Best and Worst Phases of My Life

Today I'm answering a double question from my journaling prompts: "What was the worst phase of your life/what was the best phase of your life?" 

The Worst

Worst?  Aw shit I love negative topics. Easy.  BET YOU THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO SAY FOSTER CARE DIDN'T YOU?  Well, it's surprisingly not.  That was maybe the hardest phase of my life, but it wasn't the worst.  I learned unwanted, valuable survival skills and I made the longest lasting friendships in my life during that time.  Plus foster care was a very long experience, peppered with so many different phases in itself I could break it down by home or by event and I don't care to.

No, when I read 'the worst' one era of my life sticks out like a sore thumb.  I think it's pretty standard that people who have broken home and family lives try to reconcile maybe past the point of reasonability.  I had stayed away from my family dutifully, for years, and around this time I just missed them I guess.  I'd gotten in contact with my absolute favorite aunt, my mom's older sister Doris.  I spoke to my sisters on social media.  I was in a long distance relationship with a sailor who had just been stationed in Virginia, a mere hop skip and jump away from my home state.

 And to start this shitty phase off right, I'd quit my job as a teacher and was feeling entirely lost, jaded, and depressed.  My students were my world and I still haven't enjoyed anything quite like teaching.  The experience really prompted me to look elsewhere for happiness and it seemed logical to go toward home.  I was very 'Jack Dawson' in my early 20's and just kind of flitted around everywhere, which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it definitely was when what I needed was stability and security.

I moved back home.  After spending a few weeks with my then-fiancee, I moved in with my Aunt Doris who had completely hidden the fact that she was bedridden and suffering congestive heart failure.  She was such an amazing, powerful woman and to see her incapable of even standing was....not the best.  We were isolated, in the deep Georgia forest, with her dementia-ridden husband and abusive daughter in law.  Again, not the best.

We hunkered down and suffered through a tornado.  I went to a southern church again and remembered how mild the rest of the world is with their deity worship.  I walked around in the Appalachian foothills like I'd done as a girl, but I did not feel at home for one second.  I had some good old fashioned yelling matches over the phone with my fiancee.  Doris got hospitalized and declined quickly--the EMTs taking her away on the ambulance marked the last straw before I pursued my own medical education.  I remember feeling so powerless the entire illness.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't understand what her body was going through.  I didn't know how to help.  I begged a foster sister to come drive me the 200 or so miles to my real sister's house, and while I was settling in there, Doris passed away.

Living with my younger sister, who was also in an unfamiliar home waaaaaaaaaay out in the country, did my mental health even less good.  She flew into a rage one day and started throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me, so I clocked her...not because I wanted to, but it was the only thing I could do to stop her tantrum.  She went to Doris's funeral with a black eye.  Again, not the right place for me.  I went to my other sister's house and got into yet another altercation there after a few weeks, which ended with her getting pissed at me and calling the cops to remove me from her apartment.

They were pretty stumped at what to do with me (as was I!) so I just had them drive me to the bus station, figuring I'd take things from there.  Let me tell you, a police backseat escort to the greyhound station, complete with them popping the trunk and handing you your luggage, is the BEST way to ensure that nobody at the bus station fucks with you.  Those bus station dwellers scurried away like cockroaches and stared warily at me until I was on a bus to Virginia.

As you might expect, I got to Virginia and was greeted by a failing relationship.  There were actually some peaceful, happy memories there, because I lived in a hotel next to the beach (you think I'm kidding?)  We explored colonial Virginia, which was all new to me...we went to the aquarium, we went to civil war battlefields, we ate a lot of seafood and drank good beer.  The fond memories, like everything else during this phase, were peppered in with some of the worst and most devastating fights and relationship turmoil that I've ever had.

I had moved down south in January.  I moved back to Utah in July.  I lasted six months through all of this terror, post-teacher-dom.  It was a HELLISH six months and for awhile I had severe PTSD symptoms and crippling anxiety.  Things settled down eventually, and that awful road was followed by a really lovely portion--moving to Sweden--but I'll never forget 2011 as being the absolute worst year of my life in every way.

The Best

Just like answering 'the worst', this one is incredibly easy.  And it makes me happy to say that.  The best is now.  It's better than it ever has been.  There are many reasons why.  First, I do have that relationship with my family that I sought out for so long.  My mother died and I have made peace with our horrendous relationship.  My dad and I have never been closer, and though I worry about him, I also get to talk to him frequently and send him pictures of his grandson.  I'm close with my sisters and I know I always have people and places to crash when I'm in Tennessee.

My job is the best job I've ever had.  It's unique, it's the right environment and place for me, and it has given me opportunities I never thought I would have, like becoming an EMS instructor.  I've met some amazing people around the globe, and I'd like to brag that I have some of the best relationships in the world, friend and otherwise.  I have Flemith and Allyn and Ender.  I enjoy being a mom, I enjoy being who I am and I live with people who respect and appreciate me.  It hasn't been perfect; for god's sake we went through a flood and evacuation (and subsequent purgatory/homelessness) my labor was traumatic, I had HORRIBLE post-partum depression, I still need to lose another 30 or so pounds of baby weight and I regret chopping my hair off every day, but in the grand scheme of things  I am so, so happy.


Hospital Hatred

Note: I'm not writing this to bash on hospitals in general, or even this particular hospital--so I won't even name it.  I'm just writing this to get it out of my system, because it has made me sick with anxiety for the past month and a half and I just can't not write about it, you know?  I'm going to skip over the really shitty parts like waking up to Ender in respiratory distress and the whole 15 hours of emergency rooms and treatment  b e f o r e  this part of the story.  

With that disclaimer out of the way, here's what happened. 

Ender was getting suctioned every 2 hours at that time, and it seemed to be a good time ratio.  He was so congested and having such a hard time breathing that he had to be suctioned before every bottle; he couldn't breathe through his nose and drink his formula.  He had been doing all right for an hour or so, but while Derik and I were sitting in the room and Ender was napping, his oxygen dropped low again.

If he'd been awake and alert I would've just let the monitor beep but he was asleep, and his breathing was labored, so I pushed the call button.  It was mid-afternoon but the lights were off in the hospital room--as you can see from the above picture, there were HUGE windows letting sunlight in anyway, so the room was dim, but not dark.  When I pushed the call button I anticipated the respiratory therapist (the one who used the high powered suctioning device) to come in, but it was a nurse(?) I had never seen before. 

I remember that she was blond, and pregnant.  She rushed into the room all business, didn't introduce herself or anything.  I was holding Ender and she wordlessly went to a cabinet without even checking his pulse ox or anything else, and withdrew a nasal cannula.  I told her, "He needs suctioning, he's going to eat soon anyway and he can't eat without it."

"We still have some time left before the two hours," she replied (what...like...twenty minutes?) so I just gritted my teeth and watched her try to put this nasal cannula on a cranky baby with an IV in his head.  It didn't go well.  She didn't speak or inform me what she was doing or anything, she just reached over and slapped these two circular, quarter-sized bandages over the edges of the oxygen tubing and bandaged them to Ender's cheeks. 

She left without a word.  I was fuming mad already because I didn't consent to or agree with giving supplemental oxygen without even looking to make sure he was okay.  I got to poking around at the bandages, which Ender HATED--he was tugging at them and tossing his head around.  Now he was wide awake and unhappy.  It seemed like his breathing was worse, too.  I looked more, I felt like something was off.  The notches on the cannula were far too wide for his little nostrils, they were pushing his nose apart and it looked painful.  The nurse(?) had set the oxygen to a whopping 1 lpm...gee whiz, what a difference....but what bothered me more than all of this is that Ender seemed to be breathing worse now.

I sat him on his bed and watched his breathing.  His breath seemed to be stuck in his throat.  He'd been in distress for literally all night and all day, at this point about 15 hours total, the only relief coming about five minutes after a suction and then immediately going away.  But what happened next is the part that sticks in my memory.  I was watching him breathe in a new, weird, unusual gasping pattern and every alarm bell in my head went off.  I haven't had much EMS experience with infants, and having it be my own may have played a part, but just thirty seconds of watching his gaspy breaths made me hit the call button again.  I felt like he was going to go unconscious at any second, and he was trying desperately to cry and couldn't.  As gently as I could, I took off that stupid ass goddamn cannula, leaving big red marks on his cheeks from the adhesive.

One CNA entered, then another nurse.  I didn't even pause, "He's not breathing right, get the respiratory therapist."  Then I saw him coming anyway, likely due to the beeping monitor or the fact that it was time to suction anyway.  As everybody piled in I sat Ender back down and assumed they would suction him first, so I laid him on his back.

And thank god it was me who did it and me who was facing him.  They were all standing around the bed and the moment I lowered him down I looked in his open (gasping for air) mouth and saw a foreign object in his throat.  IMMEDIATELY I said, "He's got something in his throat."  I kid you not, no one moved.  It just enrages me to think about it now, I have tears in my eyes thinking about it.  An actual circle of children's medical personnel and not one person moved an inch, to see, or to speculate, or to say 'what?'  I spoke calmly and clearly--with urgency, I presume--and nobody moved or flinched. 

I repeated myself, "There's something in his throat" and I remember thinking before the sentence was even done, that I was going to have to fucking take care of it myself because these dazed workers would have reacted the same if I'd been speaking Tagalog.  Before I even realized what I was doing I did a finger sweep.  It moved maybe an inch forward.  I assessed and did another finger sweep and pulled out a clear plastic tab--the cover of the adhesive bandage the nurse had placed on his cheek for the cannula.

I was deeply, deeply disturbed.  I held up the plastic--this was a round, quarter-sized flap of plastic that had covered Ender's throat and left him with a one way valve to breathe!!!!!!--and spat out something resembling the English "THIS WAS IN HIS THROAT." 

The only reply that I even remember came from the CNA who muttered, "Welll...it's...dark in here"

Seriously I'm so enraged I don't even know if I can type the rest of this out.

I demanded everyone leave the room and I called for the nurse manager.  She came in and gave a very lovely rehearsed speech about how this was unacceptable and she would speak to her staff and blah blah blah.  I was as aggressive as you'd imagine if you know me and the hospital staff tread very lightly around me for the rest of the visit.  The nurse(?) responsible was not allowed back into my room, because if she would've showed up I would have likely killed her with oxygen tubing.  The nurse manager pretty much avoided me as well. 

Luckily Derik was there, witnessed the entire thing, and when I shut down out of pure anger he stepped in and continued defending the situation.  I don't kwow what I'd do without him. 

There's no point to this story, it's just one of many festering piles of anxiety stuck inside my stomach that doesn't seem to know how to find its way out.


Darkness, My Old Friend

I know I've ranted about this before, but it seems like the sickening endemic is still rampantly online, (and offline as well!) here in 2018 and it's maybe even worse than before...so I am going to share my thoughts.

Humans find negativity unattractive.  They see it as a disease.  Part of that is biological and it certainly has its place.  My rant of disgust is not about the obvious and natural aversion to anything bad: pain, drama, unhappiness--but our deeper, and more over-the-top reactions to every little negative droplet that comes into the happy bubble.

I bear the burden of being someone who is openly and unabashedly cautious, negative, cynical, and talks about unhappiness as if it were any other mood we brag about being: thrilled, tired, optimistic.  I feel negative emotion more often than not, and I don't mind talking about it.  I allow myself to feel it and I don't add a disclaimer, like "...but even though things are rough I'm looking on the bright side!" Goddammit, sometimes there IS no bright side.  Sometimes things suck, wholeheartedly, and there is nothing good about it, but you're branded a pariah in today's world if you dare say aloud that hope is foolish.  THANKS OBAMA

It's like dieting and the apologies people make for their current body.  "I am not happy with my weight but I'm working on it!" Like dude, just let the statement stand on its own.  I am not happy with my body.  Just focus on that.  Segment it.  The constant need to drag a safety net around is exhausting.  And I don't even do it, I just deal with it.  "Finances are tight but we're hoping for a turnaround this quarter!"  "I will push through this bout of depression and feel like myself again."

Just allow the misery, people.  It's going to be there whether or not you try to fool yourselves into thinking that a tag on the end about everything turning around is going to change it.  It's not.  If tomorrow really is going to be a better day, it's going to be a better day whether you say that or not.  I could get deep here and talk about how the point of pain is to notify us that we are in danger in some way, and sticking your foot in a fire and laughing about how great things are going to be once your foot is out of the fire is idiotic...get my point?

I wanted to actually talk about how sadness isn't the enemy, though.  It feels like it is, because duh, who wants to be sad? or mad, or whatever.  I'm going to go meta and remind the world that there are positive things to be found in sadness.  Not in overcoming sadness or beating negativity, but in the actual bad shit itself.  It makes us stronger.  It makes us kinder, hopefully.  (Unless you're just a shitty person to begin with) It makes us think about situations differently, problem solve better.  It aids us in more quickly identifying people and places that bring us down, if we allow it to. 

Some of the most beautiful art and music--arguably our only positive legacy on earth--comes from places of deep despair, broken people who couldn't function in society but stirred emotion by making sound or vision.  That's incredible to me.  In fact, I would argue that you can't have great creations without a great range of emotion from the creators.  Nobody with a 24-7 sunny disposition exists, and if they did a) nobody would like them and b) they damn sure couldn't create Swans Reflecting Elephants, or the Overture of 1812.

I mentioned before that it's human nature to avoid negativity and anything that makes us feel discomfort.  It is also our destiny as meatbags full of bacteria that we will feel discomfort no matter what.  Be a realist.  Get used to it.  That's what I do.  I suck it the fuck up and when I see the storm of depression or suicidal thoughts coming over the horizon, I accept that it's going to happen.  I'm not going to enjoy it.  I'm not going to prefer it over the good days.  I'm not even sure if I'm going to survive.  But I wasn't sure if I was going to survive anyway, so that's irrelevant.  I will take it for what it is, whatever negativity it may be.  It's a part of me.

And I will not be ashamed of that part of me, or try to hide it, or cover it up with a sandwich of compliments.  There's a lot beautiful about life and it's not always positive.  I'm okay being the antagonist, or the devil's advocate on this issue.  But I say, the whole movement is exhausting, fake, obnoxious, annoying, short-sighted, ignorant, and unnecessary.  Embrace the sadness!  It is a part of us all.