I-dentity Cry-sis

Apr 27, 2011
© gurudesignZ.com 2002

When I was about 14 years old, I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy – for about 2 weeks.  During those two weeks, my best friend and I spent an afternoon babysitting and scrutinizing every word in a celebrity rag sheet (Star Magazine, I think).  And who should be on the cover of this Pulitzer-prize-worthy publication?  Shaun Cassidy.  But wait, who was this woman on his arm – where *I* was supposed to be?  All I remember is that her name was “Debbi”, spelled just like that, without the ‘e’. 

The next day, I began spelling MY name “Debbi” – without the ‘e’.  In my insecure, peer-dependent opinion of myself, I now had something that made me…. interesting.         O, happy day.
After about 2 years of writing “Debbi” on my test papers, term papers, and all things school-related, I graduated from high school and began working on Wall Street as a receptionist.  It was just a temporary gig until I started college; I was only 16, I had time.  But a combination of events kept me at my Wall Street job earning money instead of a degree. 
And I was so good with money, I still am.  I loved to watch the numbers in my savings account increase each week as I admired myself for such monetary maturity.   When I left home and moved into my own apartment, I needed more than just a savings account, I needed checks to pay bills.  And I needed those checks to tell the world that I spelled my name D-E-B-B-I —  Because at 18 years old, this was still extremely important to me. 
I remember gleefully opening my first box of checks and peeling away all the paraphernalia packed with all those booklets, anxious to see my name written across the tops of about 1000 blank checks.  But my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that the bank had spelled my name WRONG.  One thousand blank checks and my name was spelled “DEBI” on every one of them.

My dilemma was excruciating, as dilemmas only can be for a teenager: Do I return to the bank and have them correct the mistake, which would take another several weeks?  Or do I just drop one of the “b”s from my name, too? 

For the last 30 years, I have spelled my name “DEBI”, and that is exactly what is written across the tops of my checks today.  I no longer need an ‘interesting’ or differently spelled name, but it is quite easy to scribble on the bottoms of all the many checks that pay all the many bills now. 

But no matter how it is spelled, the important thing has always been – and is – that it’s not “DEBRA”.  It is not the name my parents insisted I use while growing up and, to my horror, even corrected my friends when they overheard them call me Debi.  (or Debbi, or Debbie :-/)  “Her name is Debra.”
If only the teenage angst over how to spell my name was the identity crisis I now experience.  As a person with more than one chronic illness, I don’t know who I will be from one day to the next.  Will I be bed-ridden?  Will I feel well enough to do laundry or grocery shopping?  Will I be so depressed that I hide in my bedroom until I have to come out and behave ‘normally’ for my husband and children?  Will I awake to discover that my pain is manageable and I barely feel sick at all, then become engrossed in one of my many untended projects… only to be punished with multiplied pain the next day?
I am not the vital, healthy, attractive woman I once was.  I can’t even hold down a job.  There is no savings account to watch with glee or pride and there are fewer and fewer activities available for me to enjoy. 
I’ve always thought the name “Debi” brought to mind the vision of a youthful, fun-loving, adventurous girl.  And I always thought it was a good fit for me.  But not anymore.  Now I feel like a fraud, like I should change my name to fit who I have become… something more like Ethel or Gertrude (no offense meant to those bearing these names).
Whenever I’m at the grocery store and a young check-out girl looks down at my check and then up at me, I feel certain that she’s thinking: “Debi”?  Really??
No, not really.  The bank just made a mistake.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

Apr 16, 2011

Winter Revisited

The snow and ice weighed heavy on the huge pine tree in my front lawn, taking down some very large and heavy branches.  This view is through my glass front door, through the spokes on my front staircase.  Stripes of sun through the wooded lake across the street highlight the fallen foliage.

Note to self: In the future, clean the hazy dog breath/slobber off the door before snapping a picture :-/


Weekly Photo Challenge: Light

Apr 2, 2011

Early morning drive to the hospital

Sunrise Drive 

Though somewhat terrified because I would soon be at the hospital for major surgery, I just couldn’t ignore the vibrant, soothing colors of the sunrise that enveloped me.  I also couldn’t turn around and take the picture directly, hence the side mirror. 

Of course, there was also this fatalist, “sunrise behind me”, and “could this be my last sunrise?” drama taking place, but I don’t think it’s evident in the photo :-)


I Found my Mojo…

Mar 29, 2011

Sadly, it resides in the section of intestine my surgeon just removed.

The scar depicted above looks a lot like mine, except that mine is not healing properly and it goes through my belly button (though my surgeon promised it would not).  Oh, and the scar above is on a a nice flat belly that belongs to a body builder and my scar… well, let’s just say it does not :-/

It’s been 4+ weeks of pain, of infections, of an unexpected heart problem that had me in the ICU, of one doctor visit after another with more and more tests and more medications added to my already long list: MedsMy body rebels if I try to do anything even minimally strenuous and I’m always tired.  Tired from doing nothing.

But the most frightening part of it all is that I feel smothered in apathy.  I can’t think of anything I want to do; there is nothing that interests me, nothing that jolts the sensor that resides somewhere inside of me and makes me excited about beginning a project or a new task.  I just feel nothing.

Sometimes, I feel sad or guilty, but I just can’t revive the old me… or find her.  I have been trying to write this blog post for over a week, but have about a half-dozen deleted drafts to show for my efforts.  My heart is just not in it.  I have always loved to write: I’ve been journaling for years – long before there was something called “blogging”.  But here I am writing, yet it brings me no joy.  It is too arduous to include the details I originally thought I should mention.  And my journal just continues to gather dust.

Yesterday was my birthday.  We have a tradition of going to a local pizzeria to celebrate, but I was still feeling too poorly to leave the house and I couldn’t really eat anything at the pizzeria, anyway, so I broke our family’s tradition.   I could see that my daughter was disappointed, as my birthday is a much more exciting event to her than it is to me.

I read something about post-surgical depression, but this feels more like post-surgical apathy.  At least for the sake of my family, I hope it passes soon.  I hope mojo is the sort of thing that regenerates when removed – like a starfish’s arm or a salamander’s tail.

I wonder if they endure an empty feeling while they wait for their appendages to grow back.


What would *I* do with a million dollars?

Feb 18, 2011

one MILLION dollars

Remember when $100.00 was a lot of money? 
A million dollars is still a good deal of money, though – certainly enough to alleviate a significant amount of stress or financial hardship.

Honestly, I don’t need a whole heck of a lot.  I just wouldn’t know what to do with it all.

After giving the first 10% to my church, I would pay off my house, THEN go about the business of making all the repairs that this comfy old house needs so badly.

I’d pay for my son’s college so we could eliminate the need for his pending student loans, and I’d encourage my two older sons to attend college [now that I could afford it

I’d breathe a little easier.

I’d go and get a professional haircut instead of mutilating my own hair every few months.

I’d put money away for when my husband retires, and I’d tell him to immediately quit his second job!

With a million dollars, I would pay off all my medical bills and open up some sort of savings account so I could afford all future bills not covered by insurance, plus all the expensive co-pays on my medications.  Perhaps I’d even delve into holistic medicine or some alternative type of healthcare where all the doctors work together and treat the patient like a person instead of like an annoying conglomeration of symptoms.

Peace of mind.  No, you can’t buy it, but you can afford to ward off so many of it’s thieves.

If I had a million dollars, I would wrap a really big box for my husband and fill it with lots and lots of cotton.  When he finally emptied all of the cloud-like cotton out of the box, there would be a toy airplane tied to a certificate at the bottom that enabled him to take his favorite Cessna out for a flight each weekend.  He has a pilot’s license and absolutely loves to fly, but it’s just too expensive to rent a plane for even an hour or two.  Flying has become a memory of something he used to do when he was single.

There’s no way I could get away without buying my daughter a toy or two (or ten :-/ ), just as long as it’s a one-time deal – no spoiled kids in this house!  But, oh… not having to worry about her college fund – how wonderful would that be?

I have always imagined starting a charity for young widows with children.  I would want to try to start that.  People express their condolences when they meet a young widow taking care of young children; sometimes they’ll bring over a meal or leave an open-ended offer of “call me if you need anything” before they disappear, but few people realize how – or if – she’s able to take care of everything.  Is she by herself?  Does she have a family that helps her?  Did her husband have adequate life insurance to help with the children?  Who babysits when one of the kids is sick on a school day and she can’t take off from work?  As a former young widow with 3 boys, I know there are many things that people assumed about our situation that just weren’t so.

At least now I can laugh (though still with disbelief) about my boss at that time telling me, in all seriousness, that I didn’t need a raise, I needed a husband.  No, my children needed to eat… I’m pretty sure I needed a raise :-/

A million dollars IS a lot of money and the responsibility of spending it in a good and proper way is daunting to me.  The words, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48) take on a deeper and more personal meaning in the shadow of ONE MILLION DOLLARS.  Perhaps I’m better off just dealing with the daunting tasks at hand.

For now, anyway ;-)


Grace Under Illness

Feb 9, 2011

I come from a family with a long, proud tradition of talking about how much they help people and using many words and craftily placed mirrors to perpetuate this charade, but whose behavior has seared one lesson deeper into my psyche than any other: “You’re on your own, Kiddo”.  If I’m not mistaken, it’s spelled out in Latin on our family crest :-/.

So, from an early age, I’ve been an overachiever, a control freak, a failed perfectionist, and a royal pain in the butt, at times.  I have taken care of myself, my children, needy siblings, sick relatives, and strangers who were down on their luck.  It’s what I do… I take care of things, of people, of problems.  Or, it’s what I used to do.

Part of living with a chronic illness is learning to accept the reality that you are no longer the person you once were, then adjusting to a new identity.  I went kicking and screaming into my ‘new identity’ and the surreality of being told that No, there’s nothing we can do for the pain or fatigue, it’s time for you to learn how to live with it.  Forever.  I knew that’s what the doctor said, but I figured that wasn’t what he meant.   Not really.  It’s not like he meant FOREVER forever. 

Twelve years and 9 months ago (though it took about a year to actually get a Fibromyalgia diagnosis).  Sometimes it feels like forever.  A car accident that would be described as ‘minor’, except for the pain that never went away.  The inability to sleep.  The inability to stay awake.  The inability to get things done or to ever be that version of me again.

THIS version of me has to learn how to accept help.  And you know what?  It’s soooooo much harder than giving help, than taking care of things.  I don’t like it, nope, don’t like it at all.  But when the Fibromyalgia Flare Demon comes and knocks me down, I literally do not have a choice.  As a control freak, I really hate that… but I’m learning.   And I’m trying so hard not to be a royal pain in the butt while I do.

But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way.  Maybe my husband feels more needed and more loved and more vital during one of my flares.  Maybe he needs to give and I need to shut up and just gracefully receive.

<< so difficult >>

I am now at the brighter side of my flare.  I am moving and standing without help.  Heck, I vacuumed today!  My husband and I are able to look at each other without the pain, the concern and neediness between us.  Though we’ve known each other a long time, we are still newlyweds and this interdependence thing has a learning curve that can do without the addition of a flaring chronic illness. 

Ultimately, though, this situation helped us to grow closer.  I stopped fighting and gratefully accepted help, along with the fact that the house was going to be more messy than usual while I was stuck in one place – able only to stare at the dust, not clean it. 

So, yes, this version of me can’t do half as much as I used to do and I often wonder about my ‘purpose’ with a 12-year-old identity that STILL feels foreign, but surrendering didn’t feel like defeat this time because my husband and I went through my flare together.


Sensitivity, Hypersensitivity and the Nonsensical

Feb 1, 2011

Both the cat AND the dog are cleaning themselves within a 3 yard radius of where I’m sitting and, at the moment, it feels like the equivalent of having needles stabbed into my pupils.  Ok, well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I’ve developed these hypersensitivities that have gotten to a point where they can be maddening to me and, unfortunately, quite irritating to those around me (though I don’t care what the cat or dog think about it… especially the dog – ugh – who is in a state of perpetual cluelessness).

It would seem I hear things 10 times louder than the rest of my family… or, it’s just that I can fine tune into a sound that no one else notices and it reverberates in my head like it’s the only sound in the room. 
The worst offenders are these disgusting animal licking sounds, chewing sounds (please stop chewing with your mouth open or I may not be able to control this urge to slap you!) and repetitive noises, like finger or foot tapping (who needs nails on a chalkboard? :-/).

Did I imply that this was a “sounds-only” problem?  My mistake.  Though my vision is increasingly impaired, my sense of taste has been… uh… enhanced as well.  Now everything from milk to mayonnaise tastes like a spicy burrito.  Yum. 
I can also smell things that no one else can smell – – come to think of it, I’m kinda like a super hero, but with super powers that are useless and annoying.  There is a stink bug somewhere in this house and I need to find it and eradicate it from my surroundings before I vomit!  And then I, Super Smeller, [et al] go around the entire house searching for the stink bug like someone who should have men in white coats directly behind her… but no one else can smell what is making me feel queasy.  (But first, I grab my glasses.)

Sometimes, it turns out that the dog ATE a stink bug, which then releases this wicked insect’s pungent powers, so it is actually the dog who is spreading the aroma around wherever she goes (along with her shedding fur and her own lovely fragrance), like the %$@* stink fairy that she is.  No, I do not like the dog.  Most days, I feel like she is an exclamation point at the end of a painful, ironic scream.  (Like, “REALLY?!”)

Aside from my fixation on the dog today, I have found some research suggesting that hypersensitivity can be a symptom of Fibromyalgia (and other research ignoring the possibility completely).  I have come to rely more on the experiences of other people who actually deal with this illness (Thank you, Leana) as my reference since respectable, reliable studies are few and far between (if you can find them at all).  I have also spent the better part of the last two days trying to learn if weather can cause a Fibromyalgia flare – specifically, cold temperature, humidity and/or barometric pressure because, in between my freakish sensory issues, I’m actually couch-bound and in varying intense degrees of actual pain.  I can’t help but notice the correlation between lots-o-snow and lots-o-pain.  Hmm…

Again, no actual studies, but I have found a lot of “Fibromites” who swear they suffer flares based on the above weather parameters.  Thank God for the Internet, eh? :-)  And thank God Fibromyalgia has, at least, graduated from the “wastebasket diagnosis” it once was to now garnering some measure of respect among some people. 

“A state of perpetual cluelessness”, eh?  Can I visit?  I don’t have to eat stink bugs there, do I?   Do they taste like burritos?  ;-)