On shyness, depression, retirement, alone-time, health issues, and manual labor


As Peggy and I age, she’s becoming social and I’m becoming isolated. This is a reversal of how things have been for much of our 43-years together. I attribute it to two primary factors. One is that chronic pain has robbed me of much of the pleasure of socializing, and the longer I live a solitary life, the less thinkable it becomes that I would even try to be around people I dont already know. Another is that Peggy’s interests and hobbies have gotten her out among people more, and since she makes a loyal companion, she has slowly accumulated friends.

Peggy just left for her last day at work as a labor and delivery nurse (she chose July 4, so she could get one last day of overtime and one last month of health insurance). She has only worked 20-hours a week for years, so it’s not like she’s at work a lot, but now that she’s retiring, she won’t be at work at all, and although I miss her when she’s gone for nine hours, I frankly don’t know how I’m going to like so much togetherness. That said, she often goes places with her friends for anywhere from a few hours to several days, plus she visits her family down South once a year, so I will have at least some time at home without her, but she will almost never have time without me, and yes, she has complained about it. In fact, just before she left, she suggested that I go somewhere, and I said that she didn’t need to worry because I would be busy building her an apartment in the garage so the cat and I can have our own space.

I’m replacing our backyard fence. This means removing posts that were set in concrete, so it’s a hard job even though I’m only working two or three hours every other day (I’m hurting so much right now that I’ll probably take some oxycodone soon). Even so, the work is worth the pain because it makes me feel useful, even manly, and I can’t give that up. Even if money were limitless, I would still want to work because I’ve always taken satisfaction in manual labor. I didn’t do much of it for years because I kept hoping that I would get past the pain if I took care of myself—and had enough surgeries and saw enough physical therapists—but having gotten over those delusions, I’m working again, because, well, why not? What would I be saving myself for if I didn’t? At 65, my workdays are limited anyway. Even my strong-as-a-bull father had to cut back when he hit his mid-seventies.

The 2 ½” cyst on my kidney that might have been filled with cancer turned out to be filled with blood from when I broke my back on November 30 (that’s a date I’ll never forget). I had to wait six months to find this out, not that I minded because I never thought I had cancer anyway, and if I had had cancer it would have probably been a slow-growing type.

I get a periodic colonoscopy next week. I dread the gallon of foul-tasting laxative, but I don’t mind the procedure itself because once they tank me up with joy-juice, lying on my side while another man pokes a flashlight up my ass doesn’t seem half bad even if I am a heterosexual.

The Cymbalta has helped both my depression and pain. I’ve taken so many anti-depressants by now that I can’t even remember them all, but they’ve certainly been interesting if only because they have proven to my satisfaction the extent to which a person’s mental state is chemically produced. I mean, really, when you can go from being profoundly depressed to being almost cheerful after taking a drug, it says a lot about what makes us as we are, and it sure the hell ain’t religion, philosophy, or simply “deciding to be happy.” (When a depressed person buys the line that, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be,” it only makes him feel more wretched. Interestingly, the source of the quote was Abraham Lincoln, a lifelong depressive.)

I took my first anti-depressant (Norpramin) in the ‘80s, which were the old tricyclic days. Now, everything is either an SSRI or an SSNI, and they work a lot better with fewer side-effects. The first one I tried was Prozac (which was about all they had back then), and it made me almost deliriously happy (damn near manic), but the effect went away after a few weeks, so the shrink kept increasing my dosage until I topped out. Then, I experimented with various others, most of which didn’t work. The last one I took was Zoloft, and it did the trick. I never got high on it like I did with Prozac, but it worked a lot better in the long-term. I took it for years until I got tired of not being able to cry, tired of having my highs as well as my lows modulated, and tired of not knowing what my life would be like without it. I finally stopped cold turkey, which was a really bad idea because I felt as if I had been pushed off a cliff, mood-wise.

I did get one lasting benefit from Zoloft. Before Zoloft, I had been shy all my life—extremely shy in some situations—but I haven’t been that way since Zoloft, although I stopped it about ten years ago. I can’t say that I never feel shy at all anymore, but its rare that I do, and I never feel crippled by it. I remember when I was so shy that I was sometimes afraid of the sound of my own voice (when I was a child, I stuttered and couldn’t pronounce various letters, including the one that makes up half of the letters in my name, and it left me with a lasting scar), but those days are long gone. Now, I just don’t care all that much about what kind of an impression I make. I think age has also helped keep my shyness at bay because I saw it happen that way with my father who was a lot more shy than I ever was.

The picture is of Peggy the last time I roofed this house. She didn't help much because she was touring Alaska with Walt (see last post) for much of the time. Actually, I rather like having her go away when I have a big project because it gives me the freedom to focus entirely on my work.

17 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. We keep different hours here which helps give each of us the alone time we (me in particular) crave.
Cymbalta didn't help my pain, and the less desirable effects it had on me (constant headaches and uncontrollable shivers) meant that I stopped taking it quickly. These days I don't take any medication for pain relief. Doctors here are reluctant to prescribe them, and I got tired of pushing them. Which sucks.
I accept that you HAVE to work, but be careful. Please.

All Consuming said...

I'm so glad to read you're more upbeat, getting out, building and fixing, despite the horrible, horrible pain is really good for the noggin, for you more than most I'd say, because you've always been a man who works hard with his hands.
I've often thought about how mad I'll go when hubby retires, because I love being on my own. I enjoy being with him, but I have to be alone in spades. Luckily the chances of him being able to retire are so far fetched we're looking at another thirty years probably. I'll have forgotten I love being alone by then.
I'm with you on the colonoscopy. I have the check ups too, as you know and feel 100% the same as you about it. The only times the actual procedure has been painful was down to my innards being really, really fucked up, pardon my French. Other than that, I cannot abide the gross drink. Ooh man. I can do it. But like you I hate it. Still, needs must.
I love the picture of Peggy, she's beaming joy out and looks gorgeous too, what legs eh? As she's aware of the own space issue too, she'll be out and about plenty I'm sure, maybe you could get out together a bit more too though, go and get me some more video and pictures of your lovely scenery huh? *drums her fingers on the table top for a while looking ominous.
Big love your way and Peggy's too. Brewster can fend for himself I reckon. X

Snowbrush said...

"I don't take any medication for pain relief. Doctors here are reluctant to prescribe them"

The drug enforcement cops are pushing American doctors in the same direction, and the news media are helping by doing story after story on the dangers of narcotics. These stories never say anything good about narcotics, and the only solution to addiction that they offer is that doctors prescribe fewer narcotics. It is my sincere hope that every drug cop in America will have to live in pain without the benefit of the drugs that they're trying so hard to deprive me of. They've even got it to the point so that everytime a person gets a prescription for narcotics filled, that person's name is sent to the DEA (drug cops), although this is being challenged in court. As it is, I can only get a 30-day supply at a time; I have to go get the prescription from my doctor's office, and then I have to personally mail the prescription to a special address. So far, I have a sympathetic internist, but one never knows what tomorrow holds.

"I've often thought about how mad I'll go when hubby retires... Luckily the chances of him being able to retire are so far fetched we're looking at another thirty years...I'll have forgotten I love being alone by then."

Hell, he'll be dead by then, what with him being a man, and THEN you'll be sorry--ha.

"I love the picture of Peggy, she's beaming joy out and looks gorgeous too, what legs eh?"

Her legs, hair, and eyes, are her best features, and now that her hair is turning gray, she's a little tortured over whether to dye it. Her thought is that she doesn't want to, but she knows how much I like her hair as it is, and so she's torn. The prospect of me dying my hair never comes up. When my beard started turning gray, I dyed it a few times, but I always felt like a sissy for doing it, so I stopped. If she wanted me to, I would probably go back to dying it, but she never did want me to. It was always something I was doing for myself.

lotta joy said...

Joe's a high energy extrovert. I'm a no energy introvert. When he retired, he saw a life of go,go,go and I saw a life sitting in prison after killing him. Which didn't sound all that bad. He desires friends. I can't keep up with everyone's desires for energetic entertainment. Does one spend more jail time according to how high the body count is? So one of us has to be miserable at all times.

I keep waiting for him to get aches and pains and know how tedious it is to be expected to move around, but I believe if he did, he'd still insist on getting out and about, thinking it would help. And it might: HIM. Not ME.

Prozac made me so happy that when the doctor told me I had to stop it due to allergic itching, I told her I'd just buy a longer back scratcher. It was very depressing to be told I couldn't take something that gave me chemical happiness.

"Count your blessings" is a torturous thing to tell a depressed person and it's amazing how we manage to hold ourselves together when faced with cheery folks by nature.

Zoloft: itching Paxel: itching. Lexapro: no itching, but no help either.

Don't let your anti-depressant convince you to do more than you should.

kylie said...

my husband wouldnt notice what i looked like if i was the hottest woman on earth, i see it as liberating!

Paula Kaye said...

When my husband retired I was still working and had years to go. He is a bit older than me. But when his stroke forced me to stay home and we now spend all of our time together there are days that I think I will scream from not having a breath of air left that is all mine. But that day will soon be here when I will wish he was in my space, bothering me and sharing my breath. Bless you Snow. I'm glad Cymbalta is working for you. And the picture of your wife is amazing. That would have scared me to death!!!!

kylie said...

I got distracted before but I want to congratulate Peggy on all those years as a nurse and wish her a grand retirement!

rhymeswithplague said...

I've had four colonoscopies in the last two years -- unless I've lost count -- so I am conversant with various preps. The only one I can tolerate is Miralax, which is practically tasteless. It works just as well as those others foul-tasting ones, so why do doctors insist on recommending them? I have no earthly idea. Ask about Miralax at once and you will thank me.

Also, are you awake during your colonoscopies? I have always been under a general anesthetic, so I have no opinion about men with flashlights.

Myrna R. said...

My husband and I spend so much time together. But we each have our own interests so even if we're together, we're often preoccupied with whatever we're doing, and in a sense apart from each other. But I must confess I do like it when he leaves physically. I can relate to your shyness. I used to be so shy it hurt. But no longer.
Don't know what I'd do in your shoes. I have trouble coping with pain, so I'd probably still be exploring new meds. I hope work helps take your mind off it, but try not to overdo. Take good care.

Stephen Hayes said...

My wife works part time and is considering retiring soon. Unfortunately, she has no hobbies and when she's home she usually wants me to entertain her. It's hard to write or paint when someone is underfoot who wants to be entertained. She also never gets alone time because I'm always around. When she does retire I'm going to have to make a few adjustments. I hope you have a good weekend with as little pain as possible.

PhilipH said...

Shifting posts set in concrete is not a job I'd fancy doing and at your age it could be highly dangerous and damaging to one's shoulders and back I'd say. OK, I note you are limiting the time you expend on this Herculean task but it still seems very dodgy to me.
Stephen Fry is a bipolar victim but has declared he in no way wants to lose this condition. He says his 'highs' mean so much to him that he couldn't live without them. I can understand that, I think.
Take care Snowy and don't overdo the heavy stuff.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I'll never forget a friend's dad retiring after working in another town and only being at home 2 or 3 nights a week for decades. His wife divorced him in a few months!

Snowbrush said...

"Joe's a high energy extrovert. I'm a no energy introvert. When he retired, he saw a life of go,go,go and I saw a life sitting in prison after killing him."

Peggy and I are both introverts, and that's not so great either. For instance, neither of us likes to answer the phone, and we both tend to stand back in social situations. I sometimes she was an extrovert so she could drag into them and get me started, as it were. She could also fill gaps in conversation that, as an introvert, I tend to meet with silence.

"I keep waiting for him to get aches and pains and know how tedious it is to be expected to move around, but I believe if he did, he'd still insist on getting out and about, thinking it would help."

I have trouble believing that chronic pain wouldn't slow an extrovert too--though maybe not as much--if only because he expended so much energy struggling with the pain that he didn't any left over to get ready and go somewhere.

"Count your blessings" is a torturous thing to tell a depressed person and it's amazing how we manage to hold ourselves together when faced with cheery folks by nature."

I haven't heard that much as most people, or else it just goes by my head, and I throw it into the garbage, so to speak. The one time I distinctly remember hearing it, it came from a man who was dying of cancer, and it amounted to something more than a one liner because he went on talk of his experiences in learning to appreciate what he had left. Hearing it from someone who didn't have any severe health issues would just make me feel like they wanted to keep our relationship superficial, and that they didn't have a clue what I was going through. I think that when people say that kind of thing, it's because they're uncomfortable and want to lighten things up by offering what amounts to a bromide because that's all they have to offer. What I do hear a lot that I find useless is when people tell me to not overdo it, because they have no idea how hard I've tried to do that for years now. I sometimes think they must equate chronic pain with normal muscular aches. In this regard, I can sometimes do hard physical labor for hours and not suffer from it. Other times, I can make one or two "wrong" movements, and be in pain for a day or two. Most of the time when the pain gets really bad, I have no idea what caused it to flare up... I guess the best way to is accept what people have to offer with thanks, and if what they have to offer doesn't work for us just don't talk about our problem with them. I often find myself changing the subject when people ask how I am. I might throw out a sentence or two, but then I ask them a question about themselves, and that diverts from asking anything else.

Snowbrush said...

"my husband wouldnt notice what i looked like if i was the hottest woman on earth, i see it as liberating!"

I hadn't thought of husbandly disinterest in that way.

"there are days that I think I will scream from not having a breath of air left that is all mine. But that day will soon be here when I will wish he was in my space"

I experienced a little of that feeling with my father who lived with me his last two years. I've also felt it--a lot for me, although it was surely but a little compared to what you're experiencing--with elderly and/or sick dogs.

"I want to congratulate Peggy on all those years as a nurse"

Peggy reads every comment, so I won't even have to tell her.

"Also, are you awake during your colonoscopies?"

I've only had two or maybe three, but, yes, I was awake. I have severe sleep apnea, and being intubated leaves me with a throat that hurts like strep times ten and that no amount of painkillers can touch, so I do everything I can to avoid a general no matter what. What I think most people in Eugene receive is a "twilight sleep" drug that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy but keeps you from remembering some, most, or even everything of what happened. I've had the drug a half dozen times or more, and I like it a lot as long as they don't give me so much that I don't remember anything because I like to remember what happened.

" I must confess I do like it when he leaves physically."

Same with Peggy and me. Sometimes a person just wants to be alone at home.

Snowbrush said...

"My wife works part time and is considering retiring soon. Unfortunately, she has no hobbies and when she's home she usually wants me to entertain her."

Wow. I'm so sorry.

"When she does retire I'm going to have to make a few adjustments."

If you leave her, you can come stay with me (I'm only two hours away). On the other hand, if you kill her, I'll come visit you in jail. Seriously, I think she will probably start looking for things to do if only because even you can't be THAT entertaining all the time.

"Shifting posts set in concrete is not a job I'd fancy doing and at your age it could be highly dangerous and damaging to one's shoulders and back I'd say."

So far, so good. I have a lot of pain from the work, but only normal soreness in my back and shoulders. This is an example of why it's hard to obey admonitions to not overdo. I can tolerate a lot of the "right" thing but almost none of the "wrong" thing, and it's hard to know which is which when a job involves a lot of different kinds of movements. Then too, some of my worse pain occurs when I do nothing.

"Stephen Fry is a bipolar victim but has declared he in no way wants to lose this condition. He says his 'highs' mean so much to him that he couldn't live without them."

That's how I felt about Prozac, but when I told the shrink that I feeling pretty off-the-wall, he asked me questions pertaining to just how destructive my mania was, and it wasn't at all destructive. Some bipolar people do things like suddenly sell their house and move, or give all their possessions away, or jump out a window because Jesus told them he would catch them, or bet their life savings on the turn of a roulette wheel. Surely, Fry's doesn't go THAT far.

"I'll never forget a friend's dad retiring after working in another town and only being at home 2 or 3 nights a week for decades. His wife divorced him in a few months!"

She must have been feeling a bit tenuous anyway, and so having him around just pushed her over the edge.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana and I get on wonderfully most of the time, but there's something to be said for moments apart between two people who love each other.

Furry Bottoms said...

My situation is a bit different from most people. I am single and I live with my mother, who is also single. My mother is retired, I am not.

Every.single.time I go home, she's there.

Every.single.time I order a gift through the mail, she sees the box before I do.

Every.single.time I wake up in the morning, she's there.

She is never NOT there. I get very annoyed. There are times when she goes out of town, I love it. I can dance my own dance in the kitchen.

However, I try very hard to keep in mind that I am living with my MOM. 71 years old and after she dies, I'll regret things, I know this. I'l miss her. I'll want her back. At the rate she is going, she's going to live to be 100.

SO I got to remember to appreciate the time I do have with her. Whether she irritates me or not.

Although, I am on a big combination of anti-depressants (a combo of three different kinds, all at the max strength possible) so I think I'm getting along OK.

As for pain meds and the DEA, I KNOW!!! Grr!!! Having to go to the drs office in person to pick up the prescription and bring it to the pharmacy or mail order address, doing this all manually drives me nuts. You would think that the federal govt would want those kind of meds to be controlled and watched, so why not just call in the order instead of picking up a RX paper that could get lost or misplaced and someone else takes it? I swear, the gov't makes NO sense.