The Dawkter's Wife - It's all champagne and caviar now … dahling

The Loony Bin

March 1, 2011

Baby you’re a firework…

This time of year sucks for me.  I try to power through the cold, dark, windy, snowy days of winter and just as Spring starts offering those tantalizing signs that she is around the corner, I fall into a pit.   It isn’t dark outside when I force myself out of bed.  The sun is shining a little brighter and is staying put a little bit longer….and I’m having trouble leaving my house or managing the day-to-day stuff.  My guess is that is has something to do with the isolating effects of winter here in the frozen tundra.  I noticed  last week that there are a lot of other moms struggling too.  The conversations at dance classes are more subdued, and my friends from the area are openly admitting their loneliness and frustration.  They say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, and I think for many that this is more of an internal thing than something weather-related.  It is for me, anyway.

I’m also in the middle of an internal struggle when it comes to my feelings of competence. I went to book club Sunday night and spent nearly three hours listening to physicians comment on how hard it is to have “two jobs” … motherhood and medicine.  “You just don’t know how hard it is” I was told.  Forget that I got my MS in molecular biology when I had 3 small children and Thomas was a fellow, or that I did teach for 3 years at our local University….apparently, no job is more important …. more difficult … more noble … than that of the part-time physician. <sarcasm, I know…>

“I have two jobs, not just one,” I was told.

Hey…I’m all ears, but don’t discount me and my experience. I might *just* have one job, but it is unrelenting.  I can’t take a bath without kids using toothpicks to unlock my door and come in and fight openly in front of me.  Now that I’m homeschooling my daughter, I can’t even break wind in the privacy of my own home without it inviting a comment.  I do not enjoy the competence and confidence that comes with being able to help other people solve their problems or the prestige that is associated with being a physician.  We all have hard jobs.

“you chose to have five children”

Right …. and you chose to buy the second home in Florida with the mortgage causing you to lose sleep.

I’m not unsympathetic, but my crabbiness was not helped by my own general pity part which revolved around the fact that I’m 40 and don’t feel like I’m good at anything.  I have no professional identity and that is something that I value.

So there you have it. March 1.

I have made a few changes since my last entry. First and foremost, I tossed the tegretol and neurontin.  I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, but I was afraid to. I feel like the fatigue I have suffered from over the last year has contributed to me feeling depressed. I have always been a really active, busy person with a lot of different irons in the fire.  Since the cranial neuropathy jazz got going, I’ve had trouble getting to the grocery store, TJ Maxx or even sitting down to read or study.  This was a big factor in me taking an incomplete in virology last semester.  I was too exhausted and I absolutely could not concentrate.  I read and re-read the same passages over and over again not quite getting the difference between + sense viruses with one vs. those with more than one Open Reading Frames or … at the end of the day … why it even mattered anymore. I gained 20 pounds because I stopped having the energy to walk and exercise like I had been …

I was assured that tegretol doesn’t cause fatigue and that my symptoms were likely neuropathy related.

Virology started up again in January, but I got credit for my assignments and exams up until now.  Last week, I had to start powering through again. I just couldn’t do it.  I decided to cut out the daytime doses of tegretol and neurontin and see if it helped.

I feel like my brain *might* be re-engaging, but I’m not quite where I want to be.  Things seem to make more sense as I read and work through the chapters and assignments, but when I make any attempt to quiz myself even an hour after a study session, I seem to have forgotten much of what I learned.  It has been so long since I have even worked through eukaryotic replication, transcription and translation that I have forgotten the basics.  Adding the complicated cycles of these viruses to the mix is sapping me of my confidence.  I am feeling a little  worried that I have lost my edge and I won’t get it back.  I keep reminding myself of this quote:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”
-Mary Radmacher

Yesterday evening Thomas let me go to the coffee shop and study for 3 hours.  It went well, but as I drove home and tried to remind myself of basic details, I just couldn’t do it.I kept telling myself that tomorrow was a new day and to take things slowly.  At some level though, I am beginning to question my ability to create any sort of professional identity for myself.  (getting pulled over for speeding because I was too busy feeling upset about what I didn’t learn didn’t help my mental state!)

Fatigue-wise? I think I feel better.  I did some reading online at the NIH about post-chemo fatigue and found some great suggestions that I’ve also been trying to put to good use …. like exercising earlier in the day and giving myself permission to take breaks. I think that if I can get the things done that are important to me then I’ll be happy even if I have to do some of them a little differently.

I imagine the thing that is giving me the greatest lift is … hope …. hope of returning to some of the more comfortable features of my life.  The thing holding me back? fear …. fear of not being capable or competent anymore.

I’m sure a pesky question is lurking in the back of your minds …. which probably involves the little issue of the neuropathies …. Well …. I feel like I’m taking a calculated risk. I don’t see a reason to take medications daily that may be impairing my ability to function to treat symptoms that can be sporadic.  Are there some issues right now? yes. That being said, I can live with things right now and so I feel like I’m weighting the risks and benefits and am taking a chance.  This might not work out to be the ideal long-term situation, but I will work on figuring that out if and when I need to. I would be game to go with short periods of these drugs when completely and totally necessary.

Sunday was also a year since my falling out with my former doctor.  I only know that because it all happened on the day that I helped judge the AATG oral exams for the state.  I judged again this weekend and the dates were pretty dead on the same as last year. I’ve never had a friendship end like that, and I still am surprised that I occasionally still feel hurt and sad about the loss..  So I need to also find the quiet courage to make tomorrow a new day when it comes to the ending of relationships too. Life goes on, and as hard as things are sometimes it’s important to remember that each morning is a fresh start.

After all, Spring really IS right around the corner and I’ll want to get working on my gardens and planning our summer trips!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.