The State of my Sickly career

Two solid weeks of depression, caused first by the news that I'm not good enough at my job and the people in charge know it, second from the news about kitty, kept me from doing my grading. It's shameful. I also ran out of ritalin on Monday and wasn't able to fill the scrip until Saturday evening. A brilliant gafaw on my part. Can you imagine trying to grade 75 essay-type exams sans the usual 100 mg of Ritty? I couldn't, so I didn't even try.

Grading involves: first deciphering the hand-writing, 2. deciphering bad English 3. Figuring out which questions they are attempting to answer 4. looking for ways to give them points when most exams are F-worthy, 5. Attempt to not get too depressed or angry at the horrible answers demonstrating most of them didn't read/listen/study AT ALL. 6. Hold back on the swearing and yelling--remember these are blue books and they can't hear me 7. Reading the same bad answers 70x in a row 8. keeping track of my point scale, 9. Adding up the points....double checking for number errors or grading errors.... These are not tasks that the seriously attentionally challenged can do without extreme effort and fortitude. Throw in depression without meds and there was no point in even attempting it. They're due on Tuesday.
I'm glad to be done with this semester. Most of my students were lovely people. It's terrible what a few bad attitudes can do. I should have better controlled the class and prevented the attitudinal badness. But I don't know how, the things I tried didn't work. So, I've accepted that I have limits. I can't teach in hostile environments. I don't have the personality or skills required to squelch the disrespect. I didn'tt even notice the disrespect until it got so bad that a student yelled at me for not accepting his late work--a policy I explained in the syllabus.

Though I do take issue with my boss's warning that the word 'boring' needs to stop coming up in my observation reports (2 out of 5). He told me to practice bad jokes for my lectures because we are entertainers as much as we are educators. Like I'm not already enough of a clown for devoting my life to this mess, and spending 10+ years in college racking up loans I'll never be able to pay? No, I have to pander to the students. Nevermind that the observer said my presentation of the material was very clear, well done and engaging, or that I was professional, organized and prepared. That doesn't matter as much as the fact that I don't have a good report with the students. [Except I did have a good report with my later section. I thought.] Sigh. One more semester of the teaching fellowship, then, hopefully, I can go elsewhere.

This episode devastated me. It sent me into 3 days of crying alone in the dark. It affected me so much because, even though I haven't written a paper in two years, I could still be ok since I devoted all my time to teaching and thought I was good. Student evaluations said things like: I was the best teacher they had at this school, I changed their minds about the subject, etc... But I let my mood disorders disrupt my performance.

I just discovered that being professional means that you don't let your problems affect your work. D'oh! Why hadn't I known that? Well--I did spend ages 14-22 fighting daily suicidal ideations and the years since keeping myself out of the deep dark bad place--the place where one is too depressed for suicide and one believes she deserves to suffer by staying alive. That, and working on this graduate degree stuff while holding various jobs. Even so, when I learn obvious things like this, I realize how much I didn't get from my parents. And how much growing up I have missed out on by having to fight the insanity. But it scares me. I'm 29 and only learning this now? What else am I missing?

I wonder if I should begin to look at a different career path. What? I don't know. There's a dignity in knowing when to quit, right? But I don't quit. I decided in the fall, when I seriously considered dropping this whole PhD nightmare, that I'd come too far and invested too much to stop. I resolved to finish it. So I will. Afterwards, I may end up going back to administrative assistant work--I'm sure I wouldn't be the only humanities PhD doing it.

I did ask for it
All of this happened after discovering I have a rather large arrogance problem. I came to this realization while trying to analyze the causes of my student-relations issues. This disgusts me. Instead of building self-confidence as I had wanted, I gerrymandered the pretense of confidence with a shabby facade of arrogance. How does one undo such a fault? I prayed for help. I trepidly asked for humility--knowing it was dangerous; that serving a dose of humility to the proud is an ugly business. I want so much to change that I asked for it anyway. Pride cometh before the fall? Then, bring on the ugly so I can get the ugly out of my soul. Ha! The day after I said that prayer, I got the lecture from my boss. It reduced me to nothing. I got what I needed.

Next up: Tales from the Reconstruction

What? Or, the State of my Sick Kitty

Lots of folks are praying for kitty, prayer is a powerful thing.

After an entire week of getting used to the idea of losing my pet, to the point of resignation, the other vet called me Friday afternoon. I was on my way to the city in the bus, going through the tunnel, and this guy starts telling me that someone else looked at the test results. And nothing malignant showed up in her liver, just hepatitus. But they need to biopsy her swollen lymph node and she has lesions on her spleen. (why didn't they do that the first time?) How was she doing? I told him she was doing a lot better seemingly from the antibiotics. He seemed pleased and said they wanted to do more tests at no charge, and he had some more medicine for her. He'd have to find out the dose and then call it in to my pharmacy, it is supposed to help empty her gall bladder of bile. Was she still looking yellow? She isn't. Good. He then said we shouldn't traumatize her with more tests as long as she is doing better, we should wait and see how she does on the new meds and keep her on antibiotics and her diabetes stuff. ... After this long and windy conversation, I think he was trying to tell me that she might not have lymphona and she might be ok. Huh? I couldn't even process this new info.

It was a different vet who told me on Monday she definitely had cancer. But that was after this vet told me on Saturday she might not have cancer. So, two times I crashed with the grief of knowing she was dying. Now, for the second time they tell me she might not be dying. I'm so griefed out I don't even know how to respond. With caution. I should proceed as if she is dying. But she really is improving so much, it's hard not to get optimistic. She's gained weight. She is eating again and socializing now. Instead of hiding in the closet waiting to die, she sits on my lap or on her favorite chair. She's purring. She even teased the little cat by sitting in that one's favorite spot. This morning she jumped on my bed to wake me up to feed her. She hasn't done that in three weeks.

So I'm just going to enjoy her company and shower her with affection and tuna fish. I think I can lapse back into denial now, the vet has given me a decent excuse. I can enjoy her more if I'm not sad about her imminent death. What an exhausting emotional ride.

Thank you for the love and your prayers. We'll see if we get a miracle this time.


Introducing Queen Wilamina

Kitty is a fellow celibate virgin. I got her spayed before she went into heat so she has never known a Tom.

Wilamina was angry and hopped up on catnip here. She's still obese when this was taken Christmas before last. For a time, while my sister took care of her, she got so fat so no longer had a neck or chin. She looked like an egg or a weeble wobble. I think she ate so much because she missed me, and/or felt abandoned. It took 6 months for her to forgive me for leaving her behind in Georgia. I didn't know what the pet situation would be in the school apartments, so I left her temporarily with my sister in my old apartment. Pets were not allowed. But, rules were made to be broken. I took in a dying feral stray in October, one cat, two cats, it's all the same.

My sister took this one day when Mina was scared. Isn't she cute?

One of her prissier poses. She always sits or stands with her paws just so. I've never seen a cat that loved attention as much as she does. She always poses for the camera and seems to love being in pictures. Whenever I have company she comes out and stands in the middle of the room looking at everyone and waiting for admiration. Until you tell her how pretty she is, she won't move.


Everyday is Like Sunday

She has lymphoma. There's a tumor in her intestines and lesions on the spleen and liver. She lost 30% of her body weight in the last two months. Her mouth is stained yellow from bile or is jaundiced. She doesn't eat or drink. It looks like she has difficulty standing and walking. I don't have the results back from all the tests yet but typically cats live 4-6 weeks after diagnosis.

Diagnosis came last night. The vet left it on my voicemail and since I forgot to take my phone with me to work, I didn't listen to it until I got home about 9:30 pm. On Friday they told me she might have untreatable cancer. But it might just be colonitis or something. Nevermind the tangerine sized mass in her gut. Friday night I cried myself to sleep, in the arms of a friend. (Thank you!) Saturday I convinced myself she had some kind of infection that would go away. There weren't any signs of cancer in her blood. Though the vet said that sometimes an animal can be riddled with cancer without it showing up. But he said there was a chance. I brightened up and clung to this idea.
Wilamina knows better than to leave me. She wouldn't do that.

But she is dying. I've known that in my heart for months. Monday morning I took her back for more definitive tests. Now I find myself in a weird emotional limbo--feeling intense grief when I think about it, but knowing that she's still alive now. I don't want to waste the rest of her life feeling sad about her future death. And yet, I can't ignore it either. I've tried all day. So I've been depressed all day, unable to do anything productive, with spurts of crying between devouring a whole bag of nachos with a jar of processed yellow cheesefood chemical dip. In the afternoon I watched Mildred Pierce and a biography about Joan Crawford. If anyone has ever needed a real job to get her out of the house, it's me.

You might think the crazy cat lady grieves too much for an animal, but you should know what she has meant to me through the past decade. I found this online, it explains my situation:

If your life is in turmoil--if, for instance, problems are occurring in relationships or careers or family situations--your relationship with your pet may be the only stable thing in your life. No matter how bad things get everywhere else, a pet will continue to offer unconditional love and acceptance.

Even when the trying times or stressful changes are past, you may still feel an intense attachment to that pet. "I couldn't have survived without him," you might say. "He was my good luck charm." You might even fear that your life will fall apart completely without that "anchor," even if the crises that the pet anchored you through have long since resolved themselves. If they haven't been resolved, the loss of the pet can be even more traumatic, because you may then feel completely cut off from any source of love and support.

Has my life been in turmoil? LOL! Have the crises resolved themselves? I don't believe such a thing ever happens. I don't even know what stability looks like. Life has been so unstable that the poor kitty has had foster-care by 6 different people, during the times when I travelled or lived in a non-cat friendly place for a month or more. Wilamina has been the ONLY constant in my adult life: Throught six different states, 15 homes, five academic institutions, over a dozen therapists/psychiatrists, probably a dozen different medications and innumerable side effects, more than a dozen men have come and gone, 15 jobs, weight fluctuations through six dress sizes, and the never dull emotional illness which has yet to cease transforming and presenting in new and exciting ways! And then there was Mina. My fat, fiercely loyal and cunning uber-cat who was known to turn cat-haters into cat-lovers. She was quite the hussy as well. Any man I brought home, she wanted in on the action.

Her story, intertwined with mine, is an interesting one. 9 years we've travelled together. She's an extraordinary feline and has been an extraordinary pet. Even today, after spending the night in a cage, she charmed the vet and his staff. When I walked back to my apartment with her from the bus stop--about 10 minutes, she climbed the front half of herself out of the carrier so she could watch the world. She placed her paws on my arm, as if to stand, and followed the trail of birds and squirrels with her head. She got excited as we came closer to my building and strained forward like she wanted to run home. But she knew better and stayed in my arms.

To be continued. Anyone know how to upload pictures into blogger?


I'm not dead yet

I think this is the longest time I've gone without posting. It was a nice break truthfully. I didn't get my internet installed until a few days ago and I don't want to blog at the office with a computer shared by 10 people. I am sorry for the neglect.

I'm doing fine. The first week of May I spent unpacking and settling in. The second week of May I got really sick from all the pollen and my allergies which turned into a sinus infection and I had to go on antibiotics. I'm not sure they worked so I might have to go another cycle. I had planned to post something this weekend but my cat was on verge of dying. The vet told me she probably had cancer which is untreatable. But we have to wait for the results from all the expensive tests they did which I can't afford. Thank you, Visa.

Last week I also had to meet with my boss who informed me that I was only reappointed for the fall out of the goodness of his heart. He then told me all the things I'm doing wrong and what I have to do to secure my job for the spring. I didn't cry in front of him which I'm quite proud of. But I did spiral down into an ugly depression. A few days required sitting in my apartment in the dark, crying. I've gotten over it now though. Life goes on.

I love living alone. My apartment is awesome! I'll write more details of life in Jersey soon. Right now I have to make a final exam and then get to my office to grade lots of stuff before I have to give the exam tonight. Fun, Fun. For the record, I'd like to tell the world that giving an exam has got to be one of the most boring tasks in the world. Really, you have to sit there and stare at the class for 2 hours. I almost hope I catch someone cheating just to break up the monotony.

Be back soon.

P.S. If you are curious as to the whereabouts of the disappearing posts, I took one down because it hurt someone's feelings. Not that he told me directly since he won't admit reading this but message received. (Although, you kind of deserve it for your blog denial don't ya think? I'm kidding. Sort of.)