Ten Hours

A few days ago I woke up, early in the morning, drenched in sweat. The sheets beneath and above me were soaked through with it, and my blanket too; everything smelled of sweat. My head was spinning, and I managed to push myself upright and take a drink of water. I got up and very slowly shambled into the living room, where my mom lay on the couch with the news on. It was still early enough that there was no light outside. I collapsed into the recliner, and wrapped a blanket around myself, taking staggered breaths.

There was a hurricane coming through, Hurricane Michael, but honestly I wasn’t concerned about it. I don’t really mind storms anymore, as an adult I’m not really afraid of dying in them like I was as a kid, and I often find the pounding rain comforting. I sat in the chair, my head lolling back and forth because it was so hard to hold it up, and every time I exhaled, a soft moan would accompany it. This was the second day that I’d been sick, and I still didn’t know what with. But it was terrible, and it was wreaking havoc not just on my body but on my mind and heart as well. I suffered from a constant dread, a feeling that this would never end, never get better.

I don’t handle being sick well, and I never have. At least not when it comes to anything stomach related. Throwing up is an incredibly rare occurrence for me, to the point that I’ve always found it incredibly odd to hear people talk so casually about throwing up from drinking, or making themselves throw up to feel better. For me, vomiting is a life-or-death experience, at least emotionally. My entire body goes limp and then seizes up, it’s more like a seizure than throwing up. I never throw up quickly, it churns in my stomach for hours and sometimes even days before it leaves me, like a disease festering inside my body. Usually I can feel a disgusting taste coming up into my throat for days beforehand and when I do throw up, it exhausts me so much physically and emotionally that I almost always cry, and then emotionally collapse and go to sleep, praying that it will be over soon.

So, it was with some unease then, that I went to work several days ago with my stomach feeling uneasy. Now, I’m actually used to my stomach giving me problems pretty often: I’m lactose intolerant, I have type 2 diabetes and issues with blood sugar, but usually it never gets bad enough that I throw up, and thankfully at no point in this story do I ever end up throwing up. Thank God for small mercies, I guess. I work at a coffee shop, and had taken home a couple of the “protein boxes” that were past their sell by date, which I’ve even before and which are usually just fine. I happened to take home a couple that have two hard-boiled eggs in them, and though I still don’t know for sure, I think the eggs are the source of all of this. I ate one of the protein boxes the night before, and another the morning of before I went to work that day. I was in and out of the bathroom all afternoon, but I was determined that I wouldn’t leave work early because of it.

The truth is, I have a bad problem with calling out of work, or avoiding work in general. I’ve never been good at working a job for the same reason that I was never good at going to school regularly: I don’t like feeling trapped. I can actually still remember the moment in Kindergarten, walking into the school on a dark and rainy morning, so early that the sun had not yet come up, and I remember looking up at the ceiling, which to a five year old seemed so incredibly high, like the domed ceiling of a cathedral, and I remember a teacher ushering us all toward our classrooms. As I walked, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of how I missed being at home and being with my mom, I was thinking about how I’d recently learned that school lasts for twelve years. Twelve years was an incomprehensibly long time, and it seemed to stretch out forever before me. And I decided then and there that I hated school, that I didn’t want to be there, and that I just couldn’t wait until it was over so I could stay at home where I was happy. After all why did I need to come to this stupid school for seven hours a day, five days out of the week?

And honestly, that feeling never left me. I was a very smart child so I had good grades up until middle school, when things began to actually challenge me, and my response was to simply give up and slide by on terrible grades until I ultimately graduated high school. I could have applied myself and been an outstanding student, but the truth is I didn’t want to be an outstanding student: I just wanted to go home. I always just wanted to go home. And when school was over and the time for me to start working jobs, it was exactly the same feeling: why am I spending eight hours of the day here, every day, wasting precious moments of my life in a place where I’m unhappy? Why does ANYONE do this? There are so many better things I could be doing with my time. If this is what work is, then I don’t care about work at all, and I don’t want to do it.

And, like school, it’s never really left me, that feeling of the utter uselessness of going to work. I can understand on some level why it’s important to go out and be a member of society, but the fact that in addition to that simple childlike desire to go home, I now as an adult have to contend with debilitating social anxiety and panic attacks, makes it even harder to go to work on a regular basis. And so, it’s always been difficult for me, and probably always will be. I started this new job incredibly excited about working for this company, but within a few weeks I’ve already called out about four or five times and left work early twice, and that doesn’t look good on me.

So here I was, at work, with an upset stomach, just trying to make it through the day. My vision started to get blurry and I began to feel more and more disoriented. I had made a decision the night before that I was going to start eating healthier, so this morning had NOT included a run through the McDonald’s drive through for a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, and instead I’d eaten my protein box with two eggs and some fruit, and later the turkey sandwich from another protein box, and even writing about either of those things right now is making me want to throw up, so you can see where this is going. I felt shaky and weak, which are symptoms that, along with the disorientation, I’m very used to, because they’re common signs of anxiety attacks, and also signs of low blood sugar. I didn’t feel particularly anxious, and when I checked my sugar it was lower than it should be, so I decided I would take lunch soon and have something sweet. On lunch I got a frappucinno (yes, I’m diabetic, and yes, I got a frappucinno, I didn’t say it was a GOOD decision) and a pre-made panini and went to sit in my car and eat and try to recover. After about ten or fifteen minutes I could feel my sugar rising and started to feel a bit better, when I suddenly realized that the air condition in my car was bothering me, so I turned it off. But when I turned it off I realized that actually, I was freezing, so I turned the heat on. All the way. And blasted it.

I was suddenly freezing, cold chills running up and down my whole body, and the heat felt like a warm blanket; my skin was covered in goosebumps, and I was reminded of the time I got bronchitis, which began with a terrible fever, when I’d sat in my truck with the heat blasting for a good fifteen minutes before I got out, and then discovered the next day I had a high fever. This was so unexpected and sudden that I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but my break was nearly over. The 30-minute mark of my break came and went, and I stayed in the car, shivering, and trying to breathe. Eventually about 45 minutes had past. I knew I wasn’t going back inside. I gathered up the courage to call the store and let my manager know what was happening, and that I was going to go to the Emergency Room. When I got to the Emergency Room, I brought in a small blanket my sister had made by cutting and tying together two pieces of fabric. I was surprised to find that I was NOT running a fever, despite having every symptom of a fever.

This led to the longest night in the Emergency Room I’ve ever experienced. I got there at 8PM. I was taken back, had blood taken from me, and hooked up to an IV pole with saline dripping. I kept going back and forth to the bathroom with dhiarrea like I had all day. I was taken to a room and given a gown, and the nurse even brought me a heated blanket. I did NOT like having an IV in my arm, as I don’t do well with needles, and an IV isn’t a needle, but a gauged tube that holds your vein open so that fluids can be injected directly into it, which somehow made my skin crawl even more. The tests were coming back not showing anything serious, my white blood cells were normal, my symptoms seemed to be an elevated heart rate, severe dehydration, and slightly heightened liver function. An ultrasound was taken of my liver and I was eventually given an X-Ray for one of my ribs which had recently been bruised, just in case it had something to do with what was going on. I was continually amazed that I was NOT running a fever, despite laying their shivering under what was now a pile of FOUR blankets: my sister’s quilted one and three from the ER. The fluids were making me even colder. Hours were passing. I was so exhausted, and just laying there and breathing was becoming more difficult. The heart monitor kept making annoying beeping sounds because my heart rate kept hitting 120, which is not dangerously high but is too high to be considered normal.

I was so afraid that at one point I took my phone out and turned on the voice recorder and set it on my chest and made a spoken Last Will and Testament, just in case it turned out to be needed. I told my lover and my best friend Jake how important he is to me, and that I leave everything to him, and said some words about people in my life who’ve been important: my ex-boyfriend Nathan, my friends Zack and Robert who I used to live with, and a handful of others. I said that I didn’t want a Christian funeral, and I didn’t want any preacher to use my death or the grief of my friends and family to prey on them with a funeral service inciting them to come to Jesus. I chose a few songs that I wanted played at my funeral.

I know this all sounds dramatic, and I was aware at the time that it was a silly thing to do, but at the same time… I just DIDN’T KNOW what was happening. All of the tests they’d run seemed to indicate that I was alright aside from dehydration, and despite having fever symptoms, I wasn’t running a fever. Did that mean that I was suffering from something really rare and unusual? Was I having a reaction to something that they hadn’t figured out yet? I certainly felt like I was dying, so was I actually going to? Sadly I didn’t get to finish what I was saying to Jake in my recording because someone came into my room.

Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up covered in sweat, no longer freezing. I felt a lot better already. My vitals were all the same as before: still a high heart rate, my temperature was elevated but not technically a fever. By now it was 1AM. I was lonesome, I was afraid, I was sad. I called every member of my family and none of them answered. My phone was at about 10% and had another hour or so before it died, and I didn’t have a charger for it. One of my friends, Tori, gave me a call, I’d never heard her voice before, but it was nice to hear someone friendly. She assured me over and over again that I was safe, that I was probably fine. It helped a lot, she was the first person to offer me any kind of comfort.

Blood cultures were taken and it was incredibly painful. My veins wouldn’t show up because I was dehydrated and it took three attempts, rooting around inside my veins with the needle, each time my heart pounded as I squinted my eyes shut and tried to breathe. I was told once again that they couldn’t find anything wrong, I learned I have a gall stone but it’s really not a big deal and probably had nothing to do with me being sick now. The doctor finally let me take the damn temperature myself, rectally, and yes I did in fact have fever. Strange though considering I wasn’t freezing cold anymore.

Around 4AM I started to get antsy, I was ready to leave soon, but then I was told I was going to be transferred to a hospital for observation because my heart rate was too high. I was honestly just not interested in doing that, but they suggested I take in another bag of IV fluids since the last one had helped so much and see how I was doing after. That sounded reasonable enough, except after an hour and a half, the fluids were still not any more than halfway through the bag, and I didn’t feel much different than I had before. And what’s more, I did NOT want to go to the hospital and suffer through any more of this. Finally I told my nurse I was thinking of leaving soon, and she said I’d have to sign papers saying that I was leaving against the doctor’s recommendation, and indeed that’s the only paperwork I was given: a pink copy of a sheet saying that I acknowledged that the results of my refusing treatment could be (and then a blank space in which was written very simply) “sepsis, death.” I still don’t know what sepsis is and don’t want to. I waited and waited for my nurse to come back and take my IV out, but now she was helping other people and cleaning another room, and I was nearly ready to march up to the counter and offer them an ultimatum that either someone take this IV out of me or I’m doing it myself and it’s going to be a mess, before finally at 6AM, I was released from the machines I’d been hooked up to and my vein was finally, after ten hours, closed.

The moment I walked outside and smelled the damp morning air from the rain that had fallen overnight, it was like I’d just been reborn. It felt incredible. I was reminded of a moment in Dragon Age Inquisition where Cassandra describes her vigil to become a seeker, where she’d kept in dark and solitude, fasting and praying for days on end, drained of all emotion, until finally being touched by a spirit of faith and let out into the world again, and that the feeling is indescribable. I honestly wondered if maybe I HAD died in the hospital, and this was me in another universe where I’d survived, living out the dead Jesse’s wish to see the outside again. Driving home in my car was a wonderful feeling, and as I got inside and crawled into bed, I hoped that the worst of it was over.

I was wrong, of course, but I’d made it through the experience at the ER. The next day was difficult, filled with just as much emotional trauma as the last. I felt like I was dying, like I’d never be back to normal, never have my life back. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat, I could sometimes barely even speak, and I was so tired at all times. When I slept, I sweated profusely. The only things that made me feel any spark of joy were watching the animals in our house: several cats and two dogs, as they went about begging for food or following people around. My dog Butterscotch stood watch nearby wherever I was resting. I felt better as I got into bed that night, and the next morning awoke more tired and afraid than I’d been yet, and a hurricane was preparing to come through our area.

Later that day I felt better, and it continued to go in waves: a little better, then terrible, then a little better, then terrible. No one at the Emergency Room had offered me a concrete answer as to what was wrong with me, but my symptoms perfectly matched that of food poisoning. Tori called me again and reassured me that I was doing great, that I would recover soon, and that it took her husband three days to get better from food poisoning. Everyone kept saying three days, actually, that was apparently the magic number.

And it was.

On the third day, I was out of the woods. I was not recovered or even nearly back to normal. It is the fifth day now and I’m still not back to normal, but I knew that the worst was now over. And I was greeted by another surprise when I woke up: autumn. Every year I look forward to autumn, because the choking heat of summer makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and the fresh breath of autumn is like water when I’ve been choking and thirsty for months on end. I stepped onto the front porch and smelled fall air for the first time in a year, and it was as though nature was congratulating me on making it through, and I had the feeling that my life before the sickness and my life after were probably not going to be the same. I don’t really know, honestly.

I have a lot more to talk about, but it’s getting late and I’ve written all I can. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what’s been happening in my mind this whole time, and where my thoughts are, and what my plans are. Going back to work… it’s something I still haven’t done yet. I don’t know if I’ll lose my job over this. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I am scared. But I’m going to just keep going and doing what I have to. Right now, I can’t afford to do anything other than exactly what will help me recover.

Yesterday there was a fire in the front yard, and they burned limbs and wood all day. At night I took this picture of the smoking embers as I stood by the remaining warmth. It felt like it was really fall. And as I found myself standing up, outside, and walking around, I felt like a different person than the one who’d been suffering these past fews days, like I was his representative, strong and determined, sent out here to speak on his behalf. And I couldn’t help wondering, again, if maybe I HAD died of the sickness, and this was some universe where I’d escaped that fate, or history had been changed to allow me to live somehow. I didn’t feel entirely the same. And with the seasons changing, I knew that one of my biggest sources of fear and anxiety, namely the heat and the environment, was going to be far away for a while. I felt hopeful, and yet still terrified at the same time. And I still do.

But I’m alive, I’m alive.

Hee-ee-ee-ee-ee, I said
Don’t even let this go
And it’s hey to that old man
I’m coming in the graveyard
With my little tune, it’s June
I said she’s gone but I’m alive, I’m alive
I’m coming in the graveyard
To sing you to sleep now.”

– Graveyard, Tori Amos

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Like A Lullabye

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(“The Empty King”)

On this autumn hill
The kingdom of an ancient time
When the birds spoke in verse
When the people of the forest listened
Comes to me at sunrise

The horses can still smell
The air we’ve gotten used to
Our noses were full of cotton
Flares on a cool evening breeze
Asking me to hear secrets I’ve been keeping

Blue, blue
Soft nocturne like a lullaby
I’m asking the ghosts if they can spare a mother for me
I need to be held against her breasts
I hold an empty cup in my hands

The empty king wears a birds head
He looks down on a cold chasm
I have come to ask compassion
Come with my twisted knots of flesh
Tangled nerves that thirst for something fresh
And pools of blood beneath my skin
Where my heart was beaten

And I cross this angry bridge
While they look on silently
With nothing behind me
And a cup of blood in my hands

“This House Is Full Of M-M-Madness”

Apparently I’m in a Kate Bush phase.

I go through a lot of phases, especially with music. Part of why I so often bemoan the fact that I haven’t been blogging is that I always want to talk and/or write about what I’m listening to, and I’ve discovered I have to write about it when it’s fresh, instead of doing what I’ve been doing and taking notes to review an album later on, and never doing it because the inspiration is gone. I don’t like writing without inspiration.

My life has been strange lately. I mean, I say that a lot, but it has been pretty strange for the past few years. Today, my brain’s natural “I am miserable and lonely and life is meaningless” processes are fighting against the “HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY” processes that the antidepressants are shooting into it, leaving me FEELING happy and, well not exactly THINKING negatively, but I’m aware that it’s there in the back of my mind.

My best friend Jacob lived with me for about two months earlier this year. I woke up next to him every morning and went to sleep by him every night. We spent our days driving around, going to the mountains, looking around stores, talking and singing and playing music and having sex. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. He had to go back home, though, for work, and has been there for the summer. He had the opportunity to move in with his dad and hopefully be in a better situation than where he was living, and I was happy to hear it, although sad that he isn’t coming back to me at the summer’s end. But then, I’m not sure what I can give him to come back to.

I’ve only just recently found another job. I had a long stretch of unemployment when I quit my last job after my stepfather died. It wasn’t actually his death that prompted it as much as my anxiety about working and the fact that I’d been sick going on a month. When I found out Jacob could move in and I didn’t have to pay rent I basically threw my hands up and decided I didn’t care about working right now, and that’s what I did.

Getting back out in the world has been difficult. When Jacob left I felt so empty, and dealt with the depression the best I could. I thought the worst of it was over, but it turns out my grieving process for Jacob leaving just moved into a different phase that FELT like normalcy, but was actually self-destruction. I’ve never been the kind of depressed person who physically self-harms; for one thing I have an incredibly low pain threshold and I don’t like the sight of blood, so cutting myself has never been an option. I know that a lot of depressed people feel relief after harming themselves, so I don’t have that outlet and my depression builds and builds.

My depression primarily manifests as intense loneliness, and it has strange physical effects on me. I start to walk incredibly slowly, all of my hand motions and mannerisms slow down, I have a look of exhaustion on my face, and generally just feel incredibly heavy. Usually I fall into bed and listen to some music and curl into a ball and cry, shivers running up and down my back, and I stare in awe at the depth of the sadness within me, so inexpressible by words or by music or poetry. I’ve found certain metaphors that describe it, but never perfectly, and besides it changes form.

I don’t think of my depression as a virus living inside me, more like a very somber friend. Last night I thought about personifying it as a character, I’m not sure what he would look like. I already have a few characters that live in my head, two of which were my imaginary best friends as a teenager and one of which is kind of like an angry alter-ego. I started listening to the song Get Out Of My House by Kate Bush obsessively last night, it’s so incredibly powerful, and describes what it’s like to feel invaded within your own head, fighting against something that’s trying to break into you. I don’t know that I can say the depression feels like it’s trying to break in, but it is apt in a certain way, because I could imagine it growing in my heart and then trying to break into my head. Like moving from my emotions to my choices, and affecting me.

I digress.

My depression moved into a self-destructive phase, and my form of self-harm was hooking up with strangers on dating apps. While a few of these encounters were actually pretty positive and I had a good time, many of them just left me feeling dirty and lonely. Not dirty because I think sex is dirty or wrong, or that sex with a stranger is wrong. Sex with strangers can be fun and exciting and even fulfilling. But for me, I started to lose myself, all that I did was send messages to people on Grindr. I neglected eating or showering or even things I normally do for fun like playing video games, and it started to consume me. I could write here the number of men I hooked up with over the last few months, or at least an estimation, but I’m not going to. Suffice it to say it was enough to leave me feeling even more depressed.

I’ve had a couple of depressive episodes that were as bad as anything that happened back when my depression was at it’s worst a few years ago. I don’t know that I’ve ever truly thought about committing suicide in any serious fashion, but I have felt a longing for death, which is odd because mentally I am afraid of death, but there are times when emotionally I find the release attractive. People always shame others for wallowing in self-pity, but I think that the reason people wallow in self-pity so often is that it’s a natural and possibly even healthy part of processing emotion.

I finally made the decision that I’m not going to be having any more random hookups with strangers, or that at least I’ll try to do something in the context of a date, rather than just appearing at someone’s house for sex and never speaking again. I put myself in a lot of potentially dangerous situations hooking up, one of which involved a guy who more or less threatened to kill and rob me as some kind of weird “joke,” and strangely I stayed there and finished fooling around with him before leaving. I think that maybe a subconscious part of me was choosing to put myself in those dangerous situations because I couldn’t deal with the loneliness. I don’t really know why I would do that. Maybe it was so that I could reach a low point and realize that I needed to change my pattern of behavior.

A part of moving on is finding a job and getting my life together, and starting school too. I haven’t made much progress yet on school, but I did get a new job as a pharmacy technician, which is a career path I’ve wanted to at least try out for a while. I’m not particularly interested in the medical field, but it’s always seemed like a comfortable environment to work in. Not as comfortable as being in an office, but at least they get to wear scrubs and stay behind the counter in their own area. I had a nine-hour first day on the job where I was trained on a few areas, and I felt that I understood what I was doing pretty well and picked it up easily enough. I do worry about how I’ll react when there’s a line, or when I’m stuck in one area not able to leave to go to the bathroom or hide anywhere. But at least right now I have some medication that can help me calm down in the case of a panic attack. I’m hoping that the anxiety I feel around going to work will subside soon.

Working has always been difficult for me. I usually dread going, and have a difficult time feeling safe or confident when I know that I’m working that day. It’s because I’m preparing for a battle, and I know I have to be strong because I have to go to work soon, and I can’t allow myself to feel depressed or scared, I have to try and be strong. As a result, the emotional toll is incredibly taxing and difficult, and I often come home completely exhausted. This is just how going out in public is for me, it’s a part of my anxiety. It’s something that I live with.

I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately and I think that I’m in a good place with it, a lot of it is coming out really well and I feel very proud of these brief little poems. I’m hoping they’ll work their way into lyrics for songs. I’d like to make beautiful albums like Kate Bush some day. Here are some poems I’ve written recently. I’m going to be posting some more after this post as well. Hope you enjoy.

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We’re playing God and God isn’t playing fair
I’m coming in to burn you all
My skin begins itching soon, try to contain the flash
No weight can hold me back
Tell them to run while they can
I will live forever, the sun will die before my light is quenched
Don’t breathe, just run
Feed me with life until I am everything

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Running through the veins of love
Come on let the sunshine in
It’s finally gonna happen
You can’t even guess at how it feels
And when you hear them singing
You know they’re only trying
To say something that can’t be said

Come on out of the catacombs baby
Everyone’s been waiting
And in the middle of the circle stands
The fruit you eat daily
The water you drink
You heat that keeps your heart beating
Freedom waits for no one

 

Currently obsessed with…
Get Out Of My House – Kate Bush, The Dreaming

192014

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My heart is warm and pumping
Calling out for him
It loves him and it needs him
And he doesn’t know
But I hope he hears it’s call
Stranger in the world
Wondering where I’ve been
And when he finds me he’ll wonder
How we fell out of touch for so long
Having never met before

 

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And I’ll learn to live with it if I have to
Because I have no other choice
But it’s such a shame to live like this
Singing to strangers in someone else’s voice

 

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I stopped growing when I was eighteen
I was raised by a television screen
I skipped the bus and stayed at home
Grinding my body into a black hole
And I’ve spent so much time doing nothing at all