I've had the flu. That's why I haven't been here. I've missed you.
Honestly, I just thought it was a reaction to the flu shot I had last Monday. Along with the pneumovax shot I need every five years. Because of my kidney transplant I'm immune suppressed. This year, I had both shots at the same time.
Also, because I teach and could not let my students down, I kept on teaching. Only death or surgery keeps you from teaching when you're on contract.
I love my students.
So, bundled up in a shawl and sweaters, feeling queasy and shivery, I dragged myself to 10 hours of classes last week complaining about how cold Seneca College felt.
My students thought I was crazy when I kept asking if it was uncommonly chilly in class. "No, Miss. It's really hot."
I kept at it. I lost five pounds because I ate almost nothing. Just sipped water all day long. At home, all I did was sleep. I missed history in the making by sleeping through the U.S. election on Tuesday. I slept every evening after that. Right through til morning. Until Friday, the first day I began feeling better.
That day, my husband Martin Lager a.k.a. Marty had his flu shot. His doctor told him my ailment was some "bug" I must have picked up a few weeks ago, probably around the college. Not a reaction to the shot.
"He said it doesn't work that fast," Marty explained, as I felt guilt layering itself onto all my biliousness.
OMG! What if I infected someone, I thought.
Then something else occurred to me. Maybe my "bug" was my body telling me something.
For once, I decided to listen.
"You've been working too hard," it whispered. "Take a break. Do something nice. Be good to yourself."
So, when my flu-ish feelings began lifting, I knew I needed a real tonic. Despite mountains of marking, I decided we were going to a movie, the first movie we've seen since sometime last summer, before classes began in September. I can't even remember what we saw.
Besides my teaching and writing for you, for the last six weeks, I've also been taking a six-week certificate course on teaching through Continuing Education at Seneca. Free to part-time staff, all day Saturday I sat at a classroom at the college, as a student. I was at Seneca five days a week. Exhausting days, when you factor in the lesson planning. An average of about four hours for every hour of teaching, but I was learning the art of andragogy – the art of teaching adults. Hours of marking, on top of that.
Plus, I polished off a short piece for The Walrus that will appear in the January/February 2009 issue.
I was caring for baby Dandie Dinmont Auggie, who was returned to his breeder last week at 13 weeks of age, to go to his permanent home in Cleveland. And when I had time, I was editing my late father's memoirs.
Quite a lot.
Marty picked me up at 2:45 p.m. after my last class of the week and we went to 4:20 p.m. screening of Rachel Getting Married, the one movie I've been salivating to see for weeks. On Friday, it moved north into my neighbourhood.
It was free because I had racked up enough Scene points to get both of us in.
Why am I telling you all this?
For two reasons.
Reason number one: When it comes to your health and your body, including your mind, no one knows how you feel better than you.
Trust yourself. A diagnosis of a mental illness somehow diminishes this ability. Saps your self-confidence. You lose your sense of self. This is one of the worst residuals of a psychiatric diagnosis and most shrinks don't get it. Part of the treatment morphs into part of the disease. It's almost intractable after it's happened. I struggle with this still. And I'm in my 49th year of psychotherapy.
Listen actively to what your body is telling you. With your all your senses plus your soul. Become sentient. Listen to your mind. Listen especially to the non-verbal cues. The feelings. Hear them. Don't be an idiot like me and wait until you get so physically sick you collapse. I desperately needed that "movie" break from my breakneck routine in front of this 24-inch iMac screen to which I'm glued too much of the time.
The movie was bliss. Ever since, I've had more energy. More focus. More joie de vivre. I'm more "me."
For two hours, I sat in the dark holding my exquisite husband's big, warm, safe hand. It was almost like our first date, except this movie was better. (In July 1999, we watched Runaway Bride and we didn't hold hands, but that's another story.)
For more than two hours in Cinema Four at The Sheppard Grand, we sat enthralled with this bittersweet, joyful, tearful, tragic film about a family. Real people with real issues. Humanity. In microcosm. A story about the perverse power of emotional trauma, the complexities of our minds, our primal relationships. The magnitude of family matters.
That's reason number 2.
See Rachel Getting Married. If you don't believe me, read A.O. Scott's superb New York Times review – the best one I've seen.
If you have a family, this Jonathan Demme film written by Jenny Lumet, Sidney's daughter, slices to the bone. It's a clean cut, but it tingles. If mental health issues are touching you and your family, you will be touched more. Truly. Madly. Deeply. This story will resonate. It won't leave you alone. I promise.
So good to be back.