Friday, August 31, 2012

Foggy, druggy, dopey, mopey, and panicked

This is venting. You can skip if you're bored or not into that whole whine-whine-whine thing.

Mmmm, wine.

I like to be efficient, even in my venting, so I'm separating it into two topics:

I'm already taking a cartload of meds. My therapist N upgraded my meds to deal with all the crap that's happening right about now. Which is great. It means I don't go supernova on the streets of Pittsburgh, or throw glasses of water at people at lunch. It also means, however, that I too, feel like I have age-related dementia. I'm used to fibro fog. But this is fog of yet-another-level. I'm grateful that I can work out and also write coherent sentences and stuff. I couldn't do those things the last time I took such heavy-duty psych drugs. But I lose words. Nouns, mostly. I tangentialize and then forget what I was talking about. And there's still breakthrough-anxiety (of course, right?) while I subconsciously process what is going on with my mom, and everything else.

The breakthrough anxiety is exacerbated by the fact that we have been at our usual routine. For example, I'm at a hotel right now. Before that I was at my house for an evening. Before that, GA. Before that, Eastern PA. Before that, my house for a few nights. Before that, hotel.......... So like for example, I'll misplace my cell charger and all of a sudden ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING will feel overwhelming. When I am at home, and have my normal (not bad) level of ocd, the ocd actually works in my favor and somewhat ameliorates my visual impairment. Everything goes in its place. That way I don't have to look to find it. I have my house, my items, practically memorized. I say practically because there's probably some I don't have memorized but I can't think of what they are right now. I can navigate, and accomplish things within my house when in total darkness, in which I am completely blind. But right now it's like.... OMG.... cell charger..... where .... intense feeling of PANIC WORLD ENDING GOING TO CRY AND NOT BE ABLE TO STOP HELP OH GOD.

To continue with meds, I was just able to go see my PCP, goddess bless her she is wonderful and got me in this morning to deal with the scabs on my legs. She calls them lesions and I'm like, ew. She said what she thinks is happening is a bacterial infection and / or I'm getting new spots because my immune system is cranking out extra histamine like a champ. She has me on an antibiotic (which is like so f-ing huge.... luckily I literally have a pill cutter with me, at the hotel. Which I just bought yesterday) and a topical steroid, which I have to dab on each spot 2-3 times a day. And she wants me to take Benedryl pills at night and put Benedryl topical cream on the spots when they itch in between applications of the steroid.

So I counted the spots. Because i had to put the steroid on EACH ONE, which I will do at least the first few times and then will probably just rub a daub into the clusters where there are clusters. I have 38 spots. Thirty on my left leg and eight on the right. Plus that scary thing on my right ankle. She poked, prodded, visualized and was like, "For that thing alone, you need an antibiotic."

So I should stop getting new spots and these ones should decrease their gross-lookingness. Yay. Seriously yay b/c they are so itchy that I scratch them in my sleep and wake myself up.

I was supposed to go to the shore with my family, which I haven't been in 10 years. I was really looking forward to this vacation. With everything, I need it more badly than ever. I also told my dad that I was looking forward to walking down the boardwalk with my husband, something which I have never done.

However, circumstances etc. means I would have to take a Greyhound to Allentown so I could depart with them. But Greyhound is hell on my back. Seriously. And I already had one back spasm last week. Size medium. Which means I could still walk, but it was dicey for a little while. Amtrak is better but it goes to Philly only. Dad offered last night to drive me from Pittsburgh to A-town. If you will remember, he had originally offered me this when I was set to be with my Dad-Pam for a month, so that I could do Prosody. Now Mike is not sure he can go because of some work-shit that imploded, and my dad will probably no longer be able to take me from Pittsburgh to A-town because of some of HIS work shit that exploded.

Which... disappointing.

But then he said something. He's got to always say something, right? So when I was relating to him how .... brain fog. I just lost my thought. Real time Meds In Action.

So when I was relating to him how Mike might not be able to come he was like, "I want Mike too. I mean it's going to be all couples there. You'll probably feel like a third wheel or something."


Actually what I wanted was to be with my family in the relaxing ocean atmosphere, and the doc even said I could go in the ocean b/c the spots were all closed-over. And I wanted to walk on the boardwalk and buy cute beachy clothes even if I couldn't do it with my husband. And I wanted some time to decompress with my family. Especially more time with stepgoddess Pam. I don't think I can ever have enough time with her. She is like, nurturing to the nth power.

But I don't want to be a third wheel. And what's more, without the sighted-guide of my husband, I'll have to use my cane. And I wouldn't want to attract undue attention with my cane and make the whole family feel uncomfortable.

I know that last bit is taking it out of context. That's not what he said. But. I. I.

I need to go have lunch with Jenn now. God bless Jenn. And all you bloggerinos for reading and sending me good energies. I <3 u.


So I'm back in Pgh for a week, then, AFAIK, off to the shore with my dad & stepfamily for a BADLY NEEDED vacation.

I just wanted to clarify one thing in my last post that, upon rereading, I realized it would not make sense for the general blog audience. Some friends i have been telling more than others. And family knows all these details too but some people don't.

I wanted to clarify the part where I was talking about choices and emotionally toxic environments. It was in the last few lines of my post.

1) I said "my mom made her choice." What I mean by that is her choice to refuse treatment for a medical condition that is not (I hate this word) "terminal." I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think it's important to have autonomy and to be allowed to pass with dignity.

On the other hand, I know my mom has had depression, which she has refused to be diagnosed with (meaning she did not accept the diagnosis and take meds for it, nor did she engage in serious talk therapy for the length of time where it would have lasting beneficial power) for quite a long time, maybe since I was a teenager. Her untreated depression has impacted her ability to get along with family members, to make sound decisions BEFORE this all came to a head, and to make friends, which, besides just the fact that friends are great (thank you friends of Jill!), would increase her support network in times of crisis.

Also, living in the environment she has chosen, a very rural town with pretty good-but-not-the-quality-of-urban medical care (i.e. needing to be driven hours to get certain procedures done, perceived burden on support network) is another factor. I'm not sure how much it has influenced her decision.

Providing an environment where people with chronic illness can have a good quality of life, even if they are poor, is a societal issue that needs to be fixed before I can accept that "right to die" is more good than bad.


2) I said something else in my previous post about emotionally toxic environments. Even though I have suffered XXXXXXXX SURVIVED childhood abuse from my mother, I don't mean that her sickness alone has created an emotionally toxic environment for this particular trip to GA. What I mean is, SOMEONE had made the decision to keep the severity of her illness from my Gran, who lives in the same house and has age-related dementia.

Which means if it were just me and my mom and my aunt and uncle on this trip, I think, although it's a horrible circumstance, I could have stayed the whole time w/o having... shall we say... a nervous breakdown and having to leave a day early. It's the fact that I had to keep my emotions from my Gran, and thus from the environment in general, that really drove me over the edge. I don't know whose decision this was, but I still don't think it's the right one. I *do* know that my family on the maternal side has been all about preserving secrets that would have been somehow controversial or upsetting to certain family members.

Here's a fairly benign example. My other aunt was a Catholic school teacher. She *loved* her job. My grandfather (who was pretty much tyrannical) railed at her all the time because teaching at a Catholic school did not make enough money as would, say, teaching at a public school. Or [insert another business-type job that would make more money].

Like I said, my aunt loved her kids, where she was teaching, etc. I don't know how much of this decision was to appease my grandfather or what, but she got a job as an insurance claims processor. She tried at that job for awhile, but HATED it. She wanted to go back to teaching. So she did. BUTBUTBUT we were not allowed to tell my grandfather that she went back to teaching. This lie lasted years and years and years. Until the day he passed, my grandfather thought my aunt was an insurance claims processor, or some other job that was NOT a teacher.

There have been less benign family secrets than the one about my aunt and her teaching, but they are not appropriate for a blog available to the entire internet. I believe, however, that preserving secrets is like allowing sores to fester and become infected. Sooner or later the secret will come out and when it does, it will be far worse than if it came out earlier.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Weird stuff that happened this week.

Okay, the post to fulfill that title would take up volumes, but here's a list. You know I like lists. These are in no particular order.

1. I learned that my Gran has serious age-related dementia. She is 93.

2. Gran cornered me (she is good at this, for she operates a walker and it adds like 2x to her personal space) in the doorway of my guest room, just freaking out with anxiety b/c she knows something is wrong with my mom but THE FAMILY HAS DECIDED TO KEEP HER IN THE DARK and I had to pretty much lie to her (is how I saw it) about the situation. This happened several times. I had to leave GA a half-day early. This was to make my goodbye constructive and decent for my mom, so that I would not leave a trail of psychological carnage and salted earth behind me. My family has never told the truth. I had years of therapy to untwist my brain. They were pushing me back in that direction.

3. I saw a woman on the plane wearing an ombré hijab. It went from pale blue the top of her head to dark green to dark blue. I remember when I was working at DU, how I thought those corn-fed preppies had nothing on the Muslim girls when it came to pure glamour. They worked it. I don't know I feel about ombré as a trend, but maybe I will end up picking up a piece or two. It's better than neon. I tried to find a picture but they wouldn't load so if you want to look some gorgeous ombré hijabs you can see them here.

4. My cats welcomed me home last night and are now installed in each of my pockets. They are all like "mow!" and "mew!" and "we love you" and "pls dnt lv us we <3 are hoo-manz!"

5. Sadly for them, we are staying in the hotel the next few nights so I can get my stuff together for the Prosody taping on Saturday. Mike said it would be good b/c I was having more bug freak-outs at my mom's. They have ants. Which brings me to #6...

6. I asked my husband to check my body over for ants. Which I was pretty sure were there but maybe not. So you see OCD, still rolling strong. It has not kicked in yet because a) I'm pretty sure those things on my legs are hives created by stress and overheating and b) I'm chock-full of nice meds from therapist N, who has really be helping me through all this.

7. I saw my husband step up like he has never stepped up before, dealing with family members, making flight arrangements, making sure I got back to a safe environment. When he could have INSTEAD been like "well, we're leaving tomorrow so suck it up." Then again, this is the guy who waited with me in the psych hospital ER (this was like 15 years ago? more?) for ten hours to protect my fragile emotional state from the detoxers and peeps that had gone off their meds who were sort of violent or just weirdly twitchy. I love him, I love him, I love him. If you work with him or are his friend, give him a hug; give him a break. He's been through a lot helping me get through this stuff with my mom.

Just a PS for casual readers of my blog who don't know me very well. My mental illness has been stable for many many years. This is a serious break b/c of all the SHITE that has happened at once.

PPS to my friends who have helped out with Team Cat and everyone who has just sent their well-wishes, prayers, and healing energies, thank you. You really are my extended family, and I love you. My mom has made her choice. Now I've made mine. To live well. To celebrate life, and friends, and creativity. To attempt a removal of the emotionally toxic elements in my environment.

PPPS: I have to go b/c Ruskin has just knocked my books & crap off my desk with his big butt. This is a sign that he wants Second Breakfast and will not be denied.

<3 <3 <3

Monday, August 27, 2012

no map

My mom, who lives in Georgia, is very very very very sick. I am flying down there today to see her for what may be the last time. Please send prayers / healing energies for safe travels ----for both me and my mom.

Friday, August 24, 2012

There's a splinter in your eye and it reads react (R-E-A-C-T)

Haaaaay internet bitchez what up?

Okay, I tried being casual just there (which I mistyped causal) but I like you. And I'm not casual with people I really like; I'm serious. 

I've got this serious dilemma. 

You may have already been caught up with my life to date, or at least the one I share in blogland, but if you're not, maybe you should read back a few entries until you are caught up... if you want to help me make this choice. If not, fuck it. Keep reading voyeur. I know you're there.

This house here that I'm sitting in right now is a safe place because Pam says it is. I think stepmom Pam may have been created from part-goddess parts.


My dad actually talks like that. His default unit of communication is The Lecture. It lasts from 5-10 minutes. I have gotten good over the past few days at not giving a crap. Or rather at fake giving a crap. This is different from when I was growing up. Then I really gave a crap about everything that came out of his mouth because he was my dad. And I was raised to do so. Ditto mom. She really isn't a normal scenario. I don't mind faking it. I love him. He's my dad. I love mom too. They did some pretty stupid things back in the day, but I love them. Pam has semi-reformed my dad. My dad is driving me to Pittsburgh for a thing. He's good. We just don't see the same on a lot of stuff. Mom is still doing stupid things. But I love her anyway. Yes, I'm being vague here. The stupid things they did aren't really relevant to this post. 

Anyway dad in this particular cat lecture kept rolling on like a 18-wheeler that's lost it's brakes and is on a slight slope downward. When I was younger I would have freaked the fuck out that he was talking about my cat that way, because I depended on my dad to understand me. Now I'm 37, I have a load of friends that I pretty much consider my extended family, and also did I mention, right now I'm on lots of medication. So I was like in my head: hm dad, fuck fuckityfucknuts where is the coffee.... 

But it takes little pieces of me away, whenever I have to fake it. My dad says ridiculous things all the time. I mean reeeeeee DICK ulous. His views on gun control and immigration are... ahem, they do not match mine. And without Pam there, he feels free to expound even if I ask him not to. Because he speaks in the all-caps voice, and I speak in the regular typeface with lots of dashes and interruptions-of-myself / or / slashes / like this / voice. 

If dad were the only thing getting under my skin (HA I made a joke there b/c my skin was all scabby before my dad got under it), this trip would not be making me so crazy. But there's one more leeeeettle straw that is breaking my back.

Back, back, back in the day I used to live here. In this town. And when I wasn't living here, I was living about 15 minutes south.

Some crimes were perpetrated against me by a certain man. Not a relative.

And this town holds all these memories that I didn't even realize would come up when I was by myself, under a fair amount of stress.

I thought this afternoon hm this could be a clue as to why I don't visit here that often.

I feel like to go outside I should dress up in a floofy head scarf and big sunglasses (sunglasses, check). Like Jackie Kennedy.

I don't believe this person, this man, is living here anymore.

But when you have, for example.... say you have a really ugly dresser. 

I have a really ugly dresser.

Say it was bought for you by your dad who has very masculine taste in furniture when you moved into his bachelor apartment when you were 17 because mom was not a normal scenario.

It was bought for me by my dad..... 

and I was looking at it when... this man... not a relative... was perpetrating crimes against me. Not crime, crimes. Repeatedly for several years.

This dresser is still in the room where I'm staying now. This dresser has followed me through 1, 2, 3 yes I believe it's three homes in the Allentown-Bethlehem area. 

And it's not the only scenery that surprise-haunts me.

My dad and I were doing some errands today in the car. Vroom, drivey-drive. You don't walk anywhere around here because you drive. Dad likes to drive. He likes to drive scenic routes sometimes. Todays scenic route, featuring some of the best scenery of Allentown-- it is seriously nice scenery --took me past several places where I remember the details of certain crimes. 

Last night, before this all even happened, I dreamt about him. The man. I dream about him in Pittsburgh sometimes too. But not very often. And when I dream about him in my own house, I wake to my life, my independence, my I-can-leave-if-I-want.

So I'm thinking about coming home. My dad already agreed to drive me back to Pittsburgh and back in a few weeks to do an important poetry thing. Nobody besides my dad and Pam (and Jenn?) know about this because it's been all Ravi Ravi Ravi where the fuck is Ravi. But I could just not go back with him. I would stay a week at home and then come back with Mike for the shore trip at the end of that week. 

But I am worried about incurring the, I won't say wrath, because my dad doesn't do wrath anymore... incurring the pissed-off of my dad.

*     *     *

I can't take this shit anymore. I'm going to list the shit now, just to recap.

1) We got fleas.
2) My OCD, the fleas, and the extreme heat of August interacted very badly, creating lots of scabby wounds all over me which I imagine are all flea bites, but which, in fact, are most likely not all flea bites.
3) I retreated to my parents' villa in sunny A-town which is well-appointed, cold as a fridge, and has stepgoddess Pam.
4) Back in Pittsburgh one of our cats vanished.
5) My husband starts freaking out and we are apart. I mean he is being really productive and amazing, but he is still hurting too.
6) I start freaking out here but in a slower, more protracted manner, including varied and sundry elements of PTSD badness, remembering crimes, etc.
7) if I go home, I will have to face the reality of my gone-cat-gone, and the imaginary but sort-of-real fleas.
8) if I stay here I will have to deal with the PTSD and to a much lesser extent my dad.
9) Either way I have at least another week of here. Which has goods and bads that even out. If you look at it as T = 7 days.

Am I still making sense bloggerinos? Help me make this choice? Deliver me some insight? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A fist fight is brewin at my house, my house

So apparently the fact that I was not a hysterical wreck upon hearing of Ravi's disappearance was my mind's way of protecting me from emotional fallout. I recognize the signs now. The false I'm fine now. But that, truly, is a load of crap. I've been trying to be equanimitous. Is that a word? Anyway, trying to keep an even keel, stiff upper lip, and all that shit. Because that's what my heavy doses of DBT (it's a type of cognitive therapy for people that have had problems with severe emotional dysregulation) have taught me. But there's some cracks in the armor or something. Gee I can't imagine why.

Now I'm cycling through some emotions. They just needed awhile to get to the surface. I'll share them in alphabetical order, because hey, it's orderly.

Anger: Goddamn it I would have locked up the cats for the moving. This would not have happened on my watch because my special unique brand of cynicism and mistrust will keep everybody safe. Except I hate everybody and don't want to keep them safe right now.

Fear: He's somewhere and needs help and can't get to safety. He's hung himself on his collar somewhere in our house and is slowly suffocating. His body out back below the bamboo strata, disemboweled by a badger. 

Guilt: If I hadn't abandoned my cats to serve my own pathetic needs then... [see the rest under Anger]

Positivity: I love my husband and my two cats and Ravi could still come home and he might even been hiding within the many holes and weird unsearchable alcoves in our large old home and ANY MINUTE he will shimmer into existence and we will be sooooo happy and in the meantime we have all these friends who our offering their goodwill or advice or practical help and yay friends yay enduring love. Unfortunately this emotion does not manifest as often as the others.

Remoteness: My heart is craggy mountainous snowcovered waste and the only thing that grows there are those trees that look all scrubby and can survive in unforgiving climates. And I want the universe to obliterate it with a comet.

Sadness: I just love him so much all the way from his hoppers to his branches to his little schmutzface and I want him back soooo bad.....

Annnnnnd shuffle.

Day 3 oh my

So the first few days in A-town have been eventful. Maybe a little too eventful. What I need right now is some calm and happy instead of intense and OMG, OMG. But the latter seems to have followed me from Pittsburgh.

In good news: I just got tapped for an amazing opportunity in the realm of disability poetry. Like in my lap, out of the blue, and all the other cliches. And at first I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it, but my dad, of all people, provided the help that I need to make it happen. And by help I mean he can drive (unlike me) and he's going to drive me a long way to do this thing. It's seriously one of the kindest, most generous things he's ever done for me. I don't know if I'm allowed to blog about it until it happens, but I'll fill you in more later. This not-allowed aura comes from all Mike's classified projects at work. It makes me think about what I say and to whom very carefully. As if things I did were so important that they had to be classified. Poetry espionage! 

In not-so-good news, our middle cat Ravi got out yesterday when Mike was having some haul-away guys move junk out of our house in my absence. Mike is a trusting, optimistic person. It's this quality that made me fall in love with him. It balances out my more cynical, skeptical nature. He stood by the door and carefully guarded each item on the way out. Also he told the moving people to watch out for escaping cats. I would have locked the little devils up. But Mike is doing seriously everything-and-more to try and get our boy back and I'm so sorry this had to happen on his watch. It is a rather bizarre scenario. If you know Mike, he can tell you all about it. 

This is Ravi: 

He's not really an escaper, anymore. He's more of a hider-from-big-scary things. They searched through the house and porches and all around outside and put up posters. I feel so powerless that I'm "stuck" here when my boy is gone missing, but honestly my eyesight sucks. The only thing I could add would be my familiar voice calling to him and my presence, which would probably be comforting to Mike and Luna, who is following Mike around crying. She is Ravi's cat-friend and misses him greatly. Also, she is probably wondering... first Jill, then Ravi... wtf wtf wtf??!!

The two of them (Luna and Ravi) eat together upstairs away from Ruskin who is a hoover while Luna and Ravi eat more moderately. It's a game to actually get them up the stairs. Which means it's a pain in the ass for us and super-fun for them. They resist coming when called and then chase each other up the stairs and get distracted by The Cat in the Mirror and invisible things floating through the air. Often Ravi will be more resistant than Luna because he doesn't get as hungry for the wet food. Also hiding is one of his favorite games. So often I will go through the house calling Ravi Ravi, and Luna will follow me around meowing. I wonder if she is calling to him too. I think she did that with Mike last night (at least while he was searching the house) and it's heartbreakingly adorable. 

I wish I could be there for them.

I wish I could be there b/c I think my presence would somehow magically bring Ravi back, ha.

Anyway, safe travels, boycat. And come home soon damn you.

PS this has not really helped my stress-related skin crawling / itching from going away. I think I'm gonna need more Neosporin soon. And some bandages. And a giant bath full of oatmeal. I know they say "oatmeal bath" is soothing to people with skin irritation. Of course my imagination interprets that as boiling up a cauldron of Scottish steel-cut and dropping it in the tub, then climbing in after.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

goodbye / hello again

"It's the first day of PItt." The vivacious girl with blonde wavy hair and a college t-shirt says this to the slightly harried woman with short brunette hair and a polo shirt. All across the streets of lower Oakland are ad hoc artifacts of car and crowd control. The roundabout in front of the hotel near this coffee shop is high-traffic right now. Sandwich boards made out of plywood and newsprint say NO PARKING in hastily scrawled sharpie. 

The blonde girl is head of a dorm check-in operation that she's running from the big wooden table near the door of the Caribou. I'm sitting a few seats away, contemplating my own ... new beginning isn't the right word for it. I'm telling myself this stay with my folks is kind of like a writing retreat. I've never been to one. Maybe I will have the time to do some research / application while I'm chillin in Allentown. It feels like a new beginning though. I could sense my flea-stress palpably release as I was dragging my much-too-heavy suitcase over the busted sidewalks on Meyran. 

The airport peeps are totally gonna weigh that shit and charge me an extra fee, then mark it with a big bright tag that reads HEAVY. I always used to make fun of Stina b/c her luggage would get tagged like this routinely. Stina, if you're reading this, it's karmic payback time for Jilly. 

I've never been on vacation for a month. My vacations are more in the weekend mini-break range. Two weeks is really luxurious / the amount of time I can be away from my cats before going a little insane with missing them.

Right now they are making me a little insane with their presence. I feel bad about that. They are the equivalent of my kids, because I don't want to have kids, yet I have this maternal affection that needs to go somewhere. But the OCD has really gotten in the way with loving them right now. I feel bad because they can't understand why I've been avoiding them and I can't explain it. Our relationship is based a lot on touch-as-communicatin, on soothing, comfort and mutual purring. 

The oldest one, Ruskin (he turned 14 last week) is probably suffering the most, because he's the least likely to go to another person besides me for affection. Also, after Ravi's territorial marking problem (yes, he's neutered; no, we don't know exactly why he's doing it) we've kicked all cats out of the bedroom. Rus would snuggle with me at night. It was one of his great joys. Some cats are joyful naturally. Rus is not one of them. 

It's funny. Rus would herd me off to bed. Like when he knew it was time for bed, he would follow me around meowing as I was doing the whole brush-teeth-wash-face thing. Mowwww. Mowwwww. You're taking too long! Sometimes he would get on the bed before me, right in my spot, nailing down the covers so I couldn't get in. And sprawl there. Like you had your chance but you were toooooo slow. And we would play a game to get him off the bed. He would resist jumping down for a few moments and then huff off in a grand display of huffiness, only to return the second I got in and pulled the covers up.

I hope when we replace the rug, seal the floor, and cover it with laminate or some such, we can let the cats back in and Rus can resume his snuggling. 

It hurts both of us that I can barely touch him.

I can't help but wonder how OCD would affect my loving of a baby. I mean, my physical loving. Babies can get really realllllly messy, and you're with them 24/7. I don't want to dwell on that too much, because it makes me sad. I would like to think I'd get desensitized. And bugs, one of my major triggers, on a child, are far less likely. Anything a child can produce is not nearly as triggering for me as bugs. 

I sincerely hope a month away with Mike working on the flea issue will help this whole crazy situation. 

I never used to Frontline the cats consistently. That will change now. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my month away, at least right now. There will a lot of stress taken away, by being gone, but some stress added. I hope to spend more time writing, reading, submitting, working out, doing yoga, and then holy moly I GET TO GO TO THE SHORE. It's been forever. Like almost ten years since I've gotten to go. 

Gotta sign off now. Time to go to airport.

Aiton sent me this & I heart it: 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Foreign exchange

I've been thinking about a particular disability trope which has always bothered me:  Person X may have a disability, but they're just like everyone else. They're no different from you and me. I really loathe that. You hear it from, say, movie producers or PR people who want to cash in on the inspirational-overcoming version of the disabled character. Sometimes you will also (even) hear it from a person with a disability, said about him or herself. 

The thing that bothers me about this statement is it's falsely reassuring, gooey-sentimental, and just not true. But... I think I get it now. 

I mean, I'm not suddenly in favor of this wording. But I think it's badly executed shorthand for: although I have a thing with my mind or body which may be initially offputting to you, person who lives in the land of Normal, you should examine that opinion. This disability, though it comprises part of my character, does not exclude me from also possessing character traits that you, Normate, can identify with. Maybe we can have coffee or something. Even though we are from different countries, let's have an exchange. 

This trope is on my mind because I'm here today to blog about OCD. It's not my favorite topic. I want to keep my mouth (hands?) shut. But I haven't been blogging a lot recently, and although my pageviews are way down for August, I'm assuming some of you might still be reading and maybe wondering what's up with me. What's up is OCD badness.

I've been having a cumulative amount of stress through late July / early August, none of which I can write specifics about. I'm hesitant to include the personal details of my friends and family in the blog. The biggest stressor is a family thing that I don't want to talk about in the great open space that is the internet. 

Setting that stress-ball aside for a moment... know, reader that I've had OCD --the serious full blown after-school-special with tics and checking and counting and weirdness-- ever since I was small. Somewhere between age 4 and 6, I started noticing the rituals. Of course, I didn't know they were rituals at the time. Although my rituals were quite overt, I wasn't diagnosed until I was 17 or 18. 

I still wonder about the late diagnosis. Some possibilities: unmedicated OCD can relapse and remit. A few bad months, then one good. Some tics were obvious but some were secret. My parents didn't want to / understand / have the time to deal with this strange behavior. I was always strange. I was born strange, and this was another manifestation of my strangeness. When your marriage is falling apart in vivid and messy detail, it's more concrete and more compelling than your kid doing a weird thing. 

So after the diagnosis there was medication: first Zoloft, then Luvox, then back to Zoloft, then another brief flirtation with Luvox which suddenly started giving me heartburn and I would have to give up my BELOVED coffee and fuck that, so back to Zoloft, and finally onto Cymbalta, which covers both my OCD and the nerve pain of my fibro. It really covers my OCD... better than the Zoloft did. About as well as the Luvox, without the heartburn. 

I'm interested in my hesitation to tell you about the OCD. I've already revealed the blindness, the fibro, the PTSD. And I believe disability is my country, my political party, my crew, my crowd, my proud-to-be. So why the coyness about OCD? I feel like it's worse somehow, comes with a stigma.

Idealized OCD, on tv for example, is often portrayed as comic relief. Or OCD gives you supergenius powers of observation. 

But when one considers the reality, it's more particular, more individualized, far less glamorous. 

I have heard lots of people say "oh I have a touch of OCD," when what they mean is, "I like to alphabetize my books" or "I get finicky when my collectable figurines are out of alignment in the curio cabinet." 

It's not the same as the all-out counting-checking-ticcing-can't-help-it variety that I speak of now, that I hesitate to speak of.

Wikipedia, prized source for all my students' "research," says:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions....[Symptoms] can be alienating and time consuming, and often cause severe emotional distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However OCD sufferers generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational, and may become further distressed by this realization....Roughly one third to one half of adults with OCD report a childhood onset of this disorder, suggesting the continuum of anxiety disorders across the life span.  

OCD is my brain's favorite torture device. It's there with pinchy calipers to pull and poke at my rationality, ubiquitously. It makes my thoughts race. You really wouldn't know it to observe me though, unless you lived with me and caught me doing a series of tics. 

The medication aids in a popular coping mechanism of "saving" the tics for an appropriate time to discharge them, i.e. not in public. 

So the OCD was exacerbated by the cumulative stress-ball rolling itself bigger and bigger since late July. 

August is inflammation, fire, anxiety. August two years ago was when I got the shingles. I once wrote a poem about August called "Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified." It's in my chapbook, Borrowed Bodies.

The seed of my annual August (Augustine? Augustian?) stress usually is familial on the maternal side. Mom stuff, to put it simply. This year my mom stress is unbloggable. I don't feel comfortable revealing her personal details which also trickle down to be mine. Maybe that there is part of my problem. N has said quite a few times that I need to mentally "let go" of "fixing" my mother. 

So. if Mom stuff is the seed to my stress-ball, then fleas are its outer coating. <-- Ew.

Our cats have contracted fleas. They don't go outside much, hardly ever really. But Ravi may have picked them up from his porch time. Or a human, including the humans he lives with, may have brought Flea Zero in on clothing or bags. Or Flea Zero just hopped through the hole in the screen one day. 

We've had fleas before, but never this bad. Admittedly, we don't use Frontline (or its competitors) all year round. I just have this "less medicine is best" attitude and it's cold most of the year really isn't it? and cats are so squirmy and I'm always fretting that I'm doing it wrong because am I really parting the hair at the shoulder blades and getting the product DOWN TO THE SKIN? If I don't get it DOWN TO THE SKIN I'll have done it wrong and omg, fretting ensues.

Bugs squick me. Biting and stinging bugs. Fleas bite. I"m not sure fleas have ever bitten me before now, before this August. But they've since attacked my ankles, my knees, the tops of my feet. My skin is extra sensitive to bug bites. They swell, get really red, itch like a motherfucker. I've scratched my ankles raw from these bites. 

So the stress had been mounting and I just didn't intuit where it was all headed. Bugs. Fleas. August. OCD.

Being an intellectualizer, I tried to sublimate my flea stress by doing research on the internet; always a good idea! Internet research did nothing except to amp up my obsession. Basically the conclusion I came to was a) they're nearly invisible to me b) they can live EVERYWHERE in my house in the absolute smallest places where I couldn't even conceive of before reading the horrible horrible internet c) they can lie in wait in egg sacks d) the Frontline alone won't fix it; we have to vacuum EVERYTHING EVERY DAY. All soft surfaces.

d) is practically a quote. 

So after amping up my obsession with internet research, I was petting Ruskin and saw two fleas on him. One was maybe dead? And one was moving... I saw it. Go in. Burrow. Into his fur. 

I SAW THE FLEA GO IN TO MY CAT. And then I lost my shit completely. 

Mike found me at home in the middle of the day, absolutely hysterical, unable to exit the shower. I was fixated on two objects, each about the size of an individual coffee ground, dark against the porcelain tub. It seemed as if they had come from my hair. 

Water running over me continuously seemed the only tenable state. 

I was like, in control of my body, but not. Words came out of my mouth...

We stayed in a hotel for a few days last week. For me. So that I could re-gain my sanity. My therapist was on vacation. I called her (she'd said I could) and we communicated about this issue. 

There's a new med, for the short term. 

Two days ago we came home. I was good for the first day and now bad again. Not hiding-in-the-shower bad. But... home is not a good place for me right now. 

I'm going to visit my folks for a few weeks. Their house is very clean. VERY clean. They have no pets. They have wifi and serious a/c to calm all my heat-related skin-flamation. And they are my parents, my dad-and-Pam who I haven't spent nearly enough time with in the past years. 

I look forward to many kitchen-table conversations. Now that I am older I can appreciate my family more, as individuals. Hopefully I'll get to see some of my extended stepfamily while I'm there. My nieces, with whom I've missed a lot of their growing up.


I brought up the trope, the "... and I'm just like everyone else" thing because I like to deconstruct these concepts but also, paradoxically, I find the need to say it to you now, when I haven't before. Like I have OCD but really I'm just like you. Even though it's a stupid thing to say. It's like I'm pleading. I have lovable characteristics you may recognize in yourself. 

How many diagnoses have I revealed in this blog? Not as many as I have. There's a need to say I'm not the sum of them. Mike says it's because you're an intellectual. Disabilities of the mind are more entangled with your self image. 

Maybe that's why I'm embarrassed. I feel the lack of control more acutely, when it happens. 

But also, you should know. I love the ocean, painting my toenails, eating cake for dinner. I subscribe to the NYT crosswords app for my iPhone, even though it's $20 / year. I sing to my cats. I do jigsaw puzzles. I grow cacti in my front window. A poem from my MS was just accepted by RHINO

And I always know where my stuff is, keys, wallet, phone, purse, coat. Because each item goes back in exactly the same place I got it from. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

I guess I still have some poems left in me, though this isn't one of them.

So every time I leave a session with A I dread crossing the street. The immediate surroundings outside the yoga studio are noisy, crowded, and frankly a bit gross. The dive bar on the corner (past which I have to walk to get to the intersection) spawns bees, a smell of decay, extra sidewalk debris, and afternoon drunks milling about. 

If I don't leave the house with payment for A, sometimes I go to the drive-through bank across the street to use the ATM. Lately they have stationed a security guard outside the drivethrough, which has one or two lanes staffed by people, and then a lane for the ATM. The security guard leans against the wall staring down the long narrow parking lot to the street. It makes me feel awkward, much as I feel awkward caning down the sidewalk to my bus stop. There's a whole gauntlet of people slumped along the wall, and they're pretty much watching me. I mean I can literally see their heads turned in my direction, gazing at my progress. Not all of them of course. Some are on the phone or busy attending to children or talking to each other. Incidentally, I felt this way (about the bus stop) before I used the cane. But the security guard is the one I'm thinking about right now. 

So I'm coming out of a rough sesh, and picking my way across this annoying intersection where beer trucks are making deliveries, traffic is backed up, and people like to gridlock. I approach the entrance to the bank parking lot, and I see him. I don't know if it's the same guy all the time. My eyes don't render the face very well. Just a guy, white, stocky build, uniform, mirrored sunglasses. I enter the parking lot. I'm caning down its empty narrow length  toward the ATM. 

I feel like I'm on the runway. Like I'm doing my little turn on the catwalk or something. But (if it's not bloody obvious by now) not in a good way. I'm channeling the fire, the solidity of A as a defense, because she dropped some A-bombs on me at the end of the sesh (I dislike when she does this, but it doesn't happen often) so ironically I'm channeling her spirit because my own aura feels frangible. My brain is a roiling stew of anxiety and racing thoughts. I get closer and closer to the ATM, idly wondering if it's illegal to be a pedestrian using the drive-through. I didn't used to wonder about it, but now there's been this uniformed guy for the past two weeks.

So I've decided to just not look at him, to look at the ground halfway between him and me. And the distance grows less and less, and finally I'm veering toward the ATM. And today he speaks to me. 

"I don't mean to startle you..."

"You didn't." Because he didn't. I knew he would be there and I was watching him watch me. But he doesn't know that. However, it was kind of him to say so, because most people don't think about the fact that 99% of the time, their voices DO startle me because I don't sense them coming. 

"I don't mean to startle you... but ... you're good."

I sort of tilt my head at him, sizing up his comment, and how I'm going to respond. 

On the way to my appointment with A, I already took out my visually-impaired ire on a guy who was loading his car and decided to put all his crap in the middle of the narrow sidewalk and not move it out of the way even though, if he were paying attention, he could see and hear me coming down the block. 

For as much ire as gets channeled into some of these blog entries, I don't actually express it to the appropriate party most of the time. Today though...

When I was finally RIGHT UP ON the car loading guy and his pile o' crap he was like, "Oh shit, sorry," and I muttered something non-amicable. I didn't swear at him or anything, but still felt a little guilty for not accepting his apology. My parents raised me to be polite. Painfully polite. Self-effacing, even. I do accept the apologies of people most of the time, and I felt this guy was being particularly stupid. And he got my push-back. 

Because I think sometimes it *should* be okay to not accept someone's apology if you don't know them, if it's not an accident, if he was being particularly unaware or inconsiderate. And he was. 

I know that I hold most people to a far-higher standard of interpersonal consideration than average, because *I* am *always* hypervigilant of my body, my stuff, where it is and where I am and if it's blocking or inconveniencing anyone. And most people just aren't aware aaat aaaallll. They put themselves where-ever and expect you to just go around them. 

For example, people who hold conversations in the middle of busy sidewalks. I can't get riled about them because there's just too many. Apparently it's human nature and I'm the one overly conscious of my own taking-up-of-space. 

Back to the guard and my already-roiling stew of anxiety. 

I've heard his comment from other people too, the "you're good" thing. From repeated analysis, I believe he means that "although you are using a white cane, you move with the grace of a person who has more vision than I assume you have." I'm not okay with his judgment because it's normative. It's privileging the way "regular" people move. When I am seen as coming closer to the standard, I'm called "good." 

But his expression was friendly. And my brain was already full of too many problems. Personal angst and obsessing about family stuff. Leftover outrage from an essay I read this morning in the Kenyon Review detailing a / the latest egregious human rights violation.

I made a rare decision to let it go. The expression on his face was friendly. He was (like they nearly all are) well-intentioned. He really had no idea what his comment actually said to me. He thought he was paying me a compliment. So I just smiled and said thanks. I used the ATM. And then I bid him to have a good day as I walked away and I knew he was watching me still.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

cutting and pasting

Okay, so my friend B, who is pretty much the only friend I've kept in touch with continually since high school (that's how rad she is) sent me an email which included the following little bit : Also I have thought of you because I love your collage work. You know I am always looking to use my creativity [...] and I think I would like to try to do some collage. Do you have any tips?

When I was writing her back the message got longer and longer. I didn't realize how strong I felt about collage... or maybe what I mean is, how articulately I felt about it. So I'm gonna blog the part of my response to her that focuses on collage.

 Thanks for liking the collage! You know, it started when I had first gotten out of the hospital --for the first time. You probably knew this already but I pretty much spent from 1995 through 1998 going off and on into inpatient / outpatient programs because I was so unstable from PTSD. I learned (no that's not the right word) --discovered --collage in an art therapy class that focused on mindfulness. Mindfulness of course being the idea of living in the exact moment, the very SECOND that you exist in -consciously --and not ruminating on the past or feeling anxiety about the future. 

There was something quite visceral about cutting (or tearing) the paper, feeling the glue on my fingers, layering paper on top of paper on top of paper.... 

For quite some years I used to live in houses with many people. Once I attached a huge piece of cardboard to our kitchen door, which we never closed. I started a collage and left a pile of magazines but also pre-cut images, and some glue, on the table near the door. I invited my housemates to, whenever they passed by, add an image to the collage. That way, when it was time to move, I would have this ENORMOUS artifact of our time together. 

Imagine my surprise when they were like, "Okaaay Jill, that's cool... maybe later." I couldn't believe not everyone wanted to glue stuff with the same rapacity I did. Eventually I did get my artifact, though I had to contribute more than I wanted --not that I minded doing the work --it was more that I wanted the others' input. 

However, we'd hosted a German exchange student for awhile and when she was ready to leave she did a bit of work on it, including just writing down some phrases in the margins to express how she was feeling. She asked me if she should write them in English or German. I told her to write them in German because then later I could find a translator and it would be like uncovering a wonderful puzzle. 

When I moved to Ohio I lived in a series of small apartments where it was not convenient to do the large-scale collages I had previously liked. That's when I switched over to doing 90% of my work digitally. As much as digital collage frees me from things like large work spaces and messy glue & paint, it also lacks the visceral nature which was so pleasing to me when I first got into collage. 

There are a lot of books on collage / mixed-media art / making altered books that you can buy and they tell you about different advanced techniques like stamping and transfers and wax resists.... but to me the best thing about collage is that you can make beauty from accidents. 

I can't draw very well. I certainly can't draw life-like things from purely my imagination, which is a skill that I still equate with magic. I love to paint as well, but I can't paint, say, a convincingly realistic landscape or a scene with people in it or stuff like that. I don't know if it has to do with my visual impairment, which is significant, the fact that I haven't practiced enough, or the fact that I'm just not that talented in these areas. 

Doing collage / mixed media, for me anyway, basically says "fuck perfection." It lives somewhere between 2D and 3D art because of all the delicious layers. If you mess up, that can just be a "seed" to start a new layer which is just another opportunity for magic. There are lots of unforeseen rips, snags, wrinkles, and stains. There's nothing that has to be symmetrical or in a visual perspective that imitates life. It is about BEING FREE and living in the moment. It is messy and sensual. 

Writing all this stuff down for you makes me think I should get back to "my roots" so to speak... which means, just slap it the fuck on there. 1) Glue paper to a sturdy surface. 2) Glue some more paper to that. 3) Maybe add paint or ink. 4) Glue some more. With my hands, not the computer. 

I'm a control freak. All my therapists say that I'm really good at confronting challenges and working on myself. The hardest part of the serenity prayer for me is "accept the things I cannot change." It would probably benefit me to re-engage myself in an activity where control is not required, where lack of control is a good thing. Mindfulness.

So I guess what I'm saying in a long LONG round about way is that you don't have to learn. Just start. If you want you can pick a theme (like everything will be warm tones!) and just start gluing stuff to other stuff.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

20 things : August

1. Whoa there, my phone says we're in August now.
2. Probably my least favorite month after February.
3. A few years ago I had shingles. For the second time. In August. 
4. Was so good and didn't scratch.
5. I wanted to weep with rage and all that pent up scratching.
6. It felt like rage anyway.
7. So instead while you were skipping work I retrieved my fleet of water canons from above your house.
8. A tractor beam towed them back to my place via hovercraft.
9. I used them to power-wash my deck. 
10. Decks. I have three of them. 
11. No, four. Four porches, each with a deck slowly decrepitating. 
12. Four too many. I would rather live in an apartment that was not hood-adjacent.
13. I straightened lengths of twinkly lights so they lay over the ornamental posts.
14. Then I turned off the water canons via remote control.
15. Then I knelt on my favorite one, the one among the treetops.
16. Everything was wetly gleaming. 
17. It was hot like fucking HOT and a haze shimmered up from the floor and all around me.
18. No stain, no stray leaf had survived.
19. But I knelt and added (was adding) DNA, fibers, smudges from my naked sores.
20. Even after the last taste of serenity of hazemouth I wouldn't keep it shut at the confessional.