Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Change in Plans

I was supposed to go this morning to Connecticut to have lunch with my mother. I called her last week to cancel a meeting we should have had last Tuesday. Today is our rescheduled time, and she now calls me and asks to cancel because she is recovering from a cold. What choice do I have other than to be gracious?

I had my alarm clock set. I dressed up nice. I steeled myself for the hour and a half drive. I gave myself extra time before I left to put gas in the car and buy coffee. It is lucky I saw her phone message before I got on the highway. It is just so disorientating. I was looking forward to being with people and socializing. I did not do the usual mental preparation that psyches me into painting. Now with my morning free what I should be doing is painting. But what I want to do is to go down to the local McDonalds with an art book, hang out drinking diet coke, and look at pictures. That is what lonely people do, isn't it? That is so typical a behavior for a person with a mental illness.

I canceled last week because I could not imagine doing all the tasks that it would take to adhere to the schedule of the day. Not only was lunch with my mother and my best friend planned, but afterwards I was to walk my friend to the hospital, sit in the waiting room while she had her mammogram appointment, park the car where there is available parking one and a half miles from her apartment, walk to her apartment, and then watch movies late into the night. The next morning typically I buy her breakfast and then drive home to Vermont.

I could imagine the driving, the lunch, and maybe keeping her company at the doctor's visit, but that walk from the car to her apartment, I was afraid my legs would fail me. Not that my legs are weak. My work-out on the treadmill is one hour and fifteen minutes long, with 25 minutes of that jogging. It makes me sweat, I cover a distance of three miles. What I was afraid would fail was my willpower. When I get over stimulated I withdraw. Usually the withdraw is completely physical, I lie in bed under the covers. I was afraid that by doing too much I would trigger my illness and that it would slow and impede my physical abilities. My friend has no car. I could see myself forcing myself to walk, and then back at her apartment, collapsing into a little ball and wordlessly rocking back and forth.

I have a memory, of when I was on a weaker medication regimen, of not being able to get out of a car. I was so mentally exhausted, it was the middle of the day, and I could not talk. I was sick with schizophrenia and in order to communicate with my boyfriend I had to write the letters of the words that I meant to say in the palm of his hand. He did not know whether or not to call an ambulance, because he could not carry, or drag, me from the car to the house. What he did is he drove me to the emergency room. By then I was catatonic, unable to talk, make eye contact or move at all. They stripped me of my clothes, talking over me as though I did not exist. Since they did not really know what was wrong with me or what to expect from me they handcuffed me to the side of a bed and left the bed in an emergency room corridor. Strangers walked by me but it was quiet. I rested and gradually regained self control. I remember that I needed desperately to pee, and communicating this became my most important concern. Once I could talk and move the hospital saw no reason to keep me. My boyfriend had been anxiously waiting in the emergency room lobby.

At that time in my life I often carried medication with me to avoid just such an episode. I don't know why I didn't have that medication with me on that day. I had two tablets, one was a fast acting narcotic that would relax me and sooth me. Then there was the antipsychotic pill that took a little longer to act, that would completely banish horrible thoughts and return my emotional balance for the long term. The narcotic took away the pain of the illness and made the world feel safe, the antipsychotic fully returned me into the control of me. My only regret was that the antispychotic made my head feel fuzzy and blank. I like feeling sharp and aware. Too much of this drug kept me in a stupor. That is probably why I did not take it on a regular basis, or if I did, it was infrequent, like every other day. If, last week, I had gone to Connecticut and engaged in a busy schedule, that resulted in me curling up into a little ball and rocking, I would have had with me my pills, and I would have taken pills to bring me into line with more normal behavior. I just don't like pushing myself to the point where the pills are necessary.

Yesterday my husband said that since I have been dieting and working out on the treadmill he comes home from work to find me freshly showered and sick in bed. I am more this way than before. He said he wished that he could give me a tummy tuck. I said I don't want a tummy tuck. And then I realized that he meant gastric bypass surgery. A co-worker who was obese had the surgery and now Mike says that he is as thin as he is and bounces around the office with the energy of a young basketball player. Mike is seeing that the extra energy I spend on exercising is depleting me mentally. Perhaps restricting food and enduring hunger is depleting as well. It used to be my day was organized by reading news on the internet, painting, maybe or maybe not taking a shower, and watching a movie. Now I still read the news on the internet, paint, but then exercise and take a mandatory shower. I manage my life well in this world but I am given meager portions to work with. One more thing added to the list of what I must do for the day topples me over. I have learned from experience that I can paint and exercise two days in a row, but by the third day I feel strange and lifeless, and usually skip the exercise.

I don't know what I can accomplish today. Probably I will spend an hour in bed after making this post, sipping coffee or closing my eyes against a pillow. Being so weak, and aimless, makes me feel like one of the damned. The present moments are a bit of a nightmare and hope for the future is weak. Don't the damned have nothing to look forward to? They feel responsible to repeat their acts of contrition, which are tormentative. For the damned the present is the same and the future is more of the same. I don't know when I will attain the willpower to change my current course. If I do nothing, I am nothing. I'm not physically suffering. However, I endure feelings of non-existence. My mind isn't working right. Without your mind, who are you? Rest is never, in the beginning, refreshing. It is simple endurance of non-existence. Two days ago when I came home from art class I went to bed for two hours and a half until some spark was given back to me, and I could get up and change into sweat pants and a tee shirt, and go walk on the treadmill. So again today I will lie in bed and wait for life, with a purpose and a plan, to come back to me.

I feel guilty for all the time I spend unengaged and drifting. When I am but a shadow of a person, I hope God forgives me. He made humans to go out into the world and be splendid. Heroic humans doing splendid acts, creating, bending and twisting the world, thinking beautiful complicated thought, words of kindness towards your fellow man flowing. If he is a God of love, then He will smile upon me during the hours I shine, and continue His favor, during the hours when my light is extinguished and I am dark and dull.

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