Saturday, July 19, 2014

Oubliette

I entered Oakhaven exactly one year ago today.  It is difficult to grasp that it has been so long.  My thoughts have often been on either the better times of the past or the frightening possibilities of the future.  Living in the here and now has always been a difficult thing for goal oriented me, but it has been even more tumultuous since arriving at Oakhaven.  Living in the present is not all that pleasant. 
   
It is interesting the anniversary comes after a a week of personal conflicts which have been simmering for six months.  As fate would have it, completely unrelated conflicts arose later in the week which caused me to suffer, without exaggeration, a near nervous breakdown.  I am afraid my weakened emotional state can send my blood pressure and pulse to dangerous levels that only medication can calm.  So here is where we are now.  I am definitely not the guy I used to be.
   
I have no shortage of mother hens at the moment.  Even a rooster or two.  Do not fret to much over me, if you are inclined to do so.  The last couple days have been much calmer.  The solutions to several issues are within reach, as well.  But these are problems of circumstance.  Those are always the easiest to repair.
  
 It is the intangibles that are difficult.  How do you forgive another who is not apologetic?  It is no easy task, but I must find a way to do it.  Holding animosity for a long time will eat you up inside.  How do you let go of the anger over an issue when another will not admit it was wrong to deliberately cause the problem in the first place?  I do not know. Even though I have done it before.  I have even admitted on Cogito Ergo doleo I held pity for denise, as she must be a hopelessly miserably person to do the things she does to others.  Surely I can find it in myself to do it again for one with whom I have a far less intimate relationship.
  
 So now that any semblance of my previous life is at least a year behind me, now what?  At the moment, I have no idea.  There is a newly emerging health issue which could require any number of treatments ranging from simple to long ranging and devastating.  The former would be nice.  The latter would be in keeping with past experience with such matters.  When it is all out of the way--whenever it is out of the way--I will begin to think of the future once more. 
   
Until then, a little more healing of the flesh.  A more quickening of the spirit.  A little more soul searching.  A little more seeking revelation.  A little more exploring existentialism.   Maybe watching a Law & Order: SVU marathon or three.   A little more blogging to sort it all out.  Well, except for the Law & Order: SVU stuff.  Some things you have to keep to yourself.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

All Along the Watchtower

I planned to write about how my week went, but Jimi Hendrix is going to sing about it instead.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grace

If my problem is that I do not live in grace, it is necessary to define the Biblical concept of grace. The defintion appears simple, but, as I have discovered, the application to life can be anything but. The Old Testament uses the word hen to represent grace. The grace spoken of by hen is the unmerited favor of God. Old Testament figures such as Noah and Moses were written of as expressly having the favor of God. A point most apt in my6 case is God will, in his grace, wait upon man as though he is his servant. When God called Gideon to lead Israel against Median, he asked god to wait for him to prepare a sacrifice. God did so, and when Gideon brought the offering, God gives instructions on how to place the sacrifice and creates a supernatural fire to consume it. God will often wait for people to recognize and accept His grace. Grace in the New Testament is referred to by the word charis. This type of grace is considered unmerited favor.. Most often, this is the gift of salvation itself, which a man only receives when he humbles himself before god and asks for it. Jesus never expressly uses the word charis, but his teachings exemplify the concept. Perhaps the best example is the parable of the prodigal son who is shown favor by his father even though he has done nothing to deserve it. Jesus may not have spoken directly of grace, but a couple Gospel writers used the term in association with Jesus. John describes Jesus as full of grace. He bestows upon his people grace upon grace from the fullness of his grace. (John 1:16) John further states that the Law, a good thing, was given through Moses; the better things of grace and truth came through Jesus. Luke uses the term grace several times throughout his Gospel and in Acts. Luke speaks of grace in the Old Testament sense of unmerited favor, but adds a spiritual component. Luke speaks of both the grace of god and the grace of Jesus. The combined grace is generally considered to be an indicator of God’s ability to create spiritual life and sustain Christians. The latter is the grace I appear to misunderstand. At the very least, I seem to have resisted it in my life. Most recent life, at any rate. Paul often wrote of grace as not only unmerited favor, but the power to do God’s will through use of one’s God-given abilities. It has been about a decade since practicing law has been considered God’s will for my life. I have been stagnate during that time. Perhaps I was unwilling to admit it, but much of my stagnation was doubt about grace having been bestowed upon me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.--II Corinthians 12: 7-10Perhaps easy to understand, but sometimes extremely difficult to accept.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Taming the Beast

The long night of Debora ended mercifully when another sitter came in after five hours to relieve her.  Relieve me, too.  I feigned sleep soon after she arrived.  It did not matter much.  She was more interested in television, anyway.  Many of my sitters would be.  Between the television and smart phones, I enjoyed frequent breaks from well-intentioned sitters attempting to save me. While they engaged in their own pastimes.   I owe so much solitude to Candy Crush Saga, it is not even funny.   

When my sitter left in the morning, she was replaced by one carrying a scrabble board.  The day marked the first occasion I declined a Scrabble challenge.  This was not to be a day of fun at all.   I was to endure three unpleasant encounters, each progressively tougher.  As with the previous night, I was assessing the situation as it went along and becoming more convinced the situation was going to become worse by the day.  Maybe even the hour.

 My first encounter was Paulette, who made good on her pomise to see me in the morning.  I suspect she was just being dramatic about sitters keeping me alive or some such, but a promise is a promise, no?  This was the first time anyone would needle me about who I had talked to on December 12th.  I insisted she not be dragged into this.  Jane Doe had no idea--I hoped--and it needed to stay that way.  I finally compromised on the issue.  I would talk to dr. Hiatt about what happened.  If he thought keeping the secret was healthy, then tough luck for everyone but me. 

The second was with the nurse practitioner, Michelle.  The last time we talked, she attempted to sell me on antidepressants.  I was already on the countdown towards suicide on top of my aversion to medicating myself in general, so I was not cooperative.  By this point, I had lost the bargained power I once possessed.  Michelle was soon departing for another position elsewhere, so she lost any need to be polite.  I know I am beating a dead horse by saying so at this point, but things were becoming worse by the hour. 

Michelle was the first person to my depression as more than feeling down for a day or two over something bad happening.  She also suggested I suffered from anxiety.  One conspicuous evidence was biting fingernails.  I noted as she said that I was nibbling on my ring finger nail and stopped.  It burns when someone has more insight on me than myself.  I was also holding a pillow in front of me.  I later learned this was considered symbolic of putting up barriers.  Once I was told sarcasm was a deflection, I began to suspect I was one, big neurosis in a pair of Reeboks.  

Michele assured me taking antidepressants would give me the same boost as eating chocolate after a rough day.  Truth be told, I could not relate.  I had a feeding tube because because I did not want to eat.  But I knew where she was coming from, so I gave her that one.  I knew I was going to have to take some medication or I would wind up in a psych ward.  I did not appreciate the less than subtle threat, nor did I like her yelling at me that I had to start talking to people or else.  Demanding I open up while shaking a bottle of brain chemical altering medication over my head  is not the best way to get me to talk.

To her credit, I think Michelle realized my independent will was not going to bend that way.  She changed her tactic to a mantra I had heard numerous times since arriving at Oakhaven.  Why will I not play Bingo?  Would I not like to shop?  Would I not like to go out to eat?  Did I not want to go to any place activities planned trips or did I not want to hang out with old people/”

 “Yes,” was my answer to the last question.

My sarcastic nature wanted to make a I have heard of living to shop, but this is ridiculous joke about the shopping trips changing my mind about suicide, but I held off.  Self-discipline is a good thing.  My self-discipline solidified when I answered Michele’s question of whether I would like to talk to Jane Doe again with the declaration I would go to a psych ward before I would reveal who she was.

 I was definitely on guard here, but I was sympathetic to Michelle, too.  She could not have me roaming around oak haven with a suicide kit handy anytime I felt I had been pushed too far.  I had to throw her a bone in order to get everyone off my back long enough to think.  I still had trepidations about antidepressants.  It was necessary to express them.


“There are potential side effects, including possible psychosis.”  I said.

“Every drug has side effects.  Antidepressants may make you worse.  But we are going to monitor it,” she told me.
   
“Do you remember a few years ago in Connecticut when a woman’s pet chimpanzee went on a rampage, bit her neighbor’s face off, and had to be shot by police?  His owner had given him Xanax.” 

To this day, I will never know why I brought that up.  I have never in my life made a more paralogical statement.  It still burns me.  Michelle simply nodded as thought that was an interesting fact, but she could have lived without knowing it.  Today was not one of my better days.    I did have one key point to add.

“People on antidepressants off themselves all the time.”

“That’s true,” she agreed.

We negotiated down to the smallest dose that could still be effective.  It literally was the dosage equivalent to eating a piece of chocolate after a bad day.  The dosage counted as little more than a boost.  In hindsight, I assume there was an intention to increase the medication after I was comfortable the effects were not going to turn me into an emotionless zombie unable.  But I will never know.  A doctor took over treatment a week and a half later.  He was far less sympathetic to my feelings about everything.  I had to ditch him.  But I am jumping ahead. 

The third and final encounter was with Dr. Hiatt.  He opened his office up at eight PM that night in order to see me as soon as possible.  I had not been counseled by him since October.  I had not been completely revealing in regards to what I was thinking at the time.  Bringing my suicide kit into his office--twice--demonstrated that.  I had no idea what to expect, so I was completely on guard.

I spelled out the entire narrative that has taken me 27,000 words to do over the last month.  I relayed the whole story in mere minutes, too.  You lucky ducks hyave had to waste far more precious time.  In no way was there going to be a quick fix for this mess, so I knew nothing would be resolved that night.  It is a good thing, too.  I had no idea how to handle all the personal attention period, much less the pointed interests in dark thoughts I never had any intention of sharing with anyone.  I was not even going to leave a note.  I assumed the puzzle could be pieced together before my corpse even turned cold.

The broad picture was I had nothing worth living for, and my health would keep me from enjoying any shred of a normal, happy life I managed to obtain, which was highly unlikely at this point.  Maybe death was not the answer, but life was not even one of the options as far as I was concerned.  Where was god in all this?  Absentee landlord was the best answer I could give.  I was suffering a spiritual crisis because my environment was overwhelming me.   Working through such a morass requires a spiritual push.  I was not getting one.

Or was I?  One of the few things I volunteered was that Corrie Ten Boom had been on my mind lately.  I had read her autobiographical book, The Hiding Place, nearly twenty years prior in tenth grade.  Ten boom was a Dutch woman whose  family hid Jews from the Nazis in occupied Netherlands.  Her family was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp.  All but Corrie perished.  Before she died, corrie’s sister told her to look for the blessing in every calamity, such as the fleas in her cell keeping guards away from her.  Corrie’s faith never wavered.  It is inspiring, considering she believed she was doing god’s will by saving his chosen people, but lost everything because she did.  Corrie never considered God an absentee landlord.  Or at least she never wrote it down, the cynic in me says.

Dr. Hiatt believed God had reintroduced Corrie into my life for the first time since high school.  I was not certain at the time what lesson to take away from it at the time.  Nor was I convinced I was really depressed.  Surprisingly, Dr. hiatt agreed, but suggested I accept the boost from medication.  I had to ask, in not depression, then what is my problem?  He suggested a lack of grace.  His answer opened the door to the most interesting explorations into my spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being upon which I have ever embarked. 

Happy Fourth of July

We interrupt our usual kvetching to bring you our nation's 238th birthday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Circling the Wagons

You could say matters escalated quickly after my revelation.  Paulette immediately escorted me back to my room, all the while assuring she had my best interests at heart.  I expressed doubts about that.  In terms of outcome, at any rate.  If I wanted anyone to save me, I would have asked for rescue.  The matter appeared to have been taken out of my hands as far back as December 12th.  I like to plan ahead.  Entering uncharted territory in which I clearly would not be in control in the first place is always an unsettling prospect.
  
“Don’t go anywhere!” Paulette told me after I parked the Rollator against the wall opposite my room.

She went off to inform the floor supervisor, Ashley,  of my new one-on-one status.    Henry, the second shift nursing assistant who frequently tended to my roommate and me, was in the room working with Mac.  He later told me he took note of Paulette’s expression and wondered what could possibly have gone that badly. 
 
 Paulette returned with Ashley.  While Paulette nearly ransacked my room for any and all suspicious objects I might use, Ashley kept watch over me.  Ah, so this was going to be serious business.  Caroline walked by in the middle of it all and stopped to gently rub my forearm as I was sitting there.  She did not say a word.  According to Ashley, she did not know anything yet.  But she always suspected.
  
When I got the all clear, I went into my room and sat on the bed.  Paulette sat in the chair between mine and my roommate’s beds.  We stared at each other in silence for a long moment.  I really cannot explain why I burst out laughing.  It might have been relief just as likely as nervous fear.  Whateverever the case, it came from deep in the belly.
  
“You had no idea I had something to use, did you?”  I asked.
  
“I fail to see what’s funny about any of this, Jamie!” 
 
 “That is because you are not as screwed up as I am,”  I told her.  I guess I was not completely done with honest revelations for the evening.
  
 Paulette stayed until my first sitter arrived.  I was still fuzzy about the do’s and don’ts of this whole sitter thing, so I asked if my first sentry would wet her pants if I grabbed a hanger to hang my shirt up.  She laughed and assured me should would not.  Well, that a relief.  No pun intended.  My relief was short lived, however.  My first sitter was only a temp until my actual sitter got off shift.   Oh, dear.
  
Her name was Debora.  Not pronounced Deb-or-AH like most people, but Dee-BOR-ah.  She turned out to be aptly named.  She was De-bore-ah.  Not to mention De-annoy-ah, de-aggravate-ah, and de-pain-in-the-behind-ah.  She talked for nearly five solid hours as I laid in the bed staring at the ceiling.  At first, she patronized me by asking questions like my favorite colors.  I could only take about thirty minutes of that before responding with philosophical ramblings to change the subject.  It was a bad move, really.  She had years of experience in hospice care, so had discussed life and death issues extensively with he3r patients over the years.  I realized this whole sitter thing was going to be even tougher to endure than I thought.  The idea was to push me away from suicide, not towards it!
  
The only break I got was when caroline came in after a couple hours wanting to talk to me.  Debora took a breather.  I needed one myself.  Oh, well.   Caroline sat in silence.  I decided to break it.

   “You know, huh?”  I asked.

  “Of course, I know!  I’m your CNA   Of course, they told me.  And when the next shift comes in, I’m going to tell the next person.  But it doesn’t matter.  I knew you was thinking about it, anyway.  All those nights you’d sit in that chair staring off.  I’d ask you if anything was wrong.  You’d say you were fine, but I knew you was thinking about.  I knew you were thinking about it when you were on A hall.   I knew you were thinking about it back when you were on B hall.”
  
“You had to be really astute then.  I was just venturing out to find out what I could do and where I could do it.”
  
“What was you going to do?  You going to shoot yourself/”
   
“I do not have a gun.”
  
“Cut yourself?”
  
“Not reliable.”
  
“Hang yourself?”

“There is no where to do that.”
  
“Well, what was you going to do?”
  
“I was going to asphyxiate myself.”
  
“Say what?”
  
“I was going to tie a plastic bag around my head.”
  
“Oh, Lord,’  Caroline said, recoiling in revulsion.  “You were going to suffocate yourself?  Where did you get the plastic bag?“
  
“It was a patient’s belonging bag from McLeod,” I told her.
   
“Lord, have mercy.“  Caroline looked down at the trashcan near my bed.  She picked it up, eying the trash bag inside.  ‘why do they still have these in here/”
  
“I tested those first.  They are too thin to use.”

  
“What are we going to do with you?’ she asked.  “We are going to put you up at the nurses’ desk and keep you there all day long.”
  
She was kidding, but it was enough to cause my mind to wander just how bad this whole sitter thing was going to get.  It had only been a few hours.  I had not even seen a therapist yet.  I had no idea how I was going to handle all this.  While I was working through those thoughts, Debora returned.  Yes, this was going to be difficult, indeed. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Purity of Motivation

I spent all of June spelling out the pivotal time period from October 25th, 2012 to January 6th, 2014 in order for what I am about to write throughout most of July to make any sense.  I feared spending so much time in what might appear to be wallowing in self-pity, but it was all necessary.  I was--and still am, to an extent--facing an existential crisis.  It seemed much easier to show you completely why before delving into how I had to work through the issue of whether my life is worth living.  Because it is not certain that was the motivation for backing off my suicide plan.  But it is not good enough to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
   
The crux of the problem can best be illustrated by a story I heard recently. 
   
A man’s ten year old daughter was in a horrible accident.  She suffered brain damage which has rendered her completely dependent on other people for her care.  Her status will never change.  Her parents take care of her at home rather than place her in some kind of full-time care facility.  The father admitted he took on the heavy responsibility of caring for his daughter because he felt guilty her condition was punishment for his sins.  He needed to learn--and eventually did--that he should want to care for his daughter out of love for her, not guilt over her debilitated condition.
   
The result would have been the same either way.  Whether the man was racked by guilt or driven by love, his daughter was going to get the care she needed.  But the former is an unhealthy motivation.  Guilt is a bad reason to do anything.  Love is a healthy, positive reason.  The former would lead to negative outcomes for all parties regardless of whether the basic need of care is still provided.
   
So it is not enough to decide suicide is a nasty business I have a difficult time partaking in.  I have to want to live.  To see the value in a life I have long since that pointless.    It has not been an easy journey thus far.  Certain people have attempted, deliberately or inconsiderately, to make it even more difficult.  Sometimes, I am not even certain what am I looking for even exists or will satisfy me even if it does.  There are very few definite in life.  The future is often so scary, few honestly think about their own. 
   
But I am in the spot now where such is unavoidable.  I have spent the last few months living in a place where one’s worst possible future stares me right in the face everyday.  No one ever says they hope to retire to a nursing home one day   I also have a lot of time on my hands to think.  You know what they say about how dangerous that is.  Add an internet connection and a blog, and we shall find out just how dangerous I can be.  Hopefully, I will be more helpful than anything else.