Sick

I have not been so fraught with symptoms of immune activation and distress since about April 2013 – after our third straight miscarriage in about 5 months and before the final three). 

At that time I could barely eat anything without my throat swelling, my IgE levels were ridiculous and I looked like a racoon from a severe case of allergic conjunctivitis and excema all around my eyes in reaction to I still don’t know what (other than the pregnancies – that was then and remained the common denominator for my immune system going haywire). 

I’ve been doing immunotherapy to desensitize my immune system to three of my worst everyday allergens and one seasonal one for the last 6 weeks. 

I am constantly getting sick, feel more exhausted than I thought possible and the depression is sneaking back in. I’m super stressed because there is so much to do at work and home and I’m operating at far less than full capacity thanks to the allergy therapy. My sense of failure is omnipresent. 

I know in the end this is supposed to make my life better. But right now it just sucks. 

So much yet to do

I attended a mental health event last night. I’d bought the LP a ticket too. The keynote speaker told the stories of her childhood and adult life immersed in mental health conditions, mental illness, addictions. Yet she worked so hard and, ultimately, achieved unimaginable success. Still, the mental health issues are a part of her life and inform the healing path she walks.

The LP and I stared at each other afterward.

“What did you think?” I asked.

“It was good.”

“Yes” was all I could manage. Then, “she is so intense.”

“But it hit pretty close to home.”

Wham.

Just like that, he nailed it.

And for over an hour now, since first waking up this morning, all I am capable of doing is weeping. My heart is aching. My head is swimming. I feel broken, sad, invisible. Even now.

Then it hit me.

I have so much grieving yet to do.

So much healing.

So much.

Bad Dreams

Both the LP and I grew up having bad nightmares (the LP night terrors). He still lets out blood curdling screams while still dead asleep and embroiled in nightmare sometimes. My affliction worsened – severely – after Baby A’s birth and I was later advised they were symptomatic of PPA (postpartum anxiety, related to and sometimes experienced together with post partum depression (PPD) but sometimes experienced independent of PPD). 

While Baby A was still very young I was offered medication not recommended while breastfeeding. I declined. Breastfeeding Baby A has never been easy so I opted to ride out the daytime anxiety, for which I had some tools in my arsenal, and suffering through the nighttime anxiety, for which I’ve never found tools apart from the training I got after a brain injury that triggered a flood of childhood sexual abuse memories and corresponding nightmares. 

Most of the PPA nightmares involved drowning – of my dog and my children mostly though occasionally of other people’s children. They knocked me flat. Every time. I never went back up bed or sleep on the nights when they struck. 

The MT seems afflicted with the nightmare gene too. He says almost every night before bed “I hope I don’t have a bad dream”. “Me too” I always respond. I hope not too. And then I make the same wish for myself and the LP. 

Wishes are just that. Obviously. Sometimes they come true (like dreams). Sometimes they don’t. 

Early this morning I awoke from a bad dream that was muddled and disjointed. I only recall that it ended with Baby A being struck (and dismembered? I made myself wake up and cannot take my mind back there) by a vehicle while I ran out (in slow motion – why can we only move in slow motion when something awful is afoot?). The fear and gore took my breath away. And got me out of bed. Immediately. 

If I had to live with these sort of nightmares again often (as occurred for a while after Baby A’s birth) I would readily drug myself into a stupor. I would wantto eliminate any opportunity to recall such horrors. 

I sometimes wonder how parents of violently or tragically killed children survive. I have often wondered (still do) how my own mother survived after her first born son died – in somewhat suspicious and utterly tragic circumstances. I know she struggled mightily. For ever. His death shaped my childhood. And has resurfaced from time to time my entire life. 

On that note, is it moot to describe such circumstances as utterly tragic? When is the death of a child not utterly tragic? In the case of my mom’s son the tragedy – for me – is amplified by the fact what happened could readily have been avoided but for the foolish or perhaps malicious acts of another. And that the other was himself a child. From tragic circumstances. 

I digress. 

I don’t know why I’m writing this post except to exorcise the demon of this morning’s awful dream. I hope I don’t have (any more) bad dreams. 

Do you ever have nightmares about your children being harmed? How do you reground yourself after them?

Mindful Immunotherapy?

After years of waiting and a ridiculous sequence of pharmacy and serum lab screw ups that started in September 2016, I began immunotherapy yesterday. In consultation with my local immunologist I opted to begin a process likely to span approximately five years by addressing my four worst allergies first. 

The dose is very dilute in the first series of injections – 1:100. I have talked to many other patients who didn’t notice a reaction at all during their first vial (which typically requires weekly injections for several months to a year).  I was expecting something similar. 

Round one was – to my surprise and disappointment – remarkably uncomfortable. I immediately began to itch fiercely at the injection site. The itching spread and it took all I had not to scratch. By the evening (8 hours later) I had a very large welt in the shape of a large parallelogram as wide as my palm,angry and red, curling around my left arm. 

Worse, I started coughing before long. Thankfully, my immunologist is very cautious and gave me both a second antihistamine (the second generation, water soluble variety so I would not be drowsy or foggy headed) and the steroid inhaler she has me on to take in the clinic. The coughing subsided and I had no throat swelling. 

But still. Not a good start to the most innocuous of beginnings. My left arm is still unnervingly itchy more than 24 hours later. Thankfully they alternate arms each week. 

Catching up on my friend MLACS’ posts yesterday I mulled over her comment about how a damaged mind body connection can get in the way of healing. I know that to be true and started thinking about how I could engage mindfulness as I embark on this new journey to [ultimately] tame my occasionally rabid immune system. 

I’ve decided to befriend her. My immune system. I will coax and encourage her and remind her what a long way we’ve come together and how much I need her and care about her well being. I am doing this for her. She deserves a rest. We both do. The waters will be rough again before they calm and the sailing  is smoother. But together we can – we will – do this. 

So. That’s my mantra going forward with this therapy. We can do it. Me and my immune system. We’re making peace and moving to a calmer place. One syringe at a time. 

To the woman in the Ikea parking lot

You stopped me as you pulled out from your parking spot to applaud my parenting. Bewildered, I barely managed “thanks”. You told me I’m doing a great job and to keep doing what I’m doing. 

Now, reflecting on your random act of kindness, I am sufficiently moved to feel my eyes burning. 

I needed that more than you’ll ever know. 

Thank you. 

Mental unwellness

Do I need to see someone? My golden rule in a past life free of children and the dark abyss that (to me) represents the private practice of law was that if ever I asked myself that question the answer ought to be an unequivocal “yes”. 

I mourn things daily. The short list includes:

  •  Sleep. I wake up between 3:45 and 4:00 AM to get some housework and billable work done before I get kids and self ready and off to child care provider and work. I almost never get to sleep before 9:30 and almost always wake up at least 3 times, often for at least an hour. Sleep deprivation has stolen my soul. 
  • Romance. By which I mean thoughtful tenderness as much as any physical intimacy. What the [insert obscenity] is that again? The LP and I barely see each other and he is the most negative human with whom I carry on a relationship. 
  • Kindness. The MT is whiny, shouting or manipulative about 50% of his waking hours. I hate 4 going on 5.  The LP wallows and is negative. Baby A has started hitting and throwing (thankfully the biting is more limited than it was with the MT at this age). Some moments are amazing. The rest kill the amazing. I grieve this deeply and feel like I must be a huge part of what I am calling the problem. 
  • Time. Where did that [insert obscenity] go?
  • Breastfeeding. It used to feel like bonding time. Now it feels like bondage. I am bitter and hateful as much toward the LP for not helping with the night waking and the persistent will of baby A to maintain an all night nurse and nap bar. It is time to wean – in breach of my promise to myself to nurse until 2 or whenever. But the LP is too busy with work to take part in this either so it’s not happening because at some point I cave every night when I can’t imagine the next day with even less sleep. Baby A has my tenacity if nothing else.  
  • Love of the law. Yes I mourn that. I would do anything to leap out of this profession and do anything but. Private practice and firm leveraging, misogyny and lies have broken any spirit I once had for the law. I’m so over firm life. I overcame a significant disability (brain injury) to complete law school and watched my mother diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, get sick, have surgery and lengthy treatment, get sort of better, then sick again and die while I kept my promise to her to finish law school and my two articles. Then she died weeks before I was admitted to the bar. What was the point? More importantly, what *is* the point now? I cannot see it. I feel as though my law firm and practice are the biggest joy thieves in my life. But maybe I’m just making excuses. 
  • My marriage. I don’t even know what to say. I just feel broken and lost. Or that it is lost. And without a soul who cares enough or has had enough sleep or kindness or peace to bother trying to salvage it. 
  • Financial security. And the fear debt brings. I never imagined myself saying this. I’m generally mindful and try to be careful. But I’m not single. And I didn’t see infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss or the costs of cross-border “investments” in the circumstances coming. Gah.

Writing this I suspect I not only need drugs and therapy but a new job. And I’m not the only one. 

On that delightful note, happy [insert obscenity] new year. 

Flash

As the LP and I were driving to pick up the boys from their care provider yesterday we heard an ominous thud on the passenger side of my vehicle shortly after I turned a corner onto a busier two-lane residential street.

I stopped. I looked behind me. A blonde mid sized dog – looking terrified and hunched over – was standing up in the middle of a fairly busy residential street. Cars were coming in both directions. She was frozen, the proverbial deer in headlights. The cars stopped. She began moving. I pulled ahead so I could stop my car safely off the road and immediately ran back.

I had not seen her. Nor had the LP. She hit the vehicle on the side, though there is no damage to the car.

When I ran back I saw a man in a big pick up truck with a mixed breed dog in the back seat with his window open. I asked if the dog was his. She was.

I burst into tears and said I was so sorry, we had not even seen her coming. He said “I know. She got off her leash. I know.”

He asked me to wait right where I was and see if she came that way. I said yes and remained stationed there. I also looked in the yards nearby. The man returned on foot, calling out a name. I asked him how I could best help.

He told me her name is Flash and his wife had seen her go into the alley behind the street where she was hit but then lost her.

On foot, I looked up and down alleys, side streets, in yards. The LP drove around looking as the man had told me Flash would never come to a male stranger but might come to a woman. Eventually I sent the LP to go get our kids. I kept walking, calling, searching, pleading for mercy and a positive outcome for poor Flash. I prayed and I begged: God please let poor Flash be okay. Please.

I never saw Flash again. After about an hour, when the LP had returned and driven around some more and reported he could not find the couple who had been on foot looking for her, the LP convinced me they must have found her and we should go home.

I cried the entire drive home, most of last evening and over night when I could not sleep. I remain a hot mess, stuck at work with my door closed and a pool of mascara on each cheek after having called all of the emergency vet clinics and even the vet clinics near that area that were open late enough that they might have taken Flash there. The staff at the front desk in each of those clinics were very kind. None had taken in a dog like Flash last night.

I’ve revisited the scene in my mind over and over again. I have played out countless “what if” scenarios, all of them agonizingly open ended as I have no idea what happened to poor Flash.

I do not know what else to do. Nor do I have any idea how to make peace with any of this.

The LP keeps reminding me it’s not my fault, I was not driving fast, I was not acting negligently. But that is not the issue. I was in an accident in which someone’s beloved pet and family friend got hurt, maybe died. I have no idea if Flash is alive or dead. Or how I could help, if at all.

What I have is a mess of feelings and thoughts I can neither reign in nor erase. With a heavy heart I continue to pray for Flash and her family. Above all I feel lost.