Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

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Taking a Break from Caregiving

13256291_10209796703980001_3438453961952806348_nFortunately for me, I now live only 2 hours from my brother, rather than half way across the country. Visits no longer require advance planning, plane tickets, and scheduled vacation time away from the office. Instead, it’s just a short hop on a lot of 2-lane roads.

After 7 months of living with my dad, I was ready for a break. I lived alone for my entire professional life and it’s not always easy to have someone around all the time. I prepared food, wrote out menus, did laundry and took care of house things. Then I made our family coffee cake traditionally made for gatherings, loaded up Tessie (who was none too happy about it), and headed out for two days off.

My niece and her two small children were visiting from Colorado and won’t be back until Christmas, so this was a chance to see them. Children change so quickly and the little guy is already starting to pull himself up. His big sister is smart as a whip and I so enjoyed making cookies and playing with her.

But I also really needed the time alone out on the front porch in the quiet of a rainy day, watching deer out in the pasture and grateful for the solitude. It can be lonely, being on your own, but for me, it’s restorative. My brother and I had some good conversations about Dad’s health and future planning. He’s in good shape now but at 88, anything could happen at any time. I’m glad that my brother and I see eye to eye on next steps.

Coming home was difficult. Tessie meowed almost the whole way, which is seriously annoying. Dad’s first comment was, “How many phones do we have? I can only find 3.” Gee, nice to see you, too. I’ve been impatient and stressed, and yesterday ended up with a wicked full-blown cold/sinus problem and feel as though an elephant is sitting on my chest. Okay, maybe just a cat. But still.

I want more space than I can have here, emotional space. It’s clear to me that taking time off for myself, including having Dad spend time away so I can be alone, is imperative to my long-term health and sanity. I don’t regret my decision to move here but sometimes I’m just losing who I am.

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Coming Home

Blowing noseI can breathe easily right now for the first time in 10 days, as I sit in my chair surrounded by a small pile of used tissues and cough drop wrappers.  I haven’t been feeling great for the last few weeks and have been self-dosing with Sudafed, Flonase, Mucinex, and the icky Neti-pot, not to mention Tylenol, but they didn’t do the trick.

Having had a history of sinus infections and two sinus surgeries, I knew it was time to get help (ie. drugs) and finally went to Urgent Care on Thursday to tell them I had a sinus infection and needed antibiotics.  That took about 20 minutes; waiting for the meds took another hour.

But it takes more than two days to actually feel better and yesterday didn’t help.  I went up to Boston with some colleagues for a regional meeting and it was fun, but it also meant waking up at 4:30am to wake up and then drive 3 hours up and back for a 6 hour meeting.  I probably would have gotten more out of it if I hadn’t been coughing and blowing my nose most of the time.  Oops. So today I just slept until I woke up and took things easy.  Tomorrow will be the same.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve been back to Boston since moving here sixteen months ago.  Driving through Newton we saw the gorgeous “painted ladies”, those old Victorian homes with the intricate gingerbread trimming, sitting surrounded by trees in reds and golds.  Comm Ave had changed, too, with more trees and greenery down by BU, something that was in the works when I left.  And the law school had changed as well, in some small ways (paint, public area art choices) and renovated library space. I got to see all but one of my former staff members, but only for a few minutes while on a break from the meeting, and got lots of big hugs.

It was very weird to be back.  I took my colleagues on a tour and kept saying “our” and “we” when referring to my old department, which I didn’t even notice doing.  Seventeen years is a long time to be in a place, though, and it was understandable.

But it wasn’t home.  Boston and BUSL weren’t home anymore.  The amount of traffic made me claustrophobic and I was relieved to finally get on the Pike and head west, even though we still had Friday traffic all the way.  I was glad to get back to my smaller world here, to my spacious apartment and waiting kitty, to open spaces and smaller roads and a different pace.

Life is good.  When the antibiotics kick in, it will be even better.


Sick on Saturday

Tonight I can almost swallow with minimal pain and sort of breathe through my congested head, big improvements over yesterday and earlier today.  I came home from DC with a very sore throat and aching head, signs of a cold that was going to the next level.  Yesterday I stayed home from work and slept for long hours and a nap mid-day, which made the kitty happy but didn’t help a lot.

This morning I went to Urgent Care – yes, I know, hard to believe – and confirmed that it’s a sinus infection. Turns out the nurse practitioner is someone I see every day on the bus, which made it more personal, and now I have antibiotics which should start to work soon.  After a quick stop at the grocery store, since my house had almost nothing in it, I’ve spent the day being quiet and blowing my nose.

And I did some medical research, which is not always a good thing.  Sometimes too much knowledge gets in the way.  My gynecologist left me a message that there were abnormalities in my annual pap smear, so now we’re going to follow up with a pelvic ultrasound and endometrial biopsy.  It’s probably nothing and even if it is, they can deal with it.  My mind, however, has gone to cancer and hysterectomies and a feeling of great loneliness that I will be facing it alone.  Oh, I have a big network of supportive friends but right here, in the physical world, it’s a bit different.  Let’s just hope I can get the tests done quickly so I know what I’m dealing with.

Sinus infections are easier.

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Train ride coming home

Amtrak travelMy sociability is exhausted after spending 6 days surrounded by people and being “on” from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. I love this conference and the chance to see old friends and meet new ones – but I really am looking forward to being home and quiet with the kitty. No lines for a bathroom, no crowds in the hall, no eating out every meal with different combinations of people.

Right now I’m on the train en route between DC and CT and this is definitely not the quiet car. There’s a woman behind me who’s been chattering in loud Spanish on her cell phone off and on for the last three hours. The two seats ahead of me are occupied by Rachel and Amy, who are dissecting relationships and using the word “like” at least every four words. I want to strangle them and am longing for the iPod, which I left behind in an effort to not take everything I own on this trip.

I’ve been going to this event for 16 years, since the very first conference, and there are just a few of us who have that longevity. And at one point I was program chair and even chair of the organization. Now I just feel so tired and a bit depressed to see how out of touch I am with the technology changes and energy levels of the folks who are doing presentations. I don’t have a job where dreaming of big things in a systems sense really happens, so even if I wanted to propose a program, I wouldn’t know what would be interesting when my work feels so low-tech.

Yeah, I’m a little depressed and sad. I miss being important and part of an active, dynamic team – even as I know I don’t have the skill set, knowledge base or really interest in doing it again even if I had the chance to. It’s not helping that my feet are swollen up like water balloons, my knee is sore, and most annoying, my head feels as though it’s about to explode and the throat hurts when I swallow. I’ll be fine when I’m home in my own space, cuddling up with my kitty, and have a few days to rest and recover.

…. Rachel and Amy got off the train and were replaced by Sarah, who worked her way through a list of potential donors for a charity auction. I know more about all of it than I ever wanted to know.


I have a bottomless box of tissues

Blowing noseI have been self-medicating for two days, trying to get the best of this cold. It’s not working. Today’s plan was to go to work for half a day for some necessary training and then head home and crawl into bed for a long nap. Instead, as per usual, I spent the whole day in the office and left after 5:30. Sometimes I wonder about myself.

One of the things my ENT always told me to do when I had colds or sinus problems was to use Ocean Spray saline solution up my nose several times a day to keep everything moist. So I have bottles of the stuff in the medicine cabinet and at my desk and use it often. Unlike other kinds of sprays, this has no medication in it so it doesn’t mess up your tissues.

I also picked up a package of Zicam this morning, hoping that it will behave as advertised and shorten my cold by a few days. Who knew there were so many variations? – one to dissolve in the mouth, one to chew, one to squirt around your mouth, and another one I already forgot. Maybe more; that’s what was on the shelf at the drug store this morning, helpfully on sale. I got the “dissolve in your mouth” kind and they taste terrible but by noon time, the cold that had been settling in my throat and chest had moved up to just my head. I’m not sure this was an improvement.

I now have gone through a complete box of tissues and am making great inroads in two more. I have them in every room and can’t venture more than a few feet without tissues in my hand because my nose seems to be running like a faucet. Being a connoisseur of tissues, Puffs are the only brand I use because they really ARE softer on my nose. At the rate I’m going, it will be rubbed raw anyway and I need all the help I can get.

My voice is sounding kind of weird and rather frog-like and I can feel the cold moving around between my chest, throat, and head and back again. My one hope is not to develop a sinus infection, something that used to be standard practice for me at least once every winter. So far, so good. The nifty humidifier is doing its best but the air is very dry inside and bitter cold outside and all I want to do is crawl into bed with the toasty flannel sheets and electric blanket, put on the CPAP machine with built in humidifier, and keep a box of Puffs handy just in case they’re needed before morning.

And it’s back on the hamster-wheel to do it all over again tomorrow.