7:30 pace in the gloaming. Perfect. A long time back I never would have considered 500 miles in training. Just didn’t think I wanted it. Guess I proved myself wrong. I can’t say I’ve been happy in my training, but I continue along. Blogging and running. Here’s to 500 more miles.
There’s always something in need. This week it has been two starlings that are living in my bathroom who want to be fed every minute. A couple baby chicks (also occupying my bathroom). A cruelty case that will end up with a seizure of animals. An auction horse in need, and in the last two days it was fawns. Thankfully we don’t do wildlife rehab and have a great friend that does. It is actually illegal to raise wildlife unless you have a license to do so.
Today we headed to a nearby track to pick up the little male fawn to drop him off. My partner was in love. I really don’t think there is anything cuter than a day old deer. This one was very hungry so it was sucking on her arm, neck and ear while I drove. what a fun way to start the day. It is nice to be able to help. It is a beautiful day here at the farm. I finally fought my way into the perennial garden. If I left it much longer I’d need a machete. So I weeded, and got some order going. Needs quite a bit more, but it is a start. With so much going on the garden gets neglected.
Off to feed the two yelling baby birds…
It has been a nice break from running, blogging, but of course life goes on. I jumped back into the running this week. I couldn’t control myself anymore. It has become so much a part of my life these days. Then again so has the blogging. They are each interwoven so completely now. I have found I have times when I need to take a step back from here. The words on this screen rarely come easy. There is a price, especially the deep and darker pieces. There in an inherent recovery phase, just as there is after a hard run. Some runs take more time to recover from. This week I jumped in hard with a quick hilly 7 1/2 miles. I want to hit the road again today, but I know it just isn’t there. It is no different with the blog. I have times where I cannot type fast enough to keep up with what is clawing its way to the surface. Other days I want nothing to do with it. It is the rebuilding and processing that brings me farther than I have ever been. As the days click closer to the one year mark I am just amazed at how far I have come and just how much ground I have covered. It is remarkable. If someone had told me that a blog would be this therapeutic I’d probably have shrugged it off. From the first day of treatment there has always been someone along the road suggesting writing. I’ve written here and there, but never in a consistent soul baring way. Why a blog? Maybe the public nature of it leaves me feeling accountable. That I can’t just drop it where I left off. Or it might be my finally realizing how important it is to lay this out there. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I could get run over and my life ends. Or I could live for many more years. the point is I know I have a lot to say. I may be quiet, but my brain is not. It is a never-ending stream of images and phrases. My hyper critical voice always giving me shit. All of that combining to make me who I am. In my almost 40 years on this earth I have lived and survived. What a shame it would be to leave this earth with no story, no words. No explanation. In my darkest moments that is meaningless to me. The depression stripping my mind of accountability, and a responsibility to leave a why. This blog can be my why, god forbid I walk down the blackest of paths again. This is my battle, my war. There are no guarantees here. I can only hope that the treatments get better, and I find a steady place that I can live my life from without the constant glancing back to see when the void will swallow me whole again. I say this not to be dramatic, but to be pragmatic. This is the reality I have lived thus far. How can I possibly believe in something else? I could not think of a more joyous thing than to not have depression come visit me again. But only a fool would buy into that fantasy. This blog is my life, for better or worse. As I close on a year of writing I am struck by an ingrained hopefulness that I don’t often sense in myself. In the very hardest of posts I seem to come out at the other end in a better place than where I started. I have no idea why. My only thought is that my writing allows a bridge to form between my inner survivor and all this processing. I can only sense the negative, glass half empty pessimist as I slog thru the day-to-day. But beneath that exterior my heart and soul is very different. I could have quit a long time ago. I could have remained willful, angry and self-destructive as hell. I didn’t. I’m still angry, and have moments of willful, but I am not who I once was. I have swapped willful for determined and brave. Instead of finding ways to destroy my life, I look for ways to challenge myself. Look for the tougher more resilient pieces of me, instead of hiding and glowering at the world. I use this blog to challenge myself. With each post I explore and chart a course through my mind. With each I survive, and look hard at where I have been. When I get lost and lose my footing I often come back here. It gives me hard evidence it isn’t always SHIT. I can will myself to hold on another minute, hour or day because there are my words, my voice talking about a better place, a better experience. The very worst thing about depression is the conviction it pounds into you that tomorrow will never be better. But here, in my own voice, I see the proof. From the darkest moments with a gun to my head to the most triumphant highs of accomplishment. They are all here. I am here in these pages. All of me. This is my gift to myself. This is an invaluable voice of reason when I really have none. I can’t think of a better gift to myself. Beyond that I have opened the blinds to let people see me for who I am, and for what goes on in my head. Whether I am processing a session, or reacting to news, it is here. I offer myself, all of myself. One might think that would be appallingly uncomfortable, especially for someone as reserved as I am. I truly feel the opposite. It is a relief to have a place to unburden my mind, reset, and move on. I am looking forward to the coming year and more blog posts from the mundane to the heart wrenching. Wherever it takes me, wherever my mind wants to go. This is my blog.
I am regretting the last minute change in decision to alter our Baltimore plan. It is easy to say sleep is just sleep. Not for me. I know better than to throw an all night adventure into the mix and I am still finding my footing here at home on the heels of that trip. so, here I am beyond exhausted and sleep doesn’t much feel like descending. My schedule is way off. Rather than sleeping I’m staring at a computer screen and trying to wind down.
I am glad we went down for the service. I was able to say goodbye and that is so very important. Poppy was a very special man. Not for running a fortune 500 company, or for being a successful attorney. He was special because he was a constant. Steady and kind without ever wavering. He had been in my life since well before high school. He stood up for me when my family did not. He fought for some accountability with the trust, though in the end his concerns were not enough to head off disaster. He showed me what true responsibility and commitment looked like before I even knew what I was seeing. I loved him deeply and my heart aches thinking of him now. Godspeed Poppy.
Where are you this morning? I’ve gone well past exhausted and am in some strange place. I know better than to mess with my sleep , but its done. I just want to rest my tired eyes..
It has been an agonizing decision. I’ve tried to push on and make like nothing is wrong, but I know that isn’t right. It is nagging at me. My race date looming over my head and the wound up nervous energy driving me toward a really dumb choice. I stopped it today. As I was pulling out my shoes and clothes to pack I looked up at the ceiling. who knows, maybe I was hoping for a sign from god. Or maybe I was just stretching my neck, who knows. But the reality was looking me right in the face. I may do some pretty dumb things on occasion, but this would have been one of the dumber ones. I haven’t been able to run at my normal training pace for more than two weeks. I have limped thru my weekly mileage trying to find a comfortable way of breathing through the pain. Nothing works. It is unbelievable painful and beyond frustrating. I had hit a plateau and was frustrated. Backing off for a week or so righted it and I was training great. Wham, and then I wasn’t. There isn’t much I can do. An injury is an injury, whether it happens week one, or like this in the very last weeks of training up to the marathon distance. It is so hard to explain to everyone why this is so difficult. Maybe it is the sheer amount of commitment it takes to get to here. The hours of running each week, half a day on the weekend. It is immense. For this training cycle I have logged 102 runs totaling 477.64 miles. That might not mean much for some people, but I can tell you it is a lot for me. A single mile is 5,280 feet. When I started focusing mainly on running, I could easily run at about a 10min mile pace. It was my comfort zone. Okay for a pretty out of shape, almost 40-year-old without a running background. Well I did sprint and jump as a track athlete in high school, but that was a long time ago. Quite slow in the land of runners. As I put in the miles and months I found my stride, so to speak, and run about 8:30 mile now when training. That wasn’t shoes, or fancy socks. It was focus and commitment. So when people say don’t worry about it, there are other races, I see 2,500,000 + feet of road and trail. I see the push thru pain, and snow, and rain. I see the daily decisions to work rather than sit down after a long day. I know there are other races. I know there are millions more feet to go. But I also see the restarting of the training cycle. I see the fight to regain where I am now after some time off. I have a right to be upset and frustrated. I can shake my head and wonder why now? There have been all sorts of nagging injuries along the way. But this was the eleventh hour with the starting line in sight was by far the most frustrating. I am so wound up from tapering down in miles. I would normally be logging 25 to 35 miles a week. This past week was 14. That feels like not running at all after the past months. I’m feeling a bit like a sloth. Granted I’ve gained an unreal 7 lbs. I think the running has been excellent for my head. I know it is a fine line, and more than 30 miles a week really pushes the edge of what my body wants to endure right now. that extra 7 pounds doesn’t help me. Hell, carrying a large water bottle on a long weekend run can feel like weightlifting. That said, I am feeling healthy. Waiting to see the dr again this coming week to review blood work and check the ribs. I’m not expecting anything out of the ordinary since I am feeling so strong right now (yeah, a strong sloth). I am undecided on how much time to take off. This doctor doesn’t seem like she sees many athletes, so I’ll have to touch base with my orthopedic guy. He’ll have a plan, I’m sure. For now I will fight the natural urge to run. I know this sounds stupid, but I was really excited to break 500 miles logged while racing….
I don’t really scare easy. If anything I just detach and feel nothing. Today wasn’t nothing though. I stood half dressed while this lovely, friendly tech talked at me. I vaguely listened, since I couldn’t hear much but the sound of my own heart beating. I’ve had plenty of procedures, tests, surgeries, without much beyond the usual anxiety. I’ve trained myself to drop my heart rate, and relax. The more anxious I am the better I am. In those last moments before they knock you out, when just the chatter of the OR nurses and the beep of the heart rate monitor keep you company, those are the moments when I can find an icy stillness. I listen as the beep slows. My mind accepts and I disappear into the haze of sedation. Today was not like that. the tech smiled, “You can do this, I have a good feeling about you”. My brain was translating um, do people not survive this? How bad can it possibly be That only served to ratchet up the anxiety level. I was honesty quite surprised at myself. It was so out of character, least within the confines of a medical office. Before ECT, I do remember bordering on meltdown. That I remember clear as day, go figure, since they said I wouldn’t remember that part. I paced non stop for a couple of hours. The social worked had to pace with me, since I wasn’t about to sit down. Unfortunately for me they put the new patients at the end of the schedule. It was after 12 by the time I left the unit. That was the longest I had ever had to really wrestle with a type of anxiety I wasn’t able to control. It was a terrible feeling. Today wasn’t all that great either when it came to the anxiety. The mammogram was nothing compared to the feeling coursing in my veins. The ultrasound was far easier, since by then I had battled with my nerves, told myself I was an idiot, and moved on. That was until I was sitting across from the dr that had just read the images. I wasn’t really sure where my head was at. I was making a concerted effort to focus as she talked about types of breast tissue. I got that much. Guess I’d be a good milk producer. That got a snide remark from somewhere in the back of my head. Not like I’m having kids, won’t be needing all that great dense tissue I apparently have so much of. FOCUS. Ok, back to the dr. What is she saying? FOCUS. Ok, a mass. Got that part. LISTEN. I was not listening. I’m not sure where my brain cells disappeared to. But hell, they migrated like a herd of wildebeests to the nearest red exit sign. FOCUS. alright, alright. 2 o’clock. got it. Monitor it, ok. 6 months. Ultrasounds. Better at visualizing mass because the tissue is so dense. Got it. Wait, what? mass? where 2’oclock. ok got it. My brain was talking to itself, even though my reasoning had left the building. Calm, perfect veneer was having a conversation with this doctor about follow ups, and ultrasounds every 6 months for the next two years, all while this mayhem was going on between my ears. Off I went, out the door, into the most beautiful sunny day. My brain was somewhere to be found. Just wasn’t sure where to look. I sat for a moment in the truck and regrouped. What did she say? I found that amusing, since I often laugh at my partner since she is a basket case at the drs. Her blood pressure goes off the rails, and she fails to hear anything the dr is saying. I wasn’t laughing now. I knew how it felt, and I understood how fast it happens. Why now? After all these procedures, and dr visits. Why was this one different? Was it because I had seen so many cancer patients in my uncle’s office? I had looked into the eyes of all those women as they walked a brutal road…needle aspirations, biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies…over and over. Maybe it was because I had some knowledge, or maybe, as Virgil so eloquently put it, “it is scary shit”. True that!
As I sat in session letting my mind wander back, year after year, I was so stuck by the dull gray expanse of nothingness. Nada. within that are bits and pieces, ribbons of moments captured in time. Incomplete. a sound, a smell, an image. Rarely combined together to form a complete cohesive unit. They are fractured, and fragile. I often sense them skitter away into the gray as I concentrate to capture their essence. I’m left grasping at nothing but a hint of what I was tracking. When it comes to my childhood there is so little there. I can’t really comprehend where 100,000+ minutes got lost along the way. It isn’t the ECT or the meds. It is how I have always been. Maybe a bit hazier now. I can capture fleeting moments in time, and piece them back into my childhood by the house, or the yard. Maybe a tree, or pool. Something stands out to allow me to place it. When I think about my time with my parents, as Beatrice was asking, I just need to let my mind go. It may crash against the shards of that greyness, but eventually it settles and I may catch a memory to chase. So when a memory is complete in my mind I usually pay it some heed. Why did that one weather the years, and the oblivion? Why? Just a few.
The wallpaper is blue and white. Something fine, not dots, maybe flowers? tiny little blue flowers on a white or cream background? There a perfect balloon valances, blue to match the wallpaper. There is a staircase. I can see all off it so clearly. The room is completely bare. Not a toy, or book in sight. The shelves are empty. The feeling attached to this image is loss. There is an emptiness. In the middle of the room is a trunk. I know everything I love to play with and read is locked in that trunk. I don’t see the anger, or the punishment itself, but I do sense it. It completes the emptiness. Though I know not what I did wrong, I know everything is in the trunk because I angered my mother. It was a standard issue punishment if she was pushed too far. (based on house, and room I was prob between 5 and 7)
Fear is vivid and crisp. Pinging off the walls and furniture. Everything is bright, crisp and harsh. Hard edged. Modern. Running hard and out of breath. trying to make it to my room, and being chased. Know I’m going to get a belt. It is a memory mainly vivid for its intense fear associated with it. Got back from school and was in trouble for something. She was coming, and the punishment was inevitable. (based on the house, figuring on almost 8)
I don’t have that fear with my dad. The memories are more indistinct, and fuzzy, but they are warm. The earliest ones are good. I don’t get any inklings of fear, dread or anger. It changes later as I grew up and got obnoxious and pissed as a teenager. Then it was a war. But before the war, before everything came so completely undone, we were so very close. I understand why the plane crash the other morning sent my head in a very strange direction. I disconnected so completely, but not in a typical way for me. It was more of a departure to a detached place where I could wander amongst the memories. The long days spent on boats, the world over, in pursuit of the next catch. It was his passion. His greatest joy. I was his side kick. It was an adventure, always. As a youngster he took me up to Shoals Marine laboratory (off of Maine/ New Hampshire). A place where science meets the sea. They study tide pools, and migrating birds. It is by far one of my happiest memories from my childhood. Standing in shallow water hunting for specimens. I was a little scientist there. Just like all these adults with their jars, and nets. My potential was limitless. There was nothing but joy in the hunt. There was no horror, no loss, no fighting and no fear. I can’t figure out how old I was. It was just us, so figuring somewhere between 8 and 13, though there is always the possibility that it was earlier, on a vacation.
Crystal clear water. More fish than we can possibly catch. I remember my arms aching from the tuna. Tunas are an interesting fish. They bite hard, but unlike a lot of sport fish you can hook onto, they don’t run and fight. They tend to drop like a ton of bricks seeking the bottom. Makes for a long drawn out fight, with the big ones. We hooked so many that trip. God, fishing actually bordered on boring. I remember watching the captain cut up a tuna so fresh it was deep dark mahogany fleshed. Somehow dad tracked down a japanese tourist with wasabi. Sashimi doesn;t come close when you eat it like that. He was so happy that day. Boastfully sharing his catch with a roomful of strangers. He was always one to share his catch. I remember him dragging along bluefish to one of my therapy sessions. Thumping down that carpeted hallway to Emily’s office with 30lbs of oily nasty bluefish in glad bags. The thought of it makes me smile. there was nothing too ridiculous for him. He shied away from nothing, and cared not what anyone thought of him. That same trip with the tuna, we set out for yet another day of fishing. I was getting a bit tired of it, and was mouthy. Fishing is a lot of sitting and waiting, all for that rush when the lines ZZZZZZZZZZIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP. The zing as the fish bites and runs, the line racing out of the spool fast as that fish is fleeing. ZZZZZZZZEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…. It is breathtaking. It is the moment when your heart is pounding as you shake off the sleepiness from hours spent drifting at sea, or trawling while listening to the steady chug of the diesel engines. It is an amazing moment. Unsteadily everyone finds their sea legs and charge hard at that rod, or rods to set the hook and get down to the battle at hand. On that trip we were headed back to the dock after a very long day at sea. Often those days started before the sun rose over the horizon. Not being a morning person, they were especially hard for me. Not him. He rises before the corners of the world start to pale before dawn. I was exhausted after many days at sea. We had caught so many fish, it bordered on unreal. I could have cared less if another fish hit those lines. But he was always on the hunt. We always trawled back to dock, never pulled the lines and called it a day. That afternoon, in the haze of the late day Costa Rican sun, the lines all started. I think we were all pretty much cooked, and it took a moment to realize four fish were on. The zip of the unreeling line had us all clamouring. I grabbed the rod nearest me, and even with my little frame, did as I was always taught, bend your knees lean back give the rod a stiff pull and set the hook hard. It was second nature. As I looked around I saw that the captain, his mate and my father all had a rod and a fish on. I knew I had a good sized fish. My heart was jackhammering away. I was awash in pure adrenaline. The sleepy mouthy pain in the ass was gone in an instant. The logistics of fighting 4 fish off a small vessel is a nightmare. You cross your lines, bam, no fish. So we did the dance, we did countless times before. Seamless. The mate lost his fish. He was reeling fast as his arms would let him to get that extra wasted line out of the water. Minutes ticked off. We had settled into the rhythm of fighting the fish. It is an art really. Taking up the slack quickly, after each successive pull on the rod. Not too hard, or too meek. It is after all a fight. It is about burning arm and back muscles. It is about the steady feel to that fish, the concentration never ever wavering. It is in that moment that you lose them. Not long after the mate, the captain lost his fish. It left my dad and I. You could not have written a better fish tale. And so we fought in the hot sun. As the fish finally came close to the surface we saw the pink of their scales. We knew while fighting that they were not tuna, or roosterfish, or any of the other likely suspects. They were different. That afternoon we landed two magnificent Red snappers. An amazing fish. Beautiful and very much in demand for their delicate meat. I wish more than anything I knew where the photo was from that afternoon. Maybe I will find it amongst his things someday. All told, I landed a 38lb fish, and he a 56 pounder. They sold before we got back to the dock. But what a sight they were hung up at the dock. Back when he was younger he landed a 500lb tuna off of NJ. He had an old floppy fishing hat. Tattered and worn from far too many days at sea. On that hat was a pin from the state of NJ for landing that fish. On one of our trips it blew off into the pacific, lost to the depths. It was one of the few times I had ever seen him upset. But I will never forget our day with the red snappers in the pristine azul waters of central america.
I could go on, I could regale you with stories of fish, and weather, but it was our connection that I find so hard to put words on. I loved him so deeply, and completely. For such a complicated man our relationship was simple then. If only it could have remained that way.