In telling the story of my nervous breakdown at age 39, I’ve so far detailed in two separate posts the death of my dog and the breakup of my relationship. There are three more disasters to share with you because there were three more blows coming for me before the major depression reached its most gruesome stage.
Tonight, the third disaster, but a heads-up for next week: I’ll combine the other two into one last post about the wind-up. I want to get to the climax and the denouement and then I want to go back to writing about dryer lint. Those were the good old days.
All right, let’s do this. Let’s talk about my guts.
Some people get colonoscopies. People with colon disease get them a lot, maybe every couple of years. Every two years, I have to get a pouchoscopy because I don’t have a colon. Instead of a colon, I have a medically fashioned thing called a j-pouch, and if you’re interested in reading the story of my chronic illness, click the “Sicky” category and you can enjoy all that wacky content.
My insurance was canceled in 2017 (a post about that is to be found in the “Sicky” category, in fact) and the cancellation meant I could no longer see my doctors and surgeons. Because of grad school and work, it took me a long time to getting around to finding new doctors. Dragging my feet on this was bad … since I was due for a pouchoscopy. The pouchoscopy is done frequently with gimps like me because we’re at a higher risk for various bowel cancers than other folks. It’s also seriously important to check for inflammation inside my funky new body parts because inflammation could be a sign of pouchitis, which is basically Ulcerative Colitis (UC) of the j-pouch. Which would suck.
And then there’s this other thing that a pouchoscopy can reveal. A pouchoscopy can tell the doctor if you — in this case, me — might be exhibiting signs of Crohn’s Disease.
Let’s see how quick I can do this: If you have UC, it means your large intestine is eating itself alive but your small intestine is fine. With UC, you can have your entire colon removed, get an ostomy, and get a j-pouch and everything blows and it’s awful forever, but whatever. You’ve still got your small intestine and that’s something, at least.
If you have Crohn’s Disease, your large and small intestine are eating themselves alive. Crohn’s peeps undergo (often over and over and over) surgeries called “resectionings”. A resection is where a surgeon takes out a too-inflamed, too-ulcerated-to-save piece of your guts. There’s no total colectomy with Crohn’s like there is with UC, because Crohn’s folks need all the entrails they can get. Any piece could fail at any time, you know?
If a person like me, a person with zero large intestine (aka, colon) is diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, this is bad. This is the worst thing. This is the hell thing. This is the thing that wakes me up at night, the thing that makes me bite my cuticles till they bleed. If I am diagnosed with Crohn’s — whether it manifested after all my other surgeries or if I was misdiagnosed 10 years ago, doesn’t matter — then I will eventually have to undergo resectionings.
If you take away enough small intestine because you have no large intestine to take from you will eventually run out of intestine. If you run out of intestine, you can still live. But you can’t eat. You’re fed intravenously. Forever. And because you no longer sh*t, they sew up your butt. It sounds sort of funny except that it isn’t funny.
When I walk into a hospital or a GI doctor’s office, I experience PTSD from all the needles and bags and accidents and procedures and trauma and despair that I’ve known in the last decade — and that’s just when I walk in. If I’m in the doctor’s office and my doctor looks concerned about lab results or looks concerned about what I’m telling her about how I’ve been feeling, I tremble and shake. I also begin to stutter? When I’m in the GI doc’s office and things get out of hand, it’s true: I can’t get my mouth to say words. It’s weird. It’s frightening. When I have to get a pouchoscopy scheduled, I just … I don’t want to exist in my head. That’s how bad it feels. Basically, going to see my GI doctor is one of the most awful things that can happen to me, even when I get a clean (for me) bill of health.
Guess when I had an appointment to see my GI doctor? Sometime in early January, maybe? Yeah, after my dog and my boyfriend disappeared, and right before I got denied for a home loan and right before a huge fight with my family. It was sorta right in the middle of all that. And remember: This appointment to see my GI doctor was an appointment to see a new GI doctor, because I lost my insurance. New smells. New hospitals. New travel times.
The new doctor needed me to go through my medical history there in her office. From the first words, I could feel the stutter was gonna happen. My eyes started pouring hot water. Trying to “get it together” made it worse. The doctor was patient, but she needed the info in order to help me. By the time I got to the end of the story, which concluded with weird symptoms I told her I’d been having for several months, I was … not good.
“I’m concerned, with what you’re telling me about your symptoms,” she said, after clackity-clacking on her keyboard some more. She looked grave. “We need to do the pouchoscopy you should’ve had six months ago. I’m concerned about Crohn’s Disease, from what you’ve been telling — ”
And I don’t remember what came after that. Wait, I do remember: The doctor told me to go upstairs to get my blood drawn at the lab and she’d follow up with me about scheduling the pouchoscopy “as soon as possible.” I nodded and shook her hand. With a kind of fuzzy, hysterical static sound in my brain and behind my eyes, I took the paper. I went up to the lab. I got to the door. My legs didn’t work. I turned around. I left the hospital. I nearly threw up in the Uber.
All I could think of as I slumped against the car door was feeding tubes.
When I got to my house, I went up to my apartment. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t leave for a while.
Welcome to The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post.
One of the best parts of the roaring fabric auction going on right now — click here for info on that if you need it — is that you and I have been able to hang out more. Doing a once-weekly post is what makes sense for me right now, but merchandise waits for no blogger.
My sincere thanks to all of you for the hip-hip-hoorays regarding the condo purchase. It’s thrilling, indeed, and I feel like you’ve come with me through this whole thing. The auction looks like a success, which is terrific. The bread from the boxes will be put into good use; I foresee those uses including but not being limited to: paying for the cleaning of my apartment before the tenants move in; paying the movers; doing the internet set-up, gas, electric, etc.; tipping the pizza delivery guy, probably several times over the course of the next couple weeks. Thank you. (Remember: On April 1st, thirteen (13) more boxes will go live to bid on, as well as quilts … and who knows what else! I’m kind of digging this eBay thing.)
In other news, I’m in Kentucky.
And though I am eager to get to the next chapter of the story of my major depression, it’s 10:15 p.m. and I haven’t the pep at the moment. I’m on location for Quiltfolk magazine and it has been a long-but-rewarding day. To begin the story’s next gnarly installment would be to steal from my already too-short night’s sleep and to write poorly for you. Do we like the sound of this? We do not. But when you hear from me next you’ll hear about the final blows, the knockout punches that took down our heroine. I’ll try my best to wrap up in that post the reasons why the breakdown occurred, to the best of my knowledge. Then I can get onto the how, the what, and the aftermath of the terribleness.
About an hour ago, in a desperate attempt to push through my tiredness and indeed write the third post in the series, I ate three handmade Kentucky bourbon marshmallows because that’s something you can buy in Kentucky. There was no booze in them, by the way (not that it would’ve mattered one way or the other.) I popped them into my mouth, bing-bing-bing, sure they would shock some energy into my brain. It didn’t work. And if three Kentucky bourbon marshmallows consumed in quick succession in a Hampton Inn in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, can’t give a gal the fortitude to write about a nervous breakdown … she should probably go to bed.
Yesterday, I announced a fun thing you can read about right here!
If you know about the fabric stash + book sale already, you’ll be more interested in this link that will take you to the Mary Fons eBay auction — and this red text is that link! If the auction is live already, it’s because eBay is complicated and strange, at least from the seller side of things. If it’s NOT live, yet, be patient, because it absolutely will be. Everyone will have time to play in the fields of a fabric auction, don’t worry. The auction will be up for five days!
NOTE: Many will notice that there are only 50 boxes for sale instead of 63, which is the count I gave yesterday. Have no fear! There are 63 boxes on offer, but eBay won’t allow me to post more than 50 items a month. (I told you: eBay, man.) I will post the rest of the boxes on April 1st, so look for that if you don’t get a box this time around.
Agh! It’s like throwing a party and hoping people will come, you know? However this goes down, I want to thank you most of all for the well wishes about the new place. It’s a new day. I feel like I’m breaking out of jail, I really do.
Have fun and be good. See you in a bit!
There comes a time in any blog’s serialized tale of woe that it must break the bonds of the narrative to announce a big, fat, juicy fabric stash sale. I’ll give you alllll the details in just a sec. First, let me tell you why I’m about to sell off a huge chunk of my personal fabric stash because many of you may be thinking that either I’m giving up quilting or I have been hit on the head by a coconut. Neither are even remotely true!
I am selling off a large portion of my personal fabric stash … because I moving to a pet-friendly apartment! Yes! It’s the best thing ever! The only downside is that the space I’m moving to is way smaller than where I’m at now. Stuff’s about to get real, y’all. So …
***If you don’t want to read the reason/story behind why I’m doing this and just want to know how to get the fabric, skip ahead to “How This Will Work”!***
Announcing the fabric sale means speeding ahead in the story of my recent major depression, but honestly, it’s kind of a relief to take a break. It may be interesting, but by its very nature, it’s a real drag. So like, can we all just roll around in fabric for a while? Great!
The good news is that the breakdown story concludes with multiple happy endings, and this new dog-friendly living space is one of them for sure.
After the veto of Philip Larkin, so many of you encouraged me to find a new place to live — and you were right. I started looking at condos a couple months ago and found a perfect unit in a 10-floor building a few blocks north of downtown. It was love at first click. This condo checked all my boxes: puppy approved, in a vintage building in a safe neighborhood, with generally good vibes — everything I was looking for. The listing said the seller was “very motivated”, which made sense because the unit had been on the market for half a year. There’s nothing deeply flawed about it; it’s just that with no parking space, a narrow kitchen, and in need of a serious paint job, it makes it a hard sell for a lot of people. But the place was out of my price range by a lot. It was going to take a whole lot of “motivation” to get that number down enough for me to even think about making an offer.
But then one day, I got an alert that the price dropped. Cool, but it was still too expensive for me to seriously consider it. Then, about a month later, the price dropped again. Woah. We were entering the realm of possibility, now. Could this actually happen?? I contacted the realtor my family has worked with in the past and asked her if she had time for a chat. She did, and chatting commenced.
The process was agonizingly slow for weeks and then everything began moving fast. I scraped together all my savings and my IRA monies for a downpayment. After considerable drama, I applied for and got a decent mortgage loan. I crunched the numbers over and over. By renting the place I’m in now, I can pay my mortgage and my HOA fees at the new place. My realtor and I made our offer. The seller countered. We countered back. And then the answer came: Our offer was accepted. At this news, there was much squeaking and hand-flapping and I may have done several laps around my current apartment. Inspections were ordered. Appraisals, too. Checks were handed over. And just yesterday, the closing date is confirmed: March 29th, 2019. That would be next Friday, and I’m not freaking out at all.
Now that you know what’s going on, it’s time to talk about this fabric. You’ve waited so patiently.
The new, totally fabulous place is a one-bedroom. My current place is a two-bedroom. This single-woman-in-a-two-bedroom setup has been a great luxury for me as a quilter, since that back bedroom could serve as my lil’ fabric stockroom. My stash has grown over the years because duh, but also because with so much room back there, I could just keep filling it. Every yard, every fat quarter I purchased was brought in with love and excitement and I am fond of every bit of it. Suddenly, though, I’ve got serious problems. I do not have room for this stash. The only way I could keep all this would be to store a lot of it in my new kitchen cupboards and that would be crazy. Please tell me that would be crazy. (Thank you.)
What, then, are my options for significantly reducing a fabric stash? The way I figure, there are three: get a storage unit, give it away, or sell off a bunch of it.
A storage unit is out of the question. Fabric belongs in quilts, not in grimy storage units. Besides, it’s gross to keep a horde of fabric like that all to myself just because I bought it and love it. Other quilters might love it, too, and they could put it to good use. Donating sounds good, but it’s not as easy as you think to donate fabric. The Goodwill isn’t excited about getting boxes of raw yardage, and so few schools do sewing projects anymore, I haven’t found a single school that will take fabric donations. I have several boxes to send to a local guild for use in charity quilts, but as I thought about sending it all away, I thought, “Well, wait a second, Fons. You purchased this fabric. You have taken good care of it. You have a new, scary mortgage. It’s okay to sell things. It’s not evil.” This is an important note for me and for us all, maybe? Consciously or subconsciously, there exists a certain uncomfortability about making money on a quilt or selling one’s supplies when one could give every last scrap to charity. Quilts and money have a complicated relationship, but a fabric garage sale does not make me or anyone else a bad person. Some may disagree and that’s okay. I know how much a crosstown move costs in the city of Chicago and also I would like to eat food.
How This Will Work
My lovely assistant Jazzy came over last week and we hauled out all my fabric. It was pretty crazy in here. We brought in dozens of Medium-Sized USPS Flat-Rate boxes and filled each of them with a lovely variety of fabrics from my stash. Some cuts were excruciating to part with, but I was firm in my resolve. Each box was able to hold a lot of fabric. There’s Kaffe, Tula, Moda, Art Gallery; there are prints, solids … everything. Each box is a grab bag, but don’t worry: My fabrics are awesome. Some of the boxes are filled with smaller cuts, mostly fat quarters; other boxes are filled with large cuts of serious yardage, somewhere around four yards in some cases. It’s impressive or depressing, depending on how you look at it.
But there’s more than fabric in these boxes.
My book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts For the 21st Century, is now out of print. There won’t be any more in all of existence once my inventory is gone. I now have five boxes of books left, and two of them have to be saved for a couple gigs later this year. When my books are gone, they gone. But I don’t have room in the new place for these boxes, either, so I autographed a whole bunch of books and Jazzy and I put one inside each box.
“Mary!” you cry, “I must have one of these boxes! I love fabric and I want your book and I want to help you live! How much??”
Each box starts at $50.00, including shipping. I’d like to explain how I got that number:
As you probably know, USPS Flat-Rate Boxes (FRBs) are prepaid. FRBs were the only way to go, otherwise Jazzy and I would be at the post office for one fafillion years and everyone in line would be murdering us — with good reason. The boxes ain’t cheap, though: A medium-sized box is around $15 bucks. But we could pack a ton heavy fabric in each box and the poundage was irrelevant. The price of the boxes also accounts for the signed book, which retails for $22. A yard of quilt shop-quality fabric hovers around $12/yard. If you pick up a medium-sized FRB, you’ll get an idea of how much yardage each box is going to contain. Once we added all that up, we decided $50 bucks looked pretty fair. All the pre-washed fabric comes directly from my smoke-free, pet-free (!) home. Oh, and I put a fun certificate of authenticity in there, too, just to be cheeky.
There are 63 boxes that will be listed on eBay tomorrow. DO NOT JUDGE ME. If folks want the boxes, just put in the bid. If no one else bids higher, the box is yours when the auction ends. If the boxes don’t sell at all, I will weep and then I will donate everything, but I have to try this first.
If you’re interested in having a fun with this, be on the lookout here in my blog and on my Facebook page tomorrow morning when I post the link to the eBay page. I’ll do it early so you can get it all loaded up if you want to bid. The eBay page will give you all the above info and more. You are welcome to ask questions in the comments and either Jazzy or I will do our best to answer. As soon as the auction is over, the boxes ship out because heaven knows I need to get them out of here before the move happens on Monday. I’m still not freaking out at all. Do you happen to have any Tums?
And if this garage sale table excites you, just wait: I’m going to be selling a few quilts, too. More on that later.
Welcome to The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post. This is the third installment of a series examining the causes and effects of the major depressive episode I experienced in mid-January.
If you haven’t read the first and second posts in the series already, you should, since in this story, the chain of events is the point. After all, a breakdown is a breaking down of something — and things don’t tend to break down all at once. It’s a domino thing, a Rube Goldberg thing, but with sobbing and extended panic attacks.
After I got the news about Philip, the relationship I had been in for about a year ended, this time for good.
There had been a couple times over the course of the year when N. and I had decided to let it go. There were communication problems. Mistakes were made. But we were genuinely fond of each other. There was sweetness there, no question, and you may have heard that breakups are the literal worst. So, both times we called it quits we didn’t stay quit for long. After a month or so, we’d end up back at my place, ordering takeout and (re)watching episodes of Rick and Morty. It was not a perfect relationship, but it was tender enough. Pathetic, perhaps, that “tender enough” was enough at all, but we do what we do in the world.
It is unethical to divulge on this blog personal details about anyone else’s life but my own. This has always been my policy, so when I sat down today to write about the breakup, I approached it with characteristic caution. My first try was awful. I labored over several too-long, intentionally vague paragraphs that made no sense because I was avoiding saying what actually happened. I deleted all that, then spent another hour writing out exactly what happened in a “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of way. Not only was it sharing personal details about N.’s life, it was exceedingly boring. He said she said? Hell no.
Then it hit me: I don’t need to tell you anything about how it happened. You already know how it happened because we all know how breakups happen. There was terrible pain. People were hurt and then made the other person hurt. There was confusion. Anger. Irritation. Fear. Harsh words. Tears. Do the details really matter?
I don’t think so. Not here, maybe, and not now.
What matters now is that one bitterly cold, windy Tuesday in early December, I was trudging past the post office in the Loop, wincing as the ice hit my cheeks, but warmed by the fact that I had a cute boyfriend and a dream dog on the way. I couldn’t know that within a matter of days, I’d have no boyfriend and my dog was already dead.
Yeah, well, Chicago winter didn’t care about any of that. Heck, the polar vortex was still a month away. Shocked and aching that two major figures in my world had been excised most cruelly, I still had to keep trudging. I still had to go to the post office, the grocery store, and home to my empty apartment, even as the tears I cried into my scarf froze on my face. That actually happened.
It was bad. But at least I had my health. I did have my health, right? Tell me I still had my health.
Thanks for reading, gang. See you next week.