In my last post from about two months ago, I was pretty depressed. Understandably so, given the crappy year I’ve had, health-wise.
Things are better. It’s been a slow process, but they’re improving.
Losing a lot of hair was traumatizing. Hair is a very gendered body part, and losing hair was a very disempowering moment. It was not just losing hair (and my hair was not thick and lustrous in the first place), but feeling less feminine. It impacted my confidence every time I looked in a mirror to the point where it was all I saw. I didn’t feel like I could leave the house without a hat on because I was so self-conscious and upset.
Even in the depths of depression, I can only handle that sort of gnawing emotional pain for so long. One Saturday afternoon I came to the less than obvious conclusion that if I hated what I saw, hair-wise, in the mirror I should change it. Drastically.
I have always wanted to do crazy things with my hair, color-wise. In college I worked in the hospitality industry, and then I was a public school teacher. I had to maintain a certain image, so while I did dye my hair and play around with colors, I was constrained to a very small palette of “realistic” hair tones. However, I’ve been out of the classroom for seven years, and being a stay-at-home-mom/writer doesn’t come with a dress code.
Armed with pictures, I went across the street and talked to the colorist. He warned me that bleaching my hair might make it fragile and break. Given that I’d lost at least a quarter of my hair, I was completely blasé about this possibility. If coloring didn’t work, my next plan was to shave my head, so whatevs.
I first went with a mix of blue, pink and purple, which looked cool for about a week and then as it faded, didn’t look cute at all. With those colors, I couldn’t touch up on my own. The second color was a purple, but so dark that it didn’t look purple unless it was in the right light. About a month ago, I went turquoise and have loved it. Bright purple is up next in a few weeks.
The hair that fell out is slowly starting to grow back–but of course it’s barely an inch long, if that, at the moment–but it still looks quite thin. Seeing a color that makes me happy instead of focusing on the thinness of my hair when I look in the mirror made a big mental difference for me.
The recovery from being critically ill is a long one of about six to twelve months. I’m days away from the six month mark and it does seem to be a milestone. I recently got back blood work that showed that the massive vitamin deficiencies are resolving. I’m not up to full strength, but I don’t feel as exhausted as I used to. It’s a start.
Being ill and out of the gym for seven months has had other consequences. Long time readers know I had back surgery in ’06 on a herniated disc and then tore the one above that in ’13. Going to the gym allowed me to keep my back in good condition, and naturally a long absence has weakened my back and the core muscles that help compensate for the two damaged discs. I am effectively back at square one with my back–the gentlest physical therapy exercises, regular heat and electro-stim therapy, twice weekly physio sessions. I know from experience (at this point LOTS of experience) that it will take several months to bounce back to a place where I have good core stability and can handle a normal fitness routine. Zumba and its ilk will probably need to wait until January.
Mentally, I do still struggle with depression and anxiety regularly. I skype with a therapist in the US (with the cultural differences, I feel more comfortable with a fellow American) regularly. I find certain types of storylines in various forms of media more distressing than I used to. It’s a process.
I feel like I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The idea that I may be as close to my old normal as I’ll ever be by April doesn’t seem as impossible as it used to be. But the last time I thought this, I had a ton of hair fall out. So there’s some amount of feeling like I’m tempting fate by saying so.
I mentioned that I’d hired a helper in my last post. This was not a decision I made easily, but it is one I am very glad I’ve made. When Rhiannon is being three and refusing to do something or go somewhere by sitting on the floor and refusing to budge, I’m not capable of picking her up. Bending down to take laundry out of the washing machine would be extremely painful for me, right now. Having the extra support means that I can skip doing risky things (like picking up a 30 lb child) that could otherwise impede my recovery.
Elanor is finishing out her P1 year. It’s been a long, sometimes rocky, year. The adjustment to her primary school after being at GUG for roughly four years was a big one. Navigating a new school system has been bumpy for everyone involved–the differences between the US and SG school systems are legion. So you’ll have to excuse me for having a countdown clock until the end of the year.
Rhiannon has had the more difficult year. My being sick was hard on her. It was a year of loss–my in-laws had visited for Christmas last year and she grew extremely close to my mother-in-law. They left and she was getting back to normal when I got sick, which threw her world into chaos. My in-laws returned and then left again, and she misses my mother-in-law deeply. When we hired our helper, the baby sitter who has taken care of her since she was around one transitioned to being just a family friend whom she sees occasionally instead of every other week. She’s grown close to our helper, which is wonderful, but she talks about her Dadi (my MIL) and Miss R (our former sitter) often.
Rhi had some behavioral issues that are still ongoing. I spoke to my therapist at length about them, and will be talking to our pediatrician as well. My therapist suggested that it’s a reaction to having a really traumatic year. Which I get. Unlike Elanor, she doesn’t quite grasp what happened or why. She’s young enough that she doesn’t have the perspective on her grandparents that Elanor does (which is that we see them, but not often apart from regular skype calls). She often struggles to verbalize her feelings or gets overwhelmed by them. I’m confident that these are things that will (and already are) slowly resolving. Just as I need time to cope with everything that happened, so does she.
We went to Tokyo between terms 3 and 4 in September. Seeing our old friends from Singapore, E and A, was a wonderful treat. We also hit Disneyland and DisneySea.
Like most Singaporean, the current haze situation has us a bit on edge. Last week school was canceled because the air was so unhealthy.
Ravi had pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for about a week, followed by a week of at-home recovery. This completes the metaphorical BINGO card–all four of us were hospitalized in 2015. This is not a milestone I’m happy about.
I’m sure I’ll get into it in December, but 2015 can’t really end soon enough. It’s been a really awful year, and I’m craving the mental clean slate that comes with January 2016.