Archive for September, 2010

Music, music, music

I’ve always known that music has a profound effect on me (one good reason I received my undergrad degree in music), but just this weekend I realized it goes much deeper than I had ever thought previously. I first noticed how much music was tied in my memories when I was 12 years old. I had gone to Seattle with my mother and younger brother to visit family and on the return home we missed a connection and had to spend 6 (I think?) hours in the Denver airport. I had not planned on spending nearly that amount of time anywhere so I only had one CD–Closer, by Josh Groban –and I listened to it over….and over….and over….and over…and over… Upon returning home I discovered that when I listened to that CD I could see, hear, and smell the Denver airport.

Of course, it fascinated me and being the little scientist I was I set to create my own musical memories. I made a CD of quiet, relaxing pieces (a bunch of obscure classical stuff) and listened to it every night in bed. Eventually I would be asleep before I could hear the entirety of one piece. It was great–in hotel rooms, on long bus rides, and pretty much anywhere else I desired, I could fall asleep despite being out of my normal environment. It sort of fell by the wayside and that was the only time I ever actively attempted to create sound memories, but I do keep it in mind and have been considering a study mix (the one problem is with all the eating issues I have a lot of difficulty ever having good concentration, which would make it really hard to condition my response to the music). However, just because I haven’t actively conditioned my brain doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been passively occurring.

There were a couple things that brought this to the forefront of my thoughts this weekend. First, I was listening to Lake Street Dive and spent the hour-long drive home missing him and crying. Second, I was thinking of other pieces and began to realize just how vivid they were. I have never had vivid memories of anything…in fact my memory tends to be lacking most of the time, but give me one of these pieces and I can recall precisely where I was sitting, with whom, what the weather was like, what I smelled, what I felt, and a myriad of other things. Astounding.

So, here is my list of the pieces I can think of right now that trigger memories:

the Moldau–central campus during dead week of spring semester my freshman year. I am lying on my back with my head on my backpack (the red eddie bauer one), listening to pieces on my green ipod nano. The sun is shining, I can smell the grass, I am wearing sunglasses (black with white dots), I can hear other students playing ultimate frisbee and slacklining, the campanile rings.

Project–the National Flute Convention in Kansas City, 2008. A room full of flutists learning to beat-box on their flutes. My flute studio friends. 2009–listening to them in the recital hall, the I– Flute Festival. Sitting in the basement music education room at music hall, learning to beat-box with the rest of the studio, and Greg Patillo randomly making up a beat-box version of the Dvorak flute solo.

Scheherazade–in orchestra, R. Lin conducting.

A slew of piano solos, flute solos, orchestra pieces–I can see the orchestra, the director, the second flutist, the first oboe, my teacher’s office, the room the piano is in, an important performance, the written music, my hands on the keyboard. I can hear a teacher’s voice, recall the nit-picky details I struggled with on each particular piece, feel the air in my mouth, my fingers hit the keys, my feet work the pedals, the excitement rising in my chest as I near a huge orchestral excerpt.

Lake Street Dive–sitting at the jazz festival with my boyfriend. He is on  my right, we are sitting in canvas camp chairs. I can remember the angle to the stage, the chill in the air (a huge thunderstorm had just gone through).

Ride of the Valkyries–music history in the choir room, the wooden risers, hideous colored chairs, where I sat every class period, my professor, the piano, the picture on the overhead of Brunnhilde.

I know there are so many more that would be on this list. The thing is, I don’t know about most of them until I hear it and all of a sudden I am transported to a time in the past.

back to a warm sun, a great achievement, or a soft touch

As an aside I guess I had better start planning music for weddings, childbirths, and any other important event that I might want to remember later on 😉

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So much has changed in my life recently! Or if it hasn’t changed yet, it has recently gained large potential for a near-future change.

1. I cut back my work hours at the hospital.

This was a really hard choice. One one hand I was spending 40 hours/week at work and only 10 hours (or less) on school. I was making it, but since the discovery that I really love grad school and love what I am doing, I want to get the most out of the experience and that wasn’t happening with all the work I was doing. My supervisor was really good about the decision and I am down to 24 hrs/week starting next week!

I tend to count my worth by how many hours of work I do in a given week (and I typically don’t count school work) so I equated cutting back work hours with being a failure at life. And there are always financial considerations–but the job really didn’t make a huge difference there. I already had to take out some student loans to cover tuition because I didn’t earn enough for that in addition to my living expenses. (yes, considering the job requires absolutely no degree, it pays decently, but I could get a better paying job that better utilizes my knowledge) Now the job will cover living expenses and that’s it.

And although I love my job, it is physically and emotionally demanding. Even with a healthy degree of separation from the patients (which happens to be one of my few talents), psychiatric work takes a toll on a person. Although I never take the beatings (verbal or physical) personally, one can only take so much abuse. After a while of cursing, and accusations, and manipulations, and altered perceptions, and hitting, and biting, it becomes rather difficult for me to bite my tongue and turn the other cheek. And yet, I have to. Plus, working with people who are also medically sick means I have to put forth quite a bit of physical effort and that is not ideal at this time either.

Basically some work=good for keeping a healthy balance with school. Too little work=an unhealthy obsession with school. Too much work=way too much stress.

2. I was invited for a medical school interview at the university I am currently attending.

Not much to say about that. It’s a good thing. It’s happening at the end of October.

3. I am in conversation with a research team about a different job.

With a psychiatric researcher with a lot of neat projects going on.

The initial offer was hourly (read: no benefits) so my initial desire was to just pick up some hours in addition to my hospital work. But it’s possible that it could be made into a graduate assistantship….which means it could include benefits and a tuition scholarship. I’m meeting with the research team Thursday. Stay tuned.

Oh, and at the end of the email she wrote “with your background and experience we would love to have you involved.” A compliment! It did make me rather happy.

In other news:

I have cut back on exercise. I am dealing with it moderately well, Zephyr is not. He is becoming neurotic. He has always had this obsession with lights (and I mean that in clinical, not colloquial terms). Every shadow or ray of sunlight prompts him into his “light hunting” stance and he stares at it intently and then dances around pouncing on it, wiggling his tail, and sometimes escalating into barking. Within the past week it has become unbearable. I can’t open a three-ring binder, turn a lamp on, read my book before bed, open the door to an unlit room, keep the blinds open at night, keep the blinds open during the day….and more. Last night I completely darkened my room, with the blackout curtains I use to sleep after night shifts, and he was still up until 3  dancing around on the bed chasing some invisible light on the wall. He awoke at 6:30 to start it again and is still at it 3 hours later. This means I got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. And I seriously want to strangle the dog…but I can’t, because I know it’s not his fault. It’s definitely gotten worse since he’s getting less exercise with me. So I have a few things to work on here. I need to wear him down somehow: whether it is running with him (despite the ban from my therapist), making frequent trips to the grassy space outside for tennis balls and frisbees, or going to the dog park. I need to get him some more mental stimulation–with all the work I’ve been doing this has fallen by the wayside and I will start scheduling training in our days. And we just need to deal with the anxiety issues more.

I am still freaking out about weight.

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I can’t do it

I’m so split.

Simply put, this life is hell. But it seems some part of my psyche is determined to continue it.

My therapist and I came up with a plan-a checklist of sorts-with what I need to do every day to get myself out of it. I tell her I will do it. Come up with some goal for myself. (this week she came up with the goal…x lbs).

And the whole time I’m plotting how to get away without doing it.

Hmm….she only specifically said I couldn’t run. The plan says a 15 min walk with the dog 4 days/week. Our short loop is 25 min. Close enough. And If we only run part of it it’s not really a run. And biking to work isn’t really exercise because biking’s not hard….and it’s getting me to work so it has a different ulterior motive. And my jump rope? Well, like biking, it was never specifically banned.

And a rice cake counts as a carbohydrate, a complex one at that because it’s a whole grain! And it never really says how much yogurt; I’ll continue with the 2 oz I’ve been putting on cereal.

As she finishes her spiel with “having this weight goal doesn’t give you permission to water load, wear heavy clothing, wear different shoes, or hide your weight any other way.”

And inside I’m saying “just because you don’t give me permission doesn’t mean I won’t do it” (how’s that for a load of negatives?)

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I ate two pieces of chocolate. True, I had not had lunch, or supper, or any snacks, but my mother had made me eat a bagel with peanut butter before I left their house this morning. And the bagel + the peanut butter + the chocolate was too much.

I purged.

That makes the total count 2 since moving into my condo. I didn’t want this place to have those memories. But it seems the building is less the memory than Zefir is. He watched me and sat in his customary position. He never sits that way for anything else, only when I purge. And he watches me, with his beautiful, expressive eyes, and I imagine him wondering what I am doing to myself.

And it makes me sad.

And I hate myself for what would happen to him if I become ill or (as my therapist so kindly reminds me) die.

But the feeling of fullness, and the pull of ED, makes me ignore all that and I stay there until I am empty. Clean. Pure.

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Before writing this–I love grad school. I love my public health degree. I love learning about public health, the healthcare system, and all the other stuff we talk about. Even the class I was sure would be boring and stuffy (Healthcare Organization and Policy) is fascinating. I was enthralled through an entire lecture about the history of the healthcare system. And for those who don’t know…I don’t particularly like history. In fact I rather dislike general history (I don’t dislike the concept per say, but it isn’t for me to study), I never even really enjoyed music history. But this history….this history I love.

However I am starting to see the different world graduate school resides in.

For example: the following picture shows a sampling of slides that I was expected to understand.

I am proud to say that I understand them all now. After some long stares, and lots of reading, and a couple hours of lecture, and occasionally using my fingers to keep track of different places on the diagrams.

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I suspected it would happen eventually. And it did. Two weeks ago.

I got pulled to the eating disorder unit.

I don’t even have that much to say about it. But apparently it affected me.

They were all so thin. Much thinner than I am (or so I tell myself). A couple had had seizures from electrolyte imbalances. Many were committed.

Part of my job was “Eating Disorder Observation.” All eating disorder patients are automatically required to be on “standard” observation…which means that they must spend all of their waking time in the unit dayroom (or in groups when those are occurring).  After reaching a certain behavior level they may be considered for a different observation (meals + 2 hours or meals + 1 hour). A nursing assistant is required to be in the dayroom with them at all times–to “redirect.” Basically make sure they sit down at all times (and tell them to sit if they attempt to stand, walk, stretch, etc), don’t talk about food or weight, don’t jiggle their legs, sit on prescribed cushions/recliners if they have them.

I got to be that NA for a while. Oh joy. How can I stop them from jiggling their legs when I never stop it myself? How can I force them to sit down if I can’t do it myself?

But first let me say that on my unit, although it is a psych unit we also have very medically sick people, and I spend most of my shift in constant motion. So being pulled after 4 hours of that was a cataclysmic change. I sat on a 1:1 and read my book for a while, then sat on observation. And after 10 minutes or so I found myself reading the bulletin boards, wandering the halls within eyesight of the dayroom, looking at the whiteboard, re-reading all the bulletin boards, and generally just standing/pacing the whole time. damn. So I sat back down. And 5 minutes later was back at it. Even after all the patients had gone to bed I stood while I talked with the other NAs. One even told me to “sit down, relax a bit!” Was it that obvious?

I didn’t think it affected me. And while I was working it didn’t really sink it because my head was in “work” mode. I work from my doctor brain.

And then I left work. And immediately I was analyzing all the foods in my fridge. Why do I enjoy eating greek yogurt? It has so much fat and protein. And the peanut butter and nutella in my cupboard….It doesn’t matter that I don’t touch the jars, just the fact that I have such foods is a disgrace.

And it gave me a chance to tell myself that I don’t really have a problem. I’m not thin enough to be committed. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lost x lbs in the past year. It doesn’t matter that I have an actual-active-diagnosis of anorexia. My blood labs are always fine, I won’t have a seizure. Look at me, in grad school and working a full-time job, if I were really sick I wouldn’t be able to do that.

And it made me sad. I’m so miserable. I want help but I’m too afraid to ask because I’m afraid that I’m not “sick enough” to need it and I will be rejected. And now that I work in the psych department it makes the patient/provider roles all confusing. I’ve managed them very well up until now, because in the beginning I convinced most of them that I was doing better. But yesterday I saw K—- in the cafeteria during lunch time. I was doing schoolwork and not eating. She usually will talk to me a bit, but today was a stiff hello and a sad look. She can see it–the weight loss and skipping lunch.

I’m afraid that everyone will know that I have an eating disorder. I’m afraid my competency at work will be questioned.

I’m afraid someone will force me into treatment.

I’m afraid that no one will convince me to get treatment.

I am afraid of living like this forever.

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