Sunday, October 31, 2010



I was alone. I was sharing custody so half the time, I was truly alone. I really never understood why the complete details of my accident and injury escaped my family. I always assumed they had other things that were more pressing in their minds but in reality I think I just never remembered to tell them. 

 I was alone.

I am remembering the day that I saw his profile on Yahoo. I had to read it several times and for some oddball reason, despite the fact that I was nothing like what he said he was looking for that I would say hello.  If anything, it would make a good story.  I took the plunge and said something clunky like “Excuse me”, or “Hello there”. Whatever it was it was tenuous because the non-clinical on-line world was still foreign to me. I was happy when he answered me back.  He was a doctor caught up in his own world of hurt, who despite dodging his own shit-storm, saw seeing to me something worthy of his energy and time. For that I will be grateful until they day we die.  He had a hand in saving my life.

We were chat friends for a few months before we met. We spent concentrated time together that first encounter which was for me a once in a lifetime experience.  Little did I know there was a method to his madness, and I expect that when he reads this he will smile that I finally figured it out.  I was nervous and jumpy when I met him.  I did not understand myself well, because I did not know that the medication I was taking had made a zombie out of me.  It was the most lovely four days of my life but when it was over, we both knew we would not be lovers.  I still remember what the three weeks with no contact felt like, and finally I could not take the “Steve-less-ness” any longer and I asked to see him.

When I visited him for the first time since our “break-up”, I realized that I had been given a far greater gift by the Universe, God or whatever power controls us, than ever before. He was living in sober housing, a place where men in recovery from substance abuse and alcoholism live. He was a non-practicing physician deeply entrenched in his own quest for survival. He had lost everything and while trying to reconcile his life, in the midst of all of that, he took me under his wing and led me safely through the valley of the shadow of death as I faced down one of the biggest physiological demons of my life.  Addiction.

It took two months to safely withdraw me from the medicine that had already stolen so much from my life.  I de-toxed in his arms and throughout my withdrawal he was never far away. For the first time since my accident, I was finally able to sleep soundly without fear. In the aftermath, there were cognitive deficits that he addressed with me. I could not read clearly, and I could not write clearly. I certainly could not think clearly.  He graciously helped me to progress in my graduate education while I was healing.
He did all of this without “practicing medicine”. I will never let him forget that.  I owe Dr. Steve my life. I can never repay what he has brought into it.

In the five years since, he and I have become regulars at a favorite Chinese restaurant, where we ALWAYS eat eggplant, and where the staff think we are a couple. Often, we nap together,  and me, safe and secure,  always happy and satisfied in the knowledge that he watches over me, can finally rest.  
Watching him now, poised at the starting line of a brand new and satisfying life for him, I could not be more honored than to be the one allowed to partner with him in the final professional “push” in the direction of his wildest dreams.

I feel a little eggplant coming on ….and a nap. Aren’t we the lucky ones?



I was adrift. After what happened I was afraid to take the medicine that managed my pain but more than that I was afraid NOT to take it. I settled on half the original dose and after some days I realized that I had created some major problems in the short time I had been living as a zombie on twice that dosage. I could not remember what had gotten me to that place so I had to rely on papers around my house and receipts and what I discovered was that this drug had robbed me of a once profitable and principled lifestyle and replaced it with behaviors that were unmanaged and simply out of control. On the original dose I lived life as a zombie.

The first thing I did was get a physical exam and run every blood test to be sure I had not done anything that would adversely affect my health and the future of myself and my children. All was fine. The second thing I did was go over my business and finances and in that respect I did not fare so well at all.

I owed thousands in all directions and to this day have no idea how I could have spent it. I only knew that it appeared that my income would in no way conquer it. I was financially and emotionally screwed. I remember looking up from the kitchen table, weeping, in all kinds of pain and reaching for another dose. I was addicted.



Most people do not begin a story in the middle but I have no choice, its the only way I am able to tell it. I did not know about that drug. I am told I knew a lot about most drugs but this one was new and this one was prescribed for me and this one I did not know. All I knew was that I was unhappy with what it was doing to me and did not want to take it anymore. I stopped the day before. I went to bed that night sleeping as usual, at attention on the end of my king-sized bed. I do not know what happened to me in the night but I woke up wrapped up in the sheet at the opposite corner and I was wet. (Not in a good way) I remember feeling at odds with myself but not much more than that. What I came to know as normal after that day was nothing but normal. I lost my bearings that day, I lost my sense of being and self because I looked up at the pictures on the walls of my home and I could not remember those days and times. I knew who the people mostly were...but the memories of my life before were gone. I vividly remember standing in my kitchen not really recognizing anything and the knowledge of anything about me or my life had been reduced to a two dimensional image in my mind, in black and white. I was lost.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For My Connecticut Girlies!!

Dear Connecticut Girlies,

Take a we go!! See you soon!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Everybody Says Don't

It was in January of 2004 and I was sitting pretty in the nurses station on the Neuroscience Unit where I was happily about two hours ahead and on the downward end of a satisfying day of not very complicated neuro patient care. I was in a particularly good mood that day, since I realized for the first time in my post-divorce finances the first positive cash flow since the whole nasty thing had begun two-years before. It was honestly this selfish moment of reflection on my life that kept me from responding to the tech's request for help in transferring that patient the first two times she came through the crowd of us, but finally by the third pass through, I felt my normal irritation at the common laziness that seemed to have settled across the unit  and got up and went to help the poor girl move her patient.

That was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life.

It appeared completely straightforward and non-complicated. The man was sitting in the wheelchair perpendicular to his bed. I took the strong side of the man and she took the weaker side. I felt confident that this transfer was set up and ready to go, because it was what the tech assured me to be true, and because it was not my patient, I had no reason to not count on it.

That was the second biggest mistake I ever made in my life.

He was not a very tall man but he was a solid, dense old guy, sick from a head bleed, and rightfully frightened at the whole experience.  I introduced myself to the man and his wife, who stood back looking on. I thought I would be in the room no more than three minutes or so. I used the best body mechanics possible to posture myself to support the man in the pivot, yet in the midst of the transfer it became obvious as his bottom hit the edge of the bed that the tech had forgotten to lock the bed down, and the bed took off rolling across the room! The tech was startled and let go of her end of the man in order to retrieve the bed. Not well executed, since in a flash the man had me in a face to chest choke hold around my neck, screaming that he was going to fall. I assured him that he was going to be just fine and that I would not allow him to fall, as I had him in a sound bear hug in a half squat. I told the man that I was going to lower us to the floor to avoid a fall and at that moment he began to thrash and caused my right leg to abduct away from the mid line of my body and I went crashing down in a half- split onto the floor.

I heard the cracking in my back and the popping sounds down my right side and I felt the burn as the muscles all around let go. I held my patient safely in a seated position until help came running, and he was safely lifted back to his bed. It was only seconds before I realized that I was not able to get up off the floor on my own. It was only minutes before I realized holding on to the shredder box in the hallway that I could no longer move like I used to. The pain was blinding and unlike anything I had ever experienced.  All of a sudden hanging over the top of the document shredder box, I thought of the things I had heard from hundreds of patients who have spinal cord injuries and spine and nerve injuries and my thought was: "Oh my God is this what they all keep talking about?"

A lot of things happened in the days, weeks, months and years that followed that day, none of which included me ever being able to take care of patients the way I had specialized and trained myself for again. I could be bitter and angry except that there was as a result also an exceptional experience of triumph amidst the difficulty and suffering and through being a patient I developed into a much better and more creative provider of care.  I have had to find innovative ways to continue to do it. I did try to go back to the bedside for a number of months and my disability grew worse, my pain was intolerable and my mobility was in serious jeopardy.  It was at that time about five years ago that I was told I was "disabled" and unable to do...and the list went on.  For all those years I had no reason to not believe the doctors. We are conditioned to accept these opinions as based on far more knowledge and experience and I have since learned that might not always completely be the case.

There is far more to this story than I want to bother even telling here. I was a woman with a limp, a huge weight problem due to immobility, uncontrolled pain, and a history of injury related co-morbidities. I was "walking" around in a crowd of doctors with my head and brain barely attached to my body, and every aspect of my life was out of balance. Everybody said "just keep going", or "you will be OK" , or "you are going to die from this" or my personal favorite from one limited primary care physician: "weight loss would be prudent". Ha Ha ...having watched my weight climb to 306 shit Sherlock...Ya think??  In the course of it all, I managed to work full-time, support and raise my children, maintain (somewhat) my owned home and have a fairly decent lifestyle. None of that mattered one bit because the bottom line for me was that I was finally convinced that if I was ever going to get anywhere with anything and achieve any kind of balance in my life, I was going to have to abandon all my old ways of doing things and find another kind of doctor.

Looking back now it makes perfect sense why the old guard of traditional medical doctors following standards of care built on a framework of clinical trials financed by the pharmaceutical industry raised their eyebrows at me. They get irritated with me when I now tell them "thank you very much" and I am now getting better because I chose a new paradigm of integrative collaborative medical care for myself. It was never enough for me to be told "You can't." It was never enough for me to be told "don't this and don't do that". I wanted to DO.

All I needed was the right doctor and a hefty dose of courage and willingness to change. I went out and found him, and together, he and I put together a team and are saving my life. My children laugh because I listen to show tunes but I don't care, this one makes me feel good! I hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Finding of the Lost

The events of the past year have brought me to the place where selling my home has become inevitable. I have not been, nor am I even now, happy about feeling as though I have to do it. I have made it as much of a proactive and healthy decision as possible, and my family and friends have been wonderfully supportive and helpful. The task of cleaning out my house to get ready for sale, turned out to be a monster more ferocious than I initially imagined.  Still, the process belongs to no one but me, and I am the one who has to muddle through and make some sense of what goes along with it.

I have been here for nearly eight years. I bought this house after my divorce from my children's father, my husband for nearly twenty years.  In all that time quite a bit of property came into this house and not so much went out. This deck was stacked against me in all directions. It is not that I felt particularly attached to any of these fine items that had residence here, its just that with raising my children, being a girlfriend, then wife, and  building my career and furthering my education I really did not get around to thinking much about what to do with the things in my house.  Because of this, it has now become the order of each day, to go room to room, corner to corner, and into each closet and crawl space, evaluating and examining and sorting what will stay and what will go, some from just my home, and some from my life completely.

I learned early on in this project that there are all kinds of feelings and emotions tied up in the things we keep so I am writing about that and the process of  discovering, thinking, deciding and in lots of cases letting go. It seemed a perfect time to do this once, living in the moment of the thing in my hands, experiencing all it represents then deciding its fate.  

It seems as though this should be a straightforward endeavor, but in reality it is not. For me, nearly each thing I laid my hand on, conjured up a memory or a feeling and presented me with the challenge of having to evaluate it and decide. I chose that not only would I decide IF something could stay or not but WHERE it would be placed and WHY.  It made sense to begin with the big items and then move to the smaller ones.  Since work was to be done in my basement, I began there, purposing to work my way upward. One of the biggest things in the room was my son's Weider Gym rack.

It looked a bit like this one, and was great fun on more than one level of use, for a few years. As happens with young people, they grow, and change and this piece of equipment did not seem to pass the test of time so it was abandoned and morphed into a lovely laundry rack/ clothes closet. I was remembering fondly how difficult it was to get it in the house when I bought it. My former husband's son brought it in the house alongside his father piece by piece. I remember the grown-man boy and his wife working so well together to assemble it for my son. I remembered making dinner for them and their three children who had become accustomed to spending time in my home back then. Watching it come down was bittersweet in more than one way for me, however I admit now that I am delighted that it no longer sits there. I believe it was recycled and that gratifies me because its parts need a new life and less useless purpose.

Next there were two large pieces of equipment that I bought for my rehabilitation shortly after my accident in 2004. Because my mobility was challenged it was easier for me to accomplish my required activities at home. I would never have considered letting them go until my father pointed out that I had come a long way and certainly did not need to hide in the cellar anymore to continue to progress. He also pointed out that there was no real resale value to them.  Before long people who care about me were volunteering to help me stay safe as I worked out so I called back the junk man and off they went. It felt good to see them go out. It felt good to know that I did not need them anymore and that no one but me understands fully the work it took for me to  graduate from them.   It feels good to move forward towards a positive new life.  I believe they will be donated to charity and  hopefully be used to rehabilitate someone less fortunate. I like that.                                     
It amazes me that there was so much junk in my basement. I had fun tossing most of it in a big barrel. I could not even list it off now, but I know I threw away and donated away items in equal measure. I feel good about this. 

One of the hardest things I parted with was the children's table and chairs that my former husband left in my home after he decided that being a husband was too difficult for him and he departed. I was not given one good reason for being abandoned, nor was I really given a choice. Someone else had entered his life to be his confidant, confessor and lover and while not a legitimate nor realistic relationship, this woman made herself available for and enabled him to engage in a closeness with her while he remained living in my house and contributing next to nothing to the running of it.   He cut me out of his life equation with no notice or fault. His connection to her with internet and phone, at that early time all paid for and owned by me, went on behind my back while I foolishly thought that if I remained supportive he would live up to his vows of marriage just a few months before and come back to me. I carried guilt for many months thinking that somehow I was to blame for him emotionally abandoning me on our wedding night and never affecting with me again until much later. For months when I looked at the little table and its two chairs  I felt connected and somehow still trusted but really it was wrong of him to abandon it there just as he had abandoned and split apart our blended family scattering relationships in all directions with a cavalier and selfish whim.  Months later he drew me back in close to him, while confused in his thought processes I reveled in the feelings that flooded back to me until he confessed his confusion over who he really wanted and needed in his life. There was chaos and anger and for me a deeply shocking and emotionally devestating physiologic event. It brought me to my knees and nearly undid me completely, the grief at the loss of what had been conceived in what I believed to be love which in reality was the confusion of two very troubled hearts. As I looked at that table and chairs I knew what I had to do.  I packed it up in my car, brought to the park where he met me, stood in front of him, gathered up my courage and told him the details of what we had made together which I had to suffer the loss of on my own. That is why I cannot treasure that table and chairs anymore. That is why I could not keep them safe for him. He did not keep me safe as he promised me he would. It was his failure and not mine. Had I kept them I would just repeatedly see what was not meant to be or happen, who was swept away in the eleventh hour of our marriage as forgotten as his vows, and that is just too much for me to choose to live with.       


Looking around my basement, standing barefooted on brand new carpeting, and looking at the newness and freshness of the room once dim and dark and loaded with remnants of my past life, I cannot help but remind myself of who and where I was and who and where I am now. The floor is new, and the walls are fresh and there is more light in the space than ever before. Looking around there is nothing but potential, promise and the enticement of an exciting future full of possibilities. I stand strong in the place where just a few years ago I struggled to stand at all,  and I smile confidently knowing that for me forward is a one way road, and while I might take look back a bit now and then I will not turn back and abandon the journey laid out ahead of me. Still for a little bit of time nearly every day I think about who might have been, wondering if God somehow works it out so that one day I can see which twinkling star was given to me, if only for that moment, that gave me that delicious feeling just one more time again, of who I know myself to be. I am Mary, blessed, mother of John and Jacqueline, equally blessed and we are our family.   

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Unreasonable Fear

     I was never very interested in math. I am educated, but willing to admit I have never seen the inside of a physics book. My unreasonable fear of statistics has stalled my two graduate degrees in midstream and soon I know I will have to do something about that. I am relying on my brainy 17 year old daughter to partner with me and save the day, in order to ensure my future. It is always a little amusing to me that as my mother made a satisfying lifetime career out of math, teaching countless young people algebra, geometry and trigonometry, in the same junior high and high schools that I attended, that I, quite intentionally, made an equally satisfying effort to avoid it.  I could not get very far into this discussion without admitting that as I grew older, regardless of my lack of interest in anything labeled "math", that my rabid and voracious interest in chemistry and medicine created a conflict.  Annoying as it is to admit, chemistry and medicine, appears to be related to, and rely quite heavily on math.  At 23 years old, with my first bachelors degree under my belt, I had to wake up and realize that in order to gather the education and knowledge and experience that I needed to become the healer that I knew I already was, that I had to gather up my fortitude, all of my emotional strength, suck it up and open the black algebra book lying around my parent's house and uh...attempt to learn it.  

     When my mother observed this, her first thoughts may have been something like these: " How come she did not open that book in the 9th grade when she was supposed to?" or " Better late than never " or "Maybe she should think about taking a remedial class".  A few years later I did take that "13th grade" math class at Columbus State Community College, mostly to prove to myself that I could do well in math, and partially to prove that regardless of how good I had become in chemistry, anatomy and physiology and despite my natural medical aptitude, math could still be excruciatingly uninteresting and remain imprinted upon my entire psyche as the irrational fear that I still hold tightly to today.  I am 50 years old, I am a healer, and I do not "heart" math!  Not "hearting" math leads me to also not "heart" physics and alongside that, not "hearting" statistics.  Unfortunately this also leads me to a daunting brick wall in front of my current vocational goals and calling, so I have become irritated.  

     Before  I go on whining about "not being good at" math, I should document here that I am in fact very good at a whole bunch of other things.  I have actually heard my mother point this out on many occasions so I know it must be true. One very cool thing about my mom and I is that we are both strong-minded women and neither of us really have any trouble pointing out the talents and shortfalls of the other.  My mom says she is envious of my creative artistic talents especially in the area of the home arts. Honestly I think she says that to be "motherly" but I think that she feels the same way about all of those disciplines as I do about math, physics and statistics.  I know my mom works just as hard to avoid a sewing needle or a complicated recipe, as I do algebra and geometry.  This kind of relationship is not easy to have.  Having to co-exist in the mother-daughter relationship for the first part of my life being cared for, and now seeing the scale about to tip in the other direction where I see it inevitable that I will take care of her, I have to admit that this was not ever a perfect or easy relational road.  I think my mother and I have gone through life believing that the other never listens or understands, and that each of us thinks that the other is somehow not as good as we might want the other to be.  Looking at my relationship to my mom realistically helps me face what I know is going to happen as time goes forward.  This is not a novel scenario, all of my peers are facing it now and all of hers are too.  Fortunately for me, at just some bit of time before age 80, my mom still "hearts" math, and fortunately for me, I do not.  I think this knowledge creates a parallel resonance for us. It simply works best. We both make faces at each other when we ask each other to make up the shortfall.  That is a bit silly since we both know we really have no choice but to apply our natural gifts and talents to whatever challenges come our way, after all we are both strong, intelligent women, and if we were each asked we would both say that successful life and family relies on achieving a "power factor of unity".  Each should act according to their own talents and a house divided falls. I believe that this is why my parents remain married and happy with one another after 50 plus years. I also know that my house has divided and fallen and at this tender moment my compass is pointing toward north and I am going home.


     For me this one thing is true: Living life successfully with the corner of my foundation missing is exhausting me. Being afraid to face the math is nowhere near as daunting as admitting that I was foolish for avoiding it in the first place. To go forward in my life, and to redesign and rebuild what I allowed to be invaded by a rover, a plunderer... (thank you Henry Miller, T of C for those original words) who built a fortress of dry sticks and a thatched hay roof around my carefully preserved homelife and laid waste to all but some smoldering embers with the cavalier toss of a single torch he carried, will require a whole new architectural plan.  This new building will be set on a solid foundation, with all four cornerstones firmly rooted and set in place.  

It is time I embraced and did the math.