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Friday, November 5, 2010

Reality Bites right now

I've been really frustrated by my limitations lately.

In general, I think I look pretty good, and that's what people have been telling me. All of my doctors think I'm doing really well. I'm in better physical condition than I have been in years.

Like a lot of survivors of any sort, I think I've reprioritized a lot in my life. It's not unusual for people who have survived car accidents, severe illnesses, house fires, the death of a loved one, or any number of traumatic incidents to "reprioritze" their lives. Or at least that is what I'm claiming.

In reality, though, it's easy to alter certain aspects of my life when I can't focus on more than one thing at a time, can't remember a lot of what I "need" to do, can't keep track of time, can't stay up late, can't multi-task, can't reason clearly, can't read anything intellectually challenging....Basically when I can't be who I used to be, that makes it really easy for me to "take time" for exercise. When I'm doing that, I don't think about what else I should be doing. It's the only time I feel focused.

Indeed, it is the only time I'm focused.

I do believe the longest, most severe lingering effect of cancer treatment has been to leave me with a raging, full blown case of adult attention deficit disorder.

I might even go so far as to use the adjective "debilitating."

I'm barely holding it together teaching this semester. Not only does it take me hours to accomplish the most basic of tasks, such as preparing lessons or evaluating essays, but I frequently forget to do what needs to be done. I've missed important deadlines, for instance the deadline for submitting my Family Medical Leave paperwork for the time I'll need to take off this semester. I can barely manage to plan meals and get groceries (OK, I'm incapable of doing this and we rarely have well rounded meals). I'm always forgetting something I need to do for work, such as grade papers or upload an assignment sheet, or even develop an assignment sheet. I've had huge chunks of missing information in assignments, and I've even managed to consistently forget to assign students basic work. Um, yes. I totally omitted teaching about transitional devices to my weak, first year writers. I'll cram that in next week.

I feel like I have the attention of a gold fish. Heck, since I have HUGE memory deficits, each day is like a new trip around the fish bowl.

When I add this to my vastly decreased processing speed, I've come to realize I'm vastly different than I was before.

In the last week or so, especially as I've been getting more and more frustrated while working with students--frustrations arising because I just can't help them troubleshoot the way I used to and I find myself getting confused while working with them--I realize that I'm not coping with these new realizations very well. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm tired of struggling to cope all the damn time. It's exhausting. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm no longer eating as well as I should be, for no reason other than I've simply stopped exerting the energy needed to plan food. For the first half of the semester, I was planning my (very simple) lunches in advance. Now, I'm just not. Partly, I'm not coping because I'm just not coping. I'm tired of coping.

And I have to admit, that tube of Pringles I just ate were damn good, even though I feel like crap right now.

Perhaps, along with ADHD, a lower IQ, and mental processing deficits, I'm depressed. Probably. I'll think about that. Later. If I remember. After I remember to go to my office and pick up the 60 essays dropped off there earlier today, which I'd forgotten about until just now. At 10:20 p.m. Hopefully, I'll remember to (a) exercise tomorrow morning, (b) pick up those papers, (c) grade them, (d) and to take Tynan to a movie tomorrow. If I'm lucky, I'll remember (e) that I even wrote this entry. Seriously, that's how bad it has gotten.


Dorinda said...

Dear Dear Dawn,
I'm so sorry this is a struggle. I'm sure it will get better as your body continues to heal. I can partly relate to what you are saying. After my head injury about 13-14 years ago, I was were you are with my memory. It was horrible and I was always afraid I'd forget to pick up the kids from school, or that we'd even eat. It would be late at night and we'd still not eaten. I'd find 5 glasses of water around the house which were mine, but I'd forgotten that I'd poured them and went and poured another one. It would take me an hour to choose a birthday card at the store. I would forget or really not remember...It was horrible and debilitating for a woman who could multitask ten things and do it well. I had to find ways to remind myself of things. One was to post notes for myself for later in places that I knew I would go....the frig...the bathroom. I know it sounds crazy, but even now I must set the vitamins out to remember to take them. The situation has gotten much better, but I still struggle with not being the Dorinda I once was...I miss her desprately I try to remember how to spell desprately...The old Dorinda could have remembered...Alas...I am not the same person I was, but I am still lovely, kind, considerate, a good teacher, a good friend, not as in shape as, and well you are too...amazingly lovely you are Dawn...this will get better...You need a Maude Meicum...(damn...that word...for exterior brain helper...) Talk to me...I'm just sending you a huge hug and much love...Dorinda

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn, Maybe it's also that, after being away from teaching, it's suddenly full-on again. That in itself must be enough to get to grips with. I hope that everyone around you isn't assuming that just because you're back at work, everything is going to go back to how it was before, because you were doing Herculean things before!! Please remember that you are not obliged to wear yourself out for other people--yeah, do a good job, of course, but remember that your well-being has to come first. I know--I work full-time, too, and have a family full-time, too, and it is SO easy to do all the things that students, colleagues,and bosses are asking one to do, and even for someone who hasn't just been through what you've been through, these demands are too much! The priority has to be you and your health and your exercise--this is the 'new you'! Lisa

Abs said...

I can totally relate to this. My memory issues aren't quite so challenging, but I can completely understand being tired of coping. It doesn't seem like it should be that exhausting, but it is. I have a hard time focusing sometimes, and have even more times where I just don't feel like doing anything at all, let alone anything I am supposed to do or something I used to enjoy. I can relate to the above commenter who said she misses her former self. Sometimes I feel like I can't even remember what I liked or why I liked it.
I got myself diagnosed with mild depression, and now I'm trying to do something about it. I am doing a little bit better, and am enjoying some things a bit more. I know it's going to be a long haul, but I am glad I decided to take some action. I think it was the kindest thing I could have done for myself.

Anonymous said...

If misery loves company, maybe this will make you feel better.......or maybe not. I'm finding that 15 months post-chemo (I blame everything on chemo, but chemo/radiation/meds, whatever..) and I still can't focus. I spent 8 hours at school today, with no students, just trying to do basic stuff that probably should only have taken 2 hours to do. I start one thing, stop and start another thing, and then realize the error, and get so mad at myself I've begun chastizing myself out loud. Sometimes it takes so long to get a sentence out. I've misplaced really important things, and make myself crazy searching for them.....then wonder how much I can trust myself with valuables. Sometimes I just feel like my reality is just about to shatter into a million pieces...but it never quite instead I just walk "imaginary" eggshells.

dawn said...

Lisa, thanks for the encouragment. Dorinda, Abs, and Kaylynn---I'm glad to know I'm not alone. It is very hard to stay on top of things and be compassionate when I feel like I'm barely holding on to my own life each day. I've missed very important deadlines, to the point that it totally slips my mind to do my part at getting my kid's college applications ready. Dorinda, spelling--which was never my forte--eludes me. Words elude me. And, Abs, you are so right. Coping is exhausting. I rarely want to do anything. And because of that, one of my children is totally miserable. He has no friends or at least they never invite him to do things any more and I can't plan ahead enough to help him make arrangements. I can't manage groceries, so someone is always hungry. I mean, I can manage meals, for the most part, when I'm home before, during, and after meal times. But if I'm not here or not hungry, if my appitite is off, it just doesn't occur to me to fix a meal. Regardless, there's never stuff for eating at other times around, and oddly, I seem stumped on that. What did I used to have around for eating between meals? Apples and bananas. But that doesn't do growing boys well when they've already missed a meal.

Now, I feel like I'm just whining.

Anyway, here's what is really annoying: I just can't remember to do anything or if I do remember to do it, I don't motivate to do it. For instance, I need to declutter and clean house. Initially, my plan was to do it when I got home today, at least start it. Um...all I could do was collapse when we got home and then it was dark and in my mind, the day was over. Even though it was only 5:00. Now, I'm in a panic. I graded no essays, cleaned no house, etc. Somehow, that all has to be done tomorrow, after I work out, if I remember to go work out when I wake up. And nothing I seem to do changes this cycle.

Anonymous said...

Dawn, After your comment on my fb post I went back to your page and followed the link here. I was startled by the details of this post. I'm teaching a new class at a new school this quarter, part-time no less, and have been having all these cognitive and behavioral issues. I've been working with all kinds of med issues related to my lifelong anxiety and depression (and they relate to an illness I suffered last year as well). This new ADD diagnosis is so helpful to me, as is this post and the link you provided.

Dawn, I didn't know you've been dealing with breast cancer, and I'm so sorry. Be as good to yourself as you can, even in very tiny bits at a time. Forgiveness here, chocolate there, pet the dog with full mindfulness...little bits, little gratitudes, they add up.

Much love,