I’ll be back to writing on Monday, but for now, happy new year.
Archives for December 2015
I was 39.
We decided to move to the Houston area, where Scott’s job was. A few months before, I started having a lot of pain in my right knee, so I went to an orthopedist who took x-rays and said that I had no cartilage in the left side of my knee and that was causing the pain. I started getting shots in my knee and had physical therapy. It got better for awhile. Our house went on the market. I had the house professionally cleaned and I decluttered. When my realtors showed the house we would get feedback that the house wasn’t clean. It would be after having the house professionally cleaned. I felt like a failure.
Megan and I were planning ScrapFest and it would be the first time we held it in a hotel. It was October and we held the event – some people liked it, some didn’t, but it’s what we decided as business partners and thought it went well. The entire time we weren’t sure if we would break even due to being limited as to how many croppers we could accommodate because of the space of the ballroom. Once the event started things ran smoothly, but the numbers showed we would have to come out of pocket to pay the hotel. This was a first. The scrapbooking industry had been in decline and the number of crops was increasing, so croppers had to decide which events to go to, which we had no control over. And we liked going to the other events because we were actually able to scrapbook when we weren’t running the show. On the last day of that October ScrapFest we were forced to make a hard decision. I would be moving, which would make planning difficult, but do-able. But we couldn’t put on the event out of the goodness of our hearts and lose money. We made the hard call to tell our croppers that it would be our last event. We put on happy faces, sold the majority of our Cricut collection to our croppers, and sold or donated the rest of our way cool stuff (our Plinko board, spinner wheel, Accucut machine and dies), but I kept the candy machine.
For me, losing ScrapFest was like losing a part of myself. I didn’t care about the money. It was never about the money for me. It was about having a creative outlet and bringing other women together to be creative. ScrapFest was the only vacation some women took each year. They looked forward to it like kids look forward to Christmas morning and that’s not an exaggeration. And that’s not because of Megan or me – it’s because they could get together with their friends and have a great three days doing one of the things they loved most. I lost a part of my creative self. Designing tshirts and mugs and bags for hundreds of women in six or so years meant a lot to me. Going to other events and seeing women wearing something I drew or designed was a feeling that is practically indescribable. It didn’t just make me feel good. It was good for my creative soul. And then it was gone.
I started to pack up things I knew we wouldn’t be using until after the move, not knowing when the move would actually take place. I resigned my position in the PTA so I could focus on getting packed and finding a new house. It was too hard to get the newsletter together and attend meetings while being in the process of a move. PTA was something that was important to me – and just like that, another creative outlet gone.
One day, shortly after the last ScrapFest, I was at Megan’s doing some of our last bits of housekeeping before we could call the business actually closed. That morning I greeted the maid at my house, left instructions as I always did, then drove to Megan’s. The maid said she was having headaches, but I didn’t pay any attention to that. Forty minutes after I left my house, the maid called to say she’d gotten a last minute doctor appointment and would have to reschedule. I said that was fine. I left Meg’s or maybe we went to lunch and then I went home to see that exactly nothing had been done in the forty minutes the maid had been there. I called Megan and said how odd that was. A notification came up on my phone from Walgreens to say my refill was ready. I would put that off until the next day. The rest of my day was unremarkable, just lots of pain in my knee. Late that night I opened my nightstand drawer to take a Percocet to get some relief from my throbbing, swollen knee. The Perocet wasn’t there. I went through the whole drawer – it was gone. These were the drugs left over from my ablation and laparoscopic procedure. There were 27 tablets left, I knew this because I only took three after the procedure, then took Advil. I dialed up my Walgreens after remembering that I got the notification earlier. You can imagine my surprise to see that a refill of Percocet was picked up that day (and my thyroid medication). Dr. B had given me a refill knowing he didn’t remove the pain in the ovary cysts. I concluded the maid had stolen my medication and called in the refill. This is a woman I trusted to clean my house for several months, whom I left alone in my house many times. I called Walgreens, they said they didn’t have video on the drive through, so they couldn’t ID anyone. I called the police, they came to my house and ran the maid’s name and all she had was a traffic violation, so they couldn’t go to her house with only my word/suspicion. I was livid. I called my friend Kathy, the detective. Kathy said to text the maid and say I know what she did and a few other things. I did what Kathy said and the maid denied everything, then blocked me on Facebook. Bitch was guilty. At some point that week, I was in my medicine cabinet and noticed the bottle of liquid Percocet (from my sleeve surgery) was missing as well. Having something stolen from you is horrible. Having something stolen by someone you knew and trusted is disturbing.
The house was slowly getting packed up. October became November, then December, then January. I had mixed feelings about moving to Texas. I wanted to be in the same house as my husband, but Texas represented what I recognized as when my anxiety really hit me. I remembered all the times I had the irrational fears when Molly was a baby when we lived southeast of Houston. The time I had to leave my cart in Walmart and had a panic attack. When the planes struck the World Trade Center towers. Molly’s first birthday when my family couldn’t come in because my grandmother was dying. Then my grandmother died. So many awful things happened during the short time we had lived in Texas 12 years before. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do it again. We’d lived in our home in Covington for 9 years. I loved that house. This would be different and I would be okay, I told myself. I had a couple of built-in friends in the Houston area – Michelle and Katie. We were looking for houses in Houston and the two I loved were snatched up. In February we finally got an offer on our house and we accepted it. That week Scott found a house he thought was perfect and sent me tons of pics, plus the pics that were online. It was brick, had a front courtyard, amazing kitchen, amazing master bathroom and closet, a study, and “wing” for the kids, as well as a big gameroom upstairs. I told Scott to go ahead and make an offer on it and I would drive to Houston the next day to see it. I made the drive and on the way to see the house, our realtor called to say our offer was accepted. We were thrilled. I was really thrilled once I got to the house. Our new town would be Humble. The H is silent. It annoyed me and still annoys me. Our street is Guadalupe. No one can spell it. I have to spell everything for customer service people.
The closing on our house in Covington was delayed by a week and I took the kids out of school the week before St. Patrick’s Day. We stayed at my wonderful mother-in-law’s house for that week. I worried about all the things that could go wrong during our move. There were no school uniforms at the new schools, so we went on a shopping spree for spring school clothes. The moving truck was holding all of our possessions until our moving day. One of my great friends, Stacy cleaned my house after we moved out. Scott had taken the dog to Texas already and was waiting on our closing day. We closed on St. Patrick’s Day and the kids and I drove to Humble. My Explorer was packed like I had never packed a car before. Another closing was down. We took the kids to see our new house for the first time. They all liked it, but Katie moaned that she didn’t have a bay window like Molly’s room did. Our moving truck arrived. The unpacking began. A house was starting to become a home. That Thursday I took the kids to enroll in school, but couldn’t get Andrew enrolled until the next day because we were waiting on the old school to send one more form. Paperwork never ends.
I kept unpacking and arranging. Our new furniture arrived. Things were coming together. Molly started showing signs of depression. We brought her to a new pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a therapist – started medication. I had new fears that I was passing my depression onto my children. It was something that terrified me. Something I didn’t know how to handle except medically and to be there if she felt like talking about it. After the first four months she was okay and didn’t need medication. She’d made friends, she was plugging in. After unpacking the last box I realized that my flatware never showed up in the new house. That made me furious. Just last week I realized my record (yes, record) collection never got to the new house either. This made me a whole ‘nother level of furious.
We got a kitten. Actually, three kittens, but only F. Catz Fitzgerald survived. That was Easter weekend. When I returned to my car there was a lovely note on my windshield that said “learn to park” with a smiley-sun face and then “happy Easter!” Shortly after that we got a note on our front gate that said someone was reporting us to the Homeowner’s Association because our dog barked. Our dog only barked at the landscapers and strangers. Texans like to leave notes. It wasn’t the last note we’d get about our dog.
My Covington friends and I texted. Beth and Christine started scrapbooking retreat called Scrap Dat in Mandeville and although I was sure I’d be able to make their first event, I just couldn’t with the kids starting school and the pain I was in. I went to a new orthopedist who said I had the worst osteoarthritis in someone my age that she had ever seen and that because I was too young for a knee replacement, I’d get a custom fitted brace and start knee injections. Then I went to a new gynecologist who actually listened to me and did an ultrasound, finding the two softball-sized cysts and a tilted uterus (of course it was tilted because I can’t have a normal anything). She said she had no idea how I was walking around with the pain I must have been in. Finally, someone who understood my pain (for real). She scheduled my hysterectomy and I finally felt like I was going to be okay.
My mother came down to help with the kids at the end of June and I had surgery. My doctor was wonderful. Surgery went well. I went home the next day. The day after that my Aunt Darlene died from ALS. I was recovering and couldn’t make the funeral, which made me very sad. I was sad for my cousins who lost their mom while she was still young, for my dad and for his sisters, for my grandmother. The way ALS takes away the person you love is like nothing else I know of. It takes your body from you while you still have your mind. Then it takes away your ability to speak, when you still have a mind to speak, then it takes you away from a family that loves you. I was glad that I got to have lunch with my aunt before her disease progressed, while she was able to still say “I love you too.”
And then a few days later I was forty. My husband gave me a gorgeous ruby ring and took me out for a great dinner and to buy my first cowboy boots. He gave me Counting Crows tickets for later that month. My favorite band. Their drummer Jim wished me a happy 40th on Facebook. So did Tommy Blatnik of the Rave Ups, a band I’d loved since 1986. We went home to have my favorite cake with my mom and fantastic kiddos. It was a good day. Another week or so passed and I went in for my surgery followup and my new Dr. B (how is it that it was my second gynecologist with a name that started with B?) showed me photos of my twin cysts, one a softball, one a baseball. She also told me my cervix was precancerous, so it was good that bitch was gone. I told her my belly felt like jello since the surgery and she said “well, we removed a bunch of stuff.” I like it when doctors get all technical like that. I asked her if my belly would ever tone up and she said “not without surgery. You’ve had five abdominal surgeries, it doesn’t work like that.” Well, that was deflating – emotionally and physically (literally, ha). Nothing fit right after having the hysterectomy. All of my new “skinny” clothes didn’t fit anymore because of the way my abdomen rearranged itself. That’s the only way I can think of to describe it – that’s what happened. I went up a size, it was okay – I’m old enough and smart enough to know I am not a size on a pair of jeans. It only hurts the ego to go up a size. And my ego was practically non-existent anyway.
I started seeing a new psychiatrist. I went to her twice and didn’t like her at all (plus she had a weird hippie name and I can’t get past that kind of thing – no offense if you have a weird hippie name), then the third time I went, the receptionist told me my shrink couldn’t make it in that day and another doc was seeing her patients. Yee-ha! The other shrink and I clicked. He told me I wasn’t crazy, a term I’d always tossed around like my friends had.
For the first time I was properly diagnosed. I was Bipolar Type 2. It’s scary admitting that to the blogosphere because maybe you’ll see me differently now. Maybe you’ll think I am really crazy. Maybe you’ll defriend me on Facebook because I’m “crazy.” Do I look like someone with a mental illness? Now that you know it’s a mental illness, anyway. Suddenly, I’m not just quirky or just funny anymore – I’m Bipolar 2. Or Bipolar 2 – Electric Boogaloo, as I refer to it. So what does that mean? I’m sure you’re wondering.
“While bipolar I disorder is characterized by one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes and one or more major depressive episodes; bipolar 2 disorder is diagnosed after one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania, with possible periods of level mood between episodes. The highs in Bipolar II, called hypomanias, are not as high as those in Bipolar I (manias). Bipolar II disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as major depression if hypomanic episodes go unrecognized. If you have recurring depressions that go away periodically and then return, it could be Bipolar II.” DBSA.com
I told my new doctor that I knew what Bipolar 1 meant because I had family members with it and I wasn’t like that. I didn’t have that particular brand of “crazy.” Bipolar 2 was different. My doctor explained more and put me on the right medications. He told me that it was the cause of my irrational anxiety, ability to be more social than usual, having periods of being very energetic, being very quick to anger, having racing thoughts to the point of not being able to sleep without medication, being easily distracted, even the periods of being intensely creative and having this driving need to do something and feel accomplished. Then the crippling depression that settles in and doesn’t want to leave. I had been more depressed since ScrapFest ended, since the move, since the hysterectomy that felt like a loss somehow, even though it was a good loss – it felt like what made me a woman was gone, even though my pain was gone. I had periods of depression after losing weight when people said what they thought were nice things. I was depressed that my everyday crew of friends was now five hours away. And I was depressed after gaining back a little weight (even though I was definitely told I would) when I had the hysterectomy. To me, this was all loss. It all represented failure. My failure. And a diagnosis that wasn’t just regular old depression. A real diagnosis. A diagnosis of a disorder that could be genetic, that I could pass on to my wonderful spirited children.
So, I was 40 and I lived in Texas and I was Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and I still felt much the same. I had the same sense of loss. And then one day in November my dad called to say my favorite aunt on his side passed away in her sleep. She was way too young to be gone. My heart broke for my dad and my cousin Teresa and Uncle Jerry. The next day Scott’s grandfather died and we made what I secretly called “Louisiana Funeral Tour 2015” from Humble to Shreveport to Union Springs to Metairie and back to Humble. It was a whirlwind of emotion. My kids had attended their first funerals. And then it was Thanksgiving. And then it was Christmas. There was no Faler Family Christmas Party last year after Scott’s grandfather passed away. The kids had the flu and couldn’t make the trip in to Mandeville for Scott’s mom’s Christmas party. Scott went in and delivered gifts and brought back gifts. We had Christmas here in our house for the first time and decided we would always have Christmas day in our house. And we spent New Year’s in our house, watching the neighborhood fireworks.
The first six months of this year went by and we adjusted to Texas. Well, I tried my best. I really did. I purposely didn’t join the PTA. I didn’t volunteer at school. I didn’t volunteer period. I went to Scrap Dat last spring. I refinished and painted a bunch of furniture when I had hypomanic episodes. I designed Will’s new album cover and all. Then I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. I wouldn’t be able to go to church. I would cancel a trip to Shreveport that I had been looking forward to. I was on the right medication and I thought I felt better, but I wasn’t better. I had the medication, but I didn’t have the coping skills. I wasn’t coping.
So, the Victoria’s Secret “Fashion” Show happened and as I do with most major news stories, I’m covering this in depth, just as you’d expect. Let’s go to the photos.
I was 38.
As I said in the previous post, I was facing health issues such as pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and just overall not feeling well, in addition to depression and anxiety. The class I didn’t really graduate with, but considered me part of their class, the Class of 1992 was starting to plan the big 20 year reunion. I was asked to do the website where people could get info and pay for their ticket to the event. It would be a two-night reunion, an informal meet-up at a wine bar, then a nice catered event the next night. I put up a no-frills website for the reunion and planned for ScrapFest, did my usual anxiety-ridden days. I’d wake up, send the kids off to school, most likely go back to sleep, then take my time getting around to website design or t-shirt design or whatever it was I had to work on. Scott was working in Salt Lake City and really liked it. He went to lots of concert and in Park City at Sundance, Joan Jett flicked a pick at him and hit him – he loves telling this story, just ask him. I would go to see him in SLC in October, the weekend after my reunion.Just the idea of the reunion and seeing old friends and perhaps frenemies drove me into panic attacks. I went back and forth over whether I wanted to go or not and didn’t decide for sure to go a few weeks before. Because in the words of OK Go, “Cause nothin’ ever doesn’t change but nothin’ changes much.” There would be more people there that I wanted to see versus the people I didn’t care to see. I ordered a fantastic dress, if I do say so myself and played out scenarios in my mind. It would be fine. It would be a disaster. It would be no big deal. It would be great. The kids had that Friday off because it was “Fair Day” in St. Tammany – they just make up holidays down there, so we drove up on Thursday and stayed with my mom and grandfather. On Friday I met Will and Molly for lunch at Superior. It was delicious and they were great as always. The kids were with my mom. I did some shopping, ended up in a parking lot on Youree Drive crying and reapplying makeup before going to the wine bar, where I knew I’d see old friends. I was the second person there, due to my practically perfect punctuality. There to greet me was the always smiling Robin Jones. Robin was always great. I ordered some drink with Coke and told the server that I didn’t want to taste the alcohol. We chatted, waiting for more peeps to show. Jenny Roberts came and sat next to me, an anchor to my balloon just almost out of reach. Jenny and I would become great friends and I am thankful for her. Same goes for Christan and Katie who were there too. So were a bunch of people who annoyed me that I wasn’t really friends with but would repeatedly have classes with in high school. Then in walked the major frenemy. She found me instantly. The prodigal whore. She walked up and said she heard I live close to her and I told her I lived in Covington. She said a couple of other forgettable sentences, I handed a her a box of chocolates to try that were left on the table by a classmate in from Switzerland in skinny jeans. She semi-thanked me, I think, before saying “well, fuck you” and turning around and heading to the bar. That pretty much summed up our entire friendship – her shitting on whatever happiness I managed to find in life. Just the fact that I lived 40 minutes from her was enough to set her off. Or maybe she was already going to pop off. Or maybe it had nothing to do with me, I don’t know. I only know I was on the receiving end. I talked to Brandy and Jenny quite a bit before making eye contact with a guy I almost went out with in high school. He struck up a conversation with me, saying he’d be my date for the next night since my husband was out of town. I ignored this statement. More people were in the wine bar and I started to feel suffocated. Then the guy I almost went out with spilled an entire drink down my back. I turned to Jenny and Brandy and said I had to go and I would see them the next night. I went to my minivan, backed out of the parking space, drove to McDonalds and had a panic attack in the parking lot. I fumbled for my phone. Texted Will, but he was practicing for the Revel the next day. Texted Molly. Told her what a disaster the night had been and that she was smart to stay home; she got me to laugh, so that was an improvement. Of course, for a normal person, it wouldn’t have been a disaster, maybe getting told F you and having a drink spilled down your back after being hit on by a married man was just another night for a normal person. I took a Klonopin, drank a sweet tea and drove back to my grandfather’s, then told my mom about the disaster. Then next day I found myself crawling under a desk and hooking up my grandfather’s new computer because that’s what you do when you’re the Tech Support in the family. Then I set off to see Will preform with his band at the Red River Revel. It was cold. It was very cold. I was wearing jeans and chiffon because I hadn’t packed anything for cool weather because I’m a genius like that. The band was great. Will and I talked for a few minutes before he packed up. He and Molly would be at the place early that night to help setup, I said I’d come too. I left the Revel and had a call from my dad asking me to come pick him up and drop him off at the motorcycle shop to get his bike. Sure, why not? I drove to the house I grew up in and it was surreal. Nothing ever looks the same once you go back. My dad was cool as usual and I dropped him off at a shady looking biker shop. Nothing like dropping your dad off at a shady looking biker shop Somewhere in Shreveport.
Robin was in the parking lot of the place where the reunion was held and said she would be back in a bit. I was left with the caterers and walked around. Will and Molly arrived and we set up where people would check in and get their name badges and Will took pictures of each person to post to Facebook. George arrived, I showed him to the bar. I was “on” Kerry for the first part of the reunion, until I retreated back to a corner table with Rhonda, Syralja and her husband, then Will and Molly joined us. It was fine, it was good. Until the frenemy sat down. I mean, seriously. My blood started to boil, the anxiety started welling up in my chest, then my throat. Molly and Will left the table and went to the other room of the ballroom where the music was. Then the frenemy stayed for a bit just enough to make me uncomfortable. A few minutes later Will came back to table and asked me to come to the other room, that there was karaoke. I said I was fine. I wasn’t. I don’t know how many minutes passed by, then Rhonda and I went to the other room. It was packed. Rhonda, Molly, and I did the photo booth, we were cute. Before long it was midnight and everything would turn into a pumpkin. Everyone was meeting up at some bar. Not my scene. Molly, Will, and I went to IHOP and then to a casino to see a friend of his play in a band. Will said I looked like a ball of nerves. I know he had never seen me like that. It was embarrassing. Once it was just the three of us, I was fine. I was good. The band was ok. There was a man with one arm dancing with women that I kept talking about. The dude was working that one-arm dancing. It was Twin Peaksish. I just can’t look away from stuff like that. I said something about him just needing an eyepatch and a parrot. Will and Molly were funny. We had a good time. I was finally relaxed when it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and left. I was thankful the night ended on a good note.The next morning, the kids and I set off back to Covington. Once we got to Natchitoches I was in a great deal of pain, like the worst cramps I’ve ever had. I pulled into a gas station and got some Aleve and managed to get home. There were several times I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had to be okay because the next weekend I was going to Utah to meet Scott and go to Park City, then to Nevada to see Air Supply. I called my OB/GYN as soon as they opened Monday and they told me to come in for an exam, so I did and spent the whole day there. Dr. B said I needed an ultrasound. Like I had time for that. Karen, the wonderful tech did the ultrasound and said Dr. B would have to look for himself, but I could see the giant mass on my right ovary. I went back to the waiting room and posted stuff from my phone to Facebook. I remember a man waiting with his significant other who had taken his shoes off. In the waiting room. Oh, yes he did. I waited. And I waited. The nurse I liked called me back and I waited in an exam room for Dr. B. He came in and showed me the ultrasound pics and said that I had a giant cyst on my ovary and that I apparently wasn’t in menopause. He explained that we would do the cautious thing and not rush into surgery, that he would give me pain medication and start me on birth control pills to try to shrink the cyst, making me come back for ultrasounds every four months and scheduled me for an MRI on Halloween. That weekend I flew to Salt Lake City high on pain killers to visit my husband. It took forever to walk and use the moving sidewalk to get to the exit or whatever. My Vera Bradley Weekender Bag weighed at least 100 pounds. Scott was waiting for me and we drove to Park City resort. I love a resort. Our suite was amazing, dinner was amazing (I love a cheese plate), the next morning brunch was amazing, and my facial at the spa was amazing. I was high on Percocet, but trust me, everything was amazing. We watched a movie, but I don’t remember what it was, but it doesn’t matter because the throw on the end of the bed was the softest blanket I’ve ever snuggled with. The next day we saw the sights of Park City, then went back to Salt Lake to some outdoor mall. I was looking for socks because I forgot my boot socks. I went into a Cold Water Creek and looked around while Scott went into a bookstore. I browsed. There was a nice sales associate at the front who smiled when I walked in, then there was a bitchy angular-faced awful woman who came up to me and said “I’m sorry, we don’t carry anything in your size.” Let me tell you, gentle readers, there is nothing a woman who has money to spend LOVES hearing more than “we don’t carry anything in your size.” She didn’t know if I was shopping for myself, a gift, or socks. She saw an obese woman and made me know I wasn’t welcome. I stared her down and said I was looking for socks – turned around and walked out. I found socks at a store next door. Where there were nice people. I was in pain and I wanted to get back to Scott’s car where I could take something for pain. We went to a P.F. Chang’s and planned the rest of the day. I was still fuming. Don’t make a fat redhead angry. Just don’t do that, America.
Scott drove across the salt flats, giving me facts about Utah while I was thinking about how nice that facial and brunch were and how much I would forever hate Cold Water Creek. We checked into the hotel of a casino just over the Nevada border. The time zone changed when we got to Nevada. We were barely over the border and my iPhone kept switching time zones each time I turned around. It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Scott had tickets to see Air Supply. I was pretty sure I knew two of their songs, but I was happy just to be with him. We attempted to go to dinner in the casino before the concert, but the servers were taking too long and never came to take our drink orders, so we left and went to the concert hall. Once at our seats, you could see older women everywhere – taking selfies, clearly inebriated. The man sitting next to me was listening to me converse with Scott and asked “where in Texas are you from?” I said “actually I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana” and he said, “well, that’s practically Texas,” which is what I had always told people – it was weird hearing it from a stranger. Air Supply took the stage. One dude’s first name was Russell, the other guy’s last name was Russell. I felt like that was a missed band name opportunity: Russell Russell. With almost each song they sang I’d remark, “oh, I didn’t know this was an Air Supply song” and Scott would laugh. The Russells came into the audience at one point and women pawed at them. At another point in the show, one of the Russells reached his hand out to a woman from the stage and she attempted to climb on stage and he actually said “oh, no, no.” For me, it was a comedy concert.
The long weekend was over and I went back to Covington. I was in a ton of pain all the time. While I was in Utah, Scott and I had started talking seriously about me having weight loss surgery and once I was home, I called the surgeon’s group that I knew I’d want to use. They contacted my insurance company (which would pay nothing) and I made an appointment for a consultation. After talking back and forth with Scott and the surgeon’s office, my surgery was planned for December 12th, 2012. It would be laparoscopic and my mom would come in to help me with the kids. Scott would come in for Christmas. Hillary and Megan were there for me and I went into surgery weighing 309. You can read the whole story under my “Shrinking Kerry” series, but I lost right around 100 pounds. It was the best thing I could have done for my health. No more high blood pressure, no more pre-diabetes. Like I’ve said, I always thought I looked cute, so I think I was pretty cute in my before photo. I was wearing my favorite dress by Johnny Was and those boots were made for big girls with wide calves. They would be too big by the end of the winter. Weight loss is funny like that. My recovery was harder than hard. For the month after surgery I wanted to die just about everyday. That’s how terrible I felt. Everyday I woke up and asked God to make me better. It was a month until I felt better. I went scrapbooking in January with my friends and could barely eat anything and nothing sounded good to me anyway. I felt like that for a good while. Absolutely no appetite and no desire to eat. I forced down protein shakes, then protein bars. I bought a blender to make my own shakes, then broke it. But I was losing weight. And hair. And shoe sizes.
Scott started working back in Texas and was home every other weekend. It was a relief to have help with the kids and an adult to talk to. He handled grocery shopping for me for the most part. While I was recovering, I was still in pain from the giant cyst on my ovary. Dr. B said I wasn’t far enough down the road from my sleeve surgery to have the cyst removed during open surgery, which he was afraid he would have to perform. He said he could go in laparoscopically to see if he could remove the cyst and go ahead and do an ablation. So, that was in May, I believe. My mom came down again to help with the kids. My mom was always a great help during the times I had to have surgery, and there were several in just a few years. I was thankful for her. My mother-in-law brought me to the hospital. Dr. B was late and it went down from there. When I woke up, I was told the cyst couldn’t be removed because of the size – OH AND THERE WERE TWO GIANT CYSTS – and I cried and cried. Later my mother-in-law would tell me Dr. B removed tons of adhesions, fibroids, and did the ablation. Again, I was on pain killers. I was released before I was ready, blood running down my leg. I have never been treated that way by medical staff. Once I was able, I called Dr. B’s office to get my favorite nurse to explain what was done. I cried and told her how disappointed I was and told her how horrible the hospital experience was – she asked the name of the recovery nurse and said Dr. B would take it up with her supervisor.
I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find out I was still carrying the cyst around, and the new extra cyst. I was saddled with constant pain and able to do less and less as time went on. Here I was losing weight to improve my life, but having to take pain meds and stay laying on my side half the time I was home to lessen the pain. Pain + depression + anxiety does not make for much of a life. I cried often. Mostly in the shower because no one can tell you’re crying in the shower and you don’t have to explain why Mommy is sad again. And again. I managed to go to lunch with Hillary once a month and plan ScrapFest with Megan and try to do my usual activities. I barely went to the grocery store. I did a lot of shopping at the Walgreens practically down the street from my house. On good days I could make it to Target or Winn Dixie. I lived like this for a year and a half.
I sank lower and lower into a new depth of depression. I was on antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and Ambien to sleep. I went in every four months for another ultrasounds of cyst one and cyst two. Nothing changed. Dr. B was putting me off. I could tell.
And then I was 39 and Scott and I decided to put the house up for sale and look for a new house in Texas.
The song for today’s post is “House” by Ben Folds Five from Folds’ Retrospective recorded as a new song. For me the song says everything – it could mean a literal house, but for me it’s a metaphor for my hometown and my mind. Yes, this is the first time I’ve posted the song before the post, but that’s how much I identify with this song. Take a listen for yourself, here are most of the lyrics.
There’s a sign up in the yard,
And the the furniture has gone,
Filled with fetid memories,
Unworthy of a song.
Flashes of sad and angry faces come and go,
Could anyone live between those walls and never know?
And I could go there,
But I’m not going,
Pulse is slowing,
No, I’m not nervous anymore.
I’ve had the nightmares
I’ve seen some counselors,
But I’m not going,
Back up in that house again.
It’s just like waking up,
In that second and a half,
The bliss of not remembering,
Before it all comes flooding back.
So what do I do as all these voices come and go?
Could anyone live inside my head and never know?
I was 34.
I had just had my fourth miscarriage. We kept it to ourselves and for the most part didn’t tell anyone. No reason to go through the emotional part of “I’m so sorry” and “it wasn’t meant to be” statements from well-meaning friends and family. I could put this one behind me too. Pretend it didn’t happen and go about my everyday life. And I did.
Facebook was just starting to be THE THING that everyone was talking about. How fun to look up old friends and post photos and see what everyone was up to. Before long, almost everyone I knew was on Facebook, including me. Again, it was (and still is) an outlet. To be filled in on the latest you logged into Facebook. News of every kind was posted. It was great. I friended Will’s wife, Molly and struck up a friendship with her. Even though we weren’t friends in middle or high school, we became good friends and had a lot in common. We had sons about a year apart. She told me to look Will up on MySpace and I emailed him to say hi, then before long he joined Facebook too. It was like no time had passed. We updated each other on old friends, talked about music as we always had, and got caught up on each other’s lives. It made me happy. He sent me CDs he had recorded with a couple of bands he was in and I sent him my collection of George Harrison records. George was always his favorite.I got back in touch with great friends. A few BFFs from college – Dana, Hillary, and Michelle. Without them, I don’t know what I would have done these past few years. They are amazing. Amazing friends and amazing women. I suggest that if you don’t have a fantastic bunch of girlfriends (if you’re a girl), that you go out and get yourself a female wolfpack right now. Friends that will be there for you, that will hate the same people you hate and tell you you’re right when you need to be told you’re right even if you both know you’re wrong. Everyone needs a Dana, Hillary, and Michelle – but they’re mine – go get your own damn group of three friends who will love you, but call you out when you’re being a little bitch. Friends that tell you the truth no matter how hard it is to hear and will lift you up when you can’t get up yourself. These girls are the bomb.com.
Andrew was in Mother’s Day Out and doing ok. He was two and not very verbal at all. He had lots of ear infections and we saw a specialist who told us it was like Andrew was hearing everything underwater for two years and that’s why he wasn’t talking. We had tubes done immediately and had hearing testing done. The testing went fine and he was put on a waiting list to get into a special preschool at my daughters’ elementary school. He started talking and I was thrilled. Katie was doing great in Kindergarten, but Molly was struggling with ADHD and we held her back a year.Scott was working in Pascagoula, MS and stayed in a hotel there if he had a long day, but otherwise was home at night. I had ScrapFest and MOPS going on and stayed fairly busy. When people asked what I “did,” I said “I’m a stay at home mom that doesn’t stay at home much.” At that time it was true. I was pretty ok, drained, but ok. I had been through probably 3 different antidepressants and could manage ok. My house still suffered. At some point Scott started working further away again and I held it together for the most part. I told myself I was ok. I was reconnecting with old friends on Facebook and chatted with friends new and old. Megan and I would prepare for the next ScrapFest. It became routine, my days were routine. I napped a lot. I zoned out with books and television as a coping mechanism once Scott was working away. I took the girls to softball and went through many days, weeks, and months feeling virtually nothing. It was like when I first started Louisiana Tech. Little emotion, starting to put up walls.
One day in October, Will said he was there for me and if I wanted to talk about the past he was up for it when I was. A few days later I said I was. We chatted on Facebook for a couple of hours after he left work that day. For the first time in a long time, I let myself have my feelings. I told Will everything from high school, all the things I had kept bottled up for so long. He said “I’m so sorry, I had no idea” several times. I told him about my suicide attempt at 19 and how I stopped taking pills when he happened to call that day. He said that was a God thing and I agreed. It was very cathartic to tell my closest friend the things I was afraid to tell anyone else but my husband and a couple of counsellors. I don’t know if he was ready for everything I opened up about, but he was still the amazing friend he had always been, and continues to be. It felt great to have someone to talk to about things that happened that he was there for me at the time, even if he didn’t know what I was going through. For the first time I told someone about the nightmares.
Being able to tell Will was terrific, but it all came rushing back. It was ripping off the bandaid.
That Thanksgiving my family went to Shreveport to spend the holiday with my family. My grandfather had lost weight since losing my grandmother and was looking too thin. Everyone else looked great. I worried about my grandfather. The night after Thanksgiving, Scott and I went to see Will and his band play at a local bar. It was the first time we had seen each other in what? 17 years? Something like that. I had gained 100 pounds. He had changed, but he hadn’t changed. He called me “stranger.” I was happy that Scott got to meet him after I had talked about my friend for years and I was glad to see Molly now that we were friends. A couple of friends from high school were there and it felt comfortable. It was fine. After the show we said goodbye and Scott and I left. It was a good night. When we got back to our hotel there was an ice cream truck parked at the end of the parking lot that said “Getto Snowcone” and I was mad that the photos of the truck didn’t turn out. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see a Ghetto Snowcone truck.
We drove home with the kids that Saturday or Sunday – a familiar drive. It was on that drive that I started getting pains in my side, but I didn’t pay attention to it. Then the pains got worse. And worse. I lived with it for a few months and finally went to my internist. He felt my belly and side and the pain was excruciating. He sent me for an ultrasound and the ultrasound tech said “wow.” I said “what?” She said “I’m not supposed to tell you, but you have a mess of gallstones.” My doctor’s office called a couple of days later and said I would have to have my gallbladder removed. Scott and I met with a surgeon and scheduled surgery for the day after Labor Day. I didn’t look forward to it, but felt much better once it was gone. The surgeon wouldn’t let me keep it in a jar. Dammit.That’s when my medical problems started. First it was the gallbladder, then pre-diabetes. Then one day I was testing the water temperature in the tub for Andrew and I fell backward into the tub. Full of water. I hit my head and was woozy. I reached to the back of my head and there was blood all over my hand. I managed to get out of the tub, soaking wet, and called for the kids to come in the bathroom. Katie came in first. I asked her if the back of my head was very bad and she said she couldn’t tell because the blood was red and so was my hair. Very helpful. First I called Megan, she said she would come get the kids while I waited for 911.
Megan is the most dependable person I have ever known and she does silly things I tell her to do to pose for pictures. Like the one to the left. I called 911. The ambulance and Megan arrived at the same time. She took the kids, I went to the ambulance where they took my vitals. The EMTs were fantastic, but wouldn’t tell me anything and didn’t seem concerned at all with my head. They were worried about my blood pressure. I was whisked off to the St. Tammany Regional and wheeled into the ER waiting room. They were monitoring my blood pressure while I sat in the waiting room. In walks Bethy Beth and I say “hey Beth” as if I were running into her at the grocery store. She had talked to Megan and Beth came up to stay with me because at that time Scott was in Utah. She and he talked on the phone several times that night so he could get updates. My blood pressure was super high, so the Hot Doc in the ER gave me some pill to lower it and put nitro paste on my chest and sent me for a head CT. No one had cleaned up the back of my head or anything. There was an elderly patient in the next bay behind a curtain who was belligerent. It was a fun night. My blood pressure dropped too fast and a nurse scrubbed off the nitro paste and gave me something else to take. I’d been cracking jokes and posting on Facebook the whole time and when my blood pressure dropped I felt like I was on another planet. Hot Doc released me at one or two am. Beth drove me home. I still had dried up blood on my head. I went to bed and went to see my internist the next day. He put me on meds for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, told me to lose weight, change my diet, get exercise, and take my two meds for my blood pressure. My doctor basically made me feel like I was going to die. He suggested weight loss surgery. I had pondered that before, but thought I would look into it.Then I had to have my wisdom teeth out. It’s much worse getting your wisdom teeth removed at 37 than at 15. They gave me all the drugs. This was on December 21st. Yes, I remember the day. We had two family Christmas parties that I would be missing because I was high as a kite and in pain. I could only eat soft things, so I basically ate an entire red velvet cake myself. I had always been good at binging. I was great at it. How do you think I ended up at 326 pounds? It was funny, the most I gained with my pregnancies was 18 pounds and never had gestational diabetes. Now I was looking at having diabetes on top of asthma and a thyroid disorder. Again, I never thought I looked bad at whatever weight I was. Your girl can dress cute and accessorize. I started Nutrisystem and lost 30 pounds, then gained much of that back. Have you ever seen a serving of Nutrisystem food? It’s tiny. In high school I attempted Slim Fast until I cut my hand open on the can in the cafeteria. Then I tried the powder shakes, but I added Cool Whip or ice cream to them, so that really didn’t help. I was not a good dieter. For the first time my weight was really becoming a problem.
One October I went to Shreveport to visit my family and see Will and his band play at the Red River Revel. My Aunt Darlene had been diagnosed with ALS and I wanted to see her before she got much worse and couldn’t communicate. We had lunch at one of my favorite places, Monjunis, with my dad and grandmother and I noticed it was difficult for Darlene to get food on her fork and chew. When lunch was over I gave her a big hug because I knew it wouldn’t be long for her disease to make it impossible to do most anything. We lost my Aunt Darlene two summers ago. That night I had dinner with Will and we talked about diabetes in depth. I could tell he was concerned as well. On the way back to my hotel, I ran into a trailer standing straight up in the middle of a completely unlit part of I-20, then saw that several cars were cast off into the median and a winnebago was pulled over to the right. I was scared to death. I pulled over and called Scott. He was at a concert with his mom and didn’t answer. I called Will. He was on his way to round at the hospital. I called Triple A, they called the state police and I sat in my car crying until an officer knocked on my window 15 or 20 minutes later. He told me my minivan looked driveable and that he had to take pictures and get my statement, then I was free to go. I went back to my hotel room, took Xanax and Ambien and went to sleep. The next morning I went to say bye to my mom, then met Molly and her boys for breakfast. I was in a daze. The boys were precious. Molly made me forget momentarily about my wrecked car and the drive I had to make back to Covington. Once I got home it was at least a week before I left the house.I was in complete denial that anything was really wrong. Lots of people had depression. Lots of people have anxiety. Lots of people have nightmares. Thin people have gallbladder trouble. Thin people have high cholesterol. Thin people can have high blood pressure. But I was becoming less able to do the things I wanted to do. I couldn’t keep up with the kids like I wanted. I couldn’t do things without getting winded, and it wasn’t just because of my asthma. I’d been battling my weight forever, but now I had to get serious about it. Scott was very concerned. My mother-in-law was very concerned. My mother tip-toed around it because I’d always been sensitive about my weight. I got very depressed, feeling that I was failing at everything. It was common sense, just lose weight. I couldn’t do it. Not on my own. And my house started to become too much for me to keep up. I hired a maid, but the house would only stay straight for a couple of days. Around that time my internist suggested I start seeing a psychiatrist because nothing I was taking for depression was helping, so I sought out a psychiatrist and started seeing one in Mandeville. I was diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I had to come back every six weeks or so. The counselor there didn’t really get me and I felt mostly like this almost middle-aged mom of three who just couldn’t deal with her life and had irrational fears of nothing. I would have hot flashes in the grocery store. Everything was closing in on me. I was done with MOPS, so I joined the PTA – but I couldn’t just join, I had to do the newsletter and take the mic for events. I had ScrapFest and enjoyed the heck out of it. But that year I wasn’t asked back to head up preschool crafts at VBS and for the first time in years I felt majorly rejected. I wasn’t used to this. I was used to being in the spotlight with whatever I did. And that’s not to say I was an extrovert, I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies. Now I know that I like having a sense of control. Big shock, right? I let this drive me further from church. I already could barely stay through a service – when I went to service – because of my anxiety. Now I felt rejected and developed anxiety about that. My anxiety was so high that I rarely left the house once again and would turn down invitations to lunch. Unless it was for Cinco de Mayo because it’s mine and Hillary’s favorite holiday.
Physically, I felt awful. Mentally, I felt worse.
I was 38.
That’s right, find the tackiest Christmas lawn decor, snap a photo* and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to win an iTunes giftcard. Photos are judged by me and the winner is announced here on Christmas Eve. Remember, the tackier, the better!
*no nudity allowed because of Stacy Ellenberger Smith.