Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being Disabled Is Expensive

  1. I'm on a lot of meds.
  2. I owe my shrink a lot of money.
  3. I really, REALLY need to start seeing an ADD coach so I can structure my job search.
  4. But I can't quite scrape the money together.
  5. I have dyscalculia, so I really, REALLY need a checkbook with carbon duplicates.
  6. Unlike ALL THE OTHER CHECKBOOKS which my bank offers for free,
  7. Duplicate checks checks cost $20.
No, $20 isn't ton of money ... but then, I don't have a ton of money.  And it's just frustrating that I have to pay for adaptive tech that other people don't need to worry about.

Maybe I'll just give up on the duplicates and rely on my online statements ...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Forgot to Take My Meds: The World at a Distance

This morning I was meeting a friend for brunch.  I don't normally meet people for brunch, which means that this was an alteration of my morning routine.  When my routine is altered, I forget to do things.  Such as, I forget to take the medications that help me to remember what my morning routine is.

In my case, of course, it's not just a question of forgetting my Vyvanse, which is bad enough.  It also meant forgetting to take my lamictal and my Abilify.  I didn't realize I'd done this until I'd been on the road for half an hour, when I started to wonder why I was feeling so out of it.  By the time I was done with brunch, I felt like everything was a hundred feet away.

As the day wore on, I also felt sad and anxious.  When I got home from brunch it was early afternoon.  I doled out my meds and put them in the little bowl that I use to make sure I have all of them.  Then I forgot about them for another few hours.

Then I removed the Vyvanse, since I'm sure not to sleep well if I take that at 5 pm, and took my lamictal, my Abilify, and my allergy meds.  I'm feeling better already; calmer, more stable, and less sad.  Maybe lamictal just doesn't have much of a half-life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Side Effect #6: Lamictal and Balance Problems

Balance Problems on Lamictal

Balance problems are one of those side effects listed on that little insert that came with your drugs.  I've found it to be somewhat troublesome and very persistent.  I doubt that that this is very common, and I suspect that most people who experience it find that it goes away.  Not me.

In my case, the balance problems are almost certainly an exacerbation of preexisting inner ear problems. I have a history of childhood middle and inner ear infections that then lasted well into adulthood.  In other words, my balance is kind of hosed anyway.  But with the inner ear issues, I've learned to compensate in a way that I haven't quite managed with lamictal.  I'll be walking along and suddenly find myself heeling over like a sailboat.

Sometimes I even need to stick a leg out to correct my balance.  For whatever reason, this seems to happen when I'm going through the door from my living room to my kitchen.  I'm glad to say that when I overbalance in public, I've never needed to stick my leg in some weird direction in order to keep my balance.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Depressive Makes Some New Years Resolutions

I started this post in early January, but I'm only finishing it now.  What do you want?  I have ADHD, a mutant mood disorder, and some meds that mess with my memory.  Oh, and guess what?  I'm only a few days late for Chinese New Year!  So there.

I'm so glad to see the ass-end of 2011.  There were so many challenges, so much loss.  But it's a new year and I'm not going to dwell on them.

As with every year, I am making New Years' resolutions as a way of setting my intentions for the coming year.  Last year their focus was caring for myself.  I think I did a pretty good job of that, given all the problems I had.

Here are my resolutions for 2012:

  • To establish a nightly ritual in which I think of at least one good thing that happened that day.
  •   I spent much of last year in various states of crazy, deep depression, or profound anxiety about the future.  There weren't a lot of positives in my life, but nonetheless, I know they were there.  I need to pay more attention to them -- this is according to my friend's six year old, who, when we were visiting for the New Year, happened to mention that "something good happens every day, and we should be glad".  Out of the mouths of babes.
  • I'm will structure my time and create a schedule.  A few years ago, before my life went to hell in a handbasket, I had something of a schedule that I more or less stuck to.  Work out from 10 to 11 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Do a certain chore from 2 to 3 every day.  Spend only three hours a day on the computer.  Spend at least two hours working on art.  I didn't always stick to it exactly, but I did sort of, and I got a lot more done as a result.
  • I will enlist an ADD coach to help me in my search for meaningful work.  Now that I'm past the Solstice, I need to get back to my job search.  In the course of my last one, I realized that I have no idea what the hell I'm doing.  I feel like everyone who has a real job knows something that I don't. 
    • My disabilities present an additional challenge here -- I wasn't able to "start at the bottom" as an admin like most people; and at this point I really need to be able to work from home most of the time to care for my mood disorder.  In other words, I need help.  I need real help.
  • I will continue to work on my marriage.  I realized last month that, in addition to whatever legitimate frustrations my partner has, he's going through his own shit right now.  It makes him difficult to live with.  But I didn't promise to love and support him only when it was easy.
  • I will work on my non-violent communication skills.  As my mood has stabilized, I've gone from the "shock and sorrow" phase of my relationship difficulties to the "really effing pissed" stage.  Thanks to our incompetent marriage counselor, and thanks to my partner's lack of emotional availability, I've spent the last several months holding space for him.  My issues have been ignored.  And this has made me angry.  Like most people, when I get angry I get reactive, and I can be sarcastic and contemptuous and say destructive things.  Since I'm the one with the capacity right now, I resolve to take on the responsibility of communicating my needs and my feelings in a non-violent way that will be easier for my partner to hear.
Happy Year of the Dragon!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Working with a Couples Therapist: Warning Signs and Red Flags

    Last week I wrote about a list of questions you should ask as you're interviewing couples therapists.  This post delves into the deeper problems in the field of couples therapy: lack of training, lack of experience, and individual bias.

    This is information I wish I'd had before starting our disastrous couples therapy.  If I'd known what I know now, I would have realized as of our first session that our counselor had no idea what he was doing.  But I fell pray to the most common assumption about couples therapy: that anyone with a Marriage and Family Therapy degree has received training in couples work, and that they are therefore qualified to work with couples.

    As it turns out, having that "MFT" after their name tells you nothing about a so-called "couples therapist".  In spite of the name, "marriage and family therapy" programs usually require only superficial coursework and training in couples' issues.  As for other therapists who provide couples counseling, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and others, receive no coursework or training at all.

    Nonetheless, about 80% of therapists do some form of couples therapy.  To put it another way, an overwhelming majority of therapists work with couples, and the overwhelming majority of those do so without any real training.  

    Most therapists are trained to have an individual therapeutic orientation, not a relationship or community orientation, and they fall back on this when attempting couples therapy.  Don't get me wrong, individual therapy is great when you need to talk about your own problems.  A good therapist can help you see where you might be sabotaging your own goals.  They can help you elucidate your needs, see the places in your life where they're not being met, and support you in making the changes to your life that will ultimately help you meet these needs.

    When one of these counselors tries to do couples therapy, their instinct is to focus on each partner as an individual, what those individual's needs are, and how they're not being met in the marriage.  Even if the couple comes to them saying that both are committed to staying in the marriage, this individual may lead the therapist to give up on the relationship -- and tell the couple, sometimes after only a few sessions, that they should divorce.

    Does that sound like a viable way to save a relationship?  Didn't think so.

    Fortunately, there are ways to determine whether your therapist knows what they're doing.  Again, thanks to Dr. William Doherty, here is a list of red flags that indicate that your couples' therapist may be incompetent:

    1.  The sessions lack structure.  If you're going to therapy and having the same fights you are at home, with no interventions from your therapist, that therapist doesn't know what they're doing.  At the end of the session, after you're both worn out and emotionally bruised, the therapist might say something inane like "we've gotten some important issues out into the open here!".  Both members of the couple leave feeling hurt, drained, and pessimistic about their relationship.  Been there, done that.

    2.  The therapist fails to recommend any day-to-day changes that the couple can make.  You're in therapy because something in your relationship isn't working, right?  Which means you want to change something, right?  For instance, if Dick and Jane's therapist explains to them that they handle conflict by Jane losing her temper and Dick retreating into silence to punish her, but fails to tell them how to change this dynamic, Dick and Jane's therapist lacks the necessary experience to them.  Been there, done that.

    3.  The therapist feels overwhelmed by the couple's problems and recommends divorce.  Seriously.  In these cases, the therapist fails to realize that the overwhelm is caused by their own lack of knowledge and experience, not by the couple's "emotionality" or "irreconcilable differences".  It's not your therapist's job to recommend that you split up.  If they do, they're not competent to help you, and you should seek help elsewhere.  This is actually one mistake our therapist didn't make.

    Dr. Doherty says that there are other mistakes that are more common in more experienced therapists.  A therapist may have worked with dozens, even hundreds of couples over the years.  They know how to provide structured sessions, how to give meaningful feedback, and how to contain the difficult feelings that come up during couples therapy.

    Listen up, dear audience, because this one relates directly to you.  Even an experienced therapist may lack experience in your particular area of need.  Doherty relates several examples of this, but to me, the most important one involves a story of mental illness.  Out of the blue, Doherty's friend came home and announced to his wife that he was having an affair and that he wanted an open marriage.  The next day he was found in a confused state, wandering around in the woods.  He was diagnosed with psychotic depression (a fellow sufferer!) and spent to weeks in the hospital.

    While his own therapist cautioned him not to make any major decisions in his current state, his wife's therapist urged her to divorce.  Remember that "sickness-and-health" promise that's part of the standard wedding vows in this country?  Yeah.  Her therapist wanted her to up and abandon it.  She, however, was not ready to give up on a long-term relationship when her husband was clearly not himself, and found another therapist.

    This was yet another area in which our therapist couldn't help us.  He gave me half of one session to talk about my issues with disability.  He provided no insight, let alone concrete suggestions, as to how my partner could come to a more empathetic understanding.  He didn't deal with my mental illness at all.  These issues are fundamental to our marital problems.  Yet we barely even mentioned them.  I suppose I should be grateful that he didn't recommend divorce because this was clearly a problem that would never go away.

    For Doherty's full article on the hazards of marriage therapy, click here.  For a more compact list of what to look for in a therapist, and what warning signs you should heed, click here.

    individual therapy hazardous

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Side Effect #5: Increased Skin Sensitivity

    Lamictal and Skin Sensitivity

    Welcome to Post #5 in my series of the most troublesome or persistent side effects of lamictal.  I've written 10 posts about skin reactions.  Nothing serious happened to me -- I've avoided Steven's-Johnson Syndrome, a.k.a. the Deadly Rash -- but my skin has been more sensitive, especially when I first started titrating up.

    That being said, I'm spending a bit more time on this post; we've all been warned about the Dread Rash of Doom, and because of that a lot of people stop taking this med unnecessarily the first minute *anything* strange happens to their skin.  Most of the time it's not SJS.  However, I am not a doctor, so don't go construing this as medical advice, people!

    The skin effects I noticed were as follows:

    1. Something like heat rash on my second day of lamictal (at 25 mgs).  This continued for the first two weeks I was on the med, and was particularly noticeable after exercising.
    2. "Combination skin", or simultaneous dry skin and acne.  
    3. Sensitivity to heat (like when I open the oven door).
    4. Tactile sensitivity in general; for instance, it would hurt noticeably more when my cat scrapes her tongue across my face.  
    5. Returning rash when titrating up to 50 mgs.
    6. Sunburn happens faster than usual and is more severe.  Since I'm pretty damn white, "usual" happens pretty quickly anyway.
    7. Sensitivity to chemicals, such as Advantage flea control.
    8. Niacin rash, which turns out to be a sunburn-like reaction to niacin, also known as vitamin B3.  It's in a lot of grains.  It happened to me after drinking too much electrolyte replacement drink and eating multi-grain waffles. This has never happened to me before (and I know I've OD'd on gatorade before this), but since cutting down on the electrolyte beverage, it hasn't happened since.
    There you have it.  Several skin reactions to lamictal that ARE NOT Steven's-Johnson.  For the rest of my series, check out #1: Delayed Sleep Phase#2: Loss of Appetite#3: Digestive Issues, and #4: Weird Food Cravings.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Couples Therapy: Questions to Ask Before Making that First Appointment

    As I've ranted before, my marriage is going through a rough patch.  My husband is frustrated by my crappy employment history as well as my current unemployment.  This makes me feel that he's not taking my illness and disabilities seriously.  And in fact, he once said in counseling that he thinks I use them as "an excuse to not work".

    Because it's not bad enough that I have to hear that crap from ignorant neurotypicals on the internet, the breakroom at work (when I work), or even on the bus.  I get to hear it from my partner.

    In other words, we got issues.

    We also had severe problems with our marriage counselor.  At this point, we're not sure whether we'll go with another Gottman counselor or not.  Whoever we choose, it will need to be someone who knows what they're doing. 

    I'm guessing that if you read this blog, you're either mentally ill or you have ADD, which pretty much means that you've also dealt with relationship problems.  ADHD and mental illness can both put an incredible strain on any relationship, and you may need help to negotiate this treacherous terrain.  A competent couples counselor can be the guide you need to save your relationship.

    But how can you tell your couples therapist is competent?

    Going through the mill has led me to do some research I wish I'd done before seeking couples therapy.  I've learned that there were questions I could have asked our counselor that might have indicated his lack of experience.  I've also learned that during our sessions he gave clear signs that he had no idea what he was doing.  I've decided to share that research with you in the form of a short series on couples therapy.  Part One will be how to choose a counselor.  Part Two will be signs to watch for when you're actually in the therapists office.  Part Three will be about relationships in general, and staying in them when things get hard.  

    So let's begin with Part One.  Your relationship has problems -- whether they're big or small doesn't matter -- and you've decided to seek counseling.  You've looked online, talked to friends about recommendations,  and you've made a list of people who seem like they could work with you.  What next?

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Stop SOPA, Stop PIPA

    Our illustrious congress is currently considering legislation that would allow the US Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to block websites that "violate copyright".  There are two pieces of legislation under consideration: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), and PIPA, (Protect Intellectual Property Act).  SOPA gives copyright holders and the government the right to block any site they deemed to be "violating copyright"; PIPA would give them additional staff and funding for their efforts.  

    Sites that are deemed to violate copyright may be blocked, blacked out, and removed from search engines.  Site owners would be required to police their sites for copyright violation -- just imagine this burden falling on Wikipedia or Facebook!  Even your internet service provider would be forced to become involved: they will be required to block these sites.

    Under the guise of protecting intellectual property and copyright, this legislation would inhibit free speech, the free flow of information, and our general cultural discourse.  Think I'm being overly dramatic?  We live in a world where the copyright to the song ""Happy Birthday" were acquired by AOL TimeWarner in 1998" were acquired by AOL TimeWarner in 1998.  This is why the TV show Futurama sang their own version of "Happy Birthday" -- they would have had to pay for the rights otherwise.  Seriously.  The rights to Happy Effing Birthday. 

    Anyone who publishes anything on the web should be very, very concerned.  Hell, anyone who surfs the web should be concerned.  What would happen to this site if the makers of lamictal decided I was using their copyrighted drug's name without permission?

    To bring attention to this issue, WIkipedia is blacked out today.  The only articles you can read are the ones about SOPA and PIPA.  However, if you trundle on over to their site, they will tell you how to contact your legislators to ask them to vote against SOPA and PIPA.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Lamictal 300: Today's Weird Omelet

    I should be honest here; they're not so much omelets as egg scrambles.  I don't have the patience to cook eggs to the proper consistency, put in the filling, and flip the damn thing over.  Too much work.

    Anyway.  Today's weird omelet: dal with garlic shiitake mushrooms.


    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Lamictal 300 mgs; Abilify 5 mgs: Stable, but In Debt

    My mood has stabilized incredibly since adding Abilify to my cocktail.  It helps too that the sun is sticking around longer, and that the weather here has been bright and cheerful.  On Friday, I was able to exercise for the first time in weeks, and my brain is once again able to do things like prioritize.  I even feel less cold than I used to, and that's kind of nice.

    I've dealt with the conflict with my friend, and it went really well.  I just sent a letter to my art student's family detailing a new studio policy that's less exploitive of my time while ensuring that he makes more consistent progress in his work.  Maybe his folks will resent being asked to pay up front and will end lessons.  So what.  Last fall, we only had about half the lessons we usually have during a semester anyway.

    Except that this leaves me kind of broke.  I racked up thousands of dollars of debt seeing my shrink for med checks every two weeks for the last twelve weeks.  Of that, I've managed to pay back about $600.  Also, my Christmas credit card bill is due next month.

    Guess where I thought this money was coming from?  Yup.  Art lessons.

    If I hadn't had to deal with several cancellations, a last minute notice that there would be no lessons for three weeks over the holidays, and then another cancellation of a lesson I was assured would happen, I'd have about five hundred dollars with which to pay for Christmas and begin to make dent in the shrinkage bill.  After that, my plan was to start seeing an ADD career coach so I could, you know, get a career off the ground and start making some real goddam money.

    So while I'm trying to be detached from the outcome of my letter to my art student's parents, I'm also really really hoping they accept my terms.  I need the money.  I also enjoy the kid a lot, and I miss him.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Lamictal Side Effect #4: Weird Food Cravings

    In my continuing series on weird lamictal side effects, I will today be writing about a particularly odd one.  It's related to the second most persistant and annoying side effect, loss of appetite; but this one has to do with the kinds of foods I do have an appetite for.

    In short, they're high in salt and fat.

    Since I started taking this stuff I've been into really weird omelets.  And when I say weird, I mean weird: last summer I making omelets out of a raw tomato sauce that had tuna fish, olives, capers, and arugula in it.  Salt and fat.  But I can eat this kind of thing when my usual sedate breakfast of yogurt and gluten-free bread just seems unappetizing.

    I'd think I was pregnant, only I know with 100% certainty that I'm not.

    Previous posts in the series include #1: Delayed Sleep Phase; #2: Loss of Appetite; and #3: Digestive Issues.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    More Conflict In The New Year

    I posted last week about some difficulties I needed to address with a friend.  Now I need to deal with a problem I'm having with an art student of mine.

    I've worked with him for three years now, and I've always been really informal about the cancellation policy.  I asked for 24 hours notice, and didn't charge in the even that notice was shorter.  It happened so seldom that I figured I could use the time for something else.

    By now, however, he's a sophomore in high school.  He's busy.  He's cancelled 4 or 5 lessons in the past two months alone.  He cancelled another one yesterday.  After a three week hiatus because of relatives visiting.  For which I only got a week's notice myself.  In previous years, I could count on the school vacation to schedule make up lessons.

    This is no longer working.  It's one thing to have a few cancellations.  It's another to wonder every week whether I'm going to be teaching that day.

    What I'd like to do -- what all my piano teachers did, for instance -- is to have a new policy where I am paid up front.  If there's 24 hours notice for a cancellation, there will be no refund, but I will make up the lesson.  If there's less than 24 hours notice, I will not make up the lesson.

    I feel like this will be a good motivator for my student and his parents to respect my time a little more than they're doing now.  It's also better for the student, to be honest; he'll want to put together a supplemental portfolio for college, and that simply can't be done with the kind of time he's putting in now.  And that's not even mentioning the momentum that's lost when you lose a whole goddam month of instruction.

    I guess the New Year will be about setting boundaries.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Lamictal 300 mgs, Abilify 5 mgs: I Feel Like Myself Again

    Last year at this time, though I didn't realize it, I was working incredibly hard -- and all the time -- to manage my psychotic depression.  My mental energy went to reigning in bizarre thoughts, or to distracting myself by fixating on an art project, or by obsessively cleaning the house.  It was exhausting.  The antipsychotic medication helped a lot, but it didn't fix it.

    This year, I've been on lamictal, and the difference is like night and day (which is good, since my delusions were about photons).  I was able to see just how hard I had to work last year to keep the crazy at bay, and how this year, I simply didn't have to put in that effort.  Yay lamictal!

    Nonetheless, I was still pretty moody by early December.  Overall my mood was better.  I no longer had to listen to cheerful, energetic music to keep myself from becoming untethered.  Sometimes I could even listen to a sad song without totally losing it.

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    ADHD and the Phone

    There's an interesting thread on ADD Forum about how much most of us hate the telephone.

    I've always hated the phone.  I find it to be intrusive and obnoxious.  Worse than that, it always triggers a tiny bit of anxiety; if I'm already anxious, it triggers a lot of anxiety.  This is the case even when the caller ID shows it's someone I know and want to talk to.  I'm actually relieved when I don't recognize the number, because then I can ignore it.

    I also hate making phone calls.  In part it's because I feel like I'm distracting and annoying the person on the other end in case they hate it as much as I do.  It's also simply not the best way for me to receive and process information.  Send me an email, and I can read and re-read it, and if I forget what it says I can search for it and read it again.  Can't do that with the phone.

    Anyway, there are a lot of different reasons ADDers have the phone.  If you're one of these people, check out the thread.  You may find a kindred spirit over there.

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    What is it like to have ADD, Part II: The Radio Metaphor

    A few months ago Mo at Milligrams requested a post about what it's like to have ADHD.  Since I was writing a blog post, I gave my long, detailed answer

    This week I was asked the same question by a friend in my stained glass class.  When people in real life ask me about ADD, I don't give them the long answer.  They don't need to know what my typical day is like.  They don't need to know what it's like to have your mind wander all over creation.  They need to understand the experience of ADHD quickly and concisely.

    Since I have trouble with "quick and concise" when I write, I've put the important bits in bold.  The bold face type is what I would say to someone in real life who asks about ADHD.  The rest is just elaboration and explanation, in case you're into that sort of thing.

    When someone I know in real life asks what it's like to have ADD, I turn to my radio metaphor.  The radio metaphor looks something like this:

    Having ADD is like driving through a rural area with your radio on.  Unfortunately, the radio in your car is stuck in the "on" position and the volume control died a long time ago.  Since you're out in the boonies, your radio is picking up two or three stations at once.   All you're getting is garble and horrible, earsplitting static.   You wish you could change stations, but you can't.  None of them come in clearly.   

    I gave this explanation to my friend, who was very sympathetic.  "That sounds really hard," she said.  Another friend who had been listening, nodded and said, "I'm deaf in one ear, and it's a similar experience.   I can only process half of what people are saying, and I can't filter out what's important."

    That was on Tuesday, and in the days since, I've been thinking about her hearing loss, and my grandmother's hearing loss, and how similar they are to the ADHD experience.  As with my mental "radio", they have trouble tuning into any one thing in their audible environments.  But I have ADD; I can treat my condition.  What does treatment do for the radio metaphor?

    Taking medication for ADD allows your "radio" to tune to a single station.  Finally, you can enjoy some blessed quiet -- only one radio station at once!  But there's a catch (isn't there always?): you don't always have a choice about which station that is. 

    For instance, you might open the fridge door, notice that it's pretty full, and decide that you'd have a lot more space if you put the leftovers in smaller containers.  So you do that.  You're on meds, so you can finish the task without getting distracted by something shiny.  Which is great, right?  Yay, a task has been accomplished!

    Except that you opened the fridge door for an entirely different reason -- you need to make lunch and eat it before you have to meet someone in half an hour.  In other words, you needed your radio to be tuned to the "making lunch" station, but it jumped over to the "deal with leftovers" station instead.  And you don't know to change it back.  Fortunately, since you're on meds, after you finish the task you remember that you have somewhere to be, only now you have ten minutes instead of half an hour.  So how do you tune your radio?

    Pills don't teach skills.  Getting control of your radio is a skill.   

    In order to tune your radio to the station you want, you need to learn skills.  You need to learn a lot of them, but I'll use just one as an example: scaffolding.

    "Scaffolding" refers to creating habits and routines that support your day to day existence.  For instance, my keys and my sunglasses are in the hat that I wear every day.  I know they will be there, so I don't have to spend half an hour looking for my keys every time I leave the house.  My wallet?  Always in the outer pocket of my bag.  My cell phone?  Either on the charger or in my left jacket pocket.

    Neurotypicals can take paying attention for granted.  For ADDers, it takes a ton of energy.  By building the scaffolding I described above (and believe me, that's only a small part of it) I can free up a great deal of mental energy.  I can put that energy toward learning other ADD coping skills.  I can learn how to keep track of what tasks I need to accomplish, and I can learn how to tell which ones are the most important or time-sensitive.  Eventually, when something unexpected happens to disrupt my routine, I can figure out how to deal with it instead of allowing it to disrupt my whole day -- or my whole week.

    In other words, I'm finally in charge of choosing the station on my radio.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Emotional Attachment Sucks

    Yesterday I wrote about a difficult discussion that I need to have with a friend.  The short version is that she was in a car accident on her way to go on a hike we'd finally planned.  She left me a voice message telling me this, mentioning that she was OK, her car was not, and that she "the pain was setting in".  She wouldn't be able to go on the hike we'd finally planned.

    I was disappointed, but the kicker is that she blew me off for five days when I tried to get in touch with her to check in.  And when she got in touch, via text message, it was just a casual New Years' greeting.

    Needless to say, I feel less important to her than I did already.

    I was already feeling unimportant to my friend.  We used to see each other a couple of times a month for lunch.  We'd get together for Pagan holidays.  We went to see Shakespeare together.  But two years ago she moved to Boston, and now I'm lucky to see her a couple times a year.  When she visits I always feel like I'm being squeezed into her schedule.  We'll talk about how we should have lunch and it turns into coffee; we'll talk about going on a hike and it turns into a short walk on the beach.  It seems like she's always running to the next engagement with the next friend.

    I should have talked to her about this before now.  I know this.  But I told myself that my feelings were my problem; my friend wasn't responsible for them.  No, it's not good for me or my relationship with my friend, and it's not good for me.  But old habits die hard.

    Then, the blow-off.  I tried three different methods of getting in touch with my friend to make sure she was OK after the car accident.  I tried to be clear that my only need was to know she was OK.  There was no response until 5 days later.

    Now, I'm feeling worse than just unimportant.  I feel like I don't really matter to her at all.  She has other friends, right?  A lot of other friends.  She's one of my closest friends here in California, but maybe I rank toward the bottom of her own list.

    I clearly need to tell her how I feel, but I'm not sure how to do it without getting triggered.  Without triggering her for that matter.  She's told me before that she feels like she's "never enough" for a lot of the people she's close to.  Possibly this is because she has a lot of friends and overcommits to spend time with them.  As for me, I feel like I'm "never enough" to a lot of people.  I probably need to put myself out there more.

    My problem is that I'm not someone who attaches easily to other people.  I have friendships, of course, but not a lot of deep ones.  I feel like there aren't too many people who really get me.  Maybe this is why when I attach pretty deeply when I do attach,.  The upside of this is I'm still close to a few of my best friends from high school, middle school, even elementary school (the downside is that most of these folks live in out of state).

    I feel like most people don't attach the way I do.  My closest friends from college?  I was deeply attached to them, but they drifted away one by one, in spite of our promises to keep our friendships alive.  Close friends from my grad school programs?  Same deal -- and unlike my friends from college, who are scattered all over the country, most of my classmates live within a twenty mile radius.  The friends I still have from grad school were in other programs, but two of them -- the two closest -- have left the state.  Of course, they promised that they'd call and email and skype.  And of course, in spite of these promises, these things never quite happen.

    Why do people do that?  Everyone knows that the chances aren't in favor of sustaining a long-distance friendship.  Why can't we just be honest about that up front?

    For that matter, what the hell is the deal with people who say they want to make plans, and then don't?  Or they say that they'll call or write.  Or they ask me to call them and don't call back.  If you don't fucking want to make plans, don't fucking tell me you want to make plans.  Jebus, people!

    I even had a friend who had once been close enough that I brought this up with her.  We'd run into each other at an alumni event and she asked me to have dinner with her (and since she'd blown me off so many times I was surprised by this).  We had a nice conversation at dinner, and then there came the inevitable "We should hang out some time!  Call me!".  And I said, "If I do, will you call me back?".  She looked shocked.  "What do you mean, will I call you back?"

    I explained that every time she asked me to get in touch, she didn't respond.  For that matter, she never initiated contact.  She had no idea she was doing this, and promised that if I called or texted she'd get back to me.  We'd make plans!

    We didn't make plans.  I didn't try to contact her again.  And I won't.

    But back to my current situation.  How do I have this discussion with my friend?  Part of me wants to take the initiative, but part of me feels that if I tried to contact her three times and she blew me off, maybe I should give her a chance to contact me.  Or maybe I'll give it a few days, or at least until I'm not feeling as pissy about the whole thing.

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    When Friendship Sucks

    There's a good friend of mine who's visiting from Boston right now.  She grew up in the Bay Area and has a lot of friends here, so it can be hard to schedule time with her.  Which sucks, because I kind of feel like I get a certain time slot, and at the end of it, Our Time Is Up -- she has to run off to meet someone else.  We can't just chill.

    I try to be understanding about this.  I'm not the only one who wants to spend time with her, and I'm hardly the only person she needs to see.  It still hurts a lot, but I've been telling myself that my hurt feelings are my own shit, and I shouldn't put them on my friend by trying to have a dialogue about it.  (And yes, I do realize that this is a bad idea for my relationship with my friend.  But old habits die hard).

    Then, last week, she went and blew me off.  It was regarding a fairly serious matter -- basically, she'd been in a car accident on her way to meet me somewhere, and wouldn't be able to make it.  She said she was OK, that she shock was wearing off, but the "pain was setting in".  That, of course, got me fretting.

    So I tried to check in with her.  I emailed her.  I called and left her a voice mail.  I expressed my concern for her, offered what support I could, and asked her to let me know how she was doing.  No response.  Two days later I tried to check in again.  No response, again.

    By this point I was pretty anxious.  Busy my friend may be, but blowing someone off is not really in her character.  That, of course, argued for her being hurt.  On the other hand, if she were hurt, a mutual friend who also knows her family would have learned about it, and that friend would have told me.  What the hell was going on?

    I didn't get a response until five days after the day of the accident.  On New Year's Eve she sent me a text wishing me a Happy New Year and promising we'd talk soon.  And now I'm pissed.

    So, yeah.  We'll talk all right.

    I'm trying to keep in mind that my friend is an emotionally intelligent person who has the capacity to make room for my feelings.  But it's not easy.  I have very little experience with people who can do that, and I've lost a major friendship with a person who would or couldn't respect some very important boundaries.  In essence, I've never dealt with a serious emotional conflict in a friendship that has gone well.

    Now I have something else to be anxious about.