I’m taking control back

Over the past year or so, I’ve felt my life spin completely out of my control. Worker’s comp is a horrible thing to go through, because you’re so dependent on complete strangers to fix what’s wrong and they care more about the cost than about you. When I first injured my knee in September 2012, I knew that it was going to be a process to get it healed, but I never imagined that I’d still be fighting to get back to “normal” for this long.

I feel hopeless sometimes, because there is nothing I can do to speed up the bureaucratic system. Yes, I’m on WC disability, but that barely pays for my regular bills, even before I add in the cost of eating. Staying at home all day every day is a great way to slowly go insane. I seriously don’t understand how retired people do it. I’ve been steadily gaining weight since my injury, because I can’t do the simplest of exercises that might impact my knee.

I’m fed up with waiting to hear the determination on my appeal. Not knowing is stressing me out, big time. I need to keep my mind busy to stay sane. To that end, I’ve signed up to be a distributor for It Works! Global, selling body wraps and other products that help tighten, tone, and firm your body. I’ll admit that I was a skeptic when I first heard about these things, but then I kept seeing peoples’ results. I’m truly amazed at how much better I feel after one day. It’s not an instant solution, just like going to the gym isn’t an instant solution. You have to follow common sense and stay determined. Nothing is going to work for you if you don’t make other changes like eating healthier and drinking lots of water.

I’m not trying to make this post into an advertisement, and I’m not going to turn this blog into a commercial. I just wanted to share how I feel. I’m taking control of my life again. I’ve had some pretty serious mood swings lately because I hate this time of year. I’ve decided that I’m going to start working on improving me, and not waiting for things to improve on their own. I may be disabled now, but I’m not helpless. I’m still determined to get my life together and move back to my adopted hometown of Charlotte. It’s going to take a while, because I’m looking at several months of therapy after my knee does eventually get the surgery I need, but I’m writing down my dreams and goals, and I’m going to make it happen. Selling the It Works! products is going to help me get there financially, and I’ll finally get back to living the life I’m meant to have.

It’s also time to start working on my happiness project again. Lately I’ve been so busy being upset that I keep forgetting to remember all the good things I have in my life. Positive thinking creates positive action. I WILL hear from the state soon, and they WILL approve my surgery! Or, if not, then my doctors and I will try another direction. I’m not going to give up on myself. I deserve better.

I’m feeling a little bit topsy turvy

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

 

I think my feeling of being “off” started on July 24th when I walked out to find my roof slashed on my car. Nothing was stolen, but it still felt very much like a personal violation. My car is very special to me. He symbolizes the grown up me who is supposed to be fun and spontaneous instead of dull and boring. I feel good when I sit in my car. I enjoy the attention I get when people comment on what a nice looking car he is. (It never extends to what a nice looking driver he has, but I’m quite okay with that)

Things started to get better once I was finally able to get to the claims adjuster to inspect the tear and get a check to pay for the new roof. I felt like I was finally making some progress. Then, the following Saturday, I suddenly lost fifth gear. Thankfully, I have a dual clutch transmission, and was able to utilize fifth gear by switching into manual mode. Once again, I fell into stress mode, worrying about what this was going to cost me to repair it, even with my super awesome bumper to bumper warranty. At this point I was looking at a $250 deductible for the roof, plus a minimum of $250 deductible on the transmission repair. Since I’m still on disability, this meant that I was going to have to save up for a very long time before I could get either repair done.

I returned to work on a modified schedule, working four hours a day. After the first two days, my knees hurt so badly that I could barely walk. I made an emergency appointment to see my surgeon’s PA and he cut me back to 3 hours a day to see if that would help. I’ve discovered that if I keep my legs elevated at work, they don’t hurt nearly as bad, but I’m still having to ice them for several hours when I get home.

My check arrived from State Farm and I called the auto upholsterer that was recommended by State Farm (and more importantly, but a very close friend of mine whose wife used the same company on her beloved Miata) and found out that the cost of the roof and labor was the exact amount of the check I was given. State Farm forgot to back out the $250 deductible that I was supposed to pay. Oops. I called them and asked, and they informed me that the check was correct, so I was went with it. I ordered my new roof . In the meantime, Morgan (my 350Z) decided that he was going to use fifth gear again, and hasn’t had any shifting problems since. I still want to get it checked out, but it’s not on the urgent list anymore.

Then I went to see my surgeon. He told me that he’s done all he can do with arthroscopic surgery, and the next thing to try is a procedure called “autologous cartilage replacement.” Basically, they do a quick arthroscopic procedure where they harvest some healthy cartilage and send it off to a lab to grow into a patch large enough to cover the two condyles on my tibia that are crumbling. Then, he’ll go in and do an open surgery to essentially sew the new cartilage onto the bone, where it should theoretically grow into healthy cartilage and be just like new. Finding out I need two more surgeries put me over the edge again and I spend a good portion of Monday crying and trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this means I’m stuck here in San Diego for at least the next two years, and possibly as many as four. I’m trying to stay optimistic and think of how wonderful it will be to not have pain and grinding/crunching in my knee every time it bends, but it’s hard to stay positive right now.

I did get my new roof on my car installed on Friday, and it looks very nice. It’s driving me a little nuts that I can’t lower the roof until tomorrow afternoon, because it needs to stretch properly so that I don’t have issues down the road, but that’s a minor inconvenience that I can live with. Also on Friday, I got a surprise visit with my son, as his father had some business to attend to here in town.

At this point, I’m so mentally turned around and upside down, I don’t even know what I’m feeling anymore. I’ve been having panic attacks again since finding out about the new surgeries and I have a pervasive feeling of anxiety that I just can’t get rid of. I try so hard to stay positive and always look on the bright side, but sometimes it’s just too hard. I feel like I’m bogged down; stuck in a city I hate, for the foreseeable future, and every time I try to make any plans to leave, something else comes up to hold me here longer. I should have never moved back. I haven’t been completely happy since returning, and I’m brokenheartedly homesick for the Carolinas. It’s getting to be time for the leaves to change color, and the air to turn brisk.

I feel like I’ve lost control of my life, and that I’m surviving on the whims of others. The depression is creeping back in, and so is the anxiety. No, they’re not the same thing. I’m trying to do the one coping mechanism that generally works for me, and that is taking control of one aspect of my life and setting it right. If I can control just one thing, then I know I’m not helpless. Inside, I’m still screaming though.

Today is the final day of “Mental Health Awareness Month”

I’d written previously about how May was designated as the official “Mental Health Awareness Month” and how I felt that it should not be limited to just 31 days out of the year. I, of course, still feel that way. For those who have not been following my blog regularly, or have just started reading it recently, I’ll give a brief overview. I have two forms of depression: Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. I also suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. If you’d like to read more about any of these subjects, the NIMH website is a great place to start. It gives a detailed overview of the various types of depression, as well as a comprehensive explanation of what it all means.

Unfortunately, every person is different, and everyone’s presentation of mental illness and ability to cope will be different. I hide behind the walls I learned to put up after 6 years of drama school, and most people don’t realize I have any mental issues unless I intentionally share them. I’m trying to share them more now, to try to lessen the stigma of what it’s like to have mental illness. Most people think that the mentally ill are those homeless people who stagger around mumbling to themselves and panhandling. A great many of them are, but only because they haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had to seek help. I have had two excellent doctors who have helped me tremendously with finding the right course of medication that helps control my depression and allows me to live like a “normal” person most days.

I go through cycles where everything will be going great, and then some little thing will go wrong and I spiral down into depression. Lately, it’s been my knee issue. I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and one step back on a regular basis, except for those times when I’m only taking one step forward and two steps back. I deal with a lot of pain in my day to day life because of the bone spur in my C5 vertebra that is pressing against the nerves and causing a “migraine” that has been with me every single day since about April of 2006. Thankfully, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain, as I’m opiate resistant, so narcotics don’t help me at all.

At one point, I thought that I might be bi-polar, because I’d go through such intense mood swings, but I never truly hit mania and I never fit the other symptoms, according to my doctor. It’s just the regular cycle of depression. You start out okay, and then something triggers it and down the drain you go. Eventually, you fight your way back out of it and live normally for a while, and then you start the process all over again.

I don’t claim to be an expert on depression of any kind. I only know my own. I worry that my son will follow in my footsteps, so to speak, so I’m happy that he lives with his dad, who is a more stable individual. A person whom I consider to be a very good friend of mine wrote online today that she can’t take it anymore and felt completely unloved. I know it is the depression talking, and I sincerely hope that those who are (physically and mentally) closer to her can help her get through this. I know she is deserving of love, and I love her dearly, as do many of our friends. It’s so hard though, when the depression is lying to you and telling you you’re not good enough, or not pretty enough, or thin enough, or not deserving of love, because you are. Depression lies. It lies to you constantly and makes you doubt your own feelings until you don’t know if what you feel is true or if it’s just your illness making you feel that way.

Earlier this week I had a severe mental breakdown because I felt that my knee wasn’t getting any better and that I was going to have to live with yet another permanent pain in my life. I allowed myself to cry for a day and feel sorry for myself, and then I talked myself into believing that everything happens within its own time, and that I just have to be patient and let myself heal at whatever speed that is. I know I push myself too hard, and that’s one of my weaknesses. Unfortunately, pushing myself too hard on a newly operated knee can result in causing more damage than good, so I’ve had to go back to being a lazy lump with an ice pack  and elevation to try to get the swelling down, and to not walk any more than possible. I hate it though, because I’m not the type of person who can just sit around and do nothing all day. There’s only so much reading or crocheting I can do before I go batty.

 

I feel like my life has been turned upside down

I’ve spent the last 7+ months waiting to get my knee fixed, and now that I’ve gotten the approval, I’m a nervous wreck about the whole thing and I don’t want to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to have the surgery, because it really is the best solution for me, and I wholeheartedly trust my surgeon, but the thought of surgery scares the bejesus out of me.

As a result of being scared stupid over this whole thing, my quality at work has gone downhill significantly in the past month. I have no one to blame but myself, but I just can’t seem to stay focused on work when all I can think about is someone drilling holes into my knee. I’m angry at myself for not being able to control my fear, and for allowing it to interfere with my work quality, because I take pride in doing a great job all the time. I really hate that I’m letting the mental issues get to me.

Speaking of mental issues, the stress of the impending surgery has brought the spinal headache back into full-blown constant pain, which has brought my insomnia back. I’m waking up 3-4 times every night with my head throbbing and my eyes feeling like they’re trying to pop out of my head. I’m just not sure what can be done at this point, because narcotics don’t really do anything for me, and I don’t want to change anything that may end up causing a delay in my surgery.

I decided to be rebellious yesterday and took my brace off around 10am and left it off all day. I just could not abide by it any longer. I hate the brace more and more each day, because it doesn’t seem to help at all. I do know that it is actually helping, because when I don’t wear it, I can feel a definite weakness in the joint and it makes the most horrid cracking/grinding/crunching noises.

Due to all the medical issues I have going on, I’m trying to simplify other areas of my life. I’ve stepped back from interviewing prospective volunteers for the cat rescue organization that I volunteer with, and I’m learning to say no to people who ask if I can do favors for them. I’m trying to find a happy work/volunteer balance in my life. I have no social life to speak of, so that hasn’t changed. I don’t really have anyone special in my life besides my cat, and that doesn’t really count. I’m not interested in dating because I don’t want to have to deal with the inevitable breakup when I pack up and move back to the Carolinas eventually. Yes, I know that I could be missing out on something special by not giving the men out here a chance, but since I’m not happy here, I’d rather wait until I’m happy before I try finding someone else to be happy with.

That’s about all I have going on right now. Work, knee problems, stress, insomnia, stress, headaches, volunteer work, and stress. I am counting down the days until my surgery, and hoping that I’ll be recovered in time for our big fundraiser three weeks later. In the meantime, I’m just trying to get through each day as they come.

Chaos Theory, aka The Butterfly Effect

Over the past several months, I have had a slow progressive spiral down towards serious depression. I know that I am prone to depression, so I do whatever I can to avoid it. It’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes, sheer will is the only thing that gets me through the day. The past two weeks have been especially hard on me. I have known for 26 years that my left knee is bum. A combination of patella-femoral syndrome and arthritis, so I’ve spent roughly 68% of my life favoring that leg because of the pain and stiffness. Finally, things came to a head and on Saturday, the 7th, my right knee decided that it’s had enough and it collapsed beneath me. The bright spot in this event is that it happened when I was walking up the stairs on my way into work, so I do have worker’s comp helping me out, but it’s a slow, bureaucratic filled process, and my knee is not getting better on its own, as far as I can tell. I’m waiting for approval to get physical therapy, which hopefully would make everything all better again. Unfortunately, it appears that it is either a severely sprained or torn lateral meniscus, so PT probably won’t do a whole lot, but I can’t do anything else until I get past this next step. That’s not really what this post is about. That was just a mini-vent, because I’m in pain, and being in pain for long periods of time is a known contributor to depression.

On to the real statement of this post.

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’m sure I’m not alone. I accept that they are my mistakes, and I have to deal with the fallout from the choices I make in life, including mistakes. I’ve come to the conclusion that every single bad choice I have made in my life is because I have chosen to put the needs and/or desires of someone else before my own wants/needs. There is a reason why flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping other people. If you are helping other people before helping yourself, they are going to benefit – which is a good thing – but you are going to suffer for it – which is a bad thing. Being the type of person who tries to please others whenever possible, I forget that sometimes I need to make decisions based on what is going to be best for me, first. I know that sounds a bit selfish, but I still think it’s true. The only major decision I’ve ever made in my life where I put my own needs first was when I packed up my life and moved from California to North Carolina. I knew I was unhappy, and that I needed to do something drastic before I became one of those people you see on TLC or MTV reality shows. Living in the Carolinas – both North and South – are some of the happiest years in my life, barring a few bad events. Again, those bad events happened because I put someone else’s needs before my own.

I’m alive, but I’m not living my life. Everything I do is because I’m trying to make someone else happy. Somewhere, along the line, I subconsciously decided that my own happiness was not as important. That’s just plain stupid. I deserve to be happy, but I know that in order to get that back, I need to start evaluating every aspect of my life and deciding which things I’m doing because they are beneficial to my well-being, or if I’m doing it because I think that it’s the expected thing to do to make someone else happier or to make their life easier.

I’m 38 years old, and I’m having a mid-life crisis. Unfortunately, unless we’re using a very, very loose interpretation of “mid-life” (as in, it’s happening at some point between being born and dying), I’m well past the mid-point in my life expectancy. The worst part of always trying to make other people happy is when it doesn’t work, and then both you and that other person are unhappy. I have said ad nauseum that I want to get out of California, because this state is sucking away at whatever happiness I have left. So, it’s time to play with some butterflies, and set some changes in motion that are going to make me a happier person. I’m tired of hiding my unhappiness, and the fact that I’m always in pain, and that I feel like no one cares about me. I know that last part is the depression talking to me, but it’s a very convincing whisper repeated in my brain endlessly. I want to be happy. I’m scared of doing anything that is going to make someone else unhappy, but I can’t keep living that way. From now on,  I promise myself that every choice I make will consider whether I am doing it to make myself happy or to make someone else happy. If the answer is that it only makes the other person happy, it’s just too bad for that person. I need to start focusing on myself. It’s time to write down my list of goals, and get back on track to finding my way back to happiness.