Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Down Like A House of Cards?

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,
drifting through the wind
wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
like a house of cards,
one blow from caving in? […]

You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

’Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ‘em what you're worth
Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y [...]

- “Firework,” Katy Perry

Things are going okay.

But I am worried, very worried about the months ahead. The reason being is the following list:

I had my last physical therapy session last week, and also saw my GI doc (see post here).

I started teaching a course for spring term last week. It meets Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and goes from May 3 to June 16. I also defended my prospectus on Monday. For those who aren’t familiar with graduate school protocol, defending the prospectus – which is basically an outline of the dissertation – is kind of a big deal.

And I had an appointment with my rheum today.

Given everything that’s done, I still have the following to do:

- May 14 - Arthritis walk
- June 5 - Lupus walk
- Somewhere in between - Conducting interviews for dissertation
- July 2-6 - California
- July 12-13 - Blogger event (location TBD)
- July 14-17 - Illinois
- Somewhere in between - New York
- August 20-23 - Las Vegas (American Sociological Association conference)

I’m putting this list here as much for you as for me.

Can I do it? If you look closely, the beginning of May will be very busy. June won’t be too bad if I use the time when I don’t have anything to do to rest. July is going to be hard being in California one week and Chicago the next. I don’t exactly know where the New York trip will fit in, or if it may even be postponed until the fall.

The thing is, I slacked off a bit this past term. I was on fellowship this year, so didn’t have classes or teaching, and I was able to just cruise. I expected things to fall into place with my prospectus a few months earlier than it did, but I was dealing with family stuff, and then a break-up, so I had a lot going on emotionally.

Ultimately, if my dissertation research gets done this summer, the end result will be what I wanted. I guess it doesn’t matter as much how I got there.

I wondered what my rheum was going to say today when I told him about my summer schedule. But there’s not much I can do about it. I could drop the conference in August, but that’s not even the biggest concern at the moment. The concern is that I don’t travel well. My body takes a beating. It looks like Prednisone is going to be the go to.

I admit, I get an adrenaline rush. This must be what you used to carry me through, from a summer internship at a newspaper working 100 plus hours per week to writing a 125 page honors thesis. But it doesn’t work anymore.

I get it for a time, and then I crash.

I really see now how I used to function before. It’s like episodes of freakish productivity. And when I wasn’t sick, that was sustainable for much longer periods of time.

It frustrates me. I want to punch something. I can’t be the person I used to be, but in some ways, I don’t know how to be the person I am now. How do I get done what I need to without killing myself?

Why is that so often our worth is measured not by quality, but by quantity? I would rather do a few things really well, and keep my health, then to do a bunch of things that are only okay.

I truly wonder how much more I can handle. Like what event will be the final straw, will put me over the edge, and will deliver the striking blow? Because I don’t think it’s a matter of if, but of when. When will I not be able to handle it anymore? When will the next heartbreak be too much?

When I feel this way, I’m reminded of how few people get it. How few people care to know. Illness is much less the enemy than my head and my heart. And my heart is far more the enemy than my head. I feel too much, and illness taught me to do that. Illness has taught me that I’d rather be in pain than be numb. But being numb certainly has its allure.

Last time I saw my rheum, he asked if I had the same boyfriend. I was happy to report yes, and honestly thought that at this most recent appointment, six months later, I would be happily sporting an engagement ring. But since I have no ring and no boyfriend, I really didn’t want to have that conversation with my rheum. Why does this make me feel like such a failure, especially when I wasn’t the one who gave up on the relationship?

And I wonder. Will he notice the pattern? Patient seems happier and healthier when in a relationship.

It’s not that I can’t do life on my own. I can, I do. But I don’t really want to.

I know my rheum to be pretty laid back. He isn’t an alarmist. So today was weird. We had a few good laughs, but he has some serious concerns, about what seems to be a chronically elevated diastolic blood pressure (like we’re talking in the 90s) and heart rate. He’s worried, given the propensity for those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to have cardiovascular problems. 10 tubes of blood, and three urine samples later, my rheum is going to wait for the results, talk to my PCP, and get back with me before I fly the coop to do everything that I have to do this summer.

But I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep saying my health is a top priority and then treat it like an afterthought. Something’s gotta give. Or I’m going down like a house of cards.


  1. This post really resonates with me. I ended up dropping out of graduate school (toward my Master's) after 2 semesters. I just couldn't do it with of my debilitating migraines, cognitive difficulties, etc... I used to be super-productive (before my illness). I was like the Energizer bunny. Now, though, I feel like what I can do is barely a drop in the bucket. It's heartbreaking for me not to be able to think and do what I used to be able to. I miss writing papers, doing research, attending psychology conferences, working hard, etc...

    I truly hope that you're able to do all that you want to do. Good luck with your dissertation. Blessings.

  2. This sounds like my semester with work. I still haven't finished all my work for my job, but thankfully, I was able to finish the semester! I totally let my health take a back burner this semester and that was a HUGE regret and learning lesson! I am hoping this summer can be a lot less stressful and more healing than anything...especially with an internship that knows my problems, as they wrote a story on me last summer!