So I meant to write this post about a month ago. I mean to do a lot of things nowadays that don’t quite happen when I want or the way I want. Besides, there was a chance the world was going to end on the 21st and why waste the last few minutes of my time on earth blogging?
If 2011 was the year of making big decisions and changes in my life and career, then 2012 was the year of adjusting to these changes. I’m sure I’ve quoted it before, but I think this scene from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America captures the feeling best:
Harper: In your experience of the world, how do people change?
Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice.
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching.
Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.
Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.
Harper: That’s how people change.
So that was me in 2012. Walking around, mangled guts just pretending that I wasn’t terrified the whole time that I had just completely ruined my life.
Last year wasn’t bad. I had a lot a great experiences and met some awesome people. But through it all was the feeling that there was something just not right with me. It’s hard to describe it in words, but basically I had gotten everything I had ever wanted in life but at the same time everything was falling to pieces. I moved to the big city and was ready to take it on like a post-modern Mary Tyler Moore but most evenings and weekends I found myself unable to pry myself off my couch and explore around.
Most distressingly, I began to have severe cognitive issues. The best way to describe it is “brain fog.” So adding to the stress of starting a new career and job was the fact that I kept screwing things up. Simple things, like making tons of typos (that I didn’t catch) or forgetting processes. For someone who based a lot of their self-worth on being smart and capable and successful, this was bad. Very bad. I practically coasted through two graduate degrees, got an A- in organic chemistry in college, have an IQ towards genius levels and all of the sudden I can’t remember basic HTML tags? Or how to work my phone? WHAT THE HELL? Anxiety, depression, fear and self-loathing were pretty much my constant companions. I really started to wonder if I had made a mistake leaving libraries – I was an excellent librarian but suddenly I was a barely passable Director of Content Development.
Late summer came and I bought a house in the country because I thought city life wasn’t agreeing with me. I had the home renovation from Hell and some personal life drama and then basically I broke. I was depressed and having panic attacks and barely able to pry myself out of bed and crying constantly. It was not a good look. I finally realized that I needed serious help and went to a doctor.
My doctor was and is….fabulous. She listened to my symptoms and was all very matter of fact about it which helped a lot with the shame I felt through it all. She got me on anti-depressants, hooked me up with a wonderful therapist and in the normal course of things, ran some blood tests. This is where things got really interesting. Because it turns out that I’m anemic. Severely anemic. Like, almost requiring an immediate blood transfusion and she wondered how I was still walking around anemic.
After some poking and prodding and horrible medical tests that should only happen to Hitler, we found the underlying cause of my anemia – I have a big honking tumor in my uterus. There are many horrible things about gynecological medicine, but one that I particularly hate is that uterine tumors are measured in terms of fetus size. Isn’t that horrible? So basically I have a 14 week fetus sized tumor. I guess this is why most lay people describe gynecological tumors in terms of fruit or sports equipment. Mine is apple/baseball sized. See? Much better!
So I have a tumor. It’s not cancer, but it is causing physical issues so late next month I will be having a hysterectomy. This, of course, brings its own set of psychological issues. I guess I always had a “if it happens it happens” attitude towards having children, but this has been a giant “LIFE SPOILER ALERT! YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE PREGNANT!” and it really sucks, much more than I thought it would. Not to mention all the other ickiness of being helpless post-surgery and physical and financial strains it causes. But, on the bright side, after I recover from surgery, my blood counts will steady improve. Because oh, by the way, the side effects of anemia? Exhaustion, emotional trouble and cogitative difficulties. After I found this out, I was actually really – oddly – happy. GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! I HAVE A TUMOR. I’M FIXABLE! Don’t get me wrong, all the changes I had in 2011-2012 were enough to throw anyone for a loop and require a little psychological maintenance. The anemia just exasperated it.
So this is all horribly personal and private information to be be sharing in a professional blog. Mental health, gynecological issues…gosh, if only there was a way to bring up diarrhea so I could hit the trifecta of Things One Does Not Talk About in Public. But I do have a professional point. Because after my 2012, my resolution for 2013 is to embrace my humanity and imperfections as well as accept it in others. Because we all like to think that we keep personal life at home and professional life at work, but “business in the front and party in the back” only works for mullets. We’re all human and have illness, death, birth, marriage, etc going on that are going to be running in the background when we’re “on the clock.” And no one reading this blog has a job so important that personal well-being should be put aside so that their job can continue. But of course, this requires communication. And the bravery to admit to someone – especially your supervisor or anyone that you work on projects with – that you have something going on and may not be 100% for awhile. I’m very very fortunate to have a boss and job that allowed me to take the time to figure out what was going on in my life as well as work around my issues.
On a broader level, as you know Gentle Reader, one of my favorite topics is librarian/vendor relationships. It’s easy to think of BLOOMWEXISBERG as faceless corporations that are out to screw over libraries whenever they can. And, frankly, they sort of are, as corporations’ main goal is making a profit. BUT! They are run by human beings. Humans that – in my informal polls among them when I’m hang out as a booth bunny – hate being called “vendors” and wonder why people hate them due to where they work. Try to not let the sins of the father/employer fall upon the son/employee, as it were. Everyone is just trying to make a living here, we’re just on opposite sides of the same hustle.
So that was my 2012 and what I hope my 2013 will be. It’s going to be a long road of recovery ahead of me. As I said, I’m having surgery in late February and will need 6 weeks or so to recover from that and then another 6 months or so until my iron stores are rebuilt enough to fix my anemia. In the mean time, I’ll be still sleeping 16 hours or so a day, dealing with fatigue so severe that I can barely lift my arms some days and getting confused easily all while trying to still do my job and maintain a semblance of a normal life of a gal in her 30s.
Finally, like I said, I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a month now. However, the recent suicide of open access activist Aaron Swartz, was the kick in the ass I needed to talk about the past year and my own struggles with depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing mental health issues, talk to someone. TALK TO SOMEONE. A friend, a professional, an anonymous hotline – whichever your comfortable with. Because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I was an anthropology major in college and as a professor of mine was fond of saying, “Your brain spent millions of years to be perfectly adapted to a way of life that hasn’t existed for a few thousand years. You’re bound to feel a little fucked up every now and then.”
You don’t have to live in misery or, God forbid, shouldn’t think that life is no longer worth living. You have options. Talk to someone.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70626035@N00/