Yesterday & Today


Yesterday:  Sometimes it is a relief to wake up and be done with a bad night.  No known reason for this bad night, but the nurse and aide are both complaining of being unusually tired, and I have a theory:  seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is usually characterized as depression resulting from the lack of sunshine during the winter however it can be lack of sunshine at any time—and haven’t we been having an awful lot of gray days lately?  When a person becomes depressed then it may be diagnosed as SAD and treated (inappropriately) with antidepressants but the first sign of trouble is a change in sleep habits.  Maybe the explanation for my restless sleep and the staff members excessive sleeping is all the same:  not enough sunshine.  Nature will take care of the problem for most people; for me, I’ve got a lightbox.  Stevie the Wonder POA brought it in yesterday so I got some light this morning.

A new addition came to our floor last night—an elderly woman is in a bed in the hallway, crying out for a drink of water.  She fell and broke her hip and is now awaiting surgery and therefore can’t have anything to drink.  She cries out most piteously and I think it bothers us all, staff and patients alike.  Her mind is not clear and she cannot understand or remember for five minutes.  The staff go to her repeatedly and offer reassurances and explanations.

There is something happening here that is strange to me.  I think it is that people are being nice.

The woman who broke her hip–.  There’s another woman down the hall who had a stroke.  She lived alone and her son says that it took her twelve hours to get to the telephone and call for help.  Me?  How long did I linger alone?  Days, weeks, months of being too sick to go out and not having anyone come in except an aide three mornings a week.  And the friggin’ psychiatrist wrote that I came to the hospital because I couldn’t tolerate being alone.  That SOB doesn’t know the first thing about being alone.  What doctor does?

Since 1991, I have lived in HUD-subsidized high-rise apartment buildings for people who are elderly and/or sick.  I’ve lived in five of these buildings; I know what I’m talking about.  They are warehouses of people living alone together.  There are no social services supplied; they are just plain old independent-living apartment buildings—except that everybody is old and/or sick.  Is that what you would choose for neighbors?

No, neither would we, but economically it’s all we can afford.  The rent is one-third your income after medical expenses, and your income is minimum Social Security, which is below the poverty level.  My income is around $900 a month and I pay $96 in rent.  This is segregated housing—the federal government has a policy of segregating people based on age, and it sucks . . .

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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