Bouncy No More

I wanted to write something about Mothers Day last week but lately I have felt put off by the idea of even opening up a blank page to create a post, and now it’s been over three months. What has happened to me?

I had an invitation 30 minutes ago to speak before a journaling group.

I turned it down.

I turned down two other offers too, in the last months. I’m just so tired of talking, tired of being a person who always speaks up, who thinks it’s her job to make it a ‘good class’ for the people around her, as if I did as a young teacher, eager to make every minute count. These days, I often sit through whole meetings without saying a word. I find I would much rather listen.

‘And this is OK’ I’ve told myself. ‘It’s an ebbing of ego is all, which can only be good’.

But now it comes back to me that near the end of my annual visit to my primary care physician last week, she asked me something as she was listening to my heart:

“So,” she said.  How’s the writing?”

I was slow to answer. “Well… I know I told you a year ago that I stopped producing the column…”

“I remember. But beyond that?”

“Beyond that, I…. I.. don’t write anymore.” The words alone caused me a pang.

“Oh, that’s just writer’s block,” she said cheerily. “It’ll pass!”

I looked down at my lap and remained silent then, leaving her to her tappings and palpatings. It was during that pause in the talk that a memory came back to me of an exchange I had had with some old old friends, my college roommates and co-member of the Class of a Thousand Years Ago, when we travelled to Italy together. Midway through the trip one of them said with a laugh, “So Terr, we just have to ask: What happened to that wicked wit we all remember? You’re just sort of … kind these days,” and laughed again, to show she loved me anyway.

Looking up from my lap I related this freshly remembered exchange to my doctor who took the stethoscope from her ears and looked me full in the face.

“Are you sleeping?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. “In fact, most days I can hardly get up.” And I told how I stay in the bed, awake and looking out the window for 60 or sometimes 90 minutes until my husband gets up.

“Listen to me,” she then said. “I get what your classmates meant. For more than two decades, every time you have come in here you’ve been practically bouncing, in high spirits, and full of stories. These last two visits I haven’t seen that. At all. I think we have to consider the possibility that you have dysthymia, a term for chronic low-grade depression.”

Normally I would have laughed, the way I did back in the 90s when she told me my bloodwork revealed hypothyroidism. “Hypothyroidism?” I had said. “What are the symptoms?” We looked up the condition on her computer and she swung the monitor around so I could see. “Low energy, sadness, sleep issues,” it read, along with 40 other unhappy signposts.

I was almost offended at the time. “But you know me! “ I said back then. “Does my busy life sound as if it comes with any of these symptoms? And now you’re saying I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life? What happens if I don’t?”

“If you don’t, you’re facing all of this and more,” she’d replied, indicating the screen.

So, these 25 years later, I take the Levoxyl, which is no big deal. Last Friday though, the bloodwork from this latest visit came back, indicating that my level of need has increased. She has upped my dosage therefore and I guess we’ll see. Either that does the trick or  I’ll need additional help.

In the meantime I want to aplogize to any of you out there who have been wondering if I’m still here. I’m here. And from now on I’ll be taking some advice I learned from the Recovery movement and fake it til I make it, which means,  “performing actions that are known to be positive even if one is not necessarily comfortable with them.” In other words “the mind may be willing, but the emotions may not be there yet.”

I’ll do that now. I’ll fake it ’til I make it. I’ll try just ‘showing up’ which, after all, is what most people do every day, whether they feel like it or not.










Just Plain Nuts

She’s great for even more reasons, this primary care doc I talked about the other day. During my annual check-up last week I told her I thought I was losing it a couple of months ago. A guy I met at the plant store told me he had ADHD and by golly he suffered my same symptoms. He didn’t find out ’til he was almost 50 he said but now with the right meds he feels focused with a wonderful time-release calmness.

I sure wasn’t calm anymore, OR focused. I who since the age of 15 have eaten an early breakfast and taken my time making a beautiful daily list and writing cryptic amusing entries in my diary. Suddenly I couldn’t sit to those tasks, and often didn’t have a bite of breakfast until 11 in the morning, which may be normal for most people but sure isn’t normal for me. I read a checklist that helps you see if you have attention deficit/ hyperactivity: “Do you veer into people?” was one question. “Do you leave cabinet doors open?” I asked David if I did either of these things and he gave me deadpan look, gestured at our own yawning cabinets in mock horror and said,“ AND, you’ve been veering into me for 40 years.”

So I got the referral for the Psychiatric department at Mass. General and went to see someone who after 40 minutes ruled out ADHD and said, right to my face,   “I think you’re depressed.”

“WHY would I be depressed?”

“Because your kids are gone.”

“They’ve been gone since 2002! “

“Still.” she said and gave me a second appointment which I ended up having to cancel. And now in the closing minutes of my annual checkup with my awesome Primary Care Doc it occurred to me to mention all this. After listening carefully she put down her pen and said something I wasn’t expecting to hear: “I think you ARE depressed.”

Again!  “Why do YOU say that?”

“You just told me that you’ve lost twelve newspapers that used to subscribe to your column and that many of the rest can’t pay you.”

“Well that’s true.”

“And you’re not sad about that?”

There was a shocked pause on my part. Then, “I’m really sad about, that though I never talk about it with anyone! I feel terrible. All these years I’ve never made a profit and now I feel like I’m ….disappearing! I feel like all my life I was trying to give the world a gift that it just didn’t want!”

“Listen to me,” she said, sitting forward in her chair. “I know you. You’re really smart and you have tons of energy. You could have been a judge. You could have been a CEO. Instead, you became a writer – an artist – and artists…. struggle.

Another long pause from normally-glib me. Then, “I’m not sure but I think you’ve just saved me a year of therapy.”

“Write a book that isn’t a reworking of columns and sell it to a real publishing house!” she said, walking me to the door. “Forget doing another one yourself.”

“I’ve thought of that but how does anyone write 20,000 or 30,000 words? I’m just writing 600 a week and it’s practically killing me!” But going down in the elevator of the Wang Building I got to thinking. ‘Could’ve been a judge,’ she’s said.  ‘Could’ve been a CEO.’  I was never all that smart but I do have a lot of energy, even now. Maybe I should just begin, and see how many 600s it takes to reach 30,000.

So my next question is to you, you dark-of-the-night, early-morning friend, if you are out there at all: what do YOU think a book by me should be about?