Archive for July, 2016

Burn Out, Vacation, Dying and Drinking

Right, then…

One helluva title, no?

NOTE:  This is a rambling, unedited stream of consciousness post, so apologies for that.

Things have been…well…things…since the last post.

The diet went to shit.  I sort of knew this would happen, so it’s not that surprising.  I can only do low-carb for so long without it snapping back at me. So, lotsa weight came back.

The eating was also in part due to stress/burnout/depression over work.  I’m in sort of a losing situation and I get like that when I realize that I’m hosed.  The pisser is that it’s a good company, but my reporting structure is wrong – the way it’s set up creates a conflict of interest and my department is on the losing end.  Of course, we are facing increasing standards and scrutiny, with limited to decreasing support.  So that sucks.

Fortunately, I already had vacation scheduled that happened to coincide with my 1 year anniversary.  This was 5 days/6 nights bicycling through Glacier NP, up to Waterton Lake Park in Canada and back down again.  Overall, it was a good trip, gorgeous scenery and a total of ~160 miles.  Originally, I thought we would be doing 300 miles, but there were different options that – considering my deteriorating physical state (see diet/eating, above) and emotional state (see burnout, above and another development, below) my mental state was very much off-step, so the “fuck it” option was selected more than I had originally planned.

So, burnout.  In addition to work burn out, I got burnt out on  riding about 6 weeks before the trip.  To be honest, this could be more related to work than riding, as I was not pushing huge miles, in my opinion.  There were other things – mainly schedule (assholes scheduling 8:30am meetings, having to be on call at a different campus, etc…) that contributed, but in the end, my heart was not in it.  Oddly, now that the trip is over and there’s no real pressure, I’m sort of looking forward to riding again.

Now, the “new” development that helped my mental game deteriorate:  My brother died, rather unexpectedly.  One week before his 51st birthday.  He was already in the hospital to get a cancerous tumor removed from a kidney, but that had a great prognosis.  In fact, no cancer had actually gotten into the kidney tissue; it was all on the surface.  But, something got botched up during surgery and he started throwing blood clots, so when he came to, he had lost mobility from he waist down.  That was fucked.  The doctors figured that he had a stroke in his spinal cord above where the anesthesiologist put in the needle for the epidural (which caused bruising).  So, again, fucked, but everything from the waist up was just fine, just he’d be facing the next 20 to 30 years in a wheelchair.  I last saw him in the ER on a Tuesday (he was admitted, but they could not move in upstairs as there were no beds).  I had taken a couple of days off to be down there for the surgery and was heading back up to work.  The plan was to come back down on the weekend to get a bead on the situation, and then tell mom (who knew about none of this).  The last thing I said to him was “see you later.”   On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from my sister in laws phone – it was an ER nurse saying that my brother was having trouble breathing.  When I asked what they think it was, she replied that they thought he was having a heart attack.  I tell the nurse to let my sister in law know that the cavalry was coming, shut down, let my boss know, and got on the road.

This meant I was trying to cover 165 miles, 50 of which are in Bay Area traffic, at 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon.  I gave him even odds that he’d be alive when I got there.  I called my girlfriend and let her know that I would not be coming over that night.  I called another close friend of mine, who – coincidentally enough – had just lost her niece in a car accident and was still dealing with that.  About an hour later, as I was driving through south San Jose, I got another call from my sister in law’s phone.  It was my brother’s boss (he had been visiting earlier in the day; SIL had called him back as soon as my brother had trouble breathing).  He introduced himself.  In the background, I could hear my sister in law sobbing.  “Well, judging by the sound of my sister in law, I’m guessing you have some bad news for me.”  And that’s when he  told me that my brother had died.  He offered his condolences and I told him that I knew this was a hard call to make and that I appreciated that he did so and thanked him for working with my brother for many years.  I can’t remember how I ended the call.  I called my girlfriend.  She happened to be in Gilroy at the time, so I agreed to stop and see her before continuing on.  I called my friend.  The day before, I had reached out to our company EAP to line up time with a therapist to talk about my brothers paralysis as it was weighing heavy on me.  In addition to getting in-person sessions, they also said that I had access to 24×7 phone counseling, if things got heavy.  This qualified, so I called them.  I was still numb, but I knew that I’d have the chore of telling our mother that her son had just died.  I called another friend.  I called another friend.  I was on the road for most of the trip down.  I got to Fresno and told mom.  She was numb; she didn’t really believe it at first.  Not that she thought I was lying, but it just didn’t sink in.  I spent most of Friday on the phone – fielding phone calls from family and talking to the hospital and coroner, trying to get an autopsy lined up.  I was spent by 4pm.  My girlfriend came down on the weekend and helped out.  My sister in law and mother thanked her and said that I really needed her.  I didn’t feel that way, but I guess that I was telegraphing things that I wasn’t aware of.  Not that I wasn’t happy for her to be there, but I thought I was holding my own. I spent Monday trying to sort out his financial affairs.  Being the opposite of me, he spent a little more than he made, so some things were past due.  I made sure that the utilities and house payments were current for the month.  I reached out to lawyers.  I instructed my sister in law to contact his HR department for life insurance.  We went to a mortuary and lined up cremation.  I did not cry once, through all of this.

The following Tuesday, I was a back at work.  I figured there was nothing to do in the time being, and we had a global department meeting that I wanted to attend.  One of the managers said that she was surprised I was there.  The senior manager said the same, but said that he was happy to see me there.  I resorted to humor “Do you think I’d miss an opportunity to editorialize about our programs?  It’s very therapeutic!”  We had a good laugh.  If I could stay focused on work, then the numb, heavy pressure on the front and top of my head could be kept at bay.  Once my mind was no longer occupied, the heavy numbness would increase.  During a break, my manager handed me a sympathy card signed by everyone in my department.  I started to open it, and saw the front and felt the tears coming up:  “I’m not going to do this now” and closed the envelope.  Later that night, I read it at my girlfriends house and was fine.  Waiting for my flight to SEATAC, I re-read it with the same effect.

I saw a therapist the Thursday before I left for vacation.  She said that going on the vacation was a good thing, as well, so I was happy to be validated.  This is a new person I got through the company EAP, so she’s not used to my sense of humor.  But she did note that I do have one and said “When someone asks you how you are doing, I can see you saying ‘I’m sad, but I don’t know it, yet’.”  Shit, she got it in one.  That’s how I feel.

I wanted to touch back on drinking, before I wrap this up.  Back in February 2011, I wrote this.  When I wrote that, I did not know how long I would not have a drink.  At the time, I think it was a temporary stop; just a pause to chill out, regain composure and not make an ass of myself.  That temporary stop lasted almost 5 1/2 years.  5 years, 5 months and 3 days later, I had a drink.  We were sitting in the Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park on our second night of the trip.  Earlier in the day, they made reference to whether or not I  would want a beer, to which I gave them my “Well, that has merit” face.  This led to the discussion that I was the only one really making me do this; it’s not like there was a judge that made me.  So, before dinner, my friends wanted champagne: “Would you want some, if we ordered it?”  I thought for about 5 seconds:  “You know what?  Why the fuck not.”  My reasons were simple:  1)  I missed the taste, generally, 2)  I missed being able to have a drink, and 3) after my brother had unexpectedly died, I realized that things can end just like that, so I should enjoy the things that I enjoy.  Mind you, I’m not looking to get hammered, and I’m avoiding drinking when I’m experiencing emotions.  But, I have been having a beer or a scotch or a glass of wine, without getting drunk.  I look forward to meeting with friends that I used to drink with in the future for a beer or two.  I haven’t told my girlfriend yet, but I think she’ll be OK with it because I’m going to be OK. And that’s how 5 years, 5 months and 3 days of being completely sober ended.

I’m tired, now.  I’m still on Mountain time – 1 hour ahead – and want to go to sleep.


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