I am in my third week of the Partial Hospitalization Program, and things are heading in the right direction. Due to at least one med change, the anxiety has become a much quieter yelling in my head. But it’s not constant, and much of the time the anxiety is tied to something that should cause anxiety. The experience for me is far more intense than it should be, but we’re getting somewhere.
I’ve been accepted to the day program, and I still have TMS to schedule, so I’m not sure what it looks like for going back to work, or what my routine will be like in a week or a month or a year. But it’ll happen when it happens and we’ll roll with the punches.
I feel like the anxiety is debilitating still, but it’s much patchier, and isn’t constant. I’m confident we can get it under control. Just saying (typing, whatever) that is a pretty big improvement. I’m much less hopeless and pessimistic.
I enjoy sitting on the porch, playing the concertina, and interacting with the folks on my care team and in my groups. It’s a full time job at the moment, and pretty exhausting. But manageable.
One of the things my wife wanted me to do is write out “reasons to keep living” or something like that. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to live, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know that through the fog. And the fog has been slowly clearing.
So what is the meaning of life? Because really, that’s the question, isn’t it? Besides 42 (which isn’t the meaning of life, it’s the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” – so we’ll shelve that one.
For me, it’s a multi layered collection of thoughts and things. I would say it’s the things I’m grateful for, the things that bring me pleasure, and the things that I will be grateful for bringing me happiness in the future, or Anticipations. There’s a fair bit of crossover on these lists, but that makes sense in a goofy sort of way.
What am I grateful for? The things that bring me happiness and pleasure, but also the things that help me day to day, the support and the love of family and friends. While I am grateful for some tangible things, when I think about gratitude I think about people. Yes, I am grateful for a healthcare system that’s at least working for me, and for the privileges I enjoy, etc. But when it really really comes down to it, it’s people.
My wife, who has stood by me through thick and thin, but also pushed me to challenge some of my boundaries. She’s my cheerleader and the person whose hugs are the core of my family. I can’t imaging how hard this must be for her, and I hate that I have to lean on people I love for support. But I guess that’s what support is all about. And for her support and love, I’m grateful.
My two children who are so similar, so different, so much like me, and so little like me. I can honestly say they’re a huge part of the reason I am still alive today. I can’t imagine hurting them with anything I do, or with an absence of me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t want to chop up my problems and give them to those who love me. I feel like their problems are similar to mine in ways that I can offer my guidance and support either because I’ve lived through the same problems, or because I’ve been in situations that have given me perspective. And the pride I feel when I see one of my kids doing something independent can’t be matched. Just seeing them function as adults who can make it in the world makes me happy and understand that we did some things right, and they’re going to be fine. And interesting. And smart. And creative. And fun.
My siblings are a part of my gratitude. I love them all, and their families. And because of COVID we’ve all actually come much closer to each other. We have a weekly zoom call just to catch up and chat, and we now have a call every other week to go through family photos and help the genealogists in the family clarify and understand just who and why and where the photos are. As the baby in the family sometimes I felt like I was being excluded or “protected” from some things, but as an adult I feel like these people are so important, and I want to connect with them as much as we can.
My care team is something really important to me, and invaluable. And it takes all of them. Psychiatrist (meds), Therapist (words), group (peers) and programs (PHP, day program etc.) have different parts to play in the whole healing structure of my mental health. And currently, I really like them all. Sometimes you get a therapist that you don’t click with, or a psychiatrist who doesn’t quite understand, etc. But right now I’ve got a great team in my corner. And I’m grateful.
The last thing is not a person, but another thing I’m grateful for is my relative health. My brain may be messed up, but I can walk, I can do all of the human functions successfully, and aside from some creaks and groans from a 50+ year old body, I’m really grateful for my abilities.
My pleasures? There are many of them, but I’d have to say it’s usually an experience. While I like getting “stuff”, it’s the experiences both with and without loved ones that really make up this list. And these are the things that can comfort me, or I can look forward to, or have fond memories of when I need to access something to pick me up.
Something I enjoy that isn’t surprising is driving. Whether it’s on a scooter, at the helm of a boat (no matter how small) or behind the wheel of our car, it’s all about driving. Someone once offered the idea that as humans we build up energies and the best way to deal with them is to be in a metal vehicle with rubber tires, and build up the miles. I don’t know if I believe that specifically, but I know that a long drive clears my head, gives me something interesting to see and participate in, and help me relax. I’m the one who drove to Iowa when I was in high school just to say I did it. Drove and drove and drove, got to the border and took a picture of the “Welcome to Iowa” sign, and turned around and drove home. One of my best trips, even if I got into a little trouble for it. I’m going to throw travel in here as well, but I think that’s pretty universal.
I need to add scooters to that mix above, as well. I can’t remember what got me started, but in 2000 or so I got my first little scooter. It was slow and plastic, but I rode that thing so often and so long, exploring the city and the countryside. It really was an immediate love. Since then I’ve traded up a few times, and every time it just expands my range and abilities. My best friends are the ones I’ve made scootering, and the most memorable trips tend to be the long rides we would take to another state or even country! It’s a bit like flying, but on something half the world thinks is super cool, and the other half of the world laughs at. That’s kinda my vibe.
My concertina. It’s Irish and it was mildly expensive, but it’s one of my treasured items for the pleasure it brings me. Being able to play music has been just a wonderful experience, and as I practice and get better bit by bit, it’s something that makes me feel, but also makes me proud. The fact that my son and I play and are working on playing together just takes it to another level. But when you can knock out a song you’ve memorized and you don’t make any mistakes – that’s bliss! Rare. But bliss. And I’m going to tack on “media” to this one. While it’s quite different, just consuming music and stories and songs brings me joy, especially if it’s something nobody else understands.
The cabin, and very specifically the boats. We have a nifty zoomy speedboat, and it’s nice to take it out and either fly across the water, or putt along with the family like it’s a pontoon boat. And I have two sailboats – not fancy, in fact one of them is a snark, which is one of the most common small sailboats found in the back of garages and barns. For a while there you could get a free one if you smoked enough cartons of cigarettes. The said would have a brand on it (Kool, Pepsi, etc.) and the cigarette connection is pretty funny if you think about the need for wind. But these little boats which get you wet guaranteed, and don’t move faster than a snails pace bring me hours of one of the best mindfulness exercises I’ve found. When you’re working your butt off trying to tack (turn around) or sail upwind, you can’t think of anything else. And when you’re coasting along in the peaceful moments, it’s hard not to just enjoy the sun, wind, water, and simple joy of sailing.
Finally, the old me. My memory, my abilities, and my outlook has changed so much in the last two years. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes it’s worse. But I’m trying to bring as many of my old “me” things forward with my new “me” world. Things like crafting and building electronics. Woodworking and photo collections. Homemade movies with the kids and working on any number of random and/or obscure hobbies. I can’t do some of them anymore, but some I can and enjoy bringing back up to speed in whatever way I can. An example is electronics. I may not be able to program them as well as I used to, and I usually get to an 80% completion point before seeing something else shiny and moving on, but I really do enjoy the feeling of success when something you build actually works.
The intersection of things I enjoy and things that are in my future are my anticipations. Things to look forward to. To prepare for. To be excited about. Now, I’m going to throw in a disclaimer than all of the things that COVID has sidelined still apply. Going to concerts, festivals, movies, places somewhere else without worrying about viral transmission, etc. That’s all just assumed. But the following are specific or unique enough they warrant mentioning.
While I’m not looking forward to my daughter going off to college out of state, I’m very excited about what’s to come for her. The things she’ll learn and get into and experience are going to be surprising and interesting and sometimes odd. But it’ll be the beginning of the great adventure for her like it was for her brother when he went off to college. I’ll probably bawl like a baby (again) when we leave her there, but I know from my experience with my son that it’s not forever.
One of the logistical elements of her going off to school is that she wants to bring her car. So we’re going to roadtrip from the great Midwest to the east coast. Ideally her in her car and me in the truck so we can carry more things. And once she’s settled out there it’ll be up to me to drive home. While that may seem like a boring drive back across a country I just drove through, it’s guaranteed to be anything but boring. My son is 4.5 hours away at school but I have been able to stretch the drive home into 8 hours. So the idea of picking my way across the country solo is really exciting for me!
My sister lives in a tourist zone during the summer due to my brother-in-laws awesome job, but it’s a really nice tourist zone. We usually go to visit them once a year in the summer and it never fails to be fun and refreshing and wonderful family time. (Ok, 2019 wasn’t optimal, but I was going to be miserable anywhere, it was nice to be miserable there.) And we didn’t get to go in 2020, so we’re really looking forward to it. On top of all that, our daughter is going to live there for the summer and work one of the many summer jobs offered there, which will be a whole other adventure for her before going off to college. And she’ll get to spend quality time with my sister and he family.
I’m looking forward to Father’s Day – while one of my kids will be off to her summer job, it’s always a wonderful day full of my favorite things. Be it food, or activities (history!) or places to go, it never fails to be a great day.
On the health front I’m looking forward to TMS. Remember, the whole point of this blog is to share those experiences? I have no idea if it’ll work, or how well, but I’m, hopeful that it will. Both for depression and for anxiety. And my secret hope is that it’ll help with my memory and such, as it can sometimes help with some things like that, but no guarantee. But I’m still hoping.
I am slowly working on figuring out what my next career will be, and as I go further down that route, I get more and more excited at the prospects. It’s likely to be years before it becomes something I can do for a living, but I haven’t felt this excited about a vocation since I got that job at the record store in college.
As my son and I go down our roads with the concertina, we’re getting good enough that we might be able to play together. And given the joy playing music brings me, I can’t even imagine how cool it will be to play *with* him and figure out how we can make twice as much noise for the neighbors!
As I mentioned, sailing is a really great mindfulness activity, since you’re busing enough that you can’t really think about anything else. So I’m looking forward to doing that at the cabin and on the lakes in town here. It’s not easy, I’m not that great at it, and it takes a lot of work, but it really is satisfying.
And back to the scootering – I’m considering upgrading again. It would allow me to have a more dependable scoot, and go further and faster than I can now. I can even drive it up to the cabin without the fear that it’s going to just stop working on the side of the road! It’ll allow me to connect with my scooter friends again (and be able to keep up with them!) and enjoy things like the rally’s that bring so many scooterists together for fun and ridiculousness. And given the power, I can even take my wife or one of the kids with me on some of my scooting adventures. Or just ride. When my son was born he was very colicky and there was a lot of work. While my wife enjoyed a nap in the afternoon, my release was to get an hour or so on the scooter and just wander the cities with no intent, just exploring.
Finally, it’s all of these things and more that really help me remember what’s worth fighting for, who’s there to love me, and what’s coming up that will make for those lifelong memories and happinesses. While this post was really an exercise in just what makes my life so great, it really does help remind me to think outside of my moment, outside of my pain or hopelessness, and remember that there are so many people, places and things that are just waiting out there. Ready to make for the next great story, funny tale, special family memory or just a peaceful moment.
And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?