"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Thursday, January 27, 2011


- They say it's all in your head.  So?

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real?  Or has this been happening inside my head?"

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and clear in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"

    (~J. K. Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows")

Being beaten before I even start is a special talent of mine, in that I am often the one supplying the beating.  (Updated below - 06 Feb 2011) (Addendum - 14 Feb 2011)

On Jan 7, I posted Carpal Tunnel Self-Treatment, in which I expressed "Hope to update this, with useful info, in a couple of weeks".

Well, somewhat more than a couple of weeks have gone by and what have I accomplished so far?  Nothing!  Nada!  Zip!

Far worse, ever since the debacle described in Airshow  (back in October), after months of a successful walking regimen I have managed to even fail to keep that up. Like an alcoholic falling off the wagon, I am a mess and back to square one.

I can find plenty of excuses;  I believe that I could qualify for a PhD in excuses and rationalization. (Is there a career opportunity here?  Nah.  I think the post of Presidential Press Secretary has already been filled.  Besides, I still  place some value on my soul.)

While I believe that I have genuine physical problems, I have to face the fact there are probably serious issues upstairs, in my head, that contribute to all this.

Example on how attitude can affect you physically...

In 1971, I hadn't even reached 30 and was having back pains that almost literally crippled me.  I could barely even walk and my doctor told me that I had a degenerative disc in my lower spine that would eventually need surgery to fix.  At that time, I was in severe financial straits and under a lot of stress.

A few months later, a raise came through and relieved some of the financial pressure and, milagro!, the pains went away ("Mein Fuhrer --- I can WAAALK!!!").

That was almost 40 years ago.  While not a medical expert, I've never heard of a degenerative disc fixing itself (and I'll bet you never have either), so I must actually consider the possibility of my doctor being mistaken in his diagnosis (Yeah, that is a shock to me as well).

Around that same period, I had wild mood swings that would make me react impulsively and extremely to problems, eventually getting me fired for a short while;  getting re-hired only after promising to get some help.

The help I got, from a recommended shrink, was damn near useless (not exactly reinforcing my faith in doctors), but I came across a book on the evils of sugar and its effect on mood swings. So, I tried my best to purge (or at least, greatly reduce) sugar from my diet. It really did  help, by controlling my mood swings (it had no effect on my problems, of course, but it did change my perception of them, so that something that had seemed overwhelming and hopeless was now seen as only the damned nuisance it really was).

So, I actually have a lot of experience with the damage that can come from my own depression and despair.

What's the history of this round of feeling sorry about myself?

It's been building up a while, synergetically, probably ever since my IT job was outsourced and I went into early retirement.  When, a few years later, I desperately needed a supplemental source of income, the only thing I could get at my age was part-time work as a grocery cashier.

The manager who hired me was worried about only having that for a person with my engineering and computer background, but I promised him that he would not be getting some disgruntled guy showing up every day with an attitude.  So far, I've done my level best to keep that promise, but the plain truth is, that if asked to conjure up a short phrase to describe this work, "soul killing" would probably cover it.

In response to my post on Carpal Tunnel, a writer emailed to me that he had managed to spend a fairly large portion of his life on keyboards without being afflicted with it.  I've used them since 1981, and when did I start having problems?  About a year and a half into the cashier job.

I suspect there is a limit to how long one can be dead inside before problems surface.

So getting back on track is gonna be a major effort, starting with the restoration of the walking regime.

To get anywhere on the self-treatment program, I think I'm going to have to find and consult a Licensed Massage Therapist, specializing in Trigger-Point Therapy, for help in finding those points in the scalenes that have eluded me.

There is no way on earth I can afford repeated visits, but perhaps a single consulting visit that I can pay for will point me in the right direction (unless of course this licensed professional declares, "Paul. This is B*LLSH*T!  You're wasting your time and money with this").

Having had experience with "licensed professionals" before, I cannot predict how I would take that.

Bottom line:  Back to square one.

Is there a hopeful note on which to end this post?

Well, how about this? ...

I have hit absolute rock-bottom several times before, in 1962, 1986 and 1999, coming damned close to suicide each time.

So, this ain't the first time, and it probably wont be the last.  Why is that  hopeful?  I'd have to be dead  for it to be the last. That I'm writing this is a fairly strong clue that I'm still here (Go easy with the "ghost writer" jokes -- Ok? :-).  Whatever weaknesses I have (and Lord knows they're plenty), my survival instincts appear to still be working.

Putting myself back together is likely to take a while, so I'll try to cease being so damned stupid as to make any promises as to when I'll report whatever results I achieve (That would absolutely guarantee more failure and excuses).

Such reports will come when they come.  That's all I'm saying for now.

Update - 06 Feb 2011 - "Dark Night of the Soul"...
That was the album the therapist was playing when we had our session. The piece she was playing was actually quite soothing and peaceful (dare I say healing?) but the title of that album perfectly captures the mood I was in when I first wrote this post; in my head, I was in a very dark place indeed.

I had done some searching on Google, for licensed massage therapists, specializing in "trigger-point" therapy, and found one close by.

By Friday, Feb 4, I was already six days back into the walking and was now actually going to see someone who could give me the straight dope (at least, as how she saw it) on whether this was a worthwhile course of action, or a waste of time and resources.

Instead of declaring what I feared above, she actually thought it had great promise, and that I was on the right track. She also had a lot of other tips to help me, so we'll see how that goes.

To prep her for what I was going to ask about, I gave her the links to both of my carpal tunnel posts, and to this one. I fear I have fallen hopelessly in love with someone probably not even half my age, because she didn't just read them; she READ them, as I could tell during our conversations.

Smart as Hell, curious, great sense of humor, and apparently absolutely loves reading.


A looong way to go, but I feel better and more hopeful about this than I have in a long while.  Just having someone to talk to about it was an indescribable help.

Maybe I'm emerging from that dark night. :-)

Addendum - 14 Feb 2001 - If the title of the music intrigues you, and you wish to check it out,  look for Dark Night of the Soul by Phillip Wesley.  A Google search just for the title will turn up a lot of hits on the same title by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse.  Other than the title, there is not even a trace of similarity



Paul Wynn said...

Hey Paul, so you were a grocery clerk? If so how long were you in the grocery business and what is it that you like or dislike about it? We'll stop by mostlygrocery.com and see if you can relate to anything. take care! you must really love houston.

Paul_In_Houston said...

I've been doing this since the last week of 2008; so a bit over two years now.

I've a strong suspicion that you noticed the "grocery clerk" part and perhaps missed the "soul killing" and "dead inside" references.

I spent two decades in engineering and then two more in IT (as a programmer and troubleshooter, being creative and doing real detective work to solve problems).

Now, my creativity is confined to how to arrange the cans in the bottom of a grocery bag.

Not -- quite -- the -- same -- thing.

It's only part time, but it manages to occupy nearly all of mytime.

Here's my schedule for this week (Sunday 01/30 to Saturday 02/05)...

S 01/30 15:00-19:00 4.0 hrs
M 02/31 15:15-19:15 4.0 hrs
T 02/10 14:30-19:00 4.5 hrs
W 02/02 14:30-19:00 4.5 hrs
T 02/03 off
F 02/04 off
S 02/05 10:30-19:00 8:0 hrs + 0.5 hr lunch break

Total hrs - 25.0

The number of hours is typical, but the actual schedule varies all over the map.

On many occasions I have had to be at the store at 06:00 AM on Sunday morning (meaning getting up at 4 AM to pull that off), and often the schedule is not even put up on the bulletin board until Saturday afternoon or evening, the day before.

Damned near impossible to plan ahead very much.

Just standing there, pulling things out of the bottom of the basket, gets me in the lower back to the point where I am doing it in crippling pain and as a result have difficulty in even walking afterwards. A couple of days ago I nearly fainted (got very light-headed) in the midst of that. I don't dare let that happen; my circumstances are such that "Lose this job and I'm dead" is not a figure of speech.

Should I be looking for something else? You're damned right!

But this job is exactly the trap I so feared it would be; because of the pain described above, I usually arrive home completely exhausted with the life drained out of me.

If you're in your twenties, what I'm doing would probably be nothing at all.

When your body is 68, that's a whole 'nother story.


Paul_In_Houston said...

"you must really love houston."

You got that right.

Look in the sidebar of my site, in "Posts I Feel Good About..." for "Some rambling thought on Houston" and check it out.


Paul said...

Thank you Paul! that made me laugh real hard. Well not about your back... I posted it on mostlygrocery, I appreciated your input =).


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