Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Solitary Man

I am a natural introvert. More precisely, I am the INTJ personality type.  A thinker more than a doer.  Reserved, perhaps even aloof, more than a social creature.  These are traits I have never considered a problem.  As one who has spent much of his life engaged in studying the humanities with his nose always stuck in a book, omly stopping to write his thoughts down, I considered them a virtue.  I still do, to be honest.  But it has come to my attention in recent months that perhaps I have not considered the negative origins of these characteristics.  With those cast aside, I may have crossed the line from introverted to antisocial.

There is a fine line between introverted and antisocial.  The introverted may not express how much they value the people and things around them, either because they are not particularly communicative or are immersed in big ideas, but they do care.  The antisocial are self-absorbed and have little to no interest in anyone or anything.  Have I crossed that line?  If so, how far across have I gone?

First and foremost, I was comned to/blessed to introversion, depending on how you look at the results.  As one born with disabilities that necessitated a more sedentary, therefore solitary life form other children, I looked inward rather than outward for entertainment.  This might not have been so bad--indeed, it could have been a virtue --had my mother’s cynicism regarding people, coupled with the attitude her handicapped child had to be tough in order to survive, not combined to instill a severe distrust in others.  She could have just named me Sue, but I guess that would not have been good enough.

I was never spared from the harsh realities of dealing with people.  Sure, people can be cold and mean, but not everyone is.  Nevertheless, I was never sheltered from the darker aspects of peoples’ personalities.  When I faced kids making fun of my disabilities, my mother would tell me that I would encounter ten thousand people in life who will act  that way.  Was I going to cry over or fight them all?  I knew early on my grandmother offered to pay to have my mother’s tubes tied so she would never have another handicapped child.  I knew every aspect of my father’s alcoholism, such as where he hid drinks from public view, from an early age.  When you learn at an impressionable age the people you are supposed to depend on are so severely flawed, you never think about depending on them at all.  Ironically, my mother became an undependable alcoholic late in her life, too.  My guru was herself the same kind of person on whom she told me not to depend.  So I eventually stopped that, too.

There is also the matter of a Bob Jones influenced theology drilling into my mind the existence of a harsh, punishing God constantly angry at us wretched sinners, but that is a topic for another time.  Consider it the icing on a large, bitter cake.  Seven layers, naturally.  One of those the baker must have deliberate skills to make.  Because the metaphor is tragically apt in my case.

    The question has come up in recent times whether I have skill in sabotaging relationships.  I am curious if I have even had any beyond the often superficial relationships of circumstance.  Certainly I have made some good friends that way, but they have been  few and well chosen, often low maintenance types.  I am just as inclined to look myself away as a hermit to be with my own thoughts as anything else.  I am also one to withdraw in order to avoid the relatively minor dramas of relationships--the kind one usually endure in order to keep those people in one’s life.  Youcan guess how I feel about true problems that are extremely difficult to handle.  The end result in either case is a reliance on myself and no one else.

 So what does a person like me do with his time and energy?  Focus on goals, like becoming a lawyer.  What happens when that goal fails because of health issues beyond my control?  I hide away in my sister’s house in solitary confinement for nine years hoping life will soon, mercifully end.  When, as I have grown to expect, someone I should be able to depend on like my sister fails me and abandons me to the long term care system?  Surrounded by strangers in whom I have no trust and without goals for the future, it sounded like a good idea to tie a plastic bag around my head.

These days, I recognize the problem.  I do not know how well I am working through it.  I have never been surrounded by so9 many people in a living arrangement as I am now.  After nine years of extreme self-absorption, it has been awkward building relationships, though it has been made easier because I am surrounded by caregivers.  The urge to dive under the bed at the slightest setback is still strong, but I am working on it.  There is definitely a line between introverted and antisocial, and it is becoming clearer to be daily where it is and how far I must go back to be on the proper side of it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When You Have Not Got a Prayer, Someone Always Comes Along to Give You One

One of my roommate’s friends since childhood came to visit him tonight.  This fellow sang an old gospel song to him, then reminisced.  I am finally beginning to understand the damage done to Sam by his stroke.  There is a tragic disconnect between his thoughts and his words.  He honestly cannot get out what he is thinking.  But he can still laugh, which is something I find poignant in consideration of his current lot in life.  His friend prayed for him.  I felt compelled to ask him to pray for me.

This fellow--and I am sorry to not recall his name--happily agreed.  He knelt between Sam and my beds.  He told me that he had suffered a crack in his pelvis two years ago.  He could not walk with his injury, but now that he had a steel plate covering the crack, he could both walk and kneel.  The latter was important in humbling himself before God.  He he held my hand and asked my name.  I told him, and added that I had been abandoned by my family in order to give him something for which to pray on my behalf.  I kept my emotional turmoil hidden.  So I thought, at any rate. 

 Two parts of his prayer struck me.  One, he prayed that God would relieve my anger.  My inner turmoil must radiate off me.  Perhaps he could simply feel it in my hand.   They still shake.   The other part was praying that I would learn, just as Jesus was abandoned by his disciples while he hung on the cross, that I can be abandoned in the midst of turmoil and still fulfill God’s will.  It was an extremely powerful point that spoke to my way of thinking.  I remain skeptical Christians are given life abundant.  A burdensome cross to carry while following Jesus?   Much more likely.

    I repeated his amen, then thanked him profusely.  He said he would come around often to see Sam.  He said we would all be friends and heal each other.  It sounded like a good plan to me.  He appeared to have much wisdom to offer.  I could kick myself for not catching his name.  But I am prone to self-abuse, am I not?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Be All My Sins Remembered

Here is another post I dithered on writing for public consumption, but again I feel like I would limit future topics if I did not get the truth out there.  After admitting I am--at least for the time being--a nursing home resident, any other embarrassing items should pale in comparison.  Burt Reynolds once told an interviewer he always makes reveals the most humiliating things about himself so that any gossip is tame by comparison.  Our cases are not identical, but if I reveal my darker struggles, maybe someone will benefit from where I screwed up.
 
I let it drop a couple posts ago that right after my health collapsed in 2004, I not only contemplated suicide, but practiced a chosen method.  Asphyxiation was the way to go, if you will pardon the pun.  My mother committed suicide using a variation.  I got the idea from the film House of Sand and Fog.  It takes about seven minutes to die and it is relatively peaceful if you can keep the plastic bag from clinging to your nostrils while you still have air.  If you can prevent that from happening, you just go to sleep and never wake up.

  Suicide is a nasty business, especially for a devout Christian.  I am not one to believe Christians who commit suicide lose their salvation, but choosing death on your own timetable is an act of rebellion.  During the time I wavered over whether to go through with it, both Christopher Reeve and his wife died a short time apart.  Reeve died from complications of an infected pressure sore.  His wife died from aggressive lung cancer even though she never smoked.  It was while perusing a science fiction/comic book fan message board that I learned of Victor Frankl.

Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust by providing psychiatric care to the Nazis.  After World War II, Frankl published a study on life in the concentration camps from the objective perspective of a scientist.  Two of his observations are well known.  One is that environment has little to do with happiness.  Even amid the starvation, torture, and death of the concentration camps, inmates were still able to talk and joke with one another.  It is possible for people to transcend the misery of any environment.  The other observation is that when people lose their will to live, ill health sets in.  In other words, if you want to die, it will happen.
 
The latter observation is relevant here.  Reeve’s paralysis wearied on him late in life to the point the died from an infected pressure sore.  His wife, unable to live without him, died months later of lung cancer even though she never smoked.  Their deaths and the discovery of Frankl’s work resonated.  The loss of most of my eyesight destroyed my quality of life to the point I did not want to go on.  My colon was a ticking time bomb set to rupture at any time.  A rupture nearly killed me the first time.  Surely a second would finish me off, especially when I desired for it to do so.

 So I carried a death wish around for eight terrible years.  During that time, I was not exactly dedicated in maintaining my health.  Longtime readers from my old blog will note frequent hospitalizations over the years.  They constantly wore me down, but nothing ever forced me over the finish line.  I grew wearier of life as I aged while becoming distraught over the realization I was condemned to live anyway.  There was not much in the way of emotional support, either.  I was not a welcome addition to my sister’s house..  She and her husband never bothered much to hide that fact.

The time for life to mercifully end appeared to come October 2012.  Up until I was actually opened up on the operating table, it was assumed my colon had ruptured again.  Among the possibilities was dying of infection right there or having my entire colon removed to waste away from a clear liquid diet over a period of weeks.  Alas, the problem turned out to be a burst diverticula instead.  A burst diverticula could have caused a rupture, but inexplicably did not.  I was not happy to have survived. Everyone knew it, too.  Somewhere in my anesthetic/morphine haze, I expressed disappointment to still be alive.

I lingered for two months while spiraling both physically and mentally.  I was hospitalized four times for constantly dropping weight from lack of eating.  Finally, I was confronted with being suicidal when I arrived at the emergency room last January weighing in at 68 pounds.  I was faced with the ultimatum of a feeding tube and a stint in a rehab hospital or appropriate authorities were going to look into my suicidal tendencies.  I did not have much choice but to cooperate.

I improved--physically, at any rate--while wondering what to do now.  I dodged several potentially fatal bullets without even trying.  Mercy, I practically jumped in front of them wearing a bull’s eye on my chest!  I was still emaciated and weak in May when I was forced to go to the emergency room with what turned out to be a fissure.  I have already covered what happened next, so we shall skip ahead a bit to Oakhaven.

I got to Oakhaven in the middle of July.  Right away, it was a scary place.  There was one lady across from the nurses’ desk screaming.  Another emaciated lady was slumped over asleep in a recliner-like wheelchair.  I had to stop and let another lady holding a doll and talking nonsense to herself pass.  If I believed I was condemned to a life of misery before, I had unmistakable confirmation.  I hid away in my room for weeks.  During that time, only the physical/occupational therapy crew could drag me out.  I eventually emerged here and there on my own.  The staff was relieved, but they did not know I was only scoping out the place for where and how I could commit suicide.

It took a long time.  My options were limited because of a large staff and cameras everywhere, but over a period of weeks, I was able to swipe all the items I would need for my old asphyxiation standby.  I had a thick patient belongings bag from the hospital, a Styrofoam cup with the side torn out to cover my nose, a disposable razor to tie off the bag’s drawstring so it would not slip, and a stretchy exercise band to tie around my throat like a tourniquet to make certain air would be cut off.  I would have preferred a roll of tape, but that was always out of reach.  So was a sleeping pill to make absolutely sure I did not panic.  I hid the stuff away in a pouch I often carried around under everyone’s noses, waiting for the right time.

 I still believed suicide was a nasty business.  Not only because of the spiritual implications, but natural.  I was under no illusions anyone would care if I was dead, but who wants to wind up a suffocated corpse on the floor of a nursing home bathroom regardless?  The pain of loss soon outweighed the potential stigma when the lonely holidays rolled around.  Here I was, alone, eating Thanksgiving turkey of a tray, and watching a James Bond movie alone.  I knew it was never going to be any better than this.  I decided it was time to go.
 
I decided to go on the day after my birthda.  That would be Deceber 12.th.  I figured my birthday would either be a good day, in which I would go out on a high note, or it would be every bit as lonely and painful as Thanksgiving, which would confirm I had made the right choice to end my life.  On my birthday, a nurse with whom I have developed a close relationship visited on her day off to spend a little time and deliver some caqke pops and candy canes.   This was perfect.  Tomorrow, I would go around after lunch passing these out to staff members and residents to whom I had become friends and chat a bit.  They would all have a final happy memory of me.  I would wait until suppertime when staff would be busy feeding residents who needed such help and quietly make my exit.  At worst, I would have thirty-forty-five minutes of solitude, which is more than enough time to finish myself off.  At best, a nurse would not come around for up to three hours when my overnight tube feeding is hung.
 
But as I was passing the candy out, I ran into someone who I suppose said the right thing at the right time, but I blinked on suicide.  The details need to be kept quiet.  This blog is generally known to Oakhaven friends, but the one who intervened does not know what she did.  It is best that she never know.  I should only saw a flicker of happiness stemming from nostalgic reflection over the previous couple weeks played tricks on my emotions.  Some have said God put her in my way because I was not meant to die.  I will not argue with that.

 I was back to my usual spot--suicide was not as easy as I thought.  No matter how miserable I was, I meant to be condemned to live.  My emotional state deteriorated so horribly, it attracted the attention of of a half dozen people who tried to get me to talk.  No one knew what I had planned to do for monthsd now, and I was not about to reveal it.  That is until the social worker cornered me with a depression survey.  My answers put me with a 24/7 sitter and mandatory therapy.  Feeling trapped, I handed over my suicide “kit” much to the horror of just about everyone.  I was still carrying it around a month after I had planned to use it.  No one had any idea.  Suddenly, casual company became a suicide watch.  Therapy was no an effort to preserve vmy life.

I am going to stop the narrative here.  It is obvious I am still alive.  The journey to this point and what I learned along the way is what Cogito Ergo Doleo will be all about for the foreseeable future.  Surely you know enough now about the deep abyss I was stranded in that further elaboration would be unnecessary.  There is much left to say in spiritual and existential terms, however.  I shall get to that in short order.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

So Where Has This Guy Been, Anyway?

I have endured a long internal debate over how much to reveal about my life since July.  It is obvious I have been out of touch.  It is also obvious I have gotten extensive medical care after being abandoned by my sister.  You are all smart people.  I am certain you have at least suspected I currently live in a long term care facility.  If you have figured that out, move to the head of the class.  You are correct.
 
  Ego was the main barrier to me not revealing my status as a nursing home resident before now.  But who can be in possession of any ego after all that has happened to me in the last year?  The last ten years, for that matter.  Everyone already knew I was practically a shut in--and not exclusively for health reasons--while keeping up my previous blog.  My current status is not much of a step back from that.  Besides, it was going to be extremely difficult to write honest posts here without revealing my living arrangements.  So there you go.  It is out in the open.

    I am living at Oakhaven Nursing Center.  It is mostly a senior care facility, but there are people of all ages in residency.  I am not even the youngest.  There is a lady here with advanced MS who is 32 years old.  I have five years on her.  There is also a quadriplegic in his forties and a few in their fifties.  The oldest resident is 105 years old.  She is strong as an ox, too.  Her hearing is bad, so she does not always think you have heard her trying to get your attention, so she will reach out and grab you with a grip like a vice.  You are not going anywhere until you hear her out.   In between the youngest and oldest, there are many wild characters.

    I came to Oakhaven in the middle of July when I no longer fit the description of someone who can be an inpatient at a rehab hospital.  Whatever that means.  With Denise cutting me off completely, I did not have a choice.  I will reluctantly admit relocating was a good idea as far as my health was concerned.  At the time of admission, I weighed 81 pounds and was still wobbly on my feet, as much from anemia as lingering problems from my slow recovery from surgery.  But it was and still occasionally is a scary place.  No one talks about it in order to shield themselves emotionally, but Oakhaven is a place mostly for the sick and dying.

    I rarely ventured out my room for the first month.  The staff frequently tried to engage me, but I said very little and did even less for a long time.  Efforts to contact Denise by both the social worker and me were futile.  Here I was completely abandoned and facing the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a nursing home.  At the time, my options looked much slimmer than they do now.  I despaired, spiraling downward for months until the inevitable happened.  But that is another post.

    I have painted a nasty picture of Oakhaven.  It would be unfair to leave it at that.  After an extremely nasty spell I will post about later, I settled down and befriended the nursing staff and management.  I am one of the few residents--not to sound mean--who does not have some level of dementia, so I can socialize with staff in ways they do not usually see outside of residens’ family members.  Speaking of, I have developed relationships with many of them, too, especially my roommates’ families.  Oakhaven is a Christian environment, as well.  There are church services and Bible studies to go along with the general conversation regarding the subject I enjoy with most everyone.  There are many activities in which to participate.  Since I am my own responsible party, I can leave at will as long as I do not go out alone.  I have been out to eat and shopping with various pals among the nursing and physical/ occupational therapy crew.   These are the first regular, fun outings I have had in years.

    Oakhaven purchased a laptop and set up a hotspot for me in late January.  They sneakily put the wi fi on the other side of the building in order to lure me out of my room more often.  It worked.  I have set up in the telephone room, east wing dining hall, and even the lobby.  Being out in the open more has allowed me to meet more people.  In doing so, my fears  of the future.  There will be plenty of time to write about this stuff later.  For now, at least you know where I stand.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Significance of the Resurrection

We Christians celebrate the Resurrection every day, but it is good to recognize Easter Sunday for the holy day it is.  The resurrection was the most important event in history.  This is for a number of theological reasons.

First, the Resurrection proved Jesus was the Messiah:
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah]" (Acts 2:36)
Second, the resurrection proves his sacrifice on our behalf was accepted:
"Delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (I Corinthians 15:17).
Third, the Resurrection made being born again possible:
"We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3)
Fourth, the Resurrection brought about continued intercession:
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Finally, the Resurrection makes our resurrection possible:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (I Corinthians 15:20-21).
I spend a lot of time here recalling experiences with unsavory Christians in the past and not nearly enough exalting the good I have experienced in it.  Sometimes it is hard to keep sight of one’s blessings.  Easter Sunday is a time to count yours

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Forty-Five Candles

Today is my sister, Denise’s, forty-fifth birthday.   Why I feel compelled to mention this fact is beyond me.   Earlier, I posted a snaky--I did say I was a work in progress, did I not?--tweet/Facebook status declaring anyone who saw Denise should give her a swift kick in the behind for her birthday because she deserves it.  That is the natural man in me springing up.  There have been long periods in recent months in which he has been running on an extended leash.  Beating him into submission is quite a chore no matter how large the stick used to blugeon.
  
But I must remind myself grace, not fundamentalism, at all times.  Granted, I do not like Denise personally, and I doubt bI ever will without a significant spiritual epiphany on her part.  Yet I do possess the unconditional familial love for her.  It has been said by a number of people working me through my spiritual and emotional turmoil Denise needs to remember she may need me before I need her.  This may be true.  In spite of her abandonment of me, I would not turn her away under any future circumstances.  This is a genuine promise motivated by grace, not the passive aggressive enjoyment of watching one who has wronged me crawling back for help.  I might have been that petty at one point.  No longer.

 I am not going to impugn Denise by elaborating any more than I already have on her actions.  I have only said what I needed to say to get my point across.  She has acted deliberately without shame and has made no efforts to hide her actions.  They speak for themselves, and it looks like that is the way she wants it.  I would think, based on her actions and history, she is a miserable person with no ability to escape her misery.  She deserves my pity, not scorn, and she has it.
 
I spent nine difficult years in her home.  Without elaboration, I know of what I write.  Perhaps in my absence she has had a wake up call.  The cynic in me--work in progress, folks--says no.  (Hey, I have evidence to back that up!)  Perhaps today will be the day her eyes are opened to the possibility of turning over a new leaf.  With that in mind, happy birthday, Denise.  May it be the beginning of a new, more peaceful journey for you.   One as filled with positive revelations as mine has been in recent times. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lack of Vision

I would like to define my vi8sual problems for any newcomers who might be curious how my poor eyesight will affect by blogging.  The short answer is not a whole heck of a lot unless the occasional typo can cause you to dismiss everything that is being said.   

I am completely blind in my right eye. The retina completely came off eighth years ago after several efforts to repair it. Other serious heaLack of Visionlth issues tangentially related arose shortly thereafter, so that was, then and now, the end of any attempts to repait again. The result would have been negligible due to retinal damage. The little bugger has probably disintegrated by now from bouncing around my eye all this time.

My left eye has always been awful. It is 20/1000 normally, but is corrected to 20/800 with glasses and contacts. To make that easier to relate, what you see at 20 feet appears to be 800 feet away at best for me.

If there is any problem, it usually involves typos I do not catch proofreading or misidentifying a celebrity photo. Most of my readers overlook the former and are polite in pointing out the latter. If anyone is nasty about it, it is usually because either he or she does not know I have a visual impairment or dislikes my religious or political viewpoints and uses my mistakes to insult my intelligence . Because anyone who disagrees with them must be stupid, rightt? 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Prescient or Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

I got the whim to check out this post from The Eye last night in order to satisfy a nagging suspicion. Look what I wrote three days before being abandoned:
So now the race is on to see what comes next. Is it something exciting or will the other shoe drop? I am a realist, so am I going to go with the latter. I am currently lagging behind in this race. Licking my wounds, both physical and emotional, is very distracting. But we see what kind of changes are in store for The Eye as we slowly, but surely head towards that finish line.
Was that intuition or God telling me to brace myself? 'Tis a good question to ponder.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Objects in Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear

The last few posts have caught you all up to speed on many new things.  There have been so many changes in my life, I can no longer go on blogging as I once did and must shift gears.  My health declined rapid for nearly a year before extensive medical care helped turn my status around.  Now you also know I have been abandoned by my sister with whom I had lived with since my health took its first major turn for the worse in 2004.  There is a true mix of good and bad to be found within those developments.  I am not entirely sure I even know the proper place to categorize them all.  But figuring out that sort of thing is what blogging is for, right?

Anyone who has read my previous blog for any length of time--some of you have for years, thanks--should already realize my living situation was not good on several levels.  For one, my health had been a chronic drag.  Most of the time I was languishing with a tedious routine in order to maintain what I had left.  Occasionally, health issues, particularly my colon, flared up and would knock me back for months at a time.  For another, my living arrangement was awful.  My sister and I had been estranged for years prior to our mother’s death.  Neither of us had any desire to have a permanent living arrangement together, but that is what happened.  I was little more than a boarder in her house for nearly a decade.  A hermit in near solitary confinement.  .  These two circumstances beat me down into a spiraling depression with constant thoughts of suicide halted only by Christian convictions.  I was a mess.

I still am a mess.  But a change of environment surrounded by people who care on all levels has given me a chance to begin rebuilding myself.  It was not easy to get this point, so the realization I am still a work in progress is a daunting realization.  There is a long road ahead.  Cogito Ergo Doleo is intended to draw the map as we go along so perhaps someone else will not have to wander through the wilderness as long as I did in order to find their way back.   The spiritual aspect of the journey is the most arduous, and I have the scars to prove it.
 
A key problem of mine, in the last decade particularly, but probably longer, has been the constant presence of negativity warping my perception of God.  Which is not to say I abandoned my faith at any point.  I did not, but I viewed God as a distant and harsh Being.  I accepted his existence intell4ectually without doubt, but I did not sense him emotionally.   Such a belief did not make me a deist, but I did not miss it by much.  When no one else in your life cares about you, it is easy to believe God does not, either, particularly when bad circumstances are overwhelming.  My viewpoint is beginning to change from a belief in the distant, punishing God of fundamentalism to one of grace.  I thought I had rejected much of fundamentalism by eschewing the Bob Jones theology forced upon in my youth and avoiding much of Regent University theological scuffles later in life.  Perhaps I have not cleansed myself as well as previously thought.

Embracing grace is important, but so is shedding the skepticism and distrust I have of people in general in order to live a less solitary life.  I confess this has thus far been the more difficult task.  Reach out to God, and He will not disappoint.  Reach out to people, and you are asking for heartache.  Again, we have another divide.  Intellectually, I know the occasional moments of pain are worth the joys of relationships, but emotionally, diving under the bed at the first sign of trouble sounds like a fantastic idea.  At least I do not possess the urge to sit on the floor of a locked closet with a loaded gun pointing at the door.  So I am not exactly at rock bottom.  I just have a good view of it from here. 

 So there you go.  Many things to talk about.  Many things to explore.  I tend to ebb and flow, even now with helping hands, and I suspect variance will be noticeable as Cogito Ergo strolls along the path I have chosen to undertake.  The philosophy here is going to be very different than my previous blogging effort as I try to walk away from my troubled past into an uncertain future that has to be better, if I can equip myself to face it head on.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Wind Took Your Answer

I cut short the previous post’s narrative because the emphasis was to be on my health, not any personal issues.  It is not fair to leave those personal issues unsaid.  They are, in many ways, even more important than my health.  The longest lasting relationship, familial and otherwise, ended abruptly last May as I was hospitalized.  The termination did not come as a total surprise.  The magnitude of the betrayal did. 
  
First, a little background.  My sister, Denise, and our mother had a falling out of some description in 1997.  It happened shortly after my stepfather died.  His death sent my mother spiraling into alcoholism and eventual suicide in 2003.  I still do not know all the details seventeen years later, and they are irrelevant now.  All you need to know is that Denise cut my mother out of her life and me along with her.  I was a junior in college living in Columbia at the time, so I admittedly did not do anything to embroil myself in the drama.  Did I make a mistake?  In hindsight, definitely not.
   
When my mother committed suicide , I was a second year law student in Virginia.   I was informed my mother had passed on via a phone call from Cindy, a family friend and former sister-in-law of Denise’s husband.  I am unaware of how Cindy and Denise got together on that fateful day, but cindy claims she told Denise she could not make me bury our mother alone.  Supposedly, Denise originally refused to reconcile.  Denise later denied this.  Regardless, eventually came to see me when I returned to South Carolina.  We buried our mother together after not speaking to one another for six years.
   
Denise and I continued to communicate by phone and email after I returned to Virginia.  I will confess now that I barely trusted her.  I felt like her only motivation for taking part in funeral arrangements was out of fear I would screw them up.  I had similar suspicions regarding her continued connections with me during my final year-and-a-half in law school.  She was likely on pins and needles hoping I would not screw things up, because maybe I would wind up in her lap.   Anyone who has read my blogging for any length of time knows my awful luck inevitably made exactly that happen.
   
My retina detached a mere couple days before final exams my last semester.  The detachment was in my non-legally blind eye, so the situation was dire.  Recovery from surgery would take five weeks.  I needed to come back to South Carolina for surgery.  Denise agreed for me to stay with her that long for recovery.  Fate was not through with me, and she has a whole lot of cruelty to mete out.  The surgery did not work.  Neither did a follow up.  I went bling in my previously good eye.  To add insult to injury, a steroid I took before surgery inflamed diverticulitis, which no one knew I had, and ruptured my colon.  The end result is I was stuck with Denise for the duration.

It was an arrangement no one wanted.  I was an interloper who did not belong in Denise’s family.  Her response to an inquiry over how she felt about my permanent residency was “I have so much sh*t in my life, I probably won’t notice.”  Not exactly open arms, but I took it.  I quickly became depressed to the point of suicide.  Denise caught me experimenting with ways of keeping a plastic bag off my nostrils when attempting to asphixiate myself.  Thinking I had been caught red handed, I asked what she planned to do now that I was planning.  She shrugged and said “if you are going to do it, you’re going to do it.”  It was not long after that I discovered health issues might finish me off quickly enough to avoid that nasty suicide business, but my status had well been established.

I lived with Denise and her family like a hermit for nine years.  I never went out to eat.  I never went shopping.  Thanks to some vicious dogs, I rarely went outside.   I was pretty much a tenant in her house.  I rarely had any conflict aside from her husband’s open contempt for me.  His ax grinding caused a number of altercations, virtually none of which were justified to any reasonable person.    I did not celebrate the holidays with them.  They did not acknowledge my birthday.  So it went for nine miserable years.

 While I had put suicide on the backburner years before in favor of waiting for my colon to rupture, when the time came in October 2012, I survived it.  Holy, geez!  What is it going to take to finally end all this tribulation?  It looked like the recovery might.  I could not eat for months and finally wound up with a feeding tube. When I dropped to 68lbs.  It was becoming clear as time went on my health issues were wearing thin on the family.  Yes, I am a cynic, so it should come as no surprise I speculated I was not dying fast enough to suit them.
   
Then the incident I described yesterday occurred.  It can arguably be said the second faux colon rupture was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I wrote that I went to the emergency room and eventually stayed hospitalized for nine days, including a stint in the ICU.  What I did not mention is that Denise came to visit the second day, bringing with her several changes of clothes for me.  She then went home.  I have never seen her again. 
  
Let me tell you how sneaky this abandonment was.  Denise was going to have surgery in June.  We all knew this months in advanced.  I was still languishing from surgery the previous year, but not bad enough to merit a stint in a rehab hospital.  Lo and Behold, Denise talked the hospital social worker into selling me on the idea on the fourth day of my hospitalization.  I balked, because it seemed terribly unnecessary.  Denise, however, blew up at me over the phone when she heard I had refused.  Believing she was under stress about her impending surgery, I meekly agreed.  It would only be for five weeks, right?  I discover a few weeks ago she was upset because she had already cleaned out my room, thrown away all my belongings, and turned it into storage space so she could have it all done before her surgery.  My initial refusal to go to rehab potentially through a wrench into the works of getting rid of me permanently. 

 I was transferred to the rehab hospital after nine days.  Denise’s husband came to drop off more clothes two weeks in.  That is the last I have seen or spoken to him.  Good riddance.  There is a bright side in every calamity.  It did not take long to figure out I had been abandoned.  My phone calls began going straight to voice mail.  They did for weeks.  Presumably, they still do.  Denise’s secretary hung up on me when I called her at works a few months ago.  Denise will not respond to any calls from me or intermediaries, even those from professionals like social workers.   As far as she is concerned, I no longer exist. 

 Thus ended a 36 year relationship.  Twenty of those years were spent living in the same house.  The catalyst for my abandonment is still largely a mystery.  All I can do is speculate.  Denise lacks the courage to explain herself.  I have many issues left to write about in regards to my current situation, including what has happened after my stint in the rehab hospital.  But those are for subsequent posts.  You have the gist of what you need to know now.  I am all alone in the world now.  Left by myself to face whatever is going to be thrown my way.  In many ways, it is not much different than how it was living with Denise, in all honesty, but I will talk about that later, too.
  
 Just a note tacked on here.  Neither this post, nor any subsequent, is meant to be a grievance narrative.  In other words, I am not piling on the woe is me seeking sympathy.  On the contrary, this is all background so I can discuss the effort to rebuild myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  In order for that discussion to begin, you need to know how deep the hole I am climbing out of is.  Unfortunately, I am not even done telling you everything about the hole yet.  It is a deep one that might qualify as an abyss.  Regardless, please do not look at these posts as whiny attempts at self-pity.  They are far more than that.  Just be patient with me a while. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

One Foot in the Grave with the Other Slipping? Not Exactly.

If you are still reading, I have to assume you are at least marginally interested in my health status. When we last met together at The Eye nearly a year ago, I was still in very bad shape from undergoing surgery on my colon the previous October. My recovery had been stagnant from October to January when I had a feeding tube put in and went through a stint in HealthSouth. I entered Health South weighing a mere 68lbs and dependent on a walker to get around what little ways I could. Discouraged? You bet.

The period between February and May saw me at home struggling with a recovery that had advanced from stagnate to a mere crawl. I gained only six lbs in spite of four tube feedings on top of whatever real food I could get down, which was admittedly not much. I barely weaned myself of the walker. I was still wobbly as a newborn calf. It is a wonder I never fell. In fact, the home healthcare nurse advised me to carry my cellphone in my pocket when I had to go to another room in case of such an eventuality. We never covered what might happen if I fell on the cellphone and broke. How would I get help? Boo is a good cat, but Lassie she ain’t. I chalked the possibility up to pessimism and kept the concern to myself.

I went to the emergency room in early May with an abscess near my surgical i8ncision. The abscess was drained in the emergency room by the same surgeon who had operated on me the previous October. He slapped a bandage on the now half open incision and said the abscess was the result of a bacterial infection. Keep it clean, take some antibiotics, and everything will be fine aside from fumbling around half bent over like I have a hernia for a while.

Guess what? The surgeon misdiagnosed badly. I am going to have to be a bit disturbing here, but you need to appreciate how the following felt. I woke up on May 25 covered in bowel movement. I assumed my colostomy bag had leaked. Such is not as rare an occurrence as I would like. I felt very weak and was shaking no matter how warm it was, so the assumption was I was sick anyway and I always have bowel problems when sick. I took the bag off and showered. Again, I could not get the water hot enough to keep me warm. When I got out of the shower, my sister, Denise, helped put a new bag on like she always does. I cannot see well enough to replace the bag myself. She also changed the bandage on my incision. We both worried about bowel movement having gotten inside it.

I laid back down because I still was not feeling well. A few minutes late, I had another bowel movement that went everywhere. It is impossible. We just put a new bag on! Doubly impossible, the bag was perfectly fine. Bowel movement was coming from the incision. The only way that would be possible is if there was a hole in my colon. October had seen me suffer a burst diverticula. A warning shot, perhaps? Here I was seven months later with what looked like a full fledged, potentially fatal rupture. On Memorial Day weekend, just to make things interesting.

The surgeon who had been working on my all this time--and blew diagnosing the true condition of my colon days before--told me not to go to my hometown hospital, Carolina Pines. Go to McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence instead. So a few minutes later, I am riding in the car, holding a large towel to my abdomen and wondering--literally--if this is the end. I was not in the slightest bit of pain, but still felt odd. Was I feeling the effects of peritonitis? Neither Denise nor I knew or even talked about it. I had another bowel movement into the towel on the way to McLeod, so there was something else to think about.

The emergency room experience was quite a shock. The attending physician was appalled at my condition. I was considered dehydrated, malnourished, anemic, and suffering from a sepsis infection in my open incision before a surgeon was ever consulted. After a CT scan, it was determined by said surgeon when he was consulted I did not suffer a colon rupture, but a fissure instead. A rupture is a tear caused by a variety of things; a fissure is a crack caused by malnutrition. He was relieved there was no rupture because he would have had to ethically refuse to operate in the shape I was in.

Which was not to say a fissure was a good thing. They are treated by a patient going on a liquid diet for six to eight weeks to give the colon time to heal itself. A patient typically loses thirty or more pounds on such a diet. I weighed 74lbs. You do not have to be a math whiz to figure out I could not treat the fissure without keeling over dead in about a month. So we did the next best thing. I became that rarest of birds--a guy with two colostomy bags at once. Because oddly enough, I could still go to the bathroom regularly, too.

I am going to stop the narrative here. My health status quickly became a secondary problem, if you caqn believe that, which is a whole other post or ten for the near future. Suffice to say, I spent a long time in the hospital and an even longer time in McLeod-Darlington for rehab. This is the beginning of my falling off the grid, not to mention wandering about trying to figure out what to do next. I was not able to let much of anyone even know I was still alive until February. I hate to leave the situation so cryptic, but explanations do not belong in a post exclusively about my health status. Sit tight. More answers, such as they are, will be forthcoming.

But the here and the now. The incision closed up after a month. I no longer had to wear a bag over it, but I now must take medication to keep the fissure from draining. Blood transfusions and supplements have eliminated the anemia. Antibioticsw cleared up the sepsis infection. I have gotten a nightly, slow drip tube feeding. The drip is the equivalent of ten Ensure drinks or 2500 calories. This is on top of three square meals and snacking. I now weigh 102lbs. That is 34 lbs heavier than last January when I sunk to my lowest weight ever and seven lbs heavier than I have ever weighed in my life previously. Months of daily physical and occupational therapy have ended my dependence on a walker and rebuilt muscles I thought were gone forever. It has take eighteen months, but I have recovered from the burst diverticula and its aftermath. Physically, at any rate.

There you have the lowdown, healthwise. I still have and use the feeding tube. I still have the fissure. I do not foresee any circumstances in which risking the loss of thirty lbs will make treating it worthwhile. I still have diverticulitis, but the medication I mentioned above to control drainage has made it unlikely I will face bowel obstructions as I have in recent years. My healthcare is more diligent these days. As I mentioned above, there are many other new circumstances, but those will keep for a more appropriate later post.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More


     Greetings. I am going to assume most of you are weary travelers who have moved here from Eye of Polyphemus. The Eye was a fun, often therapeutic, blog to write for the last decade. Alas, it has run its course. Life circumstances have changed so much, anything I feel like writing about now would not fit in with previous content. I toyed with the idea of quitting blogging altogether. I had not been able to write from May 2013 until February 2014. Nine months is long enough to break any habit. One figures forgoing all the work that goes into keeping up a daily blog would be even easier to do, particularly when one is not thrilled at the prospect of accounting for all that has transpired during the nine month hiatus.
     One would be wrong about that. Whether I am a writer of skill is up to you all to decide for yourselves. What is not a matter for debate is that I am a writer of compulsion. I have to keep blogging for myself even if no one else reads. I certainly appreciate if you do. I would not post if I did not want to share. If you benefit from any of my words, so much the better. Seeking out a purpose has become extremely important in recent weeks. I am at much of a loss as to how to go about finding purpose other than to keep on with what I have been doing for so long and hope I arrive at an epiphany.
     The Eye pretty much died off after I endured surgery on my colon in October 2012. I also suffered from a long recovery during which I drowned in so many dark thoughts, my blogging ironically became frivolous in content. Early May saw the beginning of a poor health relapse that spiraled at the end of the month. For the subsequent nine months, I fell off the grid and out of much of my life as I had known it. I am still reeling, as you will see in subsequent posts.
     Cogito Ergo Doleo is going to be far different than The Eye. For a long while, at least. I have many bad things to purge from myself, and day to day politics, science fiction reviews, and celebrity photos will not fit in. You will figure that out very quickly in the coming days and weeks. If you lose interest or already have, I understand. I will not be writing to entertain myself as I did before. As I mentioned above, writing this new blog is a compulsion. I <I>need</I> to do it.
     Which is not to say Cogito Ergo Doleo's philosophy will not change over time. The Eye evolved much over the years. When I started it back in 2003, I averaged eight visitors a day whining about the trials and tribulations of a third year law student. It ended as mostly a celebrity and science fiction review blog with a visitor count of 3.2 million and counting. But under the circumstances, such content stopped satisfying. A whole bunch of things in my sagging life stopped satisfying. Writing became impossible both physically and spiritually. Circumstances are different now, physically, at any rate. Spiritually is another matter altogether. Who can say now where the spirit might lead Cogito Ergo Doleo in the future?
     Does all this introduction sound too obtuse to stoke your curiosity? There is no teasing for the sake of drama intended. The nebulous description of Cogito Ergo Doleo is because I, myself, I have clue what to do next period, much less when it comes to blogging. With any luck, we will explore life together and come up with some good answers for all of us. Here is to emerging anew after a long, dark journey through the wilderness.