A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Friday, August 19, 2016

Perhaps you’ve noticed…

This year, I haven’t blogged as much as I used to. I’d like to blog once or twice a week, but lately I’ve struggled to write once or twice a month. It’s been a rough year for fatigue. I’ve just done too much with the energy I have.

Some of this has been under my control. For three quarters, I took a weekly writing class on Tuesday nights from 6:30-9:30 pm (way past my bedtime). Last fall quarter at the School of Social Work, I didn’t have to take a class, but I did extra hours for my practicum as I tried to figure out how to make the practicum a meaningful learning experience.

The extra hours knocked the wind out of me, so I wanted to move my winter quarter course from 2016 to 2017, but the woman who holds the purse strings at Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), the organization that was funding my social work schooling, required me to take the course in order to continue their funding. I’m not a typical student for that organization, which seems to work a lot with people who’ve lost jobs because of drug and alcohol addiction. Their mission is to help people who’ve been out of work go back to work, so it seemed to me (and many others, including an executive at a different DVR and my first counselor) that I was a natural fit for the organization.

However, when my original counselor left, getting support became much harder. Several leaders in the community who have worked with DVR, including the DVR executive I talked with, cautioned me that services can be very different depending on the counselor assigned to my case. After my first counselor left, it seemed clear to me that the person overseeing my case didn’t understand fatigue nor have much interest in supporting someone like me. I suspect she thought I was getting away with something. After hours of paperwork this spring—paperwork that became necessary only after my original counselor left—the department decided not to fund me. I learned this too late to apply for scholarships, but serendipitously, the School of Social Work awarded me a scholarship that I hadn’t applied for, so finances will be fine.

However, it will take me a while to recoup my energy. I just hope I will. In October I’ll begin my final course and practicum credits, and in December I should graduate. People are starting to ask me what I’ll do after I graduate. For starters, I’ll rest. Then I hope to get back to revising my first memoir and to supporting elders and others who are experiencing life-changes due to health and trauma.

I had anticipated that my energy would revive this summer. After all, I haven’t needed to take a summer class, so I’ve just been doing my practicum, which I did all year long in addition to taking classes. I thought I would return to more regular writing. Unfortunately, it’s been hard to even complete practicum hours as my fatigue has persisted and even worsened for a couple of months.

In addition to my fatigue being worse, I’ve struggled more with maintaining a train of thought in discussions and have struggled with other aspects of short term memory. My balance also worsened, so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor, who was of course on vacation for two weeks.

When I finally saw my doctor, I was already doing better. I suspect menopause is to blame. For the two months of memory struggles and awful fatigue, I didn’t have my period, and I returned to my post brain tumor normal after I had a period. When I saw my doctor, she agreed: “Yes, that sounds like menopause.”

I have been having night sweats and hot flashes for eight years, but I haven’t written about menopause before. After all, I was raised a socially-appropriate Southern girl, and I’ve been pretty sure that Southern girls don’t talk about such things.

I remember the first time I really heard about menopause, when I was in my twenties and I was in my first teaching job. My colleagues were at least two decades older than I was, and as I walked across campus with three women, they talked about menopause. I remember one saying, “We’re scaring Mary to death.” I was actually just amazed to hear about it.

The first time I heard about menopause in mixed company was when Joan, who was the assistant principal at a school where I was starting a new job, used “menopause” to model a vocabulary-teaching method. At the beginning of her presentation, Joan said that someone had commented on her evaluations the previous year that she should not talk about menopause. “I am,” she said. As part of the method, you said three people who were associated with the word and three who were not. Oprah Winfrey was. Donald Rumsfeld was not. I laughed hard at her hutzpah.

Around the same time, Ann and I went with our friends Ellen and Karen to see Menopause the Musical. Everyone in the audience was older than I was, most of them (including Ann and our friends) with white or grey hair. In an audience of 200 people, only seven were men, each of them with a white-haired lady. The audience whooped it up as women on stage fanned and sweated and flushed the toilet a lot of times. The others in the audience saw their past, but I saw my future. I did not laugh. At the end, audience members joined those on stage for an old-lady dance. I did not dance either. I just felt sick.

Now I’ve had two brain tumors, the swine flu, pneumonia, Shingles (twice), and a car accident where the roof of my car had to be cut off in order to get me out. I think I’ve had enough. I’m hoping from here on out, things will be easy-peasy.

They probably won’t be.