THE THING I DO BEST: SURVIVE

I know a lot of things, most of them ultimately unimportant. What I’m best at is surviving. I’ve been nearly dead four times. Talked with an unknown voice from somewhere. Twice rescued from imminent demise, wherein he (definitely a male whatever-he-was) told me it wasn’t my time, to go back and live. Experiences like this make it difficult for me to proclaim the absence of God … but it doesn’t make me a follower of any religion.

It forces me — reluctantly — to acknowledge there’s something for which I cannot logically account. So I hedge my bets. I’m convinced no deity with which I’m willing to have a relationship cares if I am involved in any organized worship. I’m not sure deities need or want worship. They have reasons for doing what they do, but not human reasons.

It would be hard for me to ignore that I’ve been touched and not just once.

icicles ice dams

Against all odds, I’m alive. The physical problems are daunting. I have conditions on my conditions, interlocking disabilities and ailments that make normal functioning a joke. Getting older hasn’t made it easier. I had almost every kind of heart surgery available 11 months ago. When people ask me if “it was worth it,” I’m hard put to give them a sensible answer. On a simple “live or die” level, it was obviously worth it. If I hadn’t done the surgery, I would not be alive. I didn’t know how close to shutting down my body had gotten. It had been a gradual process, crept up on me.

Then there is that black well of depression. I have a tendency to get depressed. Very depressed. To the point where it feels as if I cannot breathe and I’m not sure I want to. Part of it is physical. Constant pain, cancer, massive spinal arthritis (and other things), hips that don’t work, asthma — and a failing heart — can sap the will to live.Poverty adds another layer of fear.

I can’t take antidepressants. None of the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRs) are safe for me. The chances that they will cause a stroke are high. Given the other crap I’ve gone through, that’s one experience I’d rather skip. I’ve had to develop other coping mechanisms. Maybe there will be something useful for you in this. Because the one thing I have practiced long and hard is surviving.

1) When you find yourself in a black pit, seek distraction. Anything. Reading (if you can focus), audiobooks (easier for me and the more unreal and fantastic, the better), movies, music, reruns of “The Golden Girls.” Anything to get your mind out of that pit, even briefly.

2) Don’t lay it all on your partner. If you are lucky enough to have a partner, he or she has his/her own issues and taking care of (and worrying about) you is only one of them. Dumping your pain and suffering in his or her lap is unfair. Tell them where you are at and why you aren’t being communicative, but give your mate a break. They really do feel your pain.

3) If you have a shrink, go there and talk, talk, talk. (If you don’t have a shrink, why not?) If you are able to take medication and it helps, do it. If you can’t take meds, talk more. If you’re a writer, write more. If you are an artist, do whatever you do as much as you can. It’s not only art. It’s therapy.

4) Certain physical illnesses —  heart surgery and cancer are two biggies — are notorious for causing depression. Bad depression even in people who are not normally prone to it. The assault of surgery and drugs on your body throws everything out of whack. Nothing feels right. For months you’re helpless and that’s terrifying for most of us. Asking for help is humiliating. Getting a mate (and friends and family) to understand why you are having so much trouble expressing your needs is even more difficult. They don’t always understand what you mean, either. Be patient with them. Until we perfect the Vulcan mind meld, words can be hard to find.

5) You can’t do it alone. You need help. Professional and personal. Depending on your age, you may or may not get back to being the person you used to be. Regardless, the impact of major health issues is profound, deep, permanent. Your best choice is to cope with one day at a time. Don’t brace all the issues at the same time. The gremlins, goblins, beasts of darkness will consume you if you try.

6) If you have a hobby — knitting, drawing, photography, writing, whatever — do it. As much as you can. Being able to do something, accomplish something will remind you of who you are, that the darkness will not engulf you forever. Write a book, start a new blog, crochet a sweater. Paint a picture. Take pictures of your backyard and the birds who feed there. Play with your dogs and cats. When you can, take a walk and remember the world still exists.

7) Be patient.

8) Don’t brood on injustice. Don’t look for scapegoats — not a malevolent god,  your mother, husband, or ungrateful kids. Shit happens. Maybe more happens to you, but you’re not alone. There are plenty of others who feel the same way or worse.

One day, you will feel better. Maybe not good, but better. You’ll realize you are sort of normal. You can breathe. The pain has backed off. You laugh more than you used to. You want to do stuff again, want to see people. Life beckons.

You’ve survived.


Daily Prompt: (Your Thing) for Dummies



Categories: Daily Prompt, Getting old, Humor, Personal

Tags: , , , , , , ,

44 replies

  1. Forgot to mention… I love that picture, too!

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  2. Really nice post, Marilyn. And thank you for it; great list. I had to laugh tho’ when I read number 3. I do, but recently mentioned to him that he should have a drive-thru, since I’m in and out in about 3 minutes. (That’s no exaggeration.) He chuckled, until the truth of my flippant comment struck a nerve. Thought about going back to counseling, but given my past experiences and the additional PTSD that ensued, never mind. Anyway, yes it certainly does run in families. Rampant in mine. I worry about my kids, and hope that my experiences will somehow help them get through their difficulties. Peace to you. ~ v.

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  3. Well done Marilyn, I’m so pleased you are able to blog. Not that I manage to read all that you write, but it’s wonderful when I do! ❤
    This is so well set out, am sure it will help many.

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  4. All bits of good advice from someone who has been there. Loving the changed theme. ((hugs))

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    • When you can’t take medication and you tend to get depressed, you either develop ways of coping or you live in perpetual darkness. Depression (I don’t mean a passing case of being bummed or blue … I mean REAL depressions) is awfully common. Maybe it’s something about the drugs we take, the air, food preservatives, or something, but it seems to be more and more common an affliction. My father was fully bi-polar and my son struggles with it. It runs in families.

      Relatively speaking, I’m in pretty good shape … except sometimes when I’m not. I can’t take the meds. So I’ve done the best I can to find ways of dealing with it on my own. I do have a shrink and she helps. I have anti-anxiety drugs (those I can take) and stuff to help me sleep. But mostly, I depend on doing what I do to deal with it. Most important seems to be not brooding on how miserable I am and keeping as busy as I can. The busier, the better. If I can get involved in doing something, anything, I stop thinking about me for a while and that helps the most. It’s not a solution, but it helps. I’m not sure there is a total solution … just stuff that helps. I have learned (the hard way) to stop looking for “why” and “who” because there is no why or who. It just is. Life isn’t fair and nobody promised it would be. If you lay it all on your partner, you won’t have a partner. No one can (or should have to) bear that burden. You are eating crap, but I eat a lot of crap too, especially if I’m down. It’s comfort food. At least take a multi-vitamin too. It’s also difficult to eat properly when you live alone. I don’t love cooking anyway, so if I don’t have to do it, I usually don’t.

      Your condition is not going away so you’ll have to find things that make you feel better. Nothing works for everyone, but some truths are universal. The need for patience. The need to stop looking for someone to blame (including yourself), finding things to do other than obsess over feeling bad, not beating up you partner or overwhelming him/her with your feelings. Gaining some control over your behavior. Feeling terrible doesn’t have to mean behaving terribly.

      You can get a handle on what you do, even if you can’t control how you feel. This isn’t psychiatry — just reality. And getting some kind of exercise when you can has nothing to do with mental health (though it helps some people, but not everyone), but has everything to do with your body which has its own needs, even though you may not care for them. Eating at least real food instead of junk also gives your body a fighting chance. Not drinking and smoking too. They may actually make you feel (temporarily) better (especially smoking, which was my nemesis), but ultimately, they’ll kill you and that is probably not the outcome you really want. Especially because amidst the craziness, there ARE good things happening.

      I found music therapeutic, by the way. I always have. It gets to me on levels nothing else does. Not everyone has the response to music, but if you do, you might want to play music that makes you feel better. I think music works on a different part of the brain than everything else. Just an observation.

      I don’t shower a lot either. I don’t LIKE showering, never have. I used to take baths, but I have trouble getting out of the tub and am wary of finding myself stuck. You can also wash what needs washing, you know?

      We are flawed, we have problems. Life can be very sucky. But much of this stuff tends to level out as you get older. I think it’s a hormonal thing. Many things change as you age. So if nothing else, there’s hope that time itself will heal some stuff. Hang on in there. Survive!

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  5. You are best at it. Mastered the technique 🙂 It is the way it is. It is challenging to face few changes but you made them sound so easy.

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  6. I came looking for you Mrs A. I saved your Superbowl post only to find it was a reblog ( no offense to whomever wrote it) but I was looking for you. I am struggling with your new format but from what I just read before it now is hidden it seems you are not well? Someone is thinking about you. ♥

    I do not like this format. I cannot see your post 😦 I hope you are ok?

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    • There are a lot of weird goings on at WordPress. This is a standard format and I can see it on all four computers I own, plus my Kindle and iPad. But WordPress is doing strange things. I have not been well in years. This is not news, just an update. I’m as well as I’ve been in a couple of years, which is to say I’m alive and nothing new (that I know of) is wrong. I’m not really healthy, but I muck along.

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      • It is vey frustrating not to be able to see the post. I saw the glazed icicles for a minute and was reading along and went to comment and then the blog was >GONE< This happened the last time I visited you too. Can it be our blogs are not compatible? Yes, WP has gotten funky. I know you have struggled and that was one of the reasons I was looking. Let me see if I click on your name here in comments what happens?

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        • I don’t know what to tell you. No one else is reporting a problem but who know who is and hasn’t told me. I can see YOUR blog. There no such thing as “not compatible.” We use the same platform. So probably you’ve got either anti-spam software or anti-virus software or some kind of filter that’s stopping my blog from appearing. What it is, I can only guess. For a while, my router decided everything was a virus and wouldn’t let me see ANYTHING. I had to delete Chrome (that was the real problem) and reinstall is. A lot of things can go wrong and unfortunately, it is hard to figure out exactly what.

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          • Its all so damn complex now and security is paramount ! I was thinking of using Mac.com. Any thoughts Mrs. Technie?

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            • I don’t know much about mac software. I’ve been running PCs for many years now, so I’m not as knowledgeable as I wish I were. That being said, I believe that is what most people who run Macs use. I think that’s considered one of the advantages of Apple hardware. However, I do want to warn you that most developers I’ve known (I worked in development for many many years) call Norton “destructive.” It doesn’t so much protect you as take over your system and then, you can’t get rid of it. I have mostly PCs, but now I also have an iPad. I use Mac’s built in anti virus software as do most people.

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  7. Excellent post that needed to be shared. We all have days of depressions and your story shows us that we need to keep doing… DONE! 🙂

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  8. Thank you, this I very encouraging, especially the ‘get busy’ part because I find my mood slips really quickly when I have too much time on my hands (which doesn’t happen often, but those times when it does, it affects me adversely). Well done on making it so far! Would love to hear more about those male voices please!

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    • Time hangs heavily when you don’t do anything. Especially depression. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do. Something. Anything. Crossword puzzles. Doodling. Coloring books. Nothing is the single thing that absolutely doesn’t help anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I wish I could send some of the unseasonably (unreasonably?) warm weather here over your way, Marilyn. (High near 80 today! VERY windy, though. We’re supposed to have freezing temperatures tomorrow, and probably snow by Tuesday.)

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    • The whole “get some exercise” thing — with which I agree in principle — gets rather thwarted by temps near zero and endless ice and snow. I absolutely need to start getting some physical exercise so what are left of my muscles start to remember they used to be there for a reason. And when there’s somewhere to walk, I’ve promised myself to grind what are left of my teeth and give it a try. I didn’t say I like it, only that I need to do it. Even when we are in bed in a hospital, they force you to get some physical exercise and it isn’t to cheer you up. It’s to keep your muscles from atrophy. If only writing would help THAT. Meanwhile, it’s snowing again.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Like Laura, I COULD post a 5000-word reply, but I won’t. (The one I typed and then deleted was only about 200 words, though, so maybe I exaggerate a little. That was mostly about the shrink I saw last winter for my PTSD — the one who told me that “writing hinders self-expression” and that “reading causes depression.” I can’t believe that bozo has a license to practice medicine of any sort.)

    Another thing to keep in mind is that not every way of coping with depression will work for every person. Don’t feel bad and beat yourself up over it if something doesn’t work for you. “Go for a walk — it’ll cheer you right up!” goes the conventional wisdom. Well, I have a chronic pain problem that I’ve been told since childhood is my own fault, and if walking makes me hurt more, my mood is not going to improve. On the other hand, looking at photographs of landscapes or interesting architecture — isn’t the Internet wonderful? — makes me feel better, as does reading a good book.

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    • Actually, I didn’t say it will cheer you up I said it will remind you the world is still there. Not the same thing. It might not cheer you up at all. It might make you feel worse. But it gets you out of the house and into a different space, which everyone needs sometimes, just to remind us that ARE different spaces and places. Fresh air and little light exercise is something our bodies require. Even if we are bedridden. Even when we don’t want it and I usually DON’T want it because it hurts. But sitting all the time makes me weak, so painful or not, I need to get out and move. Everyone does. Even if you do it with a walker or a wheelchair. Some things ARE, even though we dislike them. It isn’t homely wisdom. It’s life.

      Of course not everything works for everyone, but patience is a necessity, not a virtue. Again, it’s not something you can negotiate. Healing takes time. Some stuff just IS.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sorry — I didn’t mean your suggestion to get outside/have a change of environment. I meant the people who insist that “go for a walk” is a guaranteed cure for chronic depression because they think that depression is the same thing as having a brief ‘case of the blues.’ (Fresh air and sunlight ARE good for people, even if no walking is involved.)

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        • A passing case of the blues is nothing like real depression. If only it were. Walking hasn’t made me feel good in a very long time. It hurts too much. But I’m very aware of how badly my body needs exercise, how slack my muscles have become and the longer I don’t address the problem, the less likely I am to regain any of that lost muscle tone. It is awfully hard to get motivated to do anything when it hurts so much. But I’m not seeing a viable alternative. Do you?

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  11. You certainly have been through a lot of stuff, Marilyn. You do have a gift with your photography. That picture is worth a painting. Do you think we will ever figure it out before we go?
    Leslie

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  12. All great tips and things I’ve had to adopt while traveling the path of adrenal fatigue. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and all the best to you on this journey. 💐

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  13. I needed to read this. I will go back and read it again. I could write a 5000 word comment, touching upon each enumerated point. (Don’t worry; I won’t!) You come from a place of knowing, unlike a lot of the chirpy Pollyannas who mindlessly warble, without a clue that “It’s going to get better! I just know it!”, so I hope you are right that one day things will feel better. I remain unconvinced, which doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate reading your words today.

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    • It isn’t fast. You need to be very patient with yourself and those around you. It can be so gradual you don’t notice for a while. Just, one day, there it it. You feel better than you did. And then, maybe weeks later, you recognize there IS light. What’s hardest is dealing with permanent changes. Some stuff doesn’t ever get better. I’ve gotten pretty good at accepting the inevitable, but I still don’t LIKE it.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Somehow you reassure me that where there is a will there is a way. There are days when you ask what is going to happen next, but life goes on with all its drawbacks. As a once time genealogist you begin to compare the life expenctancy programmes in you past family, but no, this is wrong. I am still here, Mr. Swiss is still here and we have a wedding in the family coming up: big problem will I find something to wear. Oh dear, think I will go back to bed,

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    • A little (or not so little) a-line black dress in a stretchy fabric. Mid calf, preferably. Or black pants with a fancy top. Or a long black skirt with a fancy top. And earrings. Can’t go wrong. Covers everything.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It will have to be pants, my figure is not a dress figure. something to hide the curves in the wrong place.

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        • Believe it or not, a good pair of Yoga pants and a fancy tunic is both slimming, appropriate, and COMFORTABLE. You can wear flat shoes (I have no choice — I gather neither do you) and it covers EVERYTHING, including swollen ankles, scars, limps, lumps, bumps, and distended abdomens. I have a couple of floor length skirts and LOTS of black pants and tunic tops from casual to glittery. I need them to cover me past my hips.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Good post.

    That last one (number 8) is the hardest for a lot of people I think. They want to know, “Why?” and “Why me?” and it’s hard for them to understand that sometime things just happen, and sometimes things just happen to random people for no reason whatsoever. There is no blame to place.

    Seriously. Great post. Bravo.

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  16. You are most definitely a survivor, Marilyn. Keep on truckin’.

    Liked by 1 person

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