Monday, May 10, 2010
Carrying the Beach
Biting off more than I could chew used to be a hobby of mine. I carried on a very full life at work back in the late 90s and the early part of this millennium. Working in a high-powered career for an international company, I ran a department full of men. In 2001, I published my first engineering book; I published another in 2002. All of this was occurring while I was dealing with my daughter's mental illness and general rebellion. It was all going on while I dealt with my growing unrest and eventual one-year separation from my husband. Even with all of that going on, I found time to write. I have always been a writer and poet. Lately, though, nothing comes easy.
Back in those days, I even went back to school. I completed my bachelor's degree at the tender age of 44, and I proudly marched across that stage, though my daughter chose not to attend. I started grad school just before she died. I was rocked to my core but I finished the semester. I'll never know how I got through. Friends and family were there for me, but I was on auto-pilot.
Since Stephanie died, my life has been shattered and scattered like the fragments of a broken glass. The guilt I carry around all the time is like those suits they put on the people in the final weeks of "The Biggest Loser"; all that weight they lost gets put back on them in the form of sandbags or buckets of water. I'm carrying around a beach worth of guilt.
It might be post-traumatic stress disorder, as Denise thinks. She's been through the loss of someone very dear to her in a traumatic way (her father was robbed and murdered at his store in 2000). I think she may have something there. What I and my son and ex have gone through is nothing short of traumatic.
I won't burden you, my readers, with everything that has been happening to me, but I'll tell you that I've had to make a few changes.
First off, I've had to face up to my own struggle with bipolar disorder. In me, it mostly manifests itself as very low lows. I don't tend to have the manic episodes, just times when I feel better than others, a little euphoria and chattiness. After those come the crashes. It's been far worse since Stephanie died. I was managing alright on a low dose of medication before she died; now I've had to double it. The new psychiatrist told me that if one parent has bipolar disorder, the chances of a child having it are increased to 25% - a huge jump, statistically speaking. So my mother passed it to me, and I passed it to my child. She suffered far more than I. She had psychotic episodes beginning at age 14. Voices told her she was bad and that no one loved her. Voices told her to hurt herself. She would cut herself to silence them. Sometimes she would attempt suicide.
I understand so much more now. I only wish God would give me another chance with her. Despite my best efforts, she is gone anyway.
In addition to the change in medication, I've had to accept that I do not have the focus nor boundless energy I once had. School has proven (at least this particular program) to be too much too soon for me. After a long cry Friday night, I had to admit that it was not the right time and maybe not the right program for me. Were I back at my old school, I believe I could do it. Online learning takes many more hours of reading and research than does face-to-face learning, and this particular program is poorly designed. Were I in better shape, I might be able to do it anyway. In the old days, the old me could have done this. The changed me is shaken by it all.
My life has changed in so many ways. I am living with the love of my life and getting ready to sign those papers with the ex. I am living without my daughter who was the center focus of our family for so long; she needed us. I am living away from my son, though I see him as often as possible. And I am facing my future with uncertainty and a profoundly changed view of what is important. If online grad school means that I don't have time for my love, my son, and my own peace, then what does it do for me, really? Wouldn't I rather spend my time with those I love, writing my books and poetry as a way to give back? Wouldn't I rather work on unloading these sandbags, a grain at a time, until the burden is lessened?
I keep coming back to these questions, and the answer is always yes. Unequivocally, yes. After all, you never know when that last grain of sand means the hourglass is empty. It can happen to any of us at any time. I don't want my last thought to be, "Why did I spend so much time buried in work when I could have been immersed in life?"
It's worth thinking about.
Peace - D