Sunday, August 30, 2009

Living In A Fugue State...

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything
that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

~ May Sarton ~

I am having a time out of time experience which, I suppose, given my myriad psychological issues and cocktail of diagnoses, related to depression, and other various connected curious states of mind and being, ("Curiouser and Curiouser, cried Alice...") is not surprising, and yet is a complex and confusing thing to live through. Mind, there is a clinical diagnosis for "a fugue state," and a metaphorical meaning. What I am going through lies somewhere between the two.

Recently, this has been brought on by the fact that my mother, who has outlived every expectation since being given a very short time to live when she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in February of 2005, has now outlived that predicted period by 4 1/2 years, but she is now 83 and the time is drawing near. There are no more options. She is an inch away from going on hospice.

None of us have wanted to lose my mother, a strong, brave, positive woman with great faith, a woman not afraid to die, all the while handling a laundry list of nasty things thrown at her through these last years with a grace and equanimity few could muster. She has had so many really down times that we felt she was on her deathbed at numerous junctures. She went blind over 2 years ago, and this devout woman who never missed mass or a single holy day or one day during Lent, going to mass, has not even been able to go to church in some time. She is not afraid to die but she is not really living. We have been watching my dear mother die in slow motion for 4 1/2 years and now she teeters on the brink of the edge between this life and the next, and we all hold our breath from week to week, not knowing what, when, or if this day or this week is the time.

I do not do well emotionally with uncertainty. In jest I have told my daughter, who is now finishing a masters in Clinical Psychology, that I'm not exactly Rainman, but some days I feel close. That's rather tongue in cheek and perhaps an unfortunate and unkind way to put it, but to have some semblance of normalcy and balance in my life I do best when I know what's going to happen and when it will happen, and I have created for myself a set of parameters which help me feel safe. There are no safe parameters around someone you love dying. There is the sorrow, the grief, compounded by the ongoing uncertainty, the days when she sounds like she can't last another hour followed by a day that she sounds better and then much worse again. It is heart-breaking, it is unnerving, it makes me feel off-kilter and frightened, and, adding to all of that, I have spent the last weeks going over a mountain of paper-work and having sometimes nearly daily consultations surrounding what will happen afterwords. You know, things that have big scary language around them that you don't understand and feel ill-prepared to deal with, but must. So I listen, I learn, I study, I take notes, and then I disappear into a fugue state.

Now, in literal terms, a medical view of a fugue state is very serious indeed wherein a person disappears and then reappears some time later, having had a kind of amnesia, perhaps assumed a different persona, and re-appearing not remembering where they were or what happened. A famous case is that of Agatha Christie. In the Wikipedia section on "fugue state," they write, "Agatha Christie disappeared on 3 December 1926 only to reappear eleven days later in a hotel in Harrogate, apparently with no memory of the events which happened during that time span." I do not have amnesia and am perfectly aware of what is going on around me, but these fugue states are often related to those with Clinical Depression and Bi-Polar disorder, and a kind of dissociative state (amazing how the mind will protect itself). I have both among other things and am Bi-Polar Type 2, meaning the more depressive rather than manic side of things. A muck and a muddle, you might say.

My mother is dying, no one knows when or how or at what moment she will leave her body and enter a realm invisible to we, the ones left behind. My way of coping has begun to take a form, a way of being that is very like the fugue state. In the last week I have laid down to take a nap at say 3, expecting, as per usual, to wake up in an hour or two at most, but instead I have slept through until 9 or 10 at night, only to wake up long enough to groggily get the dogs out and back in, brush my teeth and then go back to sleep until 7 or 8 in the morning. I get up, still sleepy, but wake up more completely because there are 11 animals here and my animals are well cared for no matter what. Everyone gets food, fresh water, treats, the dogs are in and out several times by noon, by which time I can barely hold my eyes open. I try to stay awake. I fight it and I fight it, eventually I go to sleep and if I'm lucky I only sleep 2 or 3 hours, but I have awoken not knowing if it were night or day, or how long I'd been sleeping, and feeling very disoriented.

If you think this is easy to write about, it is not. As with all of my writing, I maintain an honesty not for the sake of pity or concern from the reader, but to hopefully help someone else going through these kind of difficulties to not feel alone, and to know that we will ultimately be okay. I share from an open heart, sometimes feeling like a trembling, timid little girl, afraid people will think I'm "wacko" and not wanting to have anything to do with me. This has happened to me in my life, which is why I live a life of relative seclusion. The truth is that I am a very intelligent, educated woman who works here nearly round the clock much of the time, but when I fall out, so to speak, I fall out. I have a wonderful doctor, medications, and safeguards in place, and do just fine. During times of extreme stress, not, perhaps, so much, but I always come through willy nilly, and those who really love and understand me I cherish with all of my heart.

Mental health issues are not only complex, but so completely misunderstood, even by the medical community, (although they are better to some degree, still, so much is misunderstood), and if you are dealing with people not in the medical community you might be treated as if you were a nut job to be avoided at all costs. I look normal, if you want to put it that way, I am and sound like an educated woman, I am an artist and a writer and yes, even a minister, and I do a lot of good work. I can also, at times, fall down the rabbit hole.

I've been spending a lot of time down there of late, but sooner or later I'll wake up and leave The Mad Hatter's Tea Party for the real world. There will be much to be handled in the days ahead, and I'm not certain if my body is sleeping so much to protect me now, as it will, a sheath to shield one and let one rest so the mind doesn't suffer undue pain or things that it simply cannot handle at the time, or if the sleeping so much is a kind of restorative, shoring me up for the days ahead. In any case, after much worry and concern over it, I have come to going with the flow. I take care of necessities, I eat, I pay my bills, I keep life trundling along, but I fall into the escape of sleep at the drop of a hat, and far more often than I'd like.

Fighting it will do no good. Allowing it to take it's course is the only way to handle it. Reality will jerk me out of my dream world soon enough. For now, I cuddle up with a pug and go to sleep to the sound of him snoring. Rainman needed to have control of everything to feel safe. I can be like that too to a lesser degree, but now I need to let go. There has been too much trauma on different levels other than my mother's condition of late, and I have gone to the place I know I am safe -- on the other side of my eyelids.

It will be curious, in the days ahead, the weeks to come, as it all plays out like life will, in it's own way and time, which we have no control over, to watch my various states wax and wane. Right now the tides inside of me are going in and out, taking me farther and farther from shore, but I know that I will be there in a heart beat when I need to be, snapped out of a dream world and relative safety, to do what needs to be done.

And so now I sit curled up in my chair here in one of my more awake times. I will eat dinner and watch a movie. Oddly, if I can make it through the period from mid-afternoon to early evening, and stay awake, I seem to be able to have a relatively normal evening (for me) and this looks like one of them, but I won't stay up late and I get off the computer earlier. Even when not sleeping I need things as quiet and tranquil as possible. My animals are so in sync with me that not a one of them, five dogs and 6 parrots, so much as make a sound when I am sleeping. It is as if they circle around and protect me. I would protect them with my life. We have a symbiotic relationship that I believe makes us all feel safer (most of my rescues here were abused, some very badly...) and our energies hum together in a kind of lyrical melody. I will be okay. I have to be. Eleven little beings are counting on me, and I know they have been put in my life, sent to me as guardian angels. I bow to the Grace that brought them here.

So now I shall make some dinner, and turn on my movie. These days I am really into mysteries from the BBC. I love those. Tonight it's another P.D. James and these films are brilliant. These seem to hold my interest most these days.

I hope you have a peaceful evening, and sleep well. Perhaps, in some other reality, in another place and time, we will meet in our dreams and have tea. I'll put the kettle on right now, just in case...


Kimmy said...

WOW! I knew we had some commonalities. But I never have had it explained to me. Maitri, you worded it wonderfully.

You said, "So I listen, I learn, I study, I take notes, and then I disappear into a fugue state."

I get that. It's like I have to isolate myself in order to process. For me my outside the home job has me interacting with hundreds of people a day, on the phone and in person. I get to the point where I get home, and an IM feels intrusive!

You also wrote, "but these fugue states are often related to those with Clinical Depression and Bi-Polar disorder, and a kind of dissociative state (amazing how the mind will protect itself)."

Once again, right on!

I have lost close friends that do not understand my need to dissociate with live. I didn't have the energy in me to keep trying to explain it wasn't personal. SO I simply reached into my borderline personality, and intentionally lash out at them. It is easier to let people think I am a horrible person, then try to ask for empathy.

Maitri, I have always enjoyed your writing and blogs. But sometimes I also disappear. I am so glad you wrote this.

I am also sorry for mom and you and yours. You are strong, and you will be able to handle this trying time. Your family sees your pain, and love. You are a role model for all of us!

eightythreecents said...

I am very impressed with how intelligently you articulate yourself. Thank you so much for sharing. I found your story of today to be a teaching moment for me.

Jaliya said...

Matri ... I think that there's a kind of "my mother's dying" fugue state all its own --> I read your piece and recalled so many of the feelings that were sideswiping me -- it was like the demolition derby of emotions. Sometimes I became so sad and fatigued that my mind just went into static; I wasn't always sure where I was or what was happening ... I've got memory blanks ... Somehow I did what had to be done and apparently did it well -- I even got compliments, from "You were such a gracious hostess!" (of the funeral, I suppose) to "You would be a great preacher." (I read First Corinthians v. 13 -- "love never dies"...). I was so stupefied beyond basic autopilot that I looked at these two beloved people in a "Rainman" kind of way ... Just *not there* beyond those basics that I had to cover. I think we stay in shock -- in the fugue state that you write of? -- long enough to get through the funeral ... and then we start to unravel for real. The anticipatory shock and grief, when you know someone's close to death, can knock you off-kilter almost as much as the grief that comes after. Are you concerned that your feelings are "normal"? -- They are ...

The uncertainty of it all feels like you're falling, and falling, and falling, and there's no steady surface to fall to ... I once said it was like the floor disappeared beneath my feet.

There's something about losing our mother that is one of the most fundamentally disorienting experiences we can go through. When I lost mine ... and her course of gradual dying was similar to your mom's ... it was like my internal compass had gone into a chaotic spin. I told friends that I felt like a "frog in a blender, and the sucker's set on WHIP!"

The sleep deprivation and interruption ... that really can mess up a brain and mind ... and add to the "fugueness" (if there is such a word) ... and yet, as you say: you continue to function and do the very best you can with what you've got to give. Somehow I did, too. We all do xoxo

So glad you have your animal familiars and friends around you. Aren't they an ultimate blessing? With me and my man, it's our two cats. They are just love, love, love. They're rescues, too. Makes them all the more cherished ... xoxo

Be well, Maitri, and post when you can ... You are surrounded by souls who have walked this path ... the path of being with a mother's dying ... It is such a sacred and harrowing path ...

The "time out of time experience" feels so bizarre, doesn't it -- like all the clocks have gone from chronos- to kairos-time ... Clock-time is senseless when someone you love is dying -- and somehow you *do* get to the funeral on time, and you get all the help you need to do what must be done, and have someone keep a clear and kind eye on you while you're coping with chaos. Oh, yes, you'll slow down eventually in the receding wake of your mom's death ... I sure have ... and like you, dear Maitri, I live with some complex ills in brain and in mind ... so that can muddy your cognition and make you more exhausted 'cause the events may feel very intense for you ...

Please forgive; I'm blathering ... but reading your piece unleashed a whole new rememberance of my own mother's death, from your deep understanding of your experiences ... Thank you, Maitri, and I will be sending blessings every day, wishing for gentleness in all things for you and your loves ...

xoxo Jaliya

Sashindoubutsu said...

Another wow... Nobody could have said it better. Anybody would feel your emotions with your words.

I'm sorry you are going through tough times but I know you're strong and can handle it well. Rest assured you will be in my prayers.

Laura said...

I'm very close to my mom, and I don't even want to think about the season where we have to prepare for her to be with the Lord. My sister and I thrive on her company, as do our children. She is deeply loved.

It seems to me you've built a cocoon of sorts for yourself. When you're finished "cocooning", you'll emerge, whole, and beautiful. Thank goodness for our precious animal friends to help us express the love and compassion we have, and have it returned to us.

Bless you on your journey, and bless your mom, who is fortunate to have such a caring and deep-feeling family.

Shinade aka Jackie said...

"Mental health issues are not only complex, but so completely misunderstood, even by the medical community, (although they are better to some degree, still, so much is misunderstood), and if you are dealing with people not in the medical community you might be treated as if you were a nut job to be avoided at all costs."

Maitri the entire article is very powerful and so well written but the above paragraph just jumped off the page for me.

It is so so true and so unfair. Even a lot of Dr.'S don't understand things properly. I know this feeling of being shunned so very well. it is an awful and hurtful experience but i have become so use to it by now that I try my best to ignore it.

Please know you are constantly in my thoughts. I know you are going through an immense amount of stress right now and my heart cries for you.

But, I also know that you are close to many majors that will have such a powerful and positive effect on you that you will soon be dancing with joy again.

Please know you are very near and dear to me and I send you my love and a soft gentle caress. I hope you feel the soft warm slight wave of a gentle breeze blow very tenderly across your cheek when you read this!!

Love,light and hugs forever,

Jude said...

While reading your post I could feel your pain and where you are right now. I also have had a disassociation thing going on since last year when my Son was diagnosed with cancer and his subsequent death 5 months later. I was diagnosed years ago as being Unipolar and took medication for years. The only thing I can offer is my sympathy for your pain and a prayer for you and your loving family. It's so good that you have a support system, take care and God Bless.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

I can sympathize with you. And, I am so sorry to hear all of this. The sleeping patterns are not only a sign of depression but can interrupt your entire physical and emotional well being. It is very difficult, I know. If you are able at all to get out each day even if it is for 10 or 15 minutes, it will help in refreshing your mind and body. My thoughts are with you.

Mountain Woman said...

I just wanted to say my heart and prayers go to you and your Mother as she is facing her last days of life. I think in some ways it is harder for us who stay behind to let go. Death creates such an absence.
When my husband was killed, at first I was in shock but then as the days went on, I was in a state much as you described. There is no easy way out of the darkness back into the light. Prayer worked for me and the belief that God had more purpose for my life.
You just have to let time take its course. It's lonely and sad and a little dark but I guarantee you with your shining, loving spirit will emerge even brighter than before.
Blessings Mother Maitri. You are very loved in the blogging community.

alwayswinner786 said...

Hi Maitri,
I know that you are going through tough times but I also know a strong beleiver of Almighty will always get the support of the divine to handle this difficult situation.
I have shared a gift of love with you in my blog Jumping For Joy.If you can make some time give a visit.
We your friends are always with you.
God Bless.

Shinade aka Jackie said...

Stopping in here too before i go to bed to send you my love!!

Artist Victoria O'Neill said...

hmmm. i can relate to some of what you are experiencing. i too have come to the conclusion that the only way through these periods is to go through them......."this too shall pass" is a frequent comforting thought to me when i fall down the rabbit's either that or get worse..and gettng worse is not an option. ha! somehow knowing it will/can pass takes some of the sting out of the bite. you call it fugue, i've thought of it as hiding out.....before i had kids it was alot easier to hide, to just go down and regroup, rest, disappear, whatever it takes. thank you for your post.

Artist Victoria O'Neill said...

and btw, here is a wonderful Bahai' prayer to help.....
"I have awakened in Thy shelter, O my God! And it becometh him who seeketh that shelter. to abide within the sanctuary of thy protection and the stronghold of thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my God, with the splendors of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of Thy favor"

Mimi Lenox said...

I am sending hugs to you. We have a lot in common right now. My Dad is very ill as we speak and I just wrote a post about it.

Take care of yourself and be well.
We are all here if you need us!


Shinade aka Jackie said...

Oh Mother Maitri,
I don't think I fully understood this post until last Thursday when our world was turned upside down.

I think our entire family is experiencing this now. We are still waiting. Her last wish has not and will not be granted.

They do not hospice available where she lives which is a very rural community.

Walter does not want to go the hospital. So we are all going through the motions, staying busy, and we dread every single time the phone rings!!

Thank you so much for kind words of support. If anyone knows what we are going through right now it is you!!

Please know you too are also in my thoughts and prayers. It is so very very hard to live in this state of anxiety and waiting.

But, you already know that. Even with the mightiest faith life is still very difficult!!

Love always!

Maitri said...

Oh, Dear, Dear Ones,

I am simply overwhelmed with your tremendous kindness, love and support through this trying time. I haven't even had the energy to thank people for comments these last months, which I am so sorry for, but the comments to this post have nearly blown me away and I don't know how to thank you all enough. I feel the love, warmth, tender support and gentle kindness coming right off the page to the point that I am in tears, of gratitude, of release, of "being heard" and not "feeling crazy" but knowing that other people go through these things and in the end we will all survive.

So Kimmy, 83Cents, Jaliya, Sasha, Laura, Jackie, Jude, Mountain Woman, Always, Victoria and dear Mimi, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, I hold you each in my warm embrace, and I feel lifted up today on your kindness and loving support, and there simply are no words to express how very grateful I am... I love you all.



jenie said...

i found myself feeling what you feel the way you have written it. yes, it is indeed a difficulty time...and in times like this, moreso than any other time, one thing can only help ~PRAYER~ plus complete offering of oneself to the Almighty.

i've had a very difficult experience about 4-5years ago, during the time that i am most sensitive (when i was pregnant)...and no matter what i do nor no matter where i turn to, it seems to be no use. ONLY when i am at church will i feel consoled and at peace.

life is really made to be hard, for us to seek for that eternal peace=)

BTW, i hope you're up to visiting my site to put your mind elsewhere. i tagged you in my most recent post, hope you join the fun.

Sandi said...

I am first of all sorry about your mom. My dad has been sick and the uncertainty has been overwhelming. We just got good news though. He is going to be ok and that takes a load off my shoulders. I don't suffer from depression but I feel I am a great target for it. I have once and it consumed me. It's good for you to share your experiences to possibly help others who are also dealing with this and confused. I think sometimes everything in the world gets to be just too much.

Split Rock Ranch said...

Wow...I don't even know what to say. Your post moved me in ways I cannot even begin to describe. And the comments here are so heartfelt. Please know that you, your Mother and your family are in my prayers. I'm so thankful that you have your animals to help protect and support you and are there to help you have a reason to get up and function each day. Much love, light and many blessings to you.

Bluebirdy said...

I can associate with your postr. I fight depression and attention deficit disorder, which, like you, makes me feel like rainman, and makes my weeks/months disappear into thin air. This was probably a divine gift to help me endure the 6 year wait for the government to get my civiliian husband home to me, who was working in the war zone. I didn't do well with all the unknowns of how he was surviving, and what our future would be, and if I should just annul the marriage, or carry on (because we had not had our "honeymoon" yet). All the unknowns threw me into panic attacks and a heart disorder. It was through that 6 years of limbo that I got a chance to "practice" trusting my creator, that He knows me and my situation, that He is guiding everything in perfect timing, that I am right where I am supposed to be in His plan for my life. I guess I was type A personality, I needed to control my environment, but now when I can't, I have to trust that God will help me through whatever may come, and it will all work out for the best as long as I live my life with love of God, all my actions start with love and good intentions. It does seem like you have to "practice" to learn "Faith" that brings you peace during storms such as yours, but I guess that's what the storms are for, to teach us to listen to the still, small voice inside, not the loud storm outside. I also live with my aged mother, and I am the one outliving my predicted date of demise, though she has lupus, same as I.
Bless you both, Sheila

Maithri said...

Wings of love to enfold you,


shanti said...

Hi Matri*
Enjoy your writing here and am now a follower too!
New to all of this actually: (is my new one).
blessings to you,

Shinade aka Jackie said...

Maitri, I know you are having tough times right now. But, I simply pass this along and not include you!!

You are one of my greatest inspirations!!

Peace and love always!!

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