And even I'm getting tired of useless desires.


It's late and I've been drinking which means I should not be blogging. I should not be blogging. I SHOULD not be blogging. I should NOT be blogging. I should not BE blogging. I should not be BLOGGING. Is that clear? Good.

Because me blogging late at night and under the influence of alcohol just makes me wake up the next morning, flip out, run to my laptop, and delete the post. Or save it as a draft, in case I want to remind myself how pathetic I inevitably sounded. Because I don't know other pathetic bloggers. All the blogs I follow are written by people who are mature enough to know that one does not use the internet for expressing their personal problems/worries/fears/regrets. They blog about happy, positive, thoughtful, helpful topics and subjects. They don't try to drag you down to the dark places they know they should save for a therapist or close friends. I, on the other hand, have both a therapist and many good friends, but the internet is where I turn to 'let it all out.' I don't know why.

I think I just feel fearless when writing. I don't have to speak the words out loud--so it's less scary to say if I can say it in writing. Does that make a lick of sense? When trying to talk about something to someone--be it a friend or therapist or loved one--I have a tendency to talk myself out of what I'm trying to express in the first place. For a silly example: "I'm so fed with up with CARROTS! They're orange and cold and they make me feel bad!" but before anyone can respond, I follow up with, "I don't mean that. Carrots have always been there for me. Carrots are great. I'm the problem, not carrots." For some reason I don't want to let myself express anything that could be seen as ungrateful or selfish or rude or, worst of all, uninteresting/unfunny, no matter how much I might mean it. So I back-track or cover it up with jokes. I keep trying to make my new therapist laugh. ("But now it's just another show, you leave 'em laughing when you go/ and if you care, don't let know, don't give yourself away..." Oh God, I'm quoting Joni Mitchell lyrics--TURN BACK NOW!) Which leads me to so many topics I want to discuss...

My new therapist! She's lovely! She's warm and patient and nurturing but also 'hip' and quick-witted and sassy and insightful! I really like her. I was so worried I wouldn't. But I've got a creeping feeling coming in that I'm not being a good client. Let me explain.

We've only met 3 times (which in and of itself is information that should put my fears to rest. We're just getting started!) but I keep trying to talk about medical history with her. And I don't know HOW. I can go and on and on giving her bits and pieces, but that's all it feels like. Bits and pieces. And even at the end of our sessions after I've sped-talked like the world was ending, she'll say, "I feel like I'm getting more of a picture of what you went through, but it's still a very small glimpse of the whole picture."

It's become this quest for me now to Give The New Therapist The Whole Experience. What should I do to help her 'get' it? Bring in my mom's journal we kept in the hospital! Print out all my blog posts regarding medical stuff! Play her all the songs I listened to on repeat through my crying-jags! Re-create my hospital room in her office (i.e. lay down on her couch, and then sense-memory her through all the tubes and pains and aches and procedures)! Take a field trip together to a hospital so the memories come flooding back in fuller force! What can I do to show her, tell her, express to her what I experienced? God, if only I'd had a reality TV show camera crew follow me around for 2009-2010.

Because just telling her what I remember in the fragments that they come to me for an hour once a week feels so inadequate. Not to mention painful. And I think, in my mind, trying to tell someone who wasn't there while I was going through it, or who hasn't experienced something similar themselves, makes it feel so imaginary and over-dramatic and not that big of a deal. Honestly. My therapist can tell me over and over again how unbelievably hard it must have been for me, and yet I leave feeling, "It IS unbelievable. I must have made it such a bigger hardship for myself than it would have been for anyone else. Other people would have taken it all in stride and felt like it was just a bump in the road that they're thankful they made it through. I make it sound like I went to war or had cancer or something, and I didn't. What a drama-queen. Get over yourself."

And that's a problem, you guys, that I think that. That I think that CONSTANTLY. That I think, "You're fine, you're fine, you big baby. It's over and you're fine. Grow up already." This way of thinking is an issue because it wasn't fine at all. Even reading back to my most private journals or most candid blog posts, I still know it was barely scraping the surface of the hideousness of my experience. It was FUCKING HIDEOUS. And why on earth do I feel like I need to convince myself or anyone else that it was otherwise?

Which brings me to seeing the movie 50/50 last night. If you want to see it (and you should) then go no further, but it's about to get spoiler-icious up in here.

My mom told me about 50/50 long before I saw a trailer or TV spot for it. She saw an article about it (voracious newspaper reader that she is) and thought of me because the lead character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a young man in his 20s who is diagnosed with a spinal tumor and the film is about his world being changed because of it. Now, it's a malignant, cancerous tumor. Again, I did not have cancer (though my neurosurgeon joked that I might and it could just not be showing up on my MRI--hilarious). The movie is called 50/50 because those are his chances of surviving the cancer. My diagnosis was not life or death, and it's important we clear up those extremely important distinctions. But because of those distinctions, which I knew going into the movie, I assumed it wouldn't hit too close to home. I WAS WRONG.

I'm no movie critic (or writer, let's be honest) so I'm going to make my comparisons in bullet format, rather than a pretty, professional set of paragraphs that lead from one to the next. Sorry.

- The kind of cancer that Adam (Gordon-Levitt's character) gets is very rare, to the point that no one in the film, including him, had ever heard of it. I have to remind myself that my over-sized meningocele is a very rare form of spina bifida, and that my neurosurgeon--nor the MULTIPLE neurosurgeons he showed my MRI to, had ever seen a case like it. This is important when I remember what I was feeling, because I (and my condition) was and felt unprecedented. And horribly strange. And scarily unknowable.

- Adam has to get chemotherapy (which I expected to be the extent of his treatments), and thank God I didn't have to do chemo, but the effect of it on him was so familiar. He looked weak and pale and thin and depressed, unable to take care of himself well. Ding ding ding ding ding!

- His therapist, though I think we're supposed to ultimately like her and root for them to be together, is so atrocious and has no clue how to help or be there for him. When he tells her off and quits their sessions, I was so reminded of doing the same to my old therapist. You don't want to be told what you're feeling or in what ways you should be dealing with your experience. Fuck that.

- This one was a huge one: support. Adam starts out the movie with a girlfriend who we soon realize is about as useful to Adam as a bicycle is to a fish. She doesn't want to sit with him as he gets chemo, she's super late to pick him up from the hospital (he can't drive), she doesn't comfort him as he throws up in the middle of the night. At one point he holds out his arms to her for a hug or a cuddle and she says she'd rather just go to bed. The one good thing she does is get him a dog (though even that act of attempted kindness is done poorly, even though the end result is positive)--a retired greyhound. Soon she's out of the picture, and Adam is single. And, oh, the IMAGERY.

Walking down hospital corridors alone. Walking through hospital doors alone. Sitting in doctor's offices alone. Lying on the couch at home alone. The first time I started audibly crying in the theater was a scene where we see Adam lying alone in his bed, eyes open, frowning. Then we see his greyhound lying behind him, nuzzling him before Adam goes to pet him. It's a small, short scene, but holy mother of God. My body and mind were screaming in recognition. The nights I spent in my bed sobbing, wishing someone was there to rub my back or make me tea or smooth my hair or hold me...and then Oz crawling over to me and rubbing his face in my hands, curling his little furry body into the nook of my arm, trying to drown out the horrible sounds I was making with his purrs. To be a single person going through a medical condition, and be so scared and numb and hopeless all at once and yet have an animal stay with you through the long, long nights... The need is unspeakable. Un-fucking-speakable. It was maybe the most real, mirrored-to-my-life moment I've seen in a movie in my entire life. I couldn't believe it.

And even more amazingly, the film shows that trying to meet someone new during the trauma doesn't work, doesn't fix anything or make you feel better. It's not sexy or exciting. You want someone who will 'follow you into the dark'--be there when it's disgusting or uncomfortable or there's bad news instead of good news. And if you can't have that kind of partner, it IS better to be alone (with a pet). And I think that's a huge reason of why not being able to fully let my therapist know what I went through--even though I'm trying--has become such a stresser for me. Because it makes me worry that if I can't get her to understand the full extent of my experience, how can anyone I meet from here on out understand it (like a significant other)? And I so desperately want it to be known and understood.

- So we finally learn the chemo wasn't working, and they need to operate on Adam's spine. And people, shit got fucking real for me in that movie theater. I couldn't breathe, my legs started twitching, I was biting my hands, and the tears would. not. stop. I thought we would just see him have chemo, because it was cancer. I did not expect to see him go into surgery. Even the doctor's appointment when he's told surgery was needed, I felt like I was moving in and out of consciousness. The doctor telling him he'd assign him a neurosurgeon. That due to the location on the spine, it would be very risky. All I could think of was MY neurosurgeon telling me his surgery scheduled before mine was to remove a brain tumor, which compared to my surgery, would be SUPER ROUTINE. The risk of paralysis, of severed nerves, of spinal headaches...

- And then seeing Adam sitting in a hospital bed before surgery, wearing his gown and with an IV in his arm, and having his neurosurgeon and anestheologist come speak to him. Then watching him be wheeled to the operating room. His face under the gas mask. His family/friends waiting for him, and the surgery taking longer than projected--5 hours. My first surgery was projected to be 2.5 hours and was 5.5 instead. And then him waking up post-surgery to his family and friends. In the end we even saw his incision as its dressing was changed. I mean, it was terrifyingly similar, except we were spared his recovery--thank God.

When the credits started rolling, I rushed to the bathroom, raced into a stall, and doubled over in sobs. I had friends waiting for me (loving, understanding friends), but I didn't want to leave the stall for anything (don't worry, I did eventually). Even though I didn't have cancer, it felt like I'd just seen my tiny world entered and understood. It definitely helps that the movie was based on its screenwriter's actual life experience--it was so true to mine as well. I'm planning to go see it with my mom next weekend (hopefully in an almost completely empty movie theater, for neither of us will have dry eyes), and I'm going to talk to my therapist this week about whether or not she'd like to see it (not together, of course). It's like a tremendous gift, this film, because I feel like I could lend it to people or recommend they watch it, and give them more than just a bit or piece of what I went through. Because much like Adam, I had friends and family supporting me, but the film manages to capture the loneliness and isolation and non-belief at what you thought your life and your world and your body were, and having them completely gutted.


Kj said...

Do Not Delete

loverstreet said...

Maybe what is more important for you to process with your new, sweet, sassy therapist is exactly what you shared here--how you feel like you should "just get over it." I know the details matter a whole lot to you but i know I tend to get bogged down in the details of painting the whole picture because it helps me control therapy and not go to the meat of the matter: my feelings of inadequacy which i feel simultaneously with feeling like I am just too much. How can those two feelings coexist and with such intensity? I am just thinking about how you can transition from new therapist/client relationship to the depth I know you want. Sorry if it comes across as advicey...
Maybe printing out this post, which you say is uninhibited (and should NOT be deleted), would help get that across to miss hip therapist without you having to say the words, and could keep you from retracting/minimalizing your concerns.
You are awesome GaryDan. Truly awesome. And I love your blog and all it's vulnerability, due to vino or not. Please don't censor yourself because you have an audience that wants to hear and know you.

jonathan edmund said...

Your honesty, tenderness, and needs are beautiful. I am so honored to be your friend, and to have gotten to peek into a bit of the unexplainable reality that was 2 years of your life. <3 <3 <3

Chelsea Lee said...

oh my sweet, sweet maryann. everytime i read your blog i wish i had something to say to make it better. but, i know that there are no words that fix it. so just know this: you are stronger than you think you are. you inspire me. you are loved. and listen to this one especially: YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL. (and i don't mean that in a "you have a great personality" kind of way.) keep writing.

Maryann said...

thank you, guys. Your comments mean so much to me.

Lindsey, I don't think you sound advice-y at all--I think I will print this out and bring it to therapy this week!