Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Long and Winding Road...Leads Me to Me

It has nearly been a full month since I had my skull opened and the little-gray-ball-of-dirty-laundry removed. What a month! It started with what I can only describe as partial delirium. I was so happy to have the thing out of my head, and I suppose the morphine, and anesthesia sort of had me on a different plain of perception for a while. Yet, I was a lot less delirious than I had really expected to be, to be honest. 

Fionn, the Modern Muse
Soon after surgery I woke up and in my daze recognized and remembered where I was and what had just happened. I saw my ancient Neurologist, Dr. Philip Yarnell, across the room and shouted out a, “Hello, Dr. Yarnell!” to him, and I think that sort of surprised him and he came right over and tested how I was responding to left and right movements like touching my nose with my eyes closed with the fingers he chose, and moving my toes. Afterwards, he said, “Yep, you’re going to be just fine.”

At that point I felt no pain but I was terribly thirsty and so I asked for water, but all they could give me was ice cubes to suck on and little sponges to dip into water and suck on. So I did. This was followed by my husband and father bounding into the big room together with smiles on their faces, delighted that I was so chirpy.

Then my Neurosurgeon, Dr. Mark Robinson, walked in to talk to them, and as they talked, I felt some kind of relieving sleepiness. I remember Dr. Robinson pointing at my head, and nodding and I remember them asking some questions and him answering, but I have no real memory of the words, even though I am pretty sure I participated in the conversation as if I were very intelligent indeed. Har.

I was taken care of in Intensive Care for a surprising two days. I say it was surprising only because apparently they expected I’d be going home after two days, and that didn’t quite happen. As good as their intentions were, some things got kind of icky.

Devora is Awake
Before I go there, I want to tell you that I did something very important to my recovery unbeknownst to the medical folks. In secret I took a large dose of Arnica the morning before surgery and then when I got to my ICU room I had Michael bring me a second large dose of Arnica. This homeopathic medication has helped me in previous medical crises (oral surgery, and a hysterectomy) to recover super-fast and very well, with little bruising. I encourage you to sincerely consider finding more about it if you’re facing surgery. Unfortunately, you cannot discuss it with a surgeon or the nursing staff because they don’t work with it, and will rule against it. Someday, I hope this will change because I've healed fast enough to get wide eyes from the doctors...

In ICU, meanwhile, they were pumping me full of Morphine and all kinds of other medications that my body is not fond of at all. Sadly. By the time it was dark outside, I was vomiting in a little pail the nurse quickly provided for me. As I was recovering she started putting in an intravenous dose of Dilantin. If you don’t remember how badly I reacted to the first time I took Dilantin, let me say that my reaction to this way of taking the medication was near paralysis. I made her take it out after only a 1/4th of the dose was given and I could feel it as it climbed up my arm and into my head, like a march of pick axes within my veins. I screamed. I admit it. I screamed. I shouted at her that this was not the way we were going to do anything. I asked her if she had bothered to give me any antihistamines or Zantac (could this be why I was throwing up, perhaps???). What followed is that I had to review with every shift nurse exactly how the medication business was going to work, and I would not let them use the intravenous hoses for anything but water and anti-nausea medications. I stopped taking the morphine and moved to oral Percocet and oxycodone. I didn’t really care if I had a little more pain. I was very self-advocating and protective. 

Meanwhile, the left side of my face swelled up like a puffer fish. I got a black eye that I could barely open. Frankly, I think I had a severe allergic reaction to the entire experience. looked no different in those moments than I had when I’d reacted to the cotton harvest on my Pretty Pa’s combine in the Rio Grande Valley some 42 years earlier. I had to build up all the anti-histamines in my system and the hospital pharmacy didn’t actually carry one of the anti-histamines, nor the Zantac I’d been taking leading up to the surgery, so my dear husband had to go to the grocery store and purchase what I needed. The hospital didn’t even have the oral Dilantin to fill in the missing 3/4s of a dose of it for several hours.

After two days they moved me to a regular room and they removed the blessed catheter and I was able to move around my room when I rung up the nurse to remove whatever IV was hooked up, the blood pressure arm squeeze and the ever-marching leg thingies. Ah. That was such a blessing. Finally, a neurosurgeon on call at the hospital came and cut the gauze turban off of me, and told me I could take a shower. Hallelujah! I thought I’d be going home right afterwards, but apparently, not.

All this time, my husband sat quietly next to me, reading his phone in the dark or daytime. I must have slept now and then, but I don’t remember sleeping lots. 

Another two days went by. I watched some television and really couldn’t perceive how so many stupid infomercials could exist. I tried to watch news, but settled on The Weather 
Oriah Enjoys the Lake
Channel. That was the only television that made a lot of sense to me. Passing storms, wind, sunshine and snow. I would then dream of the sets of shows and watch people walk in and out of these sets that were actually their lives, and how the world beyond the sets they believed in was totally different, open to change, neutral. The sets were set, but they were not true reality. They were perceptions that had thin walls, and the potential of being blown away in storms. Beyond the sets was a world or a dimension of reality that had not been decided on yet, and I could walk in it.

Another set of dreams I had placed me back in 1996, when I was at another turning point. After eleven years in a difficult and abusive marriage, I had determined that I had to begin living my own life and pursuing the things I was truly interested in. I had done three years of weekly therapy and was meditating daily and my creative spirit was expanding in many new directions. My dream then was to write very artistic, visual scripts about lives that were not easy, poetry and to create a new Tarot Deck called “The Cosmic Egg”. I was ready to consider leaving my first husband (now wasband) and even our house that I had painted wall murals and re-landscaped with a triskelion and a fire pit, a forest of gingkoes and redwoods, California poppies and tea tree bushes. Still the only person who knew that my husband was abusive was my therapist, and so when my therapist became abusive and insisted that I wanted to have an affair with him, my evolution unraveled rather quickly. 

Within four months I went from my first steps towards independence backwards into a desire to be approved of by supporting my husband, and even finally fulfilling his wish to have a family. I turned my therapist in to the board, and I gave my husband a cut up condom for his birthday. I went from being a part-time freelancer with time to paint and write, to a full-time publishing consultant with no time to even mother the child I was pregnant with, so that by the end of the year I would have a personal assistant, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a year later a nanny. I insisted giving up the house with my murals painted, and moved into a swanky Spanish Colonial that may have once been a boarding house to Charles Bukowski on the two block street named after my favorite inventor, Nikolai Tesla. I went from $25 dollars in the bank to making $15k a month. Yes, all of this really happened that quickly. It was all for approval from my first husband, from my friends at the time, from my parents, and I got it. And, it undid my chosen road very precisely. 

Alma in Her Habitat
Oddly, the dreams I had were very much about saying good-bye to those mistakes peacefully and accepting that my dreams continued painfully, like a forgotten and downgraded pavement next to the approved highway, throughout the last fifteen years. The dreams continued to be alive even if they were fought against as distractions from cleaning the house and taking care of my children and seeking approval from everyone. In one dream I told my husband of 1996 that I loved him, but that it was time to move on. In other dreams I made peace with my children and told them that their independence was crucial to me.

The doctors sent me home from the hospital on the fifth day, and the dreams continued in my hour and a half naps, and even as I was awake until they felt processed and comprehended. I found it hard to concentrate on “reality” to the point where I was occasionally overly grumpy at the disturbance of life to the unconscious realm I had such good connection with for the moment. I hate to admit that I occasionally snapped, and apparently this is common for people recovering from brain surgery. The word patience is hardly enough for making a commitment to decide whether to stay in dreamland or start coming into reality.

Making these dream-level departures from the decisions I made in 1996 has been such a relief, but has also unleashed years of frustration and anger over carrying the weight of a life that led me away from my true self. Yet, in just a month I have some sense that I am reuniting with myself, putting my feet on the abandoned road, after years of pounding my head against the wall of approval...could this be the reason for the tumor?  So, as I’ve come out of the haze of medications, and gotten confirmation that the tumor was indeed benign and that it had been caught early enough to have no lasting damage, I have hope unlike any hope I’ve had for fifteen years. Though, certainly, there are temporary setbacks like the pain and lack of rest, and that the left side of my face feels like it is just coming off of Novocaine -- all the time. I feel confident that I’ve turned a corner again and found myself in the realm where the sets of my life haven’t been completely determined and there is the potential to create some new and simple realities that are better aligned with who I am now. Where the road I'm now on can find the door to this set.

I have been practicing artwork again on a daily basis, and thinking about the off-formula stories I’m always intrigued by, but had learned to reject in favor of an approved formula that I've grown to hate. I’ve been resting and waking at all hours of the day or night. I’ve been watching how my daughter, Bea, is increasingly aware of the world she is entering as a new adult, and wears her grief over her lost childhood. Then also I’ve been watching how my younger son, Lio, is already aware of some aspects of adulthood that excite him to the point where he’s leaped ahead of the family at age eleven to webbify his life with video streaming, video chats and group games.

Dear Quimby in Pastel Land
My wasband has been as supportive as he can be, and taken time with the children that I normally would have had. He is who he is still, and they’ve both had terrible colds that lasted longer than a week and needed some Mommified assistance. So, both children have had extra days here and there, but only one at a time.

Finally, my dear husband has been carrying the load of my transportation, childcare and household upkeep for some six months now, and has concurrently become increasingly responsible for projects at work. He’s like a Lancelot, courageously determined to see that things get done because they need to get done, and at the same time exhausted, and falling into the river of forgetfulness because there is just too much on his mind. Now, poor man has collapsed with fatigue and the caught bug of his step-children. 

This leaves me, only me, to be fully conscious and begin taking care of business, too. I’m glad to say that I can to some degree, and that what I can’t do, I’m actually fine about not receiving approval. This is a leap for me. I will hang on more determinedly to the emerging unconscious knowledge I’ve always had and hidden from by trying other roads that might be worthy of rewards outside of me. This, for me, is real healing because finally I comprehend that the road I'm on now leads me to my own door.

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