Before jumping into today’s extremely cheery subject matter (see Mir use sarcasm; snark, Mir, snark!), let’s check in on the children’s medical state, shall we?
Chickadee confounded the doctor with… a whole lot of nothing. Except maybe she has a slight eye infection. Or maybe she has mono, but we’ll have to wait and see. I mentioned that this was giving me deja vu, except last time it turned out to be severe anemia, which shouldn’t be an issue now as she’s on iron supplements. Regardless, we got some prescription eye drops and directions not to wear contact lenses for a week, and the suggestion that she “take it easy.” I resisted the urge to ask the pediatrician if SHE would like to come finish Chickie’s science experiment, African scrapbook project (motto: Now with more Zimbabwe!), and also come take the SAT for her this weekend, and said we’d try.
Monkey, in the meantime, continues to be astonishingly agreeable and calm, and while I wait for the other shoe to drop I pass the time leaving messages at the neurologist’s office to say that when your kid has a bunch of scary tests it would be really nice if the doctor would, you know, call back with the test results sometime. BEFORE I DIE FROM THE WAITING. Ahem.
Anyway, that’s what’s happening there. This is not actually about the kids, though. I just like to share my complete absence of useful information whenever I can. You’re welcome!
So, uh, you know how I mentioned that I wasn’t actually doing all that well? And I’d decided to go back to therapy because I felt like I was needing some help with things? I’m glad I decided to do that. I mean, it’s not that it’s not highly therapeutic to sit on the couch and eat popcorn and pet the dog and whine to Otto that LIFE IS HARD and THIS IS SO UNFAIR and WHY US and all of that, but it just didn’t seem all that productive, in the grand scheme of things. Whereas hearing about my therapist’s sex life was going to be TOTALLY helpful. (Yeah, I’m still seeing him. That was an anomaly, and in general I think he’s good at what he does.)
So therapy has been a good thing for me, I think. It’s good to have a place where I can spend an hour going ZOMG MY BABY MY PRECIOUS BABY CAN’T HAVE A BRAIN TUMOR and just kind of vent out the awful stuff. Friends really do not want to hear you repeatedly obsess over whether or not your child might be sick or even dying, it turns out. Hell, I don’t much like listening to myself, so it’s not like I blame them. In that sense, therapy is a nice safe place to be completely neurotic and not be judged.
And I’ve been in therapy lots of times over the course of my (neurotic) life, so I’m pretty used to the way it goes: I vent a whole bunch, and through about 75% me just feeling better after saying things out loud and 25% probing questions and/or insights from the therapist, eventually I feel less fragile and more able to deal with things on my own. It’s not rocket science. But it works, y’know?
Funny thing, though. After a few sessions this therapist started talking about how he has a lot of experience with disaster victims and rescue workers and—I’ll admit it, sometimes he goes off on what seems like tangents, so it’s possible I started zoning out a little bit—there’s what’s considered sort of standard, conventional PTSD, wherein someone goes through one or several traumatic events and develops a reactive syndrome, but more and more, they’re finding that lesser trauma and/or a series of longtime stressors can create what is essentially the same symptoms in someone who hasn’t, say, been in a war zone or a hurricane or whatever.
He paused, waiting for me to respond. I had to go back over what he’d just said, in my head, to make sure I’d actually heard what he said. I ran it back on the mental replay and then looked at his expectant face and burst out laughing.
“Wait. What? Are you saying you think I have PTSD?” Before he could answer, I added, “We have a joke about how our dog has Post Traumatic Suitcase Disorder, and you KNOW how people become more and more like their dogs….”
He continued to blink at me. I hate it when therapists do that.
“I don’t think so,” I finally said. Still he waited. “Okay, FINE,” I said. “You explain it to me.”
So he did. Traumatic events, long-time stressors, irrational fears, inability to feel hopeful about the future, blah blah blah blah… oh, it’s not that it wasn’t FASCINATING, it’s that I really just thought this was the reaching section of our program, plus one of my other many talents is denial.
I came home and mentioned it to Otto, who got a very thoughtful look on his face. “Really? He said that?”
“I know, CRAZY, right? I’m just garden-variety neurotic! Haha!”
“Well, um, what would the treatment for that be, if it was true?” he asked.
“I have no idea. More therapy? WOW THIS IS TURNING OUT TO BE SO HELPFUL.” And then I went and made dinner, because dinner needed to be made whether I was a whole new brand of crazy or not.
But then the last time we saw Monkey’s therapist, I was doing my little check-in portion with her while Monkey hung upside-down from a chair in the waiting room reading a book, and she asked how I was doing. “Oh, well, you know I’m seeing [therapist’s name; they’re part of the same practice] again. So that’s probably good.” She nodded. Suddenly I found myself blurting out, “You know, he said the funniest thing. I guess he thinks I might have PTSD…?”
She nodded again, more vigorously, and said, “Secondary trauma. I can totally see that with you, given everything that’s going on.”
This woman has been with our family since we moved, so about three and a half years. Which means she then deftly ticked off half a dozen of my Life Events of Major Suckage, and that didn’t even include several things I’d been thinking about from before we met her. FUN!
I came home and reported the incident to Otto, rather more glumly than the first time we’d talked about it. “So, apparently I’ve somehow become my own Very Special Episode of Gray’s Anatomy. In case you were wondering.”
It’s weird, because on the one hand I’m sort of… embarrassed? Even though I know that’s ridiculous. I hate the “mental illness can be overcome with willpower!” school of thought. (Though this Geico commercial still delights me. Go figure.) So I feel embarrassed and then I feel stupid for being embarrassed. Which is—as you might imagine—totally helpful. Except not really.
Also, I’m totally still living my life, still functioning, meeting most obligations, tending to my family, remembering to feed the dog, doing the laundry, working too much, smiling and laughing when things are amusing… even if some of it does feel a little bit like autopilot. Still. It’s not as though I’m curled up under my desk muttering about the bad guys, or anything.
But on the other hand, the thing where I feel like I am currently living my life clenched for the next nugget of bad news, the thing where I either can’t sleep or have nightmares, the thing where I cannot, no matter how hard I try, shake the ridiculous fear that Monkey is not destined for adulthood (and yeah, the seizure and subsequent testing DID NOT HELP on that score), those things… those are things I would like to overcome and put in the past. And I guess I don’t really care what my therapist wants to call it if he can help me do that.
Still. Remind me to tell you about all the bodies I saw in ‘Nam, man.
* PTSOFFSWTH = Post Traumatic Stress… Oh For Fuck’s Sake, What The Hell?!