Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation? Maybe Not.

T-minus 1 day left of vacation and then we make the twelve hour return drive back to Pennsylvania. I have a sneaking suspicion IT is hitching a ride up in the car topper, squashed somewhere between the suitcases, dog food, and sand pails. I wish it could be as easy as burying IT in the sand out at Point Beach on Lake Michigan, preferably under a pile of dog poop which is then under a mountain of sand.

But IT is persistent and resourceful—à la purging in the blueberry patch. On a whim, my husband and I went into Old Navy (50% off sign luring us) and I swiped up a few pairs of shorts and jeans to try on in front of, what felt like, Titanic sized full-length mirrors. Blech. Having to look at my almost naked body frontways and sideways and crossways? IT snickered, “You don’t really think you look passable in that, do you? Look at your fat butt and your flabby stomach. Look at how godawful BIG you are!” Or the past few nights having dinner parties with friends—friends I see once a year. You’d think I’d be engaged by their company, that I’d be able to relax and let down my guard. Instead, I was skittish, tense, felt far away, unable to be present. I felt like Helga in the Wyeth painting, “Farm Road”: she’s standing with her back turned resolutely away from the viewer, looking off into the distance at what? Not at the lone, dark tree on the horizon, but at the damning wall of earth in front of her. She is at a remove from the rest of the world, inaccessible, lost, like me, in her head.

That’s been the difficulty with this vacation. I’ve been too much with myself—IT has pulled me in, has gotten me tangled up with the bleak, awful thoughts. Thoughts of suicide worming their way in even on the best of days. And there have been lovely, heartbreaking days. My in-laws have an in-ground pool, so we’ve spent afternoon after afternoon sprawled on lounge chairs, both the stationary and floating kind. I’ve been reading well-written but brainless books under sunshine—the Stieg Larssen, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I watched my daughter perfect what she calls, “The Sea Dragon” dive: arms tucked at her sides for descent, body rippling up and down through the water on ascent. Similarly, I watched my son brave his fear of water and plunge, willy-nilly in all manner of spastic forms, off the diving board. And my husband? I’ve watched a lot of the stress of the past year slide away as he hangs with his old college friends, drinks good wine, and makes brilliant food.

Why is this heartbreaking? Because IT slithers in and tells me I’d better store up these beautiful memories because this is my swansong. That I should squirrel them away because I won’t live to see them repeat next summer. I feel like the terminal invalid sitting lakeside in an Adirondack chair, camp blanket tucked around my legs, knowing full well these are the last days.

I know logically there is no reason for me to feel this way. In a conversation with Dr. B. (yes, a vacation phone session) he reminded me that he knows and believes that I can recover from IT. That I am not some passive slug; that I am, in fact, a fighter. Yes, fierce and brave. And that I need to bring all forces of will to bear on fighting off IT. No, defeating IT. Rising, like a phoenix, from this ash.

I don’t know that I believe this yet, but for now, I suppose it is enough that Dr. B. does. He holds onto hope for me. As he reminded me, when my kids were swimming in the frigid waters of Lake Superior last week, I didn’t take my eyes off them for an instant. Intense, ever-present vigilance. This is what I need to combat IT. So I am vigilant these days, taking note of what I feel might be the beginning of a manic uptick:

I’ve been waking up a lot the past few nights which is always cause for preliminary alarm—four a.m., eyes wide open, feeling wired.

Consumed with restless energy that even a 6am run can’t counter—and running even when I feel exhausted—unable to give myself a pass, to say NO to IT’s demands.

Can I say irritable for absolutely no reason?

I’ve been ruminating nonstop the past few days, unable to shut off the cascade of negative thoughts—many urges to self-harm.

The world—and my family—feel like they are at great remove from me.

Those bothersome thoughts of suicide.

And a nightmare last night: that I had a manic meltdown of the most spectacular kind and was in the car with my husband being driven to the State Hospital (all the while fretting over the class I was supposed to be teaching at that very moment). The effects of this dream are lingering, have me in a funk because it feels like confirmation of what I’ve been feeling all along: I am not headed in the right direction and am, once again, walking on that terrifying edge.

So, enough evidence to suggest I need to be Superhero vigilant, armed with the anti-IT ray gun. Even on vacation.


  1. I see people who seem to live their lives with no effort and I just don't understand them. How can it possibly be so easy?

    I had been in a good spell, for a couple of months actually. The longest I can remember feeling like I was in charge of my life.

    Then the darkness snuck up on me and welcomed me back. I gave in for a couple of days. Back to coping mechanisms. I even scratched, which I haven't done in over a year. Today I feel like I am pulling out of it. But it is so tempting, that darkness.

    You are ahead of the game. You're doing well. Knowing that you have to watch for it all the time sucks, but it is also empowering because you know you can. You can fight it. It has no power over you (like from Labrynth).

  2. I hate IT! I think my new meds are making me manic. I'm talking non stop, shopping and all around irritable.

    I'm sorry IT's making your vacation hard. IT needs to be captured and leave us alone!!

  3. Kerry, I'm just back from London, a great vacation from my humdrum life, and from family concerns. But I'm a nervous flyer, and though I'm not as nervous as I used to be, I too had my own morbid thoughts--left my will, all my important papers, my jewelry, in a convenient place, so my kids wouldn't have such a hard time dealing with my stuff, if I didn't come back. But you know what? The pilots did a good job!

    I know this is a bad metaphor, but maybe think of yourself as a passenger, and other people are assisting you right now, including some excellent pilots (Dr. B, your husband, etc.). You got on the plane, placed your confidence in the process, and now you're on the journey. There is some turbulence now. But there are the people on the ground, like your kids, like your friends and other bloggers, like me, who are waiting at the gate for you. You'll arrive.

    During my darkest days, my thoughts of my loved ones, especially my children, kept me alive.

  4. Hey Kerry, I just caught up on your holiday blog posts; just letting you knwo I'm still here, still reading, still thinking of ya. Sending you a big cyber hug, shooting all the up from downunder NZ; I KNOW you can beat this thing too. I'm with Doctor B. The lie is that you're powerless. the truth is that you are actually far more poweful than IT. ITs only power is in ITs lies. Love and hugs from