Sunday, May 13, 2012
In 11 hours and 56 minutes, it will officially be my 41st birthday. There was so much going on in my life last year at this time: Commencement happened on May 8th, which was also Mother's Day, my internship was wrapping up and I was interviewing for the job I currently have, I was finishing my first of the five classes needed at FVTC to obtain my Substance Abuse Counselor certificate, I was planning a substantial graduation/birthday party, and I was getting ready for surgery on the great toe of my right foot, made infamous by a series of photos I posted on Facebook, documenting my progress. Oh, and then there was the roller coaster I was riding related to Mark's inability to maintain his sobriety. Late last week a relatively new client asked me when I graduated from Lakeland, and the one year anniversary of graduation had come and gone without any type of acknowledgment on my part. That struck me as somewhat unbelievable because for almost an entire year, May 8, 2011 was the end-date, the grand finale, the day I began counting down to in June 2010. Yet it had entirely slipped my mind last Tuesday. That just goes to show me that what I considered to be the "most important date of my entire life" is likely to change along the way. So, how has my 40th year kicked my ass? Oh, baby let me count the ways: 1) Mark entered into 4 months of residential treatment for his alcoholism at the end of July. He was discharged on the Monday after Thanksgiving and started drinking again within two weeks of coming home. Ugh. 2) At the end of August, I happened to mention to my dermatologist that I had this "thing" on my forehead near my hairline, and would he take a quick look at it? He did more than look. He numbed me up, shaved it off and called me 4 days later with a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma, which would require a very tedious 4-hour surgery and "full body checks" every three months for the next year. I had my second body check with him last Monday, which is the first appointment I've had in which he didn't numb me up, lob something off and send it to pathology. He did, however, take measurements and a picture of "something to monitor" near my right temple. I guess I'll know more when I see him again in August. 3) As most of you know, neither my parents nor my brother are speaking to me right now. This whole ugly process started two weeks before Christmas. Without laying down all of the bloody details, I'll just give a brief version of what happened which is very biased in my favor: Plans were made for the December 11 Packers game, plans were slightly altered four days before the game, my mother flipped out and uninvited my sister, her boyfriend and his daughters, as well as me, Mark, his daughter, and his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson from celebrating Christmas at my parents' home. Sometime between the 11th and the 23rd my mother changed her mind and re-invited me and Mark. News of their invitation being yanked didn't make it to Mark's son and his family, and when the two of us pulled into my parents' driveway on Christmas morning, Mark's son and family were already there. Not good. We all managed to get through an extremely tense three hours. On the drive home Mark and I resolved that we weren't going to go through something like that again, EVER, and decided that when Christmas 2012 comes along, we're telling everyone that we're going to be out of town for the holiday and plan on spending the day in our pajamas at our own house. 4) My maternal grandfather died on March 5, 2012. That alone was stressful, but added to it was the fact that neither my mother, father, nor my brother went to the funeral. Again, whole, big, hideous story cut short, my mother repeatedly called our house for two days after the funeral to find out "what happened and who was there." When I finally answered her call and she asked me "how it went" I wasn't cooperative. This was not to her liking, which she began loudly "explaining" to me, so I hung up. Shortly after that my brother called to inform me that I "no longer have a brother" followed by a message from my father, asking me to "just leave us alone." Message received, loud and clear. 5) Mark went back to a local hospital for alcohol detox twice so far this calendar year; once in February and once in March. After the March detox he began attending an intensive outpatient program, but he was drinking again by Easter. This is when I "moved myself" into our second bedroom to sleep, watch TV, read before bed, etc. It was a nice arrangement and the quality and quantity of my sleep improved so dramatically, even I was surprised. I say "was a nice arrangement" because he's in treatment right now in Oconomowoc and I "moved myself" back into the master bedroom for now. 6) Two weeks ago I saw my primary care MD and my blood pressure was 132/94. That is insanely off-the-charts high for me. I average 112/68, maybe 114/74; NEVER anything near what my doc recorded. I checked it again the next day at work, and it was 132/92: still WAY out of whack for me. The last time I checked it, last Friday, it had gone down to 122/84, still beyond where I want it to be. I explained just a few of the current stressors to my doc and she related my bp spikes to my stress level. Really? I hadn't considered that coorelation before. (Sarcasm) 7) I love my job and have gotten to really enjoy working with the older adult population. Unfortunately, that increases the likelihood of some of my clients dying while in my care, which is what happened 2 1/2 weeks ago, twice within 10 days, actually. This is the first time I've experienced this type of "professional loss". Grieving the death of a client, or in this case, the deaths of two clients, is complicated. As a therapist, I am the holder of people's deepest fears, darkest worries and most horrifying secrets. The therapeutic relationship is like none other. In addition to sharing in my clients' successes, I am a witness to their pain, shame, anger, confusion, and a myriad of other emotions. Often, I am the only human being who knows "everything" instead of bits and pieces of stories. It's for these reasons that therapists and neither current nor former clients can be "friends." What I know about my clients naturally creates a power differential, hence the therapeutic relationship being like none other. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not still a human being with all of the emotions that come along with the human condition. Grieving the deaths of clients is very complicated. 8) Having run out of local centers that will accept Mark as a client, last Thursday I drove him down to Oconomowoc for another detox and residential treatment. He's hasn't been there for 72 hours yet, but with hope, he'll be there for roughly 45 days. Regardless of the final outcome, I know that my stress level has already decreased. When I pulled into my driveway after work last Friday, for the first time in a really long time, I wasn't dreading getting out of my car and walking through my own front door. There are plenty of examples illustrating that my 40th year wasn't exactly stellar, but, to steal portions of a song from The Who, I've got a feeling 41 is gonna be a good year...at least I hope it's better than the last.