Monthly Archives: February 2015

Going Forward, Not Backward

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I detailed the horror of my last dental appointment here, exactly a month ago. Today I was due to go back and either reject it and not pay for it or keep it and pay $318 for the privilege. Often, prior to a healthcare appointment, I have carefully crafted a script of what I want to say. Then, upon arriving, the script dissolves into the culturally approved people-pleasing and acquiescence to the provider’s perceived higher status and I end up leaving feeling like I failed yet again.

Today’s script went this way:

Me: “I considered never coming back after what happened last time. I need you to understand that for me, having EDS means that over and over again a solution is offered (Physical Therapy, drugs, etc) and instead of it helping, I come away injured and set back. This experience makes it that much harder for me to trust that anyone can help me, and that much more worn out from trying.”

And, here’s what I ended up saying:

Me: “I considered never coming back after what happened last time. I need you to understand that for me, having EDS means that over and over again a solution is offered (Physical Therapy, drugs, etc) and instead of it helping, I come away injured and set back. This experience makes it that much harder for me to trust that anyone can help me, and that much more worn out from trying.”

High five to myself. My dentist was sorry and only slightly defensive. I pointed out that I was not criticizing anyone on his staff, I was simply noting that I am a very different patient than what they normally work with, and it is much harder to successfully treat me, and I needed him to hear and understand how it feels to be me interacting with health care. And, I think he did, I think he understood and that we can go forward, and maybe I’ve educated him just a bit about what it’s like to be the unusual person with the paper towel around their neck and an appliance stuck in their mouth.

I paid for the thing, and he didn’t give me another bottle of wine, but mostly I think we’re okay, and I’m not sitting here feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to speak my mind calmly and reasonably. It’s a wee victory, meaningful only to me, but I’ll take it.

The Facade

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“You look lovely this morning,” my husband said as I was finishing getting dressed. “Thanks,” I said, “It’s how I pretend that I feel good.”

Part of me feels like that’s quite the attention-seeking statement, because I am highly allergic to attention seeking. I attract, like moths to flame, people who are pathological attention-seekers and who would squeeze me into the tiniest corner in the tiniest room in the tiniest place in the world in order to demand all possible attention. Thus, my own sense of what is appropriate in terms of one’s need for attention is flawed the other way; I learned to take pride in being stuffed into that tiny corner. For example, there are some very stressful things going on in my and my husband’s respective familes right now, but when my co-worker said that I seemed really down, was everything okay? I was initially uncomfortable and then critical of myself that I let anything show. I have done enough work on my life that I was able to reply that I am very stressed and sad about some family issues instead of what my training as tiny would instruct, which would be to insist that I was okay, or, short of that, that I am simply “tired.”

It’s normal, it’s normal, it’s normal to sometimes show your personal emotional state on your face and in your limbs and voice. But I cringe away, fearing I will become the sort of monster that I have spent much of my life trying to separate from, even as more and more of them are attracted to me. Sometimes I feel like I have to shovel away the piles of narcissistic screams and demands just to get out to my car. I can’t say anything on Facebook without someone jumping in and taking over, I can’t go anywhere without being asked first about someone else’s situation instead of my own, more of my time is spent talking to my mother about someone else’s issues instead of mine. These are all things I work very hard at balancing so that I don’t find myself stuffed into that little corner; or at least so that I haven’t agreed to stay in that corner so that other people can shout over me.

My Facade is part of that; I don’t want anyone today to look at me and think, “She looks like she spent 45 minutes in the bathroom due to a huge IBS/Mast Cell flare-up and can’t stop scratching her legs and is deeply freaked.” One thing I’ve learned is that people do not look closely at other people for the most part.There are those of us who are keenly observant and empathetic who *do* look at other people closely enough to be able to pick up on their cues, but that is not most people. So if I have on a great outfit and makeup and my (currently, newly dyed) green hair, nobody is going to watch more closely to see how much I am wringing my hands because they hurt or rubbing my wrists or privately despairing that my gut will ever work properly and panicking at every gurgle or pop that I will experience intestinal betrayal while away from home. They don’t notice that my husband and child hold nearly every door open for me, they don’t notice my good friend gripping my elbow if she and I are walking over rough terrain.

Just as it is unhealthy to seek attention at all costs, it’s also unhealthy to refuse to admit that one isn’t perfectly perfect all the time. Having been in a life-long, tremendously unhealthy relationship with someone who is pathologically unable to stop demanding all the attention, I can tell you that the day I began to speak up in even the slightest bit, the response was furious and uncontrolled and savage. How dare I demand anything when my issues could never, ever, top the other person’s? Because it’s not a contest. Still, my reactionary position is to avoid ever doing anything that might engender other people to compare me to that person. So, if someone is wildly, exaggeratedly sick, I must present myself as entirely well. But that can’t work as a long-term strategy. Part of writing this blog is, for me, about staking out a bigger space where there is some room for me and I won’t be pushed back into a corner.

It’s unlikely that you’ll see a picture of me without makeup, unwashed and wearing the clothes I slept in, but it’s at least a place where I can say that I don’t feel well, I have pain, I am anxious. Even though I look nice.

Mostly, except.

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In order to preserve my energy and space it’s important to try to stay grounded in Now, and look away as much as possible from the Past and the Future. Of course that is easy to say and hard to do. For the most part, I look down when I walk, never looking much ahead or behind, because I that is how I end up falling down. I had no idea that walking could also involve looking around without also resulting in crashing to the ground, having rolled an ankle on a pebble or a crack in the sidewalk. It’s sort of like that; keep my eyes on what I am doing.

A huge trap for me is starting a thought that goes this way, “X amount of time ago, this activity was easy for me, and here I am, 45 years old and this task is now really hard for me and that is ridiculous.” Yes, it used to be that I could haul loads of clothes on hangers back and forth all day, push heavy clothes here and there on racks, lug boxes and organize clothes with no ill effects. That I knew of. But now I can’t. Tying what I can and cannot do to my age is also pointless. I’m 45 and I’m still not an Olympic athlete, either, but what’s my point? I want to do more than I can, and I can do less than I could previously. The next thought in that chain is about the Future, “How long am I even going to be able to do this job? Next week? Two years? Five? Why do I have to give this job up?” Right now, I am still able to do my job effectively and well, albeit with some accommodations that allow me to save myself for the things that I am an expert in, which is not putting heavy object A on rack B.

Today we did a lot of work in our stock, and it was hard. Three hours on my feet, moving clothing, pushing it hither and yon, starting to move a rack and then stopping myself and throwing a 20-year-old at it. My co-worker worrying that I was carrying too many things (probably right, I conceded, and grabbed a 20 year old). Me wanting to just be able to Do. It. But also trying to recognize that I *am* doing my job in using my expertise to determine how to organize and decommission stock, so that then someone less skilled can do the lifting and hauling. It’s a balancing act.

For me, then, it’s really better to keep looking down.

So What If I’m Not Sure Why

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The spouse and I had a dust up night before last. I’m a Leo, so my position on a fight is sorta, kinda, well……enthusiastic? I’m not afraid of marital conflict, properly managed or even a little wild if it means a problem will be solved and I can look forward to a New & Different Fight the next time. I’m up for some air clearing and maybe some lovely post-fight making out (this has Never. Ever. Happened. in 18 years of marriage, there is no post fight love fest).

On the other side is the fact that I married a Capricorn. A denying Capricorn who prefers charged, miserable silences to actually bringing the issue out in the open and poking it with sticks until it blows up. I over analyze and review and claim knowledge and he plugs his ears and covers his eyes and runs away as I run straight toward the inferno (which he claims doesn’t even exist to begin with). “My hair is on fire!” “No it’s not, it’s raining, you are so overly dramatic.”

Like probably every-damn-one else who is married, we fight about the same thing over and over again. We dress it up in different outfits, initiate it around different acts, but it always boils down to he is too quiet and disconnected and I am too intense and attached. The problem with being the Leo is that the emotional person always loses, because they are always starved for attachment, whereas the Capricorn believes they can stand solitude for as long as it takes to break the Leo; which on average is about five minutes.

I’ve been really working out over the years and I can now do Not Speaking for up to 24 hours, which is way better than the 30 seconds I used to be able to do it before caving and taking all blame for argument just please please please love me again please okay at least talk to me or I will just order ice cream for you in whatever flavor I feel like. I will never get to the Olympian level of, say, being comfortable with it; but I can manage it now without becoming a complete basket case. Sometimes I like the first few hours, when I am still suffused with righteous indignation and can keep myself warm with that. I comfort myself with thoughts of how, a few young wives and many years later, he’ll realize he truly loved only me all along, but I’ll be too busy with my bisexual cabana boy to care about his broken heart (there’s like, at least, eleventy billion Country Western songs about this very topic, amirite?). My cabana boy is Hank Azaria, just so we’re clear.

So, the typical fight script is me demanding that he talk to me about The Issue and him refusing to talk to me until I become so irrationally angry that I say something about his mother and he leaves and then sleeps on the couch most of the night. I let the dog sleep with me, wherein she takes up 2/3 of the Tempurpedic, snores and farts all night. Who’s the winner, man, who. is. the. winner? This time, though, I went all atypical because instead of shouting and following him around screaming, I started crying. Like a faucet.

In case you’re thinking that this is where everything changed for the better and he took me in his arms and we had amazing make-up sexy times and then renewed our vows, that is not what happened. What happened was that the unemotional Capricorn felt that the reason for crying was invalid. “It isn’t about the reason!!!” I wailed, slinging snot, “It’s just that I’m upset!!” Like a tennis (shit, judge? referee?) he was dedicated to an internal rule book that stated that one cannot cry unless one has a reason that is cited in the Laws Governing Marriage Between Goats and Lions as being legitimate. “You can’t judge the quality of my crying!” I cried, wiping my lip and again wiping my hand on my pants because he was not going to hand me a tissue (the Laws indicate that handing the weeping woman a tissue would invite the perception of validation of the crying, which is against the Code of Stubborn Husbands).

Thus we entered the second ring, the Fight-Within-A-Fight. “You’re crying about THE DOG ON THE COUCH?” he demands, and I snuffle through swollen lips, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT TOUCHED IT OFF, IT MATTERS THAT I’M CRYING!!!!!!!” Pause. “The Dog on the COUCH?” he says again, “THE DOG ON THE COUCH IS WHY THIS IS HAPPENING?” He stands up now, spreading his arms in incredulous fashion. I am concerned that if I look his way, I will see a TV audience agreeing that I am hysterical and also grossly snotted. I say, “YOU CAN’T JUDGE PEOPLE FOR CRYING!!!” He storms off, but he is confused. Usually storming happens because my head has started spinning round and I’m vomiting up every offense ever committed in the entire marriage. But, that’s not happening, I’m just sitting there sobbing.

The Fight-Within-A-Fight generally has to be abandoned, unless one is under the age of 25 and staying up the entire night still sounds like a reasonable approach. We are older than that, so we both know that if we wait long enough, one or both of us will fall asleep, ending the evening’s events until the next day, when we will not have slept well and will be willing to accept aggressive not-speaking as a fallback position. Which is kind of what ended up happening, except that one of us got up with grotesquely swollen eyes and had to use a lot of makeup to become even remotely presentable for work.