More paranoia

I’m running a low-grade fever, around 100F. I don’t know if maybe it’s an early Covid symptom and I caught it a week ago when we were moving Dylan into the dorms.

I had another day away from the news, which was good, but I’m realizing that all social media might be bad for me, too.

I can’t seem to escape the awareness that at least half the population doesn’t care enough about me to try to protect my health and my husband’s health.

I also have been dwelling a lot about where to live when my husband’s gone, which is pointless because I don’t know when that will be, where my kids will be, etc.

But I’m increasingly feeling like I don’t want Texas to be my future. I just don’t know what would be better instead.

I’m trying to force my brain to slow down, to stay in the present moment, instead of worrying about the future. But that’s really hard to do, both because the future is uncertain and also the present is pretty scary, too.

Vampire Weekend put this feeling really well: I don’t wanna live like this but I don’t wanna die.

It’s just trying to put one foot in front of the other for now. I can’t see the future—nor can I see even wanting to be alive without J. But I guess at some point, I’ll have to find my reason. It’s really hard not to just give up on myself now, proactively.

Things that aren’t helping

Namely, pretty much nothing is helping me right now. I’ve been having an extended panic attack since yesterday. I feel almost like I did when I was trying to quit Abilify only now there’s no known cause.

My husband advised me to stop watching the news, like I normally do every night. I am sure that the news isn’t helping me in any way, so I didn’t watch it last night. The only thing is that I still didn’t feel any better.

I’m still afraid of so many things right now. Chief among them is my husband’s health, of course. It doesn’t help that he’s on a chemo cycle this weekend, as that always makes me feel worse.

I genuinely don’t know if I “know” something bad is on the near horizon or if my panic is just running away from me. But either way, I do feel like something bad is coming soon.

I don’t know where this feeling is coming from or if it has any basis in reality. All I know is that I feel like nothing is ever going to be good again, even though I can rationally understand that that’s not true.

This is probably the closest I’ve ever felt to needing to be hospitalized for my mental health. But I’m holding on by the skin of my teeth because I know that hospitalization wouldn’t help me and would probably make things much worse.

I just have to really hope and pray that this feeling passes soon and keep faking that I’m okay until it’s actually true.

My son and my diagnoses

They’re actually two separate issues…well, sort of.

My day started out with a bang yesterday. I was contemplating going back to sleep but then I got a call from my son’s girlfriend’s guardian. They had gone down to take him some supplies and my son wasn’t doing well.

He was nauseous and lightheaded, much as he was on the day we moved him into the dorm. His girlfriend’s guardian asked what I thought we should do for him, which was really hard to say because I wasn’t there.

I advised him to drink more water and get out of the heat for a while. He got on the phone and told me he’d had a cup of coffee and someone had given him a free Red Bull. I figured that it was probably a combination of heat, too much caffeine, and stress. (Plus he’d only ever tried Red Bull once before, and I can say that they also make me feel lightheaded and nauseous, even though I’m normally fine with caffeine.)

It all ended up working out okay in the end and he and his girlfriend got to go to a concert they were having on campus. So I guess all’s well that ends well.

But it also makes me feel like I wonder if he’ll be able to stick it out away at school. I certainly hope so. He has so many opportunities and so much potential. Yet I also know that he feels a lot of pressure and he deals with more depression and anxiety than he likes to let on. I just suddenly feel like his fate is still something to worry about.

So I also found out my official mental health diagnoses since seeing the psychiatrist at UTSW: major depressive disorder, recurring, moderate; generalized anxiety disorder; and panic disorder, not agoraphobic.

To which I say, duh.

I’m clearly not doing well right now and I don’t think my antidepressant is helping. But I’ve tried so many other antidepressants that didn’t help, either. Literally the only thing that ever helped me was Abilify and that ended up being so toxic for me. (Thankfully, I was able to get off of it finally, though.)

I gave $20 to another person’s GoFundMe campaign last night, even though I suddenly feel panicked about not having more in savings. And we need about $1000 worth of car maintenance in the next month, which my husband doesn’t want to put on credit, so that’s going to deplete our savings even further.

I’ve cut way back on my personal spending but the last couple of months have been expensive. Between getting everything my son needed for college, buying about $300 worth of things for my daughter’s new apartment, and getting our dryer vents cleaned out (which ended up costing double what I thought it would), I’m just feeling very, very tapped out. And that makes me feel vulnerable.

Suddenly I realize that I really need to be saving up as much money as possible or I’m going to end up like the women whose GoFundMe accounts I donate to. And there’s no guarantee anyone would ever start a GoFundMe account for me when I lose my husband—and certainly not one of the ones that raise tens of thousands.

Add all this to the fact that he’s on chemo this weekend and things are just feeling extra bleak. I’m really not surprised that I have a diagnosed case of both generalized anxiety and panic disorder.

I just have to figure out how to be more okay at a time when almost nothing actually feels okay.

Dispatch from the dumpster fire

Well, I see that the world is still a dumpster fire. I don’t think I ever expected it to get better, really, but it actually feels like it’s getting worse.

I don’t know anymore how to carry on like everything is normal when it so obviously is not.

Other people seem to be fine with playing pretend. Or maybe they just don’t have as much at stake, particularly with regard to the virus.

To be honest, I really envy the ability to act like everything is normal and will be fine. But that’s never been my strong suit. I don’t have a very powerful imagination and am terrible at trying to immerse myself in a fantasy world.

I do try to find small joys in most days, which I guess is something. But overall, I just live kind of in the shadow of doom.

If I had known that the world would become this much of a dumpster fire, would I have had children? Sadly, I think I still would have because on some very big level, I always expected something like this.

Well, definitely not my husband’s cancer—that totally blindsided me—but yes to all the upheaval and the negative effects of late-stage capitalism.

I guess I have contributed in some small way by raising kids who are very aware of the world and really want to make it better. And I certainly hope that they can and they will. They are so kind and empathetic, which the world desperately needs.

But I also feel profoundly bad about the world they’re inheriting and even worse that they are going to have to lose their father at a young age.

In the meantime, I really feel like I should be doing more but for some reason, I can’t. Dylan moving out has really thrown me for a loop, even though he has such a great opportunity to make it and to become really successful. He wants to study engineering to create improvements for the quality of life for people with cancer. I think he might just be able to do it.

I guess he’s making his life’s mission inspired by what my husband is going through. Why can’t I do the same? Right now, I just feel paralyzed by everything.

Blah

I have nothing of interest to write about today, just lots of worries preoccupying my mind.

I have significantly overspent, between trying to get Dyl set up for college, trying to get a few small things for Amy’s apartment (which still added up to hundreds), and paying to have our dryer vents cleaned (which ended up costing double what I thought it would because the dryer vent is blocked in the attic.)

On top of all that, we have about $1000 in regular maintenance that needs to be done on the cars and my husband thinks we should pay for that in cash, rather than putting it on a credit card. While I understand his logic, doing so will substantially drain our savings. That savings is my lifeline if shit hits the fan, which it always feels like it will.

I’m trying to build up our savings and buying less but it feels like it’s taking a very long time to see any progress. (Of course it does, what with two of my kids moving out at once.)

I got an email from Dylan’s college today, which says that if he gets exposed to Covid, he’ll have to quarantine at home. J mentioned going to a hotel if that’s the case but 10 days of quarantine in a hotel is another $1000 which he probably wouldn’t put on a credit card either.

To be honest, I expect that it’s only a matter of time until that happens, and I feel like I’m sitting on a walking time bomb.

Not surprisingly, I still don’t have any motivation to write anything. I know I should try to ramp up my freelance work but I’m just so low on spoons.

I feel like I need at least a day or more to try to sleep and catch up from all that I’ve been through lately. But I’m just not getting that chance.

I wonder if I’ll ever feel creative again, like I did even two months ago. Right now, it feels like just surviving is a full-time job in itself.

Adjusting…and thinking about the future

We’re slowly getting used to life without Dylan here, although it still feels weird and empty.

On the bright side, I told Adam that I really miss getting hugs since Dyl moved out, and they have been really good about giving me more hugs. Maybe we’ll come through this time closer together.

I remember that as recently as 7 years ago, Adam used to do things like calling me back into his room and saying that they didn’t want anything, they just wanted to say that they loved me. Maybe that level of closeness isn’t possible again but maybe we can find something new.

In general, I’m kind of in a funk, though, which I guess is to be expected.

I found out today that the 25-year-old Army veteran son of a classmate of mine died of Covid. He wasn’t vaccinated, of course—they thought that surely because he was so young and healthy, he wasn’t at risk.

To be honest, I got to thinking again about whether I’d want to leave the country after I lose J. On the one hand, I see that as being very lonely, even lonelier than I’ll be already. And I don’t think I would like being without my suburban conveniences.

But on the other hand, I don’t have much hope for the U.S. in the coming decades. I don’t know if we’ll gradually slide into an even more politicized environment or if the roughly 35 percent of the people who want authoritarianism will win. If either of those things happen, I don’t see myself wanting to stay here.

Sometimes—and I know this sounds horrible because he’s trying so hard to stay here— I almost envy the fact that J won’t be around to see everything go to shit here.

But of course, if he were around, it would be a lot easier to get through the shitty parts of the future. Kind of a Catch 22.

I don’t know if my best shot to make it is just to move to a different country when he’s gone. But where will my kids be? I don’t want to leave them.

Maybe the best I can hope for is that one of them will want to move somewhere that’s good for me, too.

All I know is that right now, I feel kind of lost and adrift. I wish I could think of something profitable to do with my time but for now I’m just stuck.

What now?

Dylan’s away at college. I was in touch with him twice yesterday, so it doesn’t feel like we’re losing our connection yet. He’s having a bit of a rough time because his roommate isn’t there yet and most of the activities he goes to on campus have kids who already know each other.

I’m trying to bolster his spirits, reminding him that most of the people who already know each other are probably from older classes and that there are probably a lot of other freshmen in the same boat as him.

I’m reminding him that he’ll meet a lot more people once classes start and am encouraging him to stretch outside of his comfort zone and join some clubs. He says he’s already found a few that look promising. I’m reminding him that people will like him. (As a family of introverts, that’s always a big concern.)

I think I’m saying and doing the right things to help him. But I feel so lost and unfocused myself.

Adam is likely going to start a training program next month for medical assisting. I think it will be a good fit for what she wants to do.

And then Amy moves out in about three weeks.

I went from thinking all my kids were going to be home forever to suddenly realizing they’re all getting ready to be on their own at once. And it’s more than a little weird. There wasn’t anything gradual about this, which I think just compounds the feeling of overwhelm that I’m getting.

What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Should I try to get my master’s degree and become a therapist? I don’t even know if I could handle the course work anymore.

Should I try to ramp up my writing career? Should I finally start my business?

Right now, it’s all I can do to get out of bed. I don’t feel like I have enough “spoons” to pursue anything greater.

I can’t let my lack of spoons determine my whole future. I still have so much that I want to do with my life. But at the same time, I also feel like the past few years have really taken a toll on me and I’ve never let myself grieve for the life I thought I would have when all my kids were doing their own things.

I can’t really let myself grieve that for too long, though, because in the meantime, this is what my life really is. I have to find something to give my life meaning now because I’ve spent the past 23 years living for my kids. Now I’m free but with lots of limitations. What will be next for me?

Day one

My husband and I took our youngest to A&M yesterday to move in.

It was absolutely grueling for all of us. Dylan got heat exhaustion. I worried a lot about J. We had to park practically as far away from the dorm as humanly possible and it was super unbearably hot.

But we got him there and got him all moved in. We also took him to a grocery store and bought some food for him.

I think he’s having a tough time tonight for a variety of reasons. For one thing, his roommate won’t be arriving until Saturday because he has Covid. (It was a breakthrough case since he was vaccinated.) To be honest, I’m really hoping my husband and I weren’t exposed today too.

I know Dylan’s a bit lonely and it was a very emotional day. I really, really hope he makes some friends or at least finds friendly people before his roommate arrives.

I also know he’s really feeling a lot of pressure, not least of which is because the program he’s in is very, very competitive. Their engineering program is ranked #11 in the country, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few (million) times.

On the drive there, after he got out his initial (understandable) crying about leaving home, he also talked a lot about his worries. Like that his cat will die while he’s gone.

And more importantly, his worry that my husband will die before he graduates. He even asked me if I thought he should go to community college instead and live at home because he doesn’t want to be far away if my husband only has a few years left.

And man, I really can’t imagine the kind of pressure he’s feeling. I can’t imagine being just 18 and feeling like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

It’s tough because he got accepted to this program and got full grants for his first year and he also has a semester of credits knocked out of the way already due to all his AP credits. The time really is right for him to go for this…but I can also see how in many ways, it seems like it’s not.

He wants to make a career doing things to help people with cancer—or at least to make their lives better.

But he’s also mindful of the fact that I might not be okay when my husband passes.

I just feel so sad for him, carrying all this weight on his shoulders.

And honestly, I also miss him already. I’m sure things will look brighter once we’ve all had some sleep and he explores the campus more. But it just suddenly strikes me as so cosmically unfair that he has to make these decisions now.

I hope my husband will live long enough to see him graduate and his cat won’t die while he’s away at school. I wish that many minor miracles for him.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, my husband and I will take our youngest to the dorms at A&M.

Today has had such a somber air over all of it. He came in to my office twice, just to spend time with me. It was actually kinda funny because it was clear that neither one of us had much to say but we wanted to be together.

Earlier last night, Amy’s boyfriend ordered pizza for all of us from our favorite locally-owned shop, as kind of a last meal for Dylan. Afterwards, we all sat around talking for about an hour, mostly about the cats.

We talked about the cat that shares a room with Dylan and about some of her wild exploits when she was younger. That got us to talking more about our old house in Michigan, and I felt moments of shame in remembering how bad its condition was.

I know Dylan’s really worried that his cat will die while he’s away at school. To be honest, I’m worried about that, too. She’s already 16 years old and has part ragdoll genes, which isn’t generally the longest-lived cat breed. Her litter-mate Cammy only lived 12 years, though he was much more typical of ragdoll cats in traits and appearance.

Dyl told me that he wondered if he should have taken a gap year just to enjoy himself, rather than going straight into pursuing a real career.

On the one hand, I can see why he wonders that. Both Amy and Adam have done that and the total freedom probably looks very enviable. But on the other hand, neither Amy nor Adam have really found their way yet, either. Neither one of them is on any kind of traditional career path yet.

Dyl has so many opportunities that Amy and Adam never had, mainly because he worked really hard for them. And some things he got—like grants paying his full tuition this year—might not still be there if he took a gap year.

His college roommate came down with Covid (I don’t know if he was vaccinated or not) so it will be just Dyl alone this week. But he has a math placement exam that a lot is riding on that he needs to study for.

And the university has all kinds of activities planned for this week (before classes begin) and Dyl is going to push beyond his comfort zone and go to a lot of them.

I also found out about an internship for next summer through Johnson & Johnson—it pays $21 an hour for college sophomores with increased amounts by grade level attained. But one of the qualifying characteristics they’re seeking is a student that is involved with community service.

His background in that was very skimpy in high school and he knows he has to do more of that in college. I really hope he knows that the fact that he doesn’t have to work while in college is very rare among our family and that he’ll take advantage of the extra time to make himself competitive for these good jobs and internships.

His future really is wide open and I’m interested to see what he makes of himself. I just hope everything works out well for him. I’m so nervous—he’s the one of us who has the best shot at making it.

The world is a dumpster fire

I guess the subject line pretty much says it all so okay, goodbye.

Nah, I guess I have more to say.

My youngest leaves for college in two days. I’m not ready for it. I’m not ready for him to be gone. And then my oldest moves out in a little over three weeks. My house is going to be so quiet and empty. Lonely. Not at all what I once pictured having an almost empty nest to be like.

My husband contacted his oncologist about the pain keeping him from sleeping. He thought he might get Lyrica or Neurontin but instead he got Norco, enough for two a day.

I have my own opinions about Norco (namely, that it’s almost worthless) but it is allowing him to sleep so far. He also got his booster shot of the Covid vaccine yesterday and is sleeping through the reaction so far, though who knows how he’ll be doing tomorrow.

I also think about the fact that he got prescribed a pretty sizable amount of Norco and that reminds me of what he’s really dealing with. And I’m not going to lie; that scares me a lot.

Everything else in the world feels like one giant dumpster fire right now. Afghanistan. The Delta variant of Covid. Wildfires and heat waves on the west coast.

Then, on top of all that, I have two of my kids moving out and a husband who’s terminally ill.

No, I still can’t write anything for Medium. Frankly, it’s hard enough just to keep my shit together right now.