#powerrehab patient.

I do not do well in waiting rooms. I make lists and worry about things. Attempts to read are interrupted by a need to repeatedly check the time, the door, the calendar. Waiting is wasting.

I absolutely ruin the point of Advent and Lent by doing all of the things, all of the calendars and trees and readings and liturgies and traditions.  I am convinced that if I sit in that dark silence I will surely die. I am so grateful for candles to move every morning, candies to pass out, strings to tie, doors to open, pages to turn.

Eastertide comes, bright and strange. There is not much to do but wait for Pentecost, maintain our enthusiasm, and ration the jellybeans that are getting sticky from the growing humidity.

My body is waiting.  The work begun in Holy Week, with its initial feedback of necessary pain, grew into tolerance, and now there is a kind of new strength.  The novelty of #powerrehab has faded into normalcy and there is risk of losing expectancy.

It is very easy for me to be convinced that I will never make it beyond the waiting room, that my condition in this moment is permanent, that this is the full extent of my healing.  I begin to resent all work it took to get to the doctor’s office, and grow bitter that I will not even be seen. I cannot count the number of times I have packed my bag and stood up to leave, only to be assured by someone that he will see me.

This is why I come here everyday, carrying on like a fool, documenting #powerrehab, sifting through the details of the days for evidence of healing, of the divine.

It is not unlike trying to get pregnant, peeing on a stick every single day, begging it to change color, then posting pictures of it on the internet so that hundreds of strangers can analyze your results and rejoice or mourn with you (yes, that is a thing).

I have not yet accepted that my body will not know this kind of magic again.

So I have not left the metaphorical waiting room.  I am anxious and angry in my seat, aggressively rearranging all of the magazines, but still anticipating that my name will be called, that the doctor will come and something will change.

Something will change.

Day 17 #powerrehab: Getting somewhere.

There is a hole in my closet wall, in the very back behind the clothes I do not wear, my wedding dress, and the stacks of baby girl hand-me-downs.  It is perfectly centered, perfectly round, the diameter of a certain very persistent woman’s finger.  Behind the wall is a room tacked on by the original owners back in the 70s to make room for their blended family.  You can get to it by spiral stair case next to the laundry room downstairs, or the stairs that climb up from the deck on the back of the house.

It is like a grand treehouse with plumbing and death traps for babies. Before I had so many children and my back exploded, this weird treehouse/attic wonderland was our school room.  When Leona was little, I partitioned off a space for her until she was big enough to avoid plummeting to her death down the open stairwell without constant redirection, but three girls in this space proved too many, too loud, and almost impossible to access.  In time, it has become something of a very high shelf from which we retrieve/hide things that cannot survive intact in the other spaces of our house.

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Of course, school has marched along just fine without its precious room.  If anything, it’s better, blended into our real world, mixed up on the table with the Lincoln Log village and covered wagon made of paper towels, twist ties, and an easter basket.  Harriet toddles free, Leona runs in and out the back door, Beatrice breaks between math and history to check the flowers she planted in tiny pots along the edge of the deck.  As long as I keep good books and good food stocked, and keep pencils out of the baby’s eyes, our homeschool seems to run itself.  It is, shockingly, the easiest part of our day.

But we were talking about my closet. That hole in my closet will eventually be a door.  A door through which only I will ever go, and that weird, oddly inaccessible treehouse room will be my studio.  This is still in dream stage, if you don’t count the fact that a Phillips head screwdriver somehow managed to hammer its way through the drywall that one time.  But I have faith. I am that kid digging a hole to China in the back yard.  There is at least a tiny piece of him that knows this is not the way to get there, but he persists.  He feels great satisfaction in persisting, day after day, digging the hole.

Yesterday, I was a overcome by this spirit of persistence. I found a bunch of empty storage tubs and threw them up the spiral staircase, took a deep breath and started digging.  I sorted all our math materials, the sensory shelves, the language and phonics and handwriting…all of it.  Down to the tiniest block of the pink tower.  Sorted, labeled and ready for Leona’s kindergarten year in the fall and Harriet’s preschool years too far in the future for me to think about.  I took down all the maps and nature posters, rolled them up not too tight since they’ll be re-homed downstairs as we need them.  I rolled up the garish rug and leaned it in the corner.  I cleared my desk of the thousands of drawings and pipe cleaners and crumpled leaves and pressed flowers and stickers and stamps and assorted glitter related items it had collected over the last year.  Then I took another deep breath and tested my back.  I pushed the stacks of tubs into their closet.  I pushed an empty bookcase across the carpet.  I nudged a chair from one corner to the other.  And I was okay.

The room was empty, my back was fine, my heart was EXPLODING.

This is the second day in a row that I have noticed my body easing up, participating.

Part of this is a natural turning point in the healing process.

Part of this is me being less of a wuss.

Part of this is #powerrehab –pushing through my resistance and giving my body the things it needs to do its work.

I won’t drop the balloons and confetti just yet, but I woke up this morning thinking, “This is working.  Tell them this is working.”

Day 16 #powerrehab: Boundary lines.

Here is the sum of it:

Hello pain.

I see you.

Yes, I see you.

Hello.

And no more conversation than that.  Head back into the book, pen back to scribbling whatever sentence it left mid scrawl.  There is no need to get into all that.  I don’t need to know the details.  We don’t have to gossip.

Yesterday I walked two miles because I let my pain come with me without talking. I was busy trying to arrange an immensely rare night out among two immensely rare old friends, so I did not even notice how far I’d gone until it was too late.  Yes, this meant I was one of THOSE people on the trail, face down in their phone, missing all the wildflowers and frequently running the stroller right into them, but please don’t judge me too harshly.  Rule one!

By the time I realized I had made it all the way to the Rowing Center, I turned to my pain and shouted, “Why didn’t you stop me! Now we will be late!”

“I tried,” he snapped back, throbbing and red, “you were so excited and distracted by your friends and your plans you weren’t listening.”

“That’s weird.  That doesn’t sound like me at all.  Am I manic!?”

“No.  We’re not at the mall and you’re not going very fast.  It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“Well, then gold star for us!  Let’s turn around!”

As I limped, proud and slow back toward the Y, Eye of the Tiger and visions of #powerrehab star charts dancing in my head, I was reminded of the classic motherhood and powerlifting truism: it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. I stared at the flowers and I glanced at my pain and I decided that if it has to always be there, then so be it. It is welcome to murmur through the bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes.  It is welcome to grumble to itself through ladies’ night.  And I am welcome to be all of those places, too, ignoring him.

Without scraping the scar tissue and screwing bones together, my pain is not going to go away (and even then, no promises).  Without a lobotomy, my bipolar disorder and anxiety are not going to go away.  My body is my body.  This is my spacious place.  I have to trust that my boundary lines make room for the mother and the writer and the wife and the friend and the pain.  We can all live here.  

Days 12-14 #powerrehab: I need to buy a chair.

This is the part where I begin to think, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I feel myself digging deep, looking for the responsible post, the the one that glimmers just enough to say, “Everyone!  Everyone it’s all going to be alright!  I see the silver lining!  I am a bright shining, hopeful human being! Be encouraged!”

But it is still hidden somewhere in the rocks of this cave.

#powerrehab is still lacking in the power department. I am doing the work, and the work is working.  I can walk farther, my core is already stronger, and I discovered that I can alleviate my calf pain temporarily throughout the day with frequent extension exercises if I’m somewhere I can lay face down on the floor.  You know, all those places.  But the rest of me hurts more often and worse and at the ripe old age of 34, I have become that woman who needs to bring her own chair to church.

I have decided that God is just fulfilling my dreams of being the eccentric old prophetess a few years earlier than I had anticipated.  Maybe my hair will turn silver by the time I’m 40?  When do I get a cane?  At what point is it appropriate to begin wearing a cape?

As eccentric prophetesses do, I have maintained my kooky diet, and am now a solid week into ketosis.  My migraines have started to let up, but my mood isn’t budging.  I am not plummeting into despair, but the Hallelujah chorus and golden rays of brain sunshine I was expecting haven’t come flooding in.  This genuinely surprises and disappoints me.  I wonder if my medications are preventing that kind of fluctuation?  How wonderfully ironic.

I have two weeks before my next appointment with my psychiatrist.  Initially I thought I would be a good scientist and let the medication experiment run it’s course, push all the way through to that date before I say I’ve had too much.  Today that feels forever away.  If my brain doesn’t clear in the next two days, I will call her and ask to change course.  I dread that conversation.  For those of you who have never had it, know that when you are compliant with medication, your doctor is your partner, she smiles at you and asks about your kids, makes fun jokes about what you gave up for Lent, “Your sanity? Ha ha!”.  But when you mention discontinuing medication, you are a dangerous psychiatric patient, and she is an efficient clinical psychiatrist and you are steps away from a padded room.  At least, that’s how it feels.  As far as I know  the only thing padded in her office is the leather couch she has to pry me out of when our sessions are over.

So this week I keep doing the work and let the decisions keep growing into being made, trusting that courage will come with them when I need it.  Also, capes.

Day ten #powerrehab: Do they not know?

I have turned the dark and twisty corner.

I tried not to.

I thought I wouldn’t.

There is still a chance I might pull up. Pull up! Pull up!

Yesterday I captured the most perfect little depressed thought and pinned him down by his tiny fuzzy thorax, “I just want to go to sleep and fast forward time to…I don’t even know when.”

I can think of at least a dozen reasons why I would be on the slippery side of the manic depressive slope right about now, the most obvious one being that I was recently manic.  A person always hopes that the handful of pretty pills she diligently counts out every morning, noon, and night will protect her, but really, there’s only so much protecting before pills become straight jackets.  Have you ever cleaned a fountain pen in a straight jacket?

Other good reasons:

— while manic I pumped myself full of sugar, dairy, and alcohol, all things that are depressive triggers for me.

— all that crap happens to increase inflammation in the the rest of my body as well, adding to the physical pain I was already in.

— the migraines will not quit.

— my husband is in the middle of a massive career transition.  (Do you like how I’ve minimized this?  I haven’t been able to talk about it much, but I will, eventually.)

Today is the fourth day of my ketogenic restart, and the eleventh day of #powerrehab (I report to you one day in arrears).  Historically, this is the day I wake up feeling better, feeling like the veil has lifted, feeling like a new person.  I’ve been up for three hours now, waiting for the feelings and they’re not here yet.  Maybe they’re running late?  Maybe they need another day?  Maybe they’re not coming this time?  Maybe I need to take the girls out for a long walk on this cloudy morning to meet them?  Maybe they are in the park somewhere?

Wherever they are, I need them to come quickly.  It’s like they’ve forgotten that I have three children to actively love and cabinets of Easter chocolate to fiercely resist.  I have a brain that needs to breathe, a body that needs to go, a chart that needs to earn stars or this whole thing just falls apart. 

Day nine #powerrehab: Someone needs an attitude adjustment.

My brain does not want to do the plans today, so I bring you this list of yesterday’s victories in place of prose:

The jelly beans did not win.   
I made ketones.

I walked farther than I have since the surgery out of spite for my surgeon.

I made it home before my migraine halo gave way to the screwdriver through the eye stage.

I remembered that there was a drug I am not on.

I did not die.