Saturday, October 11, 2008

Step by Step

Many, many thanks to everyone who responded to my last post. What a burden I have been to you and to myself. I'm getting better, three steps forward and one back. It's been fascinating [to me] to watch myself.

How did I start to pull out of the tailspin? I think that by the time I wrote my last post I was already pulling out -- I have no words when I'm in the depths. I was able to cry by last weekend. I have no tears in the depths. I confessed to a few people what had been building, including my mother. I hide my self when I'm in the depths.

I had a simpler week than usual, which helped because I'm tired when I'm coming out of the woods. It's like a long bad flu. The old energy takes a while to come back. I had little writing assignments to do. A brief review of a friend's book, an AFG post (the awfulness of which nearly knocked me back into the woods), a Lab Lady post, some overdue emails. I cleaned the bathroom sink, swept thoroughly, finished some reading, took clothes to the thrift shop. Such small things but such normal things and triumphs over the comparative catatonia of depression.

Now I need to get my food truly in order. I need to get started on the next chapter of my novel. I need to get out of the house without a dog and without a shopping list. I need to work on my apartment, a fact which is out of my hands until one of two men I've asked fixes the wall my air conditioner crisis crashed in.

Mostly I need to tell you I'm seeing more light than dark. I heard from one more old friend this week who wrote that I should come back to her town for a long visit. "Or maybe longer." It made me cry again; she was inspired to write because she'd had a dream about an adventure we had when we were 18. A lot of my past seems to want to reclaim me. Someplace early in the week I thought, hey. Frances. You matter to these people you've envied for thirty years. I missed SO much...but I was there in some way that some of these old friends haven't forgotten. I watched while they acted but in doing so, I can pinpoint their motivations and spin them. Watchers don't forget much. Thirty years of synthesis has its own merit badge.

I couldn't see two sides a week ago. I needed light. I've begun to get it. I've got to be careful. I'm reading a lot about schizophrenia right now but need to parse it out. I need to sleep. I'm going out to Arizona for five days but I'm collecting little projects to do out there and I'm taking a big Harry Potter book.

I ate junk last night. It could unglue me. I have THIS day to pull it around. I have dogs to take care of. I have Klonopin to get me to sleep. I took a very long nap this morning with no regrets, and I just had some yogurt and half a too-ripe pear. I can do this; I can invest in the next step, the next day, the next ray of light.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

We Shall Not Regret the Past...

nor wish to shut the door on it.

To any 12-step program member, this sentence is burned on our brains. My response to it is, "Oh, really???" Just as my response to the Promises of recovery is, when read aloud, "Do we think these are extravagant promises?" and everyone answers "We think not!" I either keep my mouth shut or say out loud, "Hell, yes!"

My past has caught up with me in recent months. It has been heartening to know that some bridges didn't burn down completely, that others were never erected but always had the potential to build, but they ALL send me whizzing through time to 1972 - 1984. I've been through one of the worst depressions I've had in a very long time.

I can tell how bad it was because it's slowly -- s-l-o-w-l-y -- lifting. I've actually told four people about it and three of them offered understanding &and faith. My mother, who last week was on my ass about insurance and retirement, said, "You're a strong person, Francie. You've weathered a lot when a lot of people would have given up." That felt validating. Admitting it is a first step. Realizing yesterday that Daisy is my anchor to having to get through it was a second step to crawling up. Having a fierce crying jag that has been building for weeks was good.

It's all been made worse, of course, by losing my abstinence & then getting off sugar again. Yesterday was Day Three & I was jittery and hyper-emotional.

Which was a good time to have something like a six-hour conversation with a friend I haven't spoken to in, um, like 20 years.

One afternoon when I was an undergraduate at the University of Montana, she stopped and asked if I was Francie Kuffel. I am sure I said coldly, "Yes." Undeterred, she introduced herself. I knew her brother from high school. That's all either of us can remember but it began a sporadic friendship for about ten years that was both acutely painful for what and who she was and what and who I wasn't.

One of the things she did that made me break down crying as we talked was fall in love with my hair. Age has done things to my hair. It's more red than black now. It's straight after being naturally curly. But I have glorious hair and she would sit me down in a chair in the back yard and trim it and brush it and gush over it.

It was the first time in my life I felt feminine. It would, in retrospect, be another 20 years, until I lost weight, that I felt feminine again.

All through the early chapters of PFT when I lament about the life obesity prohibited me from having is imbued with C. She was an adventuress. In fact, she googled me when she and her cousin got to reminiscing about showing up at my door at 5 a.m. to haul me off to Mount Lolo to watch an eclipse of the sun. I didn't go but I packed them off with chocolate cake for their adventure.

How fucking perfect. What a microcosmic look at my entire life. No I won't go but I'll send you off with cake. I'll provide but not participate.

I don't happen to remember this episode but it burns with all the toxin of my M.O. in life, all the things I didn't do.

It turned out, however, in the course of the conversation, that I said some perspicacious things about her that she found to be among the nicest things anyone has ever said about her. At that same time, I listened to her success and the aspects of her thick fruitcake of a life & felt I'd never lived or achieved anything at all.

There have been two other old friends who've touched my email lately. One I have yet to seriously deal with, the other I exchange witticisms with on Facebook, but by the skin of my teeth. She was brilliant in high school and is still an elfin character. I was thinking of her when I told my mom today that I'm SO tired of battling depression & food -- so, so, so, so weary of it. Had anyone noticed, which no one did in Missoula, Montana, in 1973, that this 14-year-old kid was drowning, I could have been so much more. Instead, the consensus, of course, was that I needed to lose weight.

I need fucking drugs, man, and the second I graduated from high school I asked for a shrink, which was pretty self-preserving as I entered my Suicide Years. But regrets have been flowing through me like another set of white cells. The men I couldn't have. The travel I didn't do. The sexiness I did not feel. Reed College, my dream school, far above my pathetic grades. C still visits her favorite teacher and asked if I was fond of her. I laughed. I had what I now know was a nervous breakdown my senior year and was out of school for three weeks. "It's just as well," said-teacher said when she asked if anyone knew what happened to me, "she doesn't belong in school."

She was an English teacher.

So, no, I'm not fond of that teacher.

Depression is like this, OK? I've been feeling on the verge of tears for weeks. It built. I self-medicated and was excessively tired. I played computer games and brooded and hated myself for not doing something constructive. The crisis, like scarlet fever, came yesterday: the fever broke enough for me to feel my feelings, to cry for not going to Reed College or playing the Poetry Game in graduate school, to look at Daisy and realize I was alive because I have to BE with this animal. To realize I had not been admitting for a while that I didn't want to be alive: the battles against myself are so so exhausting. To tell my first, beloved shrink that I'm in a Bad Place, and my friend D., and my friend J., who completely got it and didn't act as though I was insane when I asked in a small voice if she thinks Daisy loves me. To actually tell my mother what I've been going through and have her respond sympathetically.

Depression is like this: I published a book that cracked open an experience many women share that led to a cyberspace community of sharing. Maybe I saved -- or salved -- some lives. Now I'm getting ready to edit a book about the shame of regaining weight in an effort to tell these woman it's OK. It's OK to gain weight, it's what we're unfortunately wired for. And whatever battle we chose with regards to our weight -- diets, exercise, acceptance, surgery, depression -- they're all OK to. Because it's a war between self and self, society and self, and we Americans haven't won any wars lately. It's OK to love our success and to deeply revere and respect our failure and to celebrate every day that we stick to whatever option we have decided to fight for and with in this battle. Hell, let's celebrate every hour.

And then depression is like this: telling myself all that doesn't make me believe it. I'm still the young fat woman standing at the front door with chocolate cake wrapped in tinfoil, sending my friends off to have fun, have an adventure, drive 9,000 feet up closer to the sun while I went back to bed.

I hope to God I said no because I was writing a paper on Troilus and Cressida that day or had an Italian test coming up. I hope I was reading Proust at 3 pages an hour. And I'm grateful C and I found each other and that maybe I can make up for lost time in some small way.

Say a prayer for me, friends. I'm working hard to climb back up to the daylight. One day I'd like to be close to a tricky sun.