Washington, DC and Beyond

Before I relate the tale of my trip to DC I hasten to add one addendum to the discussion below on TLE: Dr C said absolutely nothing about schizophrenia and TLE and possible misdiagnosis. Nothing whatsoever. ALL he mentioned was that my ECT apparently triggered — he used the word kindled — classic TLE in my brain, as evidenced by the pattern of onset of the olfactory hallucinations and their response to treatment. ALL the rest of my theorizing about schizophrenia and TLE has come from my own conjectures and readings that have spun off from that one statement and not from a single thing he said or implied. Please understand this. He may not have meant and may never bring up the subject at all…The question remains, Will I?

 

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Now then, about my solo flight, my DC adventure:

On Wednesday, Josephine drove me to New Haven and I took the high speed train, the Acela – going at a rather low rate of speed it seemed to me, most of the way – to Washington DC. The trip down was uneventful, except that in my anxiety to get a seat, I completely forgot to tip the porter who helped me get my bag down and up the  flights of stairs in the station (the escalator wasn’t working). I had a five dollar bill in my pocket all ready for him but at the last minute plum forgot…for which I felt guilty the entire journey right ip until I got back into Jo’s car at the end of it…and even now, a twinge remains.

 

The four and a half hours passed quickly as I had to review the new edits the copy editor had made. It wasn’t announced that we had arrived. People just stood and started getting their things from the overhead rack. I had to ask if we were in Washington. Finally, off the train, I followed where everyone else seemed to be going, managing not to go near the uniforms with the dog, though it occurred to me that maybe it was where I was supposed to go, because I wasn’t going where the cars were, was i? Luckily just then, Sara waved to me from the opposite door , and I saw and recognized her so that misstep was averted…It occurred to me, however, that we have become like a police state, what with armed guards and police dogs standing around in train stations, only supposedly to protect us (after all, they tell you DO NOT TOUCH THE DOG!)

 

That first night we spent just getting caught up on Sara’s recent travels as she is head of an “abroad program” at a university there. Then the next day, I slept till 9 and she went off to work. At noon I was picked up by a friend of Sara’s who drove me, with a few mishaps, to the train again, for my trip to MD to talk to a senior psychology class at a small, private college in a town about an hour outside of Baltimore. During the drive to the school, I began to feel weird — thought it was low blood sugar or simple sleepiness– and asked if we could get some coffee once we got there. I felt too fuzzy to even pay for anything, couldn’t think straight to talk, just eating to prevent myself from fainting. Finally, it was time to go to the class, and so I pulled myself together, took a last bite from my muffin and threw the rest of coffee and muffin away. 

 

In the class I gave my talk and did the Q and A with nothing untoward happening, except that I had to stop when the feelings reoccurred with fatigue near the end, at around 4:15 (the class ended at 4:30 so I made it almost the whole time). All the questions were really good, made me think. The only one I felt I did not do justice to was the one about Lynnie and whether or not she needed therapy and medication (!). If only they knew her and Sal…But in any event, I ought to have explained how psychiatrists are ordinary human beings with ordinary human emotions and flaws and faults, not superhumans, and they get angry and jealous and pissed off etc just as anyone else does. Jealousy in and of itself is not an illness, just an uncomfortable feeling that I know Lynnie has dealt with in her own professional and personal therapy over the years (as I pointed out all psychiatrists see their own therapists first). As for medication, she’d be the first to tell anyone she swears by it, and would not want to do without it!

 

After that class, I was blitzed completely, and could barely sit up straight in the car heading back to Baltimore and the train, and then my head blossomed into a migraine on the train. When I met Sara in the station again in DC I was utterly exhausted. I ate a little supper but basically fell asleep by 9pm and slept through until 9am.

 

Friday we took it easy. We drove around the Capitol area and stopped to walk into the Supreme Court, and walk around the White House. But we didn’t spend a great deal of time anywhere as the light was a brilliant blinding white and the temperature pushing 75°F.  Also, that night I had a poetry reading scheduled at the Potter’s House Sounds of Hope gathering

 

The Potter’s House in DC — a bookstore and home-cooked-food restaurant, with a Let’s All Help Each Other theme…It was great to go in the door and find a seat at the table and know every, or nearly every song sung. I wasn’t scheduled until the last  of the night, and was afraid everyone would leave before then…and they almost did until the MC asked some to stay for “dessert” ie me. So I finally had my reading and I think they liked my stuff…Hope they did, I didn’t hold back or read only easy things at any rate…

 

THe rest of the visit went supremely well, as Sara and I get along great. We ate in an Ethiopian restaurant one night, and at a Spanish open air market for lunch the next day. Only bad aspect of the visit, and it could not be helped, was that I brought a cold with me all unawares, so I was almost, but not quite, miserable the whole time. In point of fact, I was miserable only ONE night of the four, and miserable not a single day there, thanks to Sara’s good company and hospitality, plenty of kleenex and good food, with no pressure at all to do anything (once the class was over with — which was MY pressure entirely).

 

All in all, a great trip. Some paranoia developed on trainride home, with feelings/suspicions/knowledge that the people who sat down next to me in the Acela were accusing me of having stolen one of their tickets…to the point that I started talking to myself and had to get all my things and move seats to somewhere I felt more comfortable. Nowhere really felt comfortable after that, though, since everyone was looking at my book and what I was reading, so I had to switch to a harmless magazine. Finally the guy sitting in the single “disabled” seat at the back of the car got off at Grand Central so I quickly snagged that, having a disabled-discounted ticket myself. Things ought to have calmed then, only then I thought people were looking at me and wondering, Why is she sitting there, she doesn’t look very disabled to me!  I was very glad to detrain at New Haven I will tell you that. But how was I to get my heavy “carry on” wheeled bag down the high stairs at the station? No way was I able to lug it myself, especially not carrying two other bags, and one being my purse/tote bag I could not see leaving it alone while I took the bag by itself.

 

Just then a burly older man, lifting his own carry-on in one hand, stopped and said, Let me get that for you. “Oh, would you? Thank you so very much!” I replied. Without a word, he took my bag by the vertical handle and carried it swiftly down the thirty of more steps to the bottom then walked away before I could thank him again. Oh, what a lovely gesture. I was more relieved than I could say, though it was easy enough for him, and I daresay he is used to doing it. I was very glad to have been today’s recipient of his gallantry! The rest of the way was easy, as I could draw the bag on its wheels and take the escalator the rest of the way. I swear I don’t know how they get away with making these trains to inaccessible to the handicapped. They are practically inaccessible to any but the very young and strong, so far as that goes…And nearly every station had that long staircase leading to the platform, except for, say, DC, which is flat from parking lot to train, and even minus a step getting onto the train  itself.

 

Welp, that was my much anticipated, much worried about adventure and I’d say it went just swimmingly, despite cold and despite migraine and intense fatigue at the middle to the end of every day. One thing I did learn that was helpful was that eating three meals a day was good for me, rather than letting myself forget to eat until late in the evening and then cramming down the calories. Today I even tried to follow the pattern I did with Sara, and started the day with a healthy brakfast of fruit, cereal and yogurt. Then I did what the visiting nurse has suggested for many many months: I set a timer to remind me of lunchtime: I had an onion roll and dried fruit at one o’clock. At 6:00pm or so I plan to have…well, some mix of green beans and onio ns, cheese and soymilk plus strawberries and black berries with yogurt for dessert. Mainly because that is all I have at the moment. Or I will have Irish oatmeal made with soymilk, plus dessert, which would be a lot easier! I hope I can keep this regimen up, as it cannot but help my stamina, if it does nothing else.

2 thoughts on “Washington, DC and Beyond”

  1. Hi Kate,

    Don’t know if you will return to see this, but thanks for the comment! Also for putting up my poem on your website. Or the link, that is. I will be doing another talk/reading this Tuesday at St Raphael’s hospital in New Haven. And I hope, once the book comes out, to be invited other places as I really enjoy doing these things.

    I hope you are enjoying yourself whatever you are doing and that the isolation is not bad for you in the end…

    Check out the blog in a day or two and the goose will be up, or at least the most recent version of him, as far as I have gotten.

    I will myself check out your blog, as I have been just as remiss as you in the blog reading department, so do not worry about missing mine. I am just as bad as you, this past month.

    Take care,

    PW

  2. Dear Pam,

    I apologize for not keeping up with your blog this last month. As usual I’ve been self-preoccupied and a bit too detached from people in general, but I have been drawing and painting, so I’ve been doing all right.

    I think it is wonderful that you took that trip to Washington on your own and that you spoke to that class and did a poetry reading. I get really stressed out now when I travel to visit my parents and have become too attached to staying at home alone. Sometimes I yearn to be younger and more fearless.

    I am looking forward to getting your book of poetry in a month. Will you be giving a bunch more poetry readings to promote the book? Going to Washington could be seen as a warm up for more speaking engagements. It would be great if you could record yourself reading a poem or two and post the audio file to this blog. I have yet to actually hear you read a poem and I would love it.

    I was happy to read in your more recent entry that you have been commissioned to make a paper mache goose. Congratulations! Be sure to post photos of her/him. And congratulations on having a poem selected by POETRY magazine posted on the web. That’s definitely an honor. I meant to say that to you weeks ago, but at the time I put the link up to your poem on my Facebook page and Jen from the Beautiful Mind blog put it up on her page too, so hopefully some people got to read the poem. I love the poem.

    I know you’re busy, but I would love to hear from you again,

    Kate

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