Saturday, August 2, 2008

Crashing and burning

There's an old adage about how it's not the fall from great heights that kills you; it's the stopping. The hitting the ground. I don't remember the punchline specifically, but you get the point.

On the TV show In.tervention, the talk a lot about the addict having to find his or her "bottom" before any real change will take place. Aside from the obvious joke about being able to find your own ass, the idea makes sense.

Is this going to be the end of me?

I don't think so. I'm not sure, but I don't think so.

It's been a really bad couple of weeks. Even as I type that, I can feel my eyes tingle with tears. The pressure is building with school, the relief of wedding drama has ended and I'm looking at the next nine months being filled with mental and emotional exhaustion.

I don't know what to do. I have two papers to write in the next 2 weeks. Ordinarily, I'd say that I know I can do this. That all I have to do is give them something reasonably coherent and I'll be okay. I can "go for the bronze" this time.

And yet I still resist. Is it that I don't think I can do it? Is it that I don't want to? Do I just want special treatment, for someone to say, "hey, don't worry about it. let's scratch all that and we'll just start fresh in the fall"?

The thing is, That's essentially what I'm getting, I just need to show good faith effort.

I can't seem to make myself do it. When I pull out the books, I cry. When I open the documents, I cry.

When I think about it, I cry.

Or maybe...

It just occurred to me that maybe I'm just trying to pretend that none of this ever happened. The reason I have to do this now didn't happen. Isn't real. Wasn't real.


I'm really stubborn. And when I was a kid, if I didn't want to do something, I just wouldn't do it. I didn't put up a lot of fights; mostly, I'd just say, "oh, yeah, uh huh..." and then do what I wanted to.

I won't say that it hasn't crossed my mind that maybe I should just quit school entirely. That I've lost all the hope and conviction a person needs to complete something like this. That I'm really just lazy and don't want to have to do the work.

That I'm finding reasons not to complete this.

When I was little, I was very shy. I would go days without talking, sometimes. I didn't know how to reach out to people, how to make friends. How to talk to people. Being alone was relatively easy. Rejection hurt far more. If I don't try, I don't get burned, don't get hurt.

In therapy this week, I realized that I've become afraid to want anything. A baby. A career. The two biggest, most important things outside of my relationship with my husband. I can still remember that moment -- I've mentioned it here multiple times -- that I realized I was on my way to everything I ever wanted, and that I was happy. Maybe a month later I lost the boys.

I still have trouble focusing my mind on anything else. What's the point in hoping, in wanting, in enjoying anything? It's all going to go away anyway.

It sounds contrived. Self-pitying. Maybe a little suicidal. Nihilistic? I don't know. Probably.

"If I can't have that, I don't want anything."

Yeah, that's mature. Realistic. But I think that's part of where it comes from.

I can't trust in anything anymore. I don't know if I can risk investing in anything, to really enjoy anything when I know it can be snatched away. For no reason. With great pain.


Part of me wants to say "Screw that. I'm not letting the universe ruin my life." I've had loss. I've been knocked down when I was just getting my balance. I've seen my family and friends hurt by the vagaries of the universe: illness, death, other loss. One bad thing on top of another. And another.

What's the point of trying?

And I look at my husband, who despite all his pain, despite his losses and challenges, during some of the worst times in his life, accomplished great things, his degree, the beginning of his career. Head down and moving forward.

I'm not there yet. The self-pitying contrarian in me says, "Screw you. What's the point of it all?" I can't go back, but feels like too much work to find hope in the wreckage. The way forward.

Then the contrarian says, "No way, you're not going to let this be the end of you. You want to do this. You can do this. This is a great reason to get to work."

And I think, "But I can't. I don't know how to do this. I don't want to do this. I don't know what to do. I can't seem to make myself do anything."


This is stupid. I can't even form coherent thoughts in my journal.* How am I going to get anything else done?

How do you know when you've hit bottom?

*I can't tell you how many posts are sitting in my drafts folder because I just gave up on them.


Amy said...

I'm not sure how you tell when you've hit bottom. I don't even know if that is where I am. I just don't know...I think, the bottom may be when you just can't bring yourself to do ANYTHING. You know that whole, can't get out of bed, no shower, no talking, just laying there...feeling brain damaged or as though you have no brain at all. I think maybe that's bottom. I hope that's not where you are! You seem to be functioning as though you are in the REAL world. Even if you can sit in front of the computer and type anything, be it a draft or a post...I don't believe you are at the bottom.

Hang in there...I'm thinking of you.

Mrs. Spit said...

Ugh, I don't know where bottom is. I'm not sure that babyloss is even like addiction, and that we should compare that to this.

I have told myself many times, that I am not doing anything that I haven't already done before. There's nothing new in terms of my job. I remember telling myself that I had to put a suit and makeup on, put lunch together, get in the car, drive to work, drive to the parkade, cross the street, take the elevator up to my floor, and walk to my desk. Nothing I hadn't done a million times before.

Perhaps, if you rememinded yourself that writing a paper is something you have done before, and broke it into small tasks. I'm going to write the introduction and conclusion. I'm going to find citations for X, I'm going to write the seciton on Y.

Perhaps if you did that?

Tash said...

You know, I consider myself rather functional at this point, and yet I still have no hopes or dreams. We've been playing "birthday" all week, and when Bella asks me what I wished for when I blew out the candles, I sit dumbfounded. I don't wish for anything. There is nothing. There is absolutely nothing.

So I get this, I do. I'm not sure it's fear on my part, as much as simply drawing a blank. What on earth could I want that's realistic? Time travel and the healing power of jesus?

Natalie said...

Yes, that voice... the voice that says, "Why bother?" I struggle with that daily. Why bother? I'm just going to get knocked down again.

I don't know what bottom is. Sometimes I think it moves.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

I've no idea how you know when you've hit rock bottom, mores the pity.

As for coherent thoughts, I'm right there with you, sometimes I don't even know WHAT I think or WHAT I feel, let alone be able to do something to articulate it.

Good luck.

Carrie said...

I truly understand.

At the moment I think I am sabotaging my marriage. Because that is all I have left, what if it breaks down too? Where would I be then? And in a way I feel I am destroying it, I can't believe it'll be ok so I'll control it. Nothing seems to be ok.

I don't know where the bottom is. I do know how hard it is to think that anything will ever be ok.

I hope you can manage to finish your tasks. I'm sure that would be for the best somehow.

Aunt Becky said...

I won't get into gory details because this is neither the time nor the place, but I will tell you this. I understand perfectly, perhaps more than you can even imagine, the idea of not "wanting" anything. The idea that just because you can want something doesn't mean you get it. Or anything like it. I expect nothing, NOTHING to work out for me. I expect that just as I feel good about something or another, it will be taken away from me immediately.

Thinking of you, STE, as always.

Julia said...

I have to keep finding that place from which to do work. I succeed sometimes. More times I fail miserably. I finally made myself do a task I knew I could do, and that I was planning to get done by the end of JUNE!!!!!, I made myself accomplish it this past week. Now I have to start on another project, that has to be done, absolutely has to be done by Sept 15th, and NOT SO MUCH. And dude, I am supposed to be functional by now, no?
So I hear you. And I also think that this work in the aftermath is one of the trickiest things to figure out, and is a freaking moving target.
Maybe breaking it into pieces, as Mrs. Spit suggests, might work? Otherwise I have no clue. I am sorry...

k@lakly said...

Maybe it's not hitting bottom as much as it is surrendering to the idea that there really are things in life that we can not control. What we do with that 'realization' is the first step in regaining control over the things in life that can be, well, controlled.
For me, and this may not be the case for you, I used all of the things work related, (projects, event planning etc that I had committed to before the loss)as tiny steps I could take towards my new life. They were the things I knew I could control, their outcomes were dependant on me and my actions and, for some reason, having that little bit of power left, that tiny sense of 'control' made me feel better. It wasn't easy, don't let me mislead you, there were a lot of tears and a lot of stress and to be honest a lot of cocktails, before during and after each thing I did, but as I finished each one, I felt a small piece of me come back. I took strange comfort in knowing I hadn't lost everything about me when I lost him.
Maybe taking your papers, one at a time, one page at a time, will do the same thing for you. Don't try and see the big picture, for now, just look at the incremental pieces and tackle each step and celebrate each thing you finish because each thing is worth the celebration.
Let more time and healing pass before you try to plan for the big ticket items, those things will be waiting for you when you are really ready emotionally to handle them
For now just love yourself and your husband, that's enough.

Rachel said...

I really hope you manage to get your papers done, at least to buy you more time to figure out what you want to do at this point. Although I haven't faced the type of loss you have or anything close to it, one thing that kept getting to me during our early infertility testing and canceled cycles was how everyone else 'in the internets' seemed to hold down 9 to 5 jobs without any trouble. And even my partner had no trouble heading off to work in the morning and coming home in the evening having accomplished something. I really think that part of the problem of being a graduate student (at least in my field) is the total independence to structure your own time and to gauge your own progress. I'm pretty sure that I did not do any real work during a full cycle this spring (yes, 3 plus weeks when I basically checked e-mail all day and flipped pages, and I even forgot to grade midterm exams until a got a nasty note about submitting them by 5 pm). I hope you find the support to get through these tasks, and that they don't turn into mountains much higher than they need be, so that you can focus on the important things like having time to recover and spending time with your husband and friends.

CLC said...

I am so sorry you are having such a rough time STE. I understand where you are coming from and often times I feel it would be easier to just say I don't want a family, and that way I will never get disappointed. Is there a timeline that your schoolwork has to be completed by to get your degree? Can you take some more time off? Sometimes I think we just have to let ourselves admit that we can't always do everything. And taking care of yourself and healing is the most important thing right now.

Anonymous said...

i have no idea how you know when you've hit bottom, except maybe to say that it's only recognizable in retrospect. but that's a guess.

when i was in grad school i knew somebody who wasn't making "much" progress and wasn't even sure he wanted to finish his degree. his advisor suggested that he pack up his home office, completely: put away all the books, all the papers, clear the shelves, move the filing cabinets, etc....then live with that for a few weeks. those few weeks helped him determine whether he wanted to finish. this might be the wrong time for you since you've got papers due, and it may not work for you at all, but it might be worth considering.

i've had the experience of being able to continue, and not being able to continue: i was done with my degree when we lost our first daughter. i had a job i loved in a city i loved and i was content with the rest of my life, which helped me to move forward and work with my grief. then after mairin was born we moved to a new state & city and i started a job i liked a lot less and then, when ruby died, my ideas about my career and my future were shaken to the core. i was in a new place with few support resources and i hated coming to work every day. and *that* made me rethink what i'm doing, and why. as a result, i've decided to slowly move in a new professional direction...i'm still re-prioritizing and rebuilding, and it's been only 10 1/2 months. i'm trying to give myself some time, but it's very hard.

i guess that's just to say that sometimes we're where we want to be and that helps us continue, and sometimes we're in a place we don't be and that helps us start over. either choice is okay, i think. but sadly, neither choice is very easy.

c. said...

Like many of the others, I don't know when one hits bottom. I keep thinking it's happenened and then the next time I feel down is so much worse than the time before.

I can't tell you how much I agree with your revelation that you are afraid to want anything anymore. I was sitting here reading it, nodding my head with full and complete understanding of this feeling. Why want anything if it can just be taken from us? Doesn't make sense to even want or try at all anymore. It's the fear of losing that I most resent.

As for answers, unfortunately I feel too much like you to have any, STE. We've lost so much, so much, that getting up, brushing ourselves off and getting on with things seems like an impossibility.

Thinking of you.

Ya Chun said...

I thought of it this way: What would I be doing if Serenity was here? (yes, aside form loving and caring for my baby). The ladies here in DBL helped me with this. I decided to pursue my dreams. I decided that living my life was the best way to honor Serenity. Engaging in life again allows her to live through me.
I miss her everyday, I cry still, but I am moving along. Not away from her, because she is with me always.

Newt said...

I just wanted to let you know I'm thinking about you and C. Every day.

CLC said...

Just checking in to see how you are holding up. .Hang in there.