Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Understand...Just a Tiny Bit

I'm a lucky woman. No one has ever raised a hand to me. Yes, my feelings have been deeply hurt, and I mean deeply and very recently hurt, but I've never been subjected to physical abuse.

So, when I read about how hard it is for a woman to leave a physically abusive spouse, I sympathize but I don't feel her turmoil in my gut. I've never been there, and thankfully so.

I've been married for almost twenty years and I sincerely hope that we will stay together. It's not that I see something bad coming, but you just never know. I know that divorce can be terribly painful, but I only have an intellectual understanding of this pain.

Well, now I understand--just a tiny, tiny bit more--why people stay in abusive relationships, be they physical or mental.

Yesterday, I was working with two of my former associates. We were hired by a third party, meaning each one of us accepted the contract independently, not knowing with whom we were going to work.

One of the two people in question, although not the person who ultimately made me feel so horrible that I couldn't stay in the group, has been psychologically abusive to me over the years--not every day, but with such ferocity that I find it hard to shake off the effects of things that she has said. She can be this way with everyone, certainly not just me. It's just that, coupled with what my other associate said to me in September, I just don't have the psychological power to shrug off her outbursts anymore. Anyway, I was working with her yesterday. She was very pleasant but understandably somewhat distant. I am no longer part of the gang.

Our work day was demanding, but everything went quite smoothly. Coolly and smoothly. On breaks, in the past we would leave the room to go and chat. This time, I just went and read by myself or surfed on my computer. By the end of the day, I felt quite alone. Not that she had been nasty to me in any way. She treated me like she treats colleagues with whom she has only a professional relationship. No histrionics, no nastiness, but no friendship either.

Did I like the way we sometimes interacted while we were associates in the same group? No. That's why I left (although I could have put up with her mood swings for awhile longer--it was another associate who treated me with such contempt who was the real cause of my departure).

But boy did I feel lonely yesterday. And I understood why people find it hard to leave, even if the situation is abusive.

My drive home took over two hours. I was famished, ate supper and went upstairs to watch TV. I started crying and asked my husband to come upstairs and just stay with me. He watched wrestling and I read a book. He held my hand. I feel better today.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Step One

I just pressed the "send" button for an e-mail addressed the professional group that I helped to found and have been a part of for the past ten years. In it, I announced that I have decided to leave the group.

Financially, this may be a slight hit to my income, but since nature abhors a vacuum, I will now be available to accept work from other sources and I think that it won't make a huge difference. If, on the other hand, I find myself working less, that will be OK too.

I work in a tiny, tiny niche market. There are only about 15 certified professionals in my field in the metropolitan region where I live (population 5.5 million people). This doesn't mean that I've got offers of work coming out of my ears, but over the past 25 years or so, I've done quite well.

Here's the problem: It's a really high-stress job and a lot of the people I work with are--let's use the technical term--nuts. OK, let's be a bit more generous: high strung. Recently, due to the return of my Grave's disease, I have been quite high strung too, but generally speaking, I'm a pleasant colleague to work with. I can't say the same of many of my colleagues--all 15 of them, plus extras who come in when there are not enough bodies here in town to do the work. In the group I was part of, I was (and still am) in constant fear of being verbally attacked by two of my four associates; the third is actually a very nice fellow, but he is on the autism spectrum and can be difficult to communicate with; the fourth associate is actually very normal and I really enjoy working with her.

So I have accomplished step one on my road to a more balanced, sane life: I resigned from the group.

AAAAAHHH. A sigh of relief.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Surgery Postponed

As you know, pre-op tests and my own intuition revealed that my thyroid was once again out of control. The actual diagnosis is Grave's disease. Wikipedia has an informative article on the topic. I was most struck by the psychological effects, which include anxiety and depression. Boy, that explains why I have been feeling really, really anxious and depressed for the past several weeks.

But wait! There's more!

I was incredibly lucky to get an emergency appointment with an endocrinologist yesterday afternoon. After reviewing my test results, she advised me to cancel the surgery. With my thyroid levels being so abnormal, I could have gone into a "thyroid storm" on the operating table, had a stroke and possibly died.

So this cancellation is definitely a cloud with a silver lining.

I have to wait until my thyroid is back to completely normal function. Having been through this before, I suspect it will take from 6 months to a year. Only then can I call my surgeon to reschedule the knee surgery. All in all, it could be about two years before I get a new knee.

But honestly, I much prefer living with a crunchy knee to not living at all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"No fat men here! Isn't that great?"

This Saturday, I worked my last day until...? (Actually, I'll probably take off at least six weeks and January is a slow month, so I won't be really busy until next February.)

I was working at a conference for sports coaches.

The team I was on was made up of myself and two other women. H. is in her sixties. She is quite slender. In fact, having seen one of her wedding photos, I suspect she hasn't gained more than 5 pounds since her wedding day in the 1960s. She does exercise and from time to time loudly trumpets that she is going on a diet, but generally speaking, she seems to just eat what she wants and exercise regularly. C., my second colleague that day, is someone who has energy to spare. At least 2-3 times a year, she hosts huge parties at her home. She loves to travel, go to concerts, cook and generally have a good time. She's someone you could definitely call a "bon vivant". C. goes to the gym (though more in spurts than regularly) and also does yoga and belly dancing. She's always on the go, a real ball of energy. She's also fairly heavy.

The third person on the team was yours truly. You've seen my picture: I'm neither slim nor extremely heavy. I guess you could call me a "small fatty", so short that I wear regular size clothing, but I can look much heavier or much lighter when my weight goes up or down by less than five pounds.

At the morning coffee break, out of the blue, H. said cheerily, "Isn't this conference wonderful? There aren't any fat men!" I looked at her in horror. "Well, they're all into sports, so no one's fat," she went on to explain. I couldn't help myself and called her bluff immediately, noting that there is no direct, immutable link between one's weight and one's level of fitness. She caved in right away, said she was sorry and verbally closed the door on any further discussion.

C. said nothing.

I was pleased that I had the presence of mind to not let her stupid, insulting statement go unchallenged. I was also happy that I won't have to deal with such idiocy for a few months. And I was sad, knowing that there's probably not one other person in H.'s private or professional life who would have called her out on such an ignorant, demeaning comment.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is Comfort?

When your child is sick or scared, you take her in your arms, pat her head and say, "Don't worry. You'll feel better." or "Don't worry, everything will turn out fine." And often that is indeed the case.

But those words of comfort are often actually destructive, especially when spoken to an an adult. When you say, with a cheery upbeat voice, "Oh, don't worry, you'll be fine," you deny the validity of the person's feelings, and indeed imply (though you may not realize it) that he or she is misguided or stupid.

Here's what people in distress might prefer to hear:

"I respect your distress. I respect how you are feeling."

"I hope things will go well. I want to offer you my positive thoughts (and prayers, if that is meaningful to you)."

Of course, we all wish the best for those in distress, but we must be careful that our words don't leave the person feeling invalidated and even more alone and scared.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crosses to Bear

Although I am Jewish, there's nothing like the expression "we all have our crosses to bear" to describe how everyone has difficulties in life.

In many ways, I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. I was brought up by a handicapped, housebound, divorced mother. My father, may he rest in peace, basically deserted her soon after my birth and she raised me in very difficult financial circumstances.

My life, in many ways, has been the opposite of my mother's. While she was left alone to raise me, I have a wonderful husband who has always stuck by me. "In sickness and in health" is something that he takes very seriously. I am a successful, self-employed professional. I can afford to take off a few months of work to recover from my surgery without worrying about how we will pay the bills. I can drive. Even though I am a firm supporter of public transit (when I take my car in for servicing they practically laugh at the low mileage), driving is an important part of being independent and capable of doing what needs to be done because I--like my mother, my aunt and my aunt's granddaughter--suffer from arthritis.

On Saturday, I was at a high school reunion to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the experimental high school I attended. I was one of the original 160 students who were there the year the school opened its doors. It was an incredible gathering.

One of the people at the party is someone who suffers from a degenerative disease, MS. She is not in great shape and has severe balance issues. The party was held in a spacious private home, but there were lots of people milling about. My two sons were there to help people with their coats, serve wine, pick up dirty dishes, etc. D., the woman with MS, was walking through a crowd of people in the kitchen when she tripped over my older son's foot. It was an accident. She then literally bounced around, trying to regain her balance and ended up, screaming in anger, on the kitchen floor. She was alright, though I suspect she probably acquired a few bruises. The hostess, who is also a friend of hers, rushed to help her get up.

D. was furious at my son. It wasn't his fault, but her anger was palpable.

Much later in the evening, when almost everyone had gone, my friend the hostess remarked that she couldn't understand why D. had been so angry. But I knew why. Even though I don't suffer from the same disease and have a much easier life than D., I too have felt that anger: the anger of not being in control, of having your body control you. She was mad because life just isn't fair.

My physical problems make my life a lot harder than that of many others, but a lot easier than the life of people like D.

We all have our crosses to bear.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The First of Many Thank Yous

Yesterday, I read the comments a few of you made to my post, "When the Going Gets Tough...". I had had a miserable day at work--bad enough that I just want to chuck it all and be much poorer but much less stressed; I got a note from my older son's physics teacher telling me that he's falling behind (nothing new, he's been battling ADD for years and hates medication, so he doesn't take anything); clashed mildly with my husband over the situation with our son; and felt my heart racing uncomfortably (a side-effect of being hyperthyroid).

So when I read your comments, I did what any self-respecting scared, sick person does: I cried. And I write this, I'm crying again.

Thanks--for the first, but certainly not the last time--for your concern and support.

Monday, November 7, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Blogging

I'm sure my small group of loyal readers has noticed a distinct change in tone and subject on my blog.

When I first began this blog, it focused on what I believed would be my weight loss journey thanks to mindful eating. It was, like many other blogs, a sort of web diary and review of the good, the bad and the ugly issues related to weight loss in my life.

Slowly, I began to take a more critical view of dieting and came to realize that slimness = good health was a faulty, dangerous generalization. My writing became more analytical and references to my own experiences became just that--references to back up general observations and critiques of how society is profoundly obsessed with weight loss and actually cares very little for improved health, despite the health-focused discourse we hear all around us.

Gradually, my blog roll began to reflect my new perspective. Originally, it contained a number of dieting blogs, but it morphed into a list of blogs that promote, in one way or another, a HAES (Health at Every Size) viewpoint, and, to some extent, a fat acceptance viewpoint (this is something that I'd like to talk about one day, but not now).

But life has a way of sneaking up on you and "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray," as the poet Robert Burns once said.

The more I became interested in physical activity--not as a way to lose weight, but rather as a way to improve my general health--the clearer it became that my body, and specifically my knee, would have none of it.

After I had my first hip replacement, I started a blog called "Total Hip Disaster" to help myself get through the disaster of a hip replacement gone very wrong. It's still floating out in cyberspace at totalhipdisaster.blogspot.com if you feel like taking a glance. It was written for myself and an anonymous audience. I never gave anyone I knew in the real world the URL and no one knew me in cyberspace, so it was a pretty private little story. I just re-read a few entries today and had to laugh when I read a post where I mentioned how my left knee was pretty cranky over the abuse it got while I was recovering twice from surgery. Prescient.

All this to say that New Me's blog will once again take a more personal route. Blogging will be part of my mental preparation for surgery on November 17th and really a way to deal with my worries and fears. If you read "Total Hip Disaster" you'll understand why I am very apprehensive.

I feel that I have made a few cyber-friends in the past two years, so I beg your indulgence and hope you will bear with me as I go on a little personal blogging side trip. There probably won't be much talk of food for awhile--unless I decide to go on a rant regarding how bad hospital food is!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Now It's My Thyroid

Well, the blood test confirmed that my thyroid has gone wonky again. The hospital called and wanted to make sure I got on medication ASAP, but...

My endocrinologist (who I can't stand) has gone MIA. I think she may have married and changed her name (short rant: I will never understand why women change their name when they marry. For crying out loud, we don't belong to our husbands anymore!). In any case, her name is no longer on the list of doctors at the clinic where I used to see her and I didn't have time to leave a message asking if they knew where she'd gone because I won't be home next week to answer the phone and speak to a human being. This is not a time for telephone tag. Maybe it's good news after all that I can't find her.

In the meantime, the internist at the hospital has already called the pharmacy and my prescription is waiting for pick-up tonight. Maybe it's a good thing Dr. F. has disappeared. Now, I'll be able to go to someone who is hopefully easier to deal with. I have to go to my GP's next week ASAP to get a referral to a new endocrinologist.

I guess I'm a nice person with a heavy karmic load. Otherwise, there's no way to explain all this crap.

Herein endeth the "woe is me". I've got things to do before surgery on Nov. 17.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

By The Way...

I've been very busy recently with work, but also I've been preoccupied with my upcoming surgery.

I'll be having a total knee replacement on Nov. 17.

Yesterday, I spent about four hours at the hospital for pre-op meetings with the anesthetist, the pre-op nurse and the internist, in addition to having x-rays and blood tests done. My BP is stellar, but I have a feeling (and the blood test will tell soon enough), that I am a bit hyperthyroid. I've got some mild, but clear symptoms and the internist felt that it was important to check my TSH levels. We'll see. In any case, this won't delay the surgery (at least no one said it would...).

During my talk with the anesthetist (I can't remember exactly what we were discussing at the time), he said something about not worrying about xyz because, and I quote, I'm "thin". Hello! Whatever...But it was rather surprising.

My last experience with joint replacement--my hip in 2003--was more like a nightmare than surgery. I won't go into the details, but it has left me more than a bit skittish about orthopedic interventions. But I'm not going to let this hold me back. As the internist said, it's not going to get better, so I must boldly go where a lot of people have gone before and trust in my surgeon's skill.

I'm not a praying person myself, but please don't feel shy about putting in a good word for me with the higher power of your choice.