lenny's suggestion. The stress of doing a writing exercise would only make things worse, not better.

Then David made his suggestion in group. And outside on the front sidewalk, it occurred to me that changing earlier sections of the novel into epistles could be the exercise Lenny suggested. It would be an exercise I could do as an exploration of a new facet of the book. If I decide it doesn't work, I'm fine with it because it was an experiment on the current work, and I would learn this idea isn't worth exploring--and I explore new facets of a book all the time with material that doesn't always go anywhere. If it DOES work, I've improved the book. Either way, it's a win.

So I'll try that and see what happens.

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