Sunday, January 07, 2018

Guest Post: Eva on Resilience

My wife is one of the most resilient people I know.

She's bloody well had to be. The amount of bullshit that's been dealt to her is by turns maddening, saddening, and occasionally darkly amusing. I joke sometimes that Murphy -- he of the Law -- was an optimist. Even things that can't go wrong seem to go wrong, and Eva picks herself up, dusts herself off, and carries on carrying on. She would echo the words of many other resilient women I count among my closest friends -- "what choice do I have?" -- but the way in which she resists and persists is, quite frankly, inspiring. Without further ado, here she is: 


My husband Ken is a brilliant writer. When he suggested I guest-write a blog, I was a little intimidated. I can’t do as well as he does it.

He thought I would be able to comment on the topic of resilience. I guess you can say I am pretty okay at rolling with the punches. I’m not sure I can offer any advice. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

 I love my parents. They taught me to be strong. Dad taught me to be physically strong...he endured unending pain for decades. Shortly before he died, I witnessed the strongest man I have ever and will ever know beg for someone, anyone, to put a bullet in his brain.  Cancer. Lung cancer. That gave me the strength to quit smoking. And it will haunt me to my own dying day, and keep me from picking up another cigarette.

 My mother is equally as strong. I think of some of the things she has been through and know where my intelligence, logical mind set and problem solving abilities come from. 

My brother is very much like my dad. Private. A little old fashioned. Very much a family man. Dedicated father and husband. He forgets that he has other family that loves and cares for him but he is a good man. Strong, silent, in constant pain. Yes, just like dad. We all have our pains and our burdens and it was encouraged, usually demanded, that we bear them without complaint.

I’ve been told I’m smart. I’ve run businesses, graduated nursing assistant school, and can put a big bunch of letters behind my name that only mean something to insurance geeks. I’ve been fat and strong, I've been medium-sized and weak. I could go on, but I think it’s a bit boring really.

My point being that I have had to learn to enjoy learning and experiencing new things. So what do I do when those things don’t always work in my favour?  One of the things I do is give myself permission to feel like shit. Out loud. And, most importantly, I put a time frame on it. I’ve often said to Ken, ok I’m going to feel sorry for myself for a couple of days, and then figure out what to do.

Some things that happen are unfortunate, unfair, and monstrously one sided. Some aren’t. The ones that are, well. I’ve been to therapy, multiple times. Dealing with being a fertile couple unable to bring pregnancies to fruition, being rejected trying to adopt children, an early hysterectomy,. They all took medication and therapy. And the strength to ask for both. Having a chemical imbalance, and the tendency to get every side effect from medication, surgery, and illness....I try to  remember that other people have been there and done that. And I don’t bitch about it. 

 I do complain. A lot. In my head. I get embarrassed when I let a moan of pain escape, or a hitch in my breath, or am limping because I have severe osteoarthritis and a bakers cyst roughly the size of a tennis ball in my knee. In case you didn't quite get that, I have something the size of a tennis ball IN MY KNEE.

I'm not saying this for pity. I don’t like the sympathetic looks. When I want attention I generally make it known, like most people. The experiences I’ve been through, from being fired (who hasn’t ) to moving across country (people do it every day), well that’s life, right? The sheer fact that I’m as freaking old as I am, means I’ve experienced more than a bunch of other people. My fun, scary, unique experiences, well...

Stranded on an island at 15, for six days. Starring in a rock video on MuchMusic (you've never heard of the group).  The man named LaVerne who answered my ad for a room-mate, by which he meant sex toy, and how I had to threaten to gut him like a fish to get him to leave my place. Running a group home for troubled (VERY troubled) teens, only a year older than most of my charges, teaching them survival skills in Algonquin Park and having to counter every scam, every manipulative tactic, every threatening behaviour. Making my way in the world, trying to be as loving and mindful as I can.

Mindful. I think is the key for me. My job is quite fascinating, and maybe here is another key to me, extremely important. Some of my colleagues call themselves data entry monkeys. True I suppose. My hands ache and my head hurts after a hard day of pounding on the keyboard, the lights can cause a migraine, and hey, let's be honest, wouldn't you rather be at home?

My private life is pretty plain.  While I'm open on the fact that I am in multiple open committed relationships, the details of  my everyday life are very much like everyone else's.  We clean, cook, argue, laugh and have fun like any other family.  Having two men in my life, Ken and Mark, has kept me sane in so many ways.  Ken has gone through so many of the things I've mentioned here with me.  He is a rock.  He is calm.  He is there for me no matter what.  Never have I felt more comfortable with a human being, from the moment we met.  I know that I would not be in the place I am in my life without you love.   The good place.

Mark became a spiritual rock for me during my break from real life.  He also calmed my tremors, knots and muscle cramps with his knowledge of anatomy.  He's a retired massage therapist.  I count my blessings every day to have him in my life in so many ways.  Both of them are an oasis to come home to, a caring well of thoughtfulness, love and support.  While I love my job, it's hard to leave the oasis every day.

But, I play a small part in helping people stay safe in their jobs. (Ken intrudes: Eva works for a company that performs drug tests on people who work in safety-sensitive positions).
There is no doubt in my mind that I have had a hand in saving at least one life. So, I consider it a privilege to be there. I care. I’m doing something for you and you and your family. You know nothing about what I'm doing and that’s just how I like it.

 My surgery, the gastric bypass. As I mentioned, I have an imbalance. I know it's an imbalance...I can tell the difference between situational depression and the never ending anxiety that claws out both my brain and my guts day and night, the kind of thing that only medication and time do anything to cut it down to manageable levels. We discussed my imbalance before the surgery, my surgery team talked to my doctor and viceversa. They decided that because I had been stable for a number of years, that I would be good afterwards. And I was. For a long long time.

My luck is such that I have resistance to everything. I’ve known all my adult life that I need more than the normal dose of anything for it to affect me. When I was taking insulin, it was hundreds of units per day. I’m not exaggerating for effect; I rarely do. 300 units of insulin per day. For context, an average person may take 30, on a bad day. Given this, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was taking the maximum doses of medication for depression and anxiety. When you take that much of those types of meds, you sometimes need a third one to keep the other ones from doing a complete 180 and making you a raging psychotic.

About a year after my surgery I began to lose it. The following six months were a fast, uncontrollable slide down a rabbit hole with no apparent end. I’ll spare you the details but severe serotonin toxicity is a bitch. I was taking medication that almost killed me because it stopped being effective for my depression and anxiety and instead overwhelmed my body. I fought being hospitalized for months. It took several more months to find medication that would work with my new stomach and not harm my very, very delicate mental health. I couldn’t work, or even drive. I had to wear sunglasses all the time. Even at night.

But I’m better now.

 Back to normal, but it took almost two years and losing some of that hard fought battle with my nemesis (my weight). Not all of it. I lost 150 pounds total, and while not the most thrilled with the total, I no longer take insulin at all. Those two things were worth going through the pain and surgical side effects which were plenty. I lay claim to all the side effects, remember? Right down to split nails for an entire year due to the anesthesia. So yeah, I’ve experienced the consequences of having this surgery. And I laugh, because, I get tired of saying it...all of them. My teeth broke, I have ulcers, I can’t keep iron or vitamin d in my body, my hair is falling out...Blah, blah blah.

I pride myself for being able to look at things as a puzzle, or chart, or data I need to collate to find the pattern. In trying to get started writing this, I thought of all the cliches about making the best of it. How do I get through when it feels like I’m being picked on? I love helping people. My experiences give me perspective. Time has polished me. You can’t faze me. And very few things shock me. That all makes me pretty cool , even if just in my own mind. If something I’ve gone through helps you in any way, it was worth it to me to help you find an answer. A masochist? Nope. Not one little bit. A realistic person, yes. I don’t know how to end other than to say thank you for reading. I love you. If you need me, I’m here.


We love you too, Eva.

1 comment:

karen said...

Thank you for this Eva. I have been reading about you for quite a long time on Ken's blog and it is really wonderful to hear your voice now, too.