Summer of Sickness

I finished out July at work, managed to stay current with the in class portion of my coursework, but fell behind on my homework. I arranged for due date extensions in both of my classes so that I could finish my course work during August, and then went off to Austin for a week to work on new state social studies curriculum under the direction of the State Board of Education, fully intending to finish my remaining school work in the evenings while I was there. Unfortunately, I was swamped in Austin and did not manage to do any school work. The weekend should have been a bright spot, since we had arranged for J and E to join me. I was glad to see them, but even though they joined me on my trip, I still ended up at the bottom of the priority list and was basically abandoned at the hotel. I was so NOT a happy camper!

I was exhausted, guilty about not finishing my school work, unhappy about always ending up at the bottom of the priority list, but I had promised E that we could sped some time together, and find a few things for back to school and for her new house. The next morning E and I did some shopping, had a nice lunch, and then did a little more shopping. We found a few things for her new house, including a new mattress, some art, and a set of shelves. In Buffalo Exchange, a child coughed an absolutely horrible cough all over me, and when we left I actually said to E “I think that child just gave me the flu!” I was so far behind with my school work that I decided to take a week of vacation, and just finish off everything. I went in on Monday morning and arranged to take vacation for the rest of the week, and then went home early because I had started to feel dizzy and hot.

Tuesday I felt so awful, I drove myself to the doctor’s office and was diagnosed with of H1N1. J’s immediate response was the purchase of masks and various types of hand sanitizer. He took great care of me, but for some reason was totally freaked about getting the flu. Every time he handed me anything or touched anything I had touched, he sanitized his hands and spent half of his time wiping down surface with disinfectant. In addition, he wore a mask the entire time he was home, and even slept in a mask. Even though death seemed like it might be a preferable to survival, Wednesday morning I did manage to put together material for a workshop I was supposed to be assisting with and email it off to the main presenter.  I spent most of the next two days in bed, and by Thursday afternoon, I almost felt human again since I no longer thought that my skin might fall off or that all of my bones were disintegrating. This lasted until Friday afternoon, when I was so much worse that J had to take me back to the doctor. I was diagnosed with pneumonitis – sections of my lungs were actually sticking together. Medicine helped me rebound until Sunday, but Monday I was back at the doctor’s office, diagnosed with bronchitis, treated with what felt like a million medicines and then sent home. I finally went back to 1/2 days at the end of the week. Work had been weird about my illnesses – I had enough time to cover it, but no one is actually supposed to have this many things go wrong in a row. They actually had a cleaning crew in hazmat suits clean my office while I was out with H1N1, and the entire library seemed totally freaked. The student population on campus is so small during the summer that we had very few cases, so I really was treated a little like Typhoid May. That changed when the hoardes returned in August, bring their own germs from all over the state. By the end of August, the campus was beginning to feel the actual effects of an epidemic, and I was welcomed back into the fold, but I still felt awful. I actually had to rest on my way from the parking lot to the Library, and then rest in the elevator so that I could make it to my office.

As August rolled to a close, and and I looked toward the fall semester, I started to freak out because I still had not completed my outstanding school work. I had done a dab here and a dab there, but had made no real progress, and I couldn’t seem to figure out how to move forward. I did manage to pull it together enough to talk to my professors, get withhelds for my classes, and put together a calendar of due dates. I also took a one year leave of absence from the doctoral program. It just seemed unrealistic to get further into the program when I had not yet caught up from the summer, and I was still exhausted.

Work Aggravations

Meanwhile, we both had work aggravations coming out of our ears. My department had several meetings with the library director, who assured us that our program was valuable and in no danger, but every action in the library indicated something else. We were plagued by perpetual technical difficulties, and seemed to spend a lot of time justifying our work. In February ’09 the director of my program ( and the associate director of the library) fell and broke her knee and was out for almost six weeks – even more chaos descended while she was out, and she came back to find out that while she still held her position, her authority and influence seemed to have disappeared. Meanwhile, we had hired one of those people who can make any situation go haywire. She is a beautiful redhead with a vibrant and loving personality, but drama queen does not begin to describe her.  She had creative skills that caused some consternation in the library tech department, a serious desire to bring all of her ideas to the top only, and a conviction that she was always the smartest person in the room – if everyone was not immediately on board with her ideas, it was because we were not smart enough to understand, rather than that the idea was ill formed, disorganized or poorly expressed. She burst into tears and ran out of the room regularly if things didn’t go well.  I liked her a lot but she added an element to drama to an already dramatic situation that I didn’t need as I got sick and more depressed. I just didn’t have the patience or energy to deal with emotional chaos at home let alone at work, and three hour meetings were more than any of us could handle.

In addition, the department head took a promotion to another department in July ’09 – partly because it offered more money, and partly because she was tired of the drama and 3 hour meetings. The new department head was 26, sweet, smart, but had only held one professional job in her life – and she was not prepared to deal with the politics, paperwork, constantly changing demands, or the emotional disaster that was our current work situation. Through the summer and fall of  ’09, the entire department arrived at work every morning wondering what fresh assault was going to made on our program, web site or personnel. Work was not a place of reward or comfort in this period!!

At the same time, J was completely tied up with his trail research and and the trail community. He was receiving a lot of notice and even acclaim for his work, and while this was satisfying for him, it also increased demands on his time and his workload, which led to an outpouring of additional frustration, and by this point, I was no longer very sympathetic or even interested. I was exhausted, attempting to juggle all of the things that were not working in my life, and J was not available to me because he was so tied in knots over things that did not seem important to me – or at least no more important than the similar issues from my work.

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