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unlearning helplessness

March 2, 2014

Spouse is in DC today, and I stayed home so I could write. Wrote for a while, got stuck — the usual, these days. And then something (mercifully) a lot less frequent occurred, something that’s not quite an emergency, but is really unpleasant, and none of the ways either Spouse or I have devised to deal with this issue are any fun at all.

Spouse had himself had this issue at a more advanced stage a week or so ago, bad enough that we had to notify maintenance. Except they haven’t showed up. (We’ve been notifying them about issues, small and large, since the end of January; we’re still waiting for them to show up at all.)

So today, I was on my own. I was annoyed, but not terribly concerned — I have a regular procedure I follow. Then I remembered that my usual set of tools . . . had to be thrown out after I discovered my bathroom sink had been leaking all over them for a while.

Luckily the tools I use can be found at the grocery store. As I headed over there, it started raining; we are supposed to get ice and sleet this evening.

The grocery store was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. But I found my stuff without any trouble, bought it, and headed back home.

Dealing with the problem this time was absolutely the worst incident I’ve had yet.

But I fixed it.


When I was a newlywed 21 years ago, a similar not-quite-emergency happened while I was home during the week. As I sat with the problem all day, waiting for Spouse to get home from work, all I could think about was, “will he yell at me? How bad is it gonna get?”

I didn’t know Spouse well enough yet to have discovered that . . . he doesn’t yell. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t fixate on finding someone to blame. Nor does he have hysterics, and then need to be soothed (unable to soothe himself). And there are never any “punishments” involved, no matter what happened, nor why.

All these years later, sometimes a minor disaster catches me unawares, so that I worry how the inevitable screaming is going to further shred my nerves. Joplin, Missouri, on a Sunday afternoon, driving back to Indiana after a family wedding. We ate lunch at a truck stop; as we walked back to my car, we saw a flat tire. First we looked for a tire store. We ended up at Wal-Mart, where their service department found the nail, and patched things up. Then we got back on the road.

That one incident sums up how different living with Spouse is from living with my family of origin.


During my initial realization earlier today that a problem was developing, I wondered if it was some kind of synchronicity thing — was there a metaphor involved, possibly something having to do with why I’m stuck in my writing, again.

20 minutes of musing later, I realized I might be coming down with something, due to symptoms I suddenly noticed I was experiencing. If all of that could be considered part of a psychosomatic metaphor, maybe there was something much more serious going on. I mentally put my writing on hold, and devoted my energies to figuring this problem out. Yes, a few times this week my heart has suddenly started racing, while I was sitting down and not exerting myself. I’m not sure if I feel dizzy, or just have a headache coming on. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat for a week and my sinuses still feel clogged (but, happily, the water-in-my-ears sensation I’d been feeling for several days seems to have disappeared). Sometimes I get especially hot . . . but I am wearing a woolly sweater, while it’s not as cold outside as it’s been. And I feel kind of nauseated (although it hasn’t interfered with me eating).

Looking back through my health log, I was chagrined to notice not only had I not been reaching my daily minimum goals for standing and walking . . . since the end of January, but in that same time period I’d also not been drinking enough fluids.

The dentist suggested my mysterious tooth pain in early February might be a sinus infection. Once I cleared things out with Sudafed, though, and the pain disappeared, I didn’t feel bad at all, so I never did visit my doctor. (I really love my doctor — she will listen as long as I need to tell her about stuff — but she almost never knows what’s wrong. That gets expensive right quick.)

Maybe my intestinal bugs have been fighting off some kind of infection for a while now. And maybe in the absence of sufficient water and sufficient exercise, they’re feeling a little under the weather themselves. Which is maybe what bumped my awareness of symptoms up to my conscious mind’s attention.

If any of that is true, once again I just wish there was some easier way parts of my body could communicate with my conscious mind, so that we could solve problems together, instead of me fumbling around, trying to guess what might be going on.

On the other hand, I’m more involved in actively monitoring my daily health and wellness than anyone else I know.

Several years ago, I saw my doctor about shoulder pain. She said I might need surgery; I asked for a referral to physical therapy instead, and that did the trick. Bonus: I got some pointers about my posture, which sucked. (If only standing and sitting correctly were more comfortable, I’m sure I could remember to do so more often!)

I saw my doctor about my anxiety, and almost constant depressive episodes. I did try anxiety medication for a few weeks, but I never took any of the antidepressants. I learned how to manage my stress better, and I gradually found ways to add meaning to my life. I can’t remember the last time I had an anxiety attack; I’m not even anxious before meeting new people anymore (with rare exceptions). And while I’m still prone to depressive episodes occasionally, they seem to coincide with winter most often (which is a long-standing issue).

Not being able to rely on pain relievers helps me be exquisitely sensitive to whether levels of discomfort have reached levels of pain; whether I would say I’m in agony, or not.

I much more conversant with all types of levels of discomfort, disappointments, obstacles, and outright disasters . . . and yet these days, I still get my problems solved. Or at least, my outcomes get improved.

Like today. If I really am coming down with something (and I rarely get sick), all the more reason to go to the grocery store early, before the weather gets really bad, and/or I might not feel well enough to drive. If I have to go to the grocery store by myself, I infinitely prefer it to be almost empty; today it was mobbed. I felt lightheaded and short of breath. In the back of my mind, do I feel physically bad enough to call Spouse, and ask him to come home early? Well, I think I’m okay right now, but that’s something to keep tabs on. Something I needed to do while I was at the store was going to work better if I took my stuff back to the car, and then returned to the store, which I did. Then the thing I needed to do was in a different place. At the end, the fourth long walk, back to my car. I still had to go home and deal with the unpleasant issue, which was kind of horrible.

I’ve not yet gotten back to what I was writing before anything happened. However, I’ve been writing this blog post. Which has nicely distracted me from watching the clock; and now Spouse should be home in about 10 minutes. If I feel better than I felt hours ago, it’s not readily apparent; but I don’t feel worse.

And the proximate problem is solved, for the moment.

21 years ago, on that miserable day, I was a nervous wreck all day. I accomplished nothing.

I’m not the person I was then. I’m smarter, I’m capable and competent, and I’m not easily dissuaded from getting done what I’ve determined I will do.

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