Archive for December, 2009

My hands

This past weekend, I started making many things with my hands. I’ve been using a lot of Elmer’s Glue.

For the wedding, I’m making all of the mens’ buttonholes, to save a bit of money on the florist, and to make flowers they can actually keep.  I’m using pages from an old copy of _The Horse and His Boy_ (the invitations had colored Narnia pages as envelope liners) to make paper flowers.

I cut out petals, looking at the words and phrases on the pages as I go.  I make strips of paper into fringe, and wind them around a green wire, to make a fluffy stamen.  I glue petals on two or three at a time.  Occasionally, I rub my gluey fingers on my pajama pants, to keep my fingertips dry and nimble.  When I grow weary of petals, I make leaves, and glue them onto long strips of green wire.  When they’re dry, I’ll curl them slightly.

Next Sunday is the Christmas pageant at the church where I still teach.  Once again, I’m having a child-centered Nativity scene, where they choose their own parts and animals, and we bring whatever gifts we have in our own hearts.  Along with this comes costumes, and halos to fashion.  The main costume I’ve been making from scratch is for a tiny lamb.  I used one of Matt’s old white shirts, cut the sleeves shorter, and cut down the collar.  Little Terri will wear it backwards, like children wear shirts as painting smocks.

I used styrofoam peanuts that came along with some wedding gifts. I made rows of fabric glue, and glued down the white, /S/ shaped peanuts.  I covered the entire back of the shirt.  Then, I added some more school glue, and then shook out some pale pink and gold and silver glitter.

I like glitter, and I think little Terri does, too.  She is two, and last time we got the costumes out, she fell in love with an extra halo and an old bakelite necklace. The necklace is also part of her lamb costume.  I still need to make some sort of lamb hood/hat for her.

Sometimes, I have dreams where I’m trying to do something very, very small and precise, like a dollhouse-sized collage.  In the dreams, my thumbs are oversized and I can’t hold carefully what I need to hold.  I wake up frustrated, and then remember that it’s a dream.  Sometimes, I even scrape my fingernails against my thumbs, to reassure myself.

When I find myself making collages, or gluing small things, I remember the dreams.  I’ve also been making small gifts for a Secret Snowflake exchange at work, and have been gluing tiny typed letters onto cards.

I like using scraps of paper from my drawers, and old cards, and magazines I’ve been saving. I like seeing a yellowed book actually blossom into a three dimensional flower.  There are probably fancier supplies I could buy, but I use the same scissors I’ve had for more than a decade, and a big bottle of Elmer’s that I always use.   Mostly, I like that I can picture something (how a petal should curve a bit) and make it happen with my own fingers.

Sometimes I like to have perfectly manicured nails, and please myself throughout the day by looking at the shiny smooth ends.  Sometimes, though, I don’t mind if I have dried glue in my cuticles and in the creases of my palm.


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Okay, disclaimer: I intentionally misspelled the name of the drug I’m talking about, because I have mixed feelings about writing about it.  And I don’t want my post to come up in searches for it on Google.

It’s technically an anti-psychotic. People who are schizophrenic, or very bi-polar take it, to help them not be manic through the day.

I first started taking it two years ago this past summer.  I had not slept through the night in months.  With my first dose– a “baby” dose, or “granny” dose, according to my doctor–I could sleep.  It was incredible, and life-changing.

Earlier this year, we had dinner with another couple: dear, sweet friends from my school.  I mentioned my anxiety.  Neither of them could understand: “What do you get anxious about?  I mean, what makes you anxious?”  It’s hard to explain, how irrational things suddenly loom and have so much power.  I actually had a hard time understanding how someone could _not_ understand what anxiety is like.

Here’s an example.  That summer, I was working in my school’s development office. Sometimes, I would file.  The filing room was on a floor by itself. If you are part of a long-wealthy city family, with tons of money to donate, and have donated for generations, you might have a file there.  Any correspondence, letters from the president, Christmas cards from your family, small donations given in someone’s name… copies all go into the file with your name.

My colleagues would give me a stack of correspondence to take up to file.  I would file them, name by name, date by date.  At my own pace, easy, singing to myself in the warm, dusty sunlight.

A dozen hours later: 3AM.

I am suddenly afraid that I have misfiled something.  I imagine, instantly, that they will need the file in a year or so, and not be able to find it.  I don’t wake up and start thinking about it, I am already in a panic, heart racing, when I wake up. It’s as if my body is reacting to the worst that can happen, before reason can intervene.

I had a similar problem reshelving books at the library. What if I reshelved something wrong, and it was lost for decades?

So: 3AM, I’m in a panic. Adrenaline rushes through me, I’m sobbing, I can’t breathe, I feel sick and floaty.  I’ve been dealing with various forms of this, with various insistent reasons to panic, since I was 17.  But two summers ago, it was the files.

I decided that to keep this from happening, I would just memorize each name of the file that I filed. And the file cabinet in which I put it.  This way, I [mis]reasoned, if I heard anyone complaining that they couldn’t find a file, I would remember exactly where it was.

I have a good memory. I’m good at remembering many things, and many words, and many languages.  For a few days, with a lot of stress and effort, I was able to keep this up.  A few dozen filed documents, and files, and file drawers.  But then– a new middle of the night would happen, and I would realize that I couldn’t, in fact, keep up.  Commence brand new panic.

Over several nights of this, I get more brittle during the day.  I’m tired, and stressed, and the little things that usually don’t bother me start to be really taxing.  Occasionally, I start to cry during the day. I know it’s anxiety, I know it’s chemicals in my brain, and adrenaline in my bloodstream, but I can’t reason myself into feeling calm.  I dread going to bed at night, because I know the panic is coming.

It was such, such a relief, the first night I took sarokwel, and began to get sleepy an hour or so later.  Matt started reading to me from The Hobbit at that same time, in an attempt to give my bedtime something sweet and good, instead of dread.  Night after night, I’d take the sarokwel, settle in to listen to The Hobbit, and get sleepy in due time, and sleep through the night. It was amazing, and peaceful, and healing.

Now, I only take one half of that original small dose; I bite a pill in half each night.  Sometimes, I even take one quarter.  If I wake up and feel panicky, I take a half and suck on it under my tongue, until I feel sleepy and calm.

It has a few minor drawbacks. I’ve gained weight while I’ve been on it, as many apparently do. And, I’m not as alert in the morning with it– I have a harder time waking up, and feel sleepier for longer.  I’ve felt bad, when we have overnight guests, or when we’re with family for the holidays, because I’m always the last one to wake up.

But, still: it’s been an amazing asset to my life.  I am thankful for it. Sometimes I even thank God for it when I pray–that’s how different my nights are.  And my days: the little things don’t pile on when I am rested. It’s just easier to be reasonable.  Do I still get anxious, and more than the average person? Yes.  Do I still wake up anxious and inconsolable?  Sometimes.

That’s all, really. I just wanted to write about sarokwel.  I have some guilt that I take something every day, that I can’t snap myself out of it, that being in therapy for more than half my life hasn’t been enough to rewire my synapses. But mostly, I’m thankful to get sleepy at night, and hear Matt read, and get sleepier and sleepier, and finally fall asleep, knowing I will sleep through the night.

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