Saturday, September 26, 2015

Random True Tidbits

Only in Utah would a girls’ soccer team be called “The Black Panthers” with ignorance to the historical and political implications.

My sister had a friend who was born with no arms and no legs. His name was Jake. She took him to a corn maze one year. My tasteless joke, of course? “What do you call a man with no arms and no legs lost in a corn field? Jake.”

Another evening Jake had come over to visit at my mother’s house. There were several candles burning on the table. The cat, K.C., jumped up on the table and proceeded to light her tail on fire. Rather frantically, Jake blew her tail out. Forgive me, but there’s something funny about a man with no arms and no legs blowing your cat out.

My grandmother once told me an anecdote about one of her friends. It seems this older gal had an appointment with her gynecologist. She prepared by using feminine spray. However, when she grabbed the can from under the sink, she didn’t have her glasses on.

The gynecologist was quite surprised upon beginning his exam. “Oh wow, you really got all dolled up for me, didn’t you?” He said. This was rather perplexing to his patient, who had no idea what he was talking about. Upon arriving at home, however, she discovered that she mistook a can of Halloween hair glitter for the can of feminine spray.

My other grandmother would often write dirty jokes and references in her letters to us. They were encrypted, however, by her scrawled handwriting. Once she told my older sister in a letter to “...hold on to her boyfriend with both arms, but keep your legs closed, like your mother.” My Uncle Michael told me the story of how he kept my grandmother preoccupied for a time. On a napkin, he wrote “How to keep an Italian busy. Over.” The other side repeated the same phrase. After flipping the napkin repeatedly, my grandmother said, “I don’t get it.” Occasionally her obliviousness caused hilarity. During one visit she told us that she enjoyed getting “a blowjob” from the hairdresser because “he gives the best blowjobs.”

Speaking of BJs, one time my college friend BJ was a bit drunk. My mattress sagged significantly in the middle and as he was sitting on the edge of the bed, he started to fall in towards me. “It’s a trap!” he exclaimed.

Another lady, who shall remain nameless, became distraught when her nearly-new car began to behave strangely. It was sitting in the driveway and would periodically lock and unlock, and set off its alarm for no discernible reason. Convinced that the car was possessed, she took it into the dealership. They insisted that they could find nothing wrong with the vehicle. Unimpressed, she demanded that she receive a new vehicle.

She brought her new vehicle home and it behaved normally. Upon taking the laundry out of the dryer, however, she found her husband’s key fob to the old car.

Anyone else have a funny but true story? Leave it in the comments if you will. I could use a laugh.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mental Moments

It’s been over six years since I was hospitalized. This is some of what I remember.

I sang songs from Broadway musicals at the top of my lungs while restless and wandering the halls. I was suddenly in a place where fear of performing was insignificant compared to all of my other fears.

Upon intake, the guy who interviewed me told me that I would be responsible for all damages (for example, if I were to get angry and throw a chair). I assured him there would be no chair-throwing or acts of melodrama on my part. My struggle was internal and getting that outwardly angry never was my style.

The staff was so concerned about not having belts, pencils, etc. around in order to limit the potential degree of harm and self-harm, but the water for the tea was SCALDING hot.

My husband gave me roses, and a member of the staff cut a 7-Up bottle in half and let me keep them in my room. I was told repeatedly by patients and staff how lucky I was to keep them because I could have hurt myself with the thorns.

They had a shampoo/body wash combo in the showers that didn’t work very well. Every time I am in a hotel with shampoo and body wash dispensers it reminds me of my stay in the hospital.

I kept trying to concentrate enough to read or write but couldn’t manage, even though reading and writing were once thought to be my strong suits. I don’t know whether this was from my deteriorated mental state or from the massive doses of drugs they were administering.

I have never been much for puzzles but I found them a relaxing pastime between groups. It was as if the puzzles helped me put the pieces of my brain back together, to try and figure out why I had behaved the way that I did.

A lady diagnosed with schizophrenia told me of one of her frequent hallucinations during dinner. She said that sometimes, when she chewed, it felt like there were four mouths chewing simultaneously inside of her mouth.

Another particularly content-looking gentleman told me, as he smiled wistfully in his rocking chair, that he suffered from bipolar disorder and was recovering from an overdose on Trazadone.

There was one little lady who could predict when it was time for her to go back into the hospital. She had packed herself a few little suitcases. She had magazines with horses in them that she brought specifically for arts and crafts. Another particularly articulate gentleman told me he coped with his bipolar disorder by using street drugs for six months and then going to the hospital for the other six months of the year.

The only person who scared me in the hospital was the stalker guy who suddenly professed his love for me.  He wanted me to write to him on the outside, knowing full well that I was married. He frightened me a little, mostly because he seemed to enjoy pushing the other patients into crisis. He thought I could relate to him because we both had OCD. “And how do you deal with your pain?” He asked me. I wanted to answer, but refrained: Well, I’m in the psych ward, so obviously I didn’t deal with it very well this time.


Though no truly frightening incidents occurred during my stay, I overheard the beginning of drama at my exit interview: “Ma’am, we’re going to have to ask you to calm down.” Woman, enraged: “WELL THEN YOU BETTER GIVE ME SOMETHING TO CALM DOWN.” The staff ran frantically to assist in the situation. 

I was totally like, see you later, bitches. I’m OUT. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Daddy Are We There Yet? By Miles Away

New article at Mostly Planned, a tribute to my dear father.


WTFI???

Warning: this blog entry contains the swears. Yes, the bad ones. Read on if you dare.
When she was younger, I would often forget that my daughter knew how to speak.

Let me clarify.

I knew (or, at least the part of me that was not in denial knew) that at a mere three years of age she was old enough to articulate many things.  However, I never expected her to repeat everything that came out of my mouth. At the same time she also developed an incredible memory. She began repeating some of her father’s colorful catch phrases as well, like a tiny parrot with Tourette’s syndrome.

One day my younger sister and her fiancĂ© brought fast food over for their daughter, Hannah.  Hannah was kind enough to share her food with Violet. Violet accidentally spilled her water on the floor, and clearly stated, “Fuck it.” Later, when helping her grandma in the garden, she became confused and said “What the fuck it?” My mother and I held back tears of laughter so she wouldn’t repeat that particular phrase.

Then, there was my sin.  And it was a biggie. When I had reached my limit, or when my daughter was attempting to perform Eval Kneival-esque feats from the couch, I had a tendency to blurt out: “Jesus Christ!”

On certain days, Violet would repeat this blasphemous phrase.  She even incorporated it into her play.  “Hello,” Batman ever-so-casually greeted Wonder Woman.  “Hello,” Wonder woman kindly reciprocated.  “Are you okay?” Batman asked, referring to some recent danger our fairest of Superheroes recently endured. “Phew, that was close,” Wonder Woman replied. “Jesus Christ!”


Now Violet is a whopping nine years old, and she knows well the difference between good and bad words. She even yells "bad word alert!" at us when we swear.  This does not deter her from occasionally saying “what the hell?” at home, but I pray she doesn’t say it in school.  If asked, I will staunchly argue that she picked it up from watching Ghostbusters.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Article: Driving, Me: Crazy

New article discussing my driving, and preferred lack thereof, up at Mostly Planned.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My Father, Who Art in Heaven

She saw a painting in a shop one day of a majestic wolf. She was interested enough in it to inquire about the price.

My mother had been working night shifts at the Post Office, and it was rough on her.

There she sat on the couch, looking dejected, with her coffee mug clenched between her small hands. She had bags under her eyes. It was afternoon, and she had just woken up to get ready for work.
A few moments later my father came home, lunch pail in one hand and the wolf painting in the other. “I picked you up a little something on the way home from work,” he said.

“Eddie,” she replied, crying, “We can’t afford this.”

“Don’t worry,” my father said with a grin. “I charged it.”

This was just one small example of how my father showed his love and appreciation for my mother. It was a moment I would never forget.

I received an email yesterday asking if Ed and I would mind trading shifts with a few other church greeters. The problems with this email? The church was in Arkansas, and as I replied to the sweet lady who inquired, the only Ed I knew was my deceased father.

My father often comes to me in dreams. Most recently, he was helping to move me out of what looked like a college dorm room, even though everyone insisted that I was still in high school. He was carrying my daughter’s comforter, which is decorated in colorful hearts.

My daughter never had the opportunity to meet my father. He passed away from a sudden heart attack in 2002. He was buried a month after we celebrated his 53rd birthday. She hears so many fond stories about him that she cries about never meeting him.

Violet reminds me of my father in many ways. She is able to start a conversation with anyone, much like my Dad. No matter which public venue we found ourselves in, my father would come out of his shell to have pleasant conversations with other people.

My father is the only person I ever met who truly loved his job. He was a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service for almost thirty years. Though he had his share of gripes and dog bites, he sincerely loved providing good customer service and was friends with many people on his route.

Beside his family and the Postal Service, Eddie also had another great love of his life: baseball. He was on three softball teams the year he passed away. Every Christmas we bought him new memorabilia of the Yankees or baseball in general. He was buried with his softball glove, and the back of his tombstone bears the Yankee symbol.


I miss my father every day, but I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful memories of a great and very humble person. Thank you, Dad, for showing me the true meaning of the word “gentleman.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Sanitation and sanity have the same opening letters.

On a related note, as a child, I remember developing a nasty case of Zebritis. I was almost five years old when the disease took a turn for the worse and manifested itself in an obvious way. I awoke one morning to find several black, ball-point pen strokes seeping across my wrist. Though I could not read, there was also a word written between the lines. When I asked my mother who wrote on me…er, what was wrong with me, she said that the word read “Zebritis.” It was an illness, she explained, that people contracted by washing their hands too much.

Naturally, I didn’t get it. I thought that any preschooler had to wash his or her hands many times a day. Hands were dirty little playthings, and at times I could even see the dirt. Therefore, they had to be scrubbed, then re-scrubbed. It made sense to me, and since the Zebritis never came back in its terrifying written form, I figured I was alright.

My primary obsessions have always centered on contamination. The accompanying ritual, hand-washing, plagues me even now. I am afraid to touch almost anything, and my wrists are always flexed slightly upward. As my ex- almost brother-in-law described it, my hands are continually perched in a “mantis-like” position.

Hiding my symptoms wasn’t always easy for me. Mr. Whittaker, my sixth grade teacher, once told my class a story about a good friend of his. It seems his friend, upon learning some scientific facts about germs, couldn’t stop washing his hands. He would touch something icky, like dirt or some other horrific form of nature, and then he felt compelled to wash his hands. He would touch his jeans, for example, and then wash his hands.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I suppose Mr. Whittaker was attempting to explain my behavior to the class in a roundabout way, and it certainly was nice of him to try.

At one point during that same year, we had a substitute teacher who reported me to the school nurse. She was concerned that I had a bladder problem of some kind because I requested the bathroom pass so much. Little did she know that I was having a torrid love affair with the gritty hand soap in the elementary school restroom.

The washing is worse in times of stress. Sometimes, after my daughter was born, I would scald my hands as a punishment for some perceived sin. Guilt is a powerful force. And the force is strong with this one.

My grandmother used to cover my hands in Vaseline and socks at night so that my hands wouldn’t get so chapped. Now I have special goat-milk lotion I can put on at night. I still randomly bleed, sometimes in front of other people (and usually without noticing until they point it out to me).

Yesterday I washed my hands at least fifty times, until my knuckles were bleeding again. It wasn’t intentional, I just happened to be cleaning. Cleaning days involve a lot of germs. The vacuum is dirty. The mop bucket is filthy-dirty because you have to pour the dirty mop water into (gasp) the toilet. The list goes on. I even wash my hands after handling something as innocuous as dirty laundry.


I don’t know what I did before antibacterial wipes. Good for toilet seats, doorknobs, and despite what the warnings say, the occasional use on your palms. So as I stare at my filthy computer keyboard and fantasize about washing away these squirming germs on my hands, I bid you adieu.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Judge Not?

So this afternoon, I dolled myself up with some Younique products and took some selfies for a friend’s makeup party. I just wanted to show off some of my vast collection, though I admit I put on a bit more makeup than I usually wear. I made a few disparaging remarks about my makeup before I left to pick up my daughter from school. “Do I look like a hoe-bag?” I asked my husband, jokingly. He responded with a tactful comment: “That lipstick is a little dark.”

Fast forward a half an hour. I stand around waiting for my kid, a little worried that my brown, shin-length skirt might be blowing around a little too much. So I held it down demurely. My daughter emerged from the school and we proceeded to the crosswalk.

Normally the polite, accepting lady principal is there to help us across. Today, there was some other school employee or volunteer, an older lady wearing a bright green school T-shirt. She took one look at me and her face transformed into a mask of disgust. Then, clearly offended by my presence, she looked away.

Holy wow, did I deserve such a look? Sure, I’m showing a teeny bit of cleavage and you can see my tattoo on my right ankle. And as I stated before my lipstick is a little darker than usual. Do I deserve to be gazed upon and immediately shunned with palpable abhorrence because of this?

Let me give you a hint: the answer is no.

We live in a conservative, competitive environment here in Utah. I’ve heard rumors that you won’t get hired unless you list your bishop as a reference on your resume. But time and time again I’ve laughed those rumors off. Because it couldn’t possibly be that political, right? Not everything is controlled by the members of the LDS faith, is it? It couldn’t possibly be…

And yet, so many times, I have been rejected for jobs in two school districts here. Because I had almost a 4.0 GPA in college, I know I am qualified for many of the positions. I am a tad nervous and shy when interviewed but I have been articulate at the very least. Yet here I sit with all my experience in the performing arts, unable to procure a job teaching first and second graders to sing for eight hours a week. I also have a propensity for being a book nerd: I wrote short historical books in junior high and participated in the Battle of the Books. And still I was unable to land a position as a part-time library assistant.

These, of all my rejections, were the ones that nearly broke me.

I cut out enormous parts of this blog thinking that someone would find it and judge me for my illnesses. But it gets worse. It seems I am being judged simply by my appearance, or by my absence of garments. Or both? I hate to think the worst of people, but it’s difficult not to when they seem to think the worst of you, for no logical reason.

I have many Mormon friends in my family and from my school years in Boise. And sure, there have been attempts to convert me, and some disdain on the parts of only a few judgmental individuals. I believe that the Mormon Church is good and beneficial to its members in many ways. I specifically admire the fervent focus on family and helping one another. The LDS friends I have are kind and sweet: they respect my religious preferences even if they have their own fast-held beliefs. And I respect them and their choices, even if I do not to adhere to the principals of their faith.

I still hold out hope that I’m just being paranoid. But that look, that single look, made me furious. 
And it made me question my job-seeking efforts this last year. Is there even a point in continuing the search?

So for all of you Judgy McJudgertons out there: look out, there’s a quasi-Catholic in town. And I’m quite tired of putting up with this shit. I will continue to present myself the way that I want and I do not give a flying fuck if it offends you.

Ha! The things I wish I could say sometimes. Obviously I cared enough about local opinions to write this blog. One friend of mine jokingly entertained the notion of giving me a “Mormon make-over” so that I would be better accepted in this environment (complete with floral-patterned, floor-length attire and a chunky necklace). But I’m nothing if not an obstinate Aries: I refuse to change to appease a certain religious persuasion.


So I may not become a teacher (or even a teacher’s assistant) while I’m here, as I had hoped. I have approval from the state of Utah but unfortunately not its contingents. If you need me, I’ll be writing on the Internet for free or for slave wages. And looking very pretty (if I may say), despite the looks that I get for it.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Other People

You’re afraid to go to the grocery store.

That’s what my old psychiatrist said to me when I told her I didn’t consider myself to be disabled.

But there’s a difference between being afraid to do something and avoiding it. Sure, you may have to force yourself. But you go to the grocery store, avoid eye contact at all costs, and silently dread the moment you check out. Because checkout time is that awkward span when you actually have to interact with PEOPLE.

I once tagged a random thought about my social anxiety on Twitter. And wouldn’t you know it, the Social Anxiety people were immediately on my case. I know they were trying to be helpful. But the entire point of the tweet was that people scare me.  BACK OFF.

The origin of my social anxiety can be traced to elementary school. We lived in New York until I was eleven. I had plenty of friends in New York, I was outgoing, a social butterfly of sorts. Then we moved to Idaho. I attended Pierce Park Elementary for a few months, and made friends. When we moved from a trailer to a house, though, I had to switch schools.

At Collister Elementary, I started sixth grade. I befriended a young lady who is still my friend to this day.  Another young lady (for lack of a better word) decided that she was jealous of this new friendship. She encouraged all the other sixth graders to make fun of me.  I already felt out of place because of my OCD symptoms. My hand washing was out of control. I came home crying from school almost every day. Nearly nothing was done about the constant teasing by the teachers, and my mother’s advice to tell them to “stick it where the sun don’t shine” was less than effective. I was judged for everything, from my haircut to my demeanor to my intelligence to my clothes. I was everyone’s favorite dodge-ball target.

Junior high school merged our classes with the other elementary school. I tried out for a talent show and though I didn’t make the cut, I was recruited into choir. I was accepted: I belonged. I still got terribly nervous every time I would sing a solo. Because people were looking at me. Judging me. And though I won music awards through high school and majored in voice in college, I never got over my stage fright.

As Satre might contend, “Hell is…other people!” Just kidding. I love people. I find them fascinating, like a scientist studying a venomous spider. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the grace of God and other people.

My own existential crisis happened six years ago. While waxing suicidal, I was forced to do things I was terrified to do. And one of those things was to reach out and trust other people, new people, with very personal information. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of those fine people I ended up in the hospital, where I had to deal with more people. This time they were people like me though, people who were wired a little differently. And I felt comfortable there. For the most part.


But now I have to deal with people every day. People at the store, people at the school, people who come to my door. I just have to remind myself that most of them are not out to get me. And I’m getting to the point in my life where I think, if they judge me, who cares? Then there is the part of me that tries on five different outfits before picking my daughter up from school because to me, I don’t look right. The sad sixth-grader in me is still there, weeping silently, just waiting for someone to pick on her.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Conclusion: Achieving Equilibrium

He warned me about potential suicidal thoughts. He didn’t mention that I would feel like I was falling down on the inside.

I had to get out of the shower early because I felt like I was going to fall down on the outside. I had to get off the stairs, because it didn’t feel right for me to be there. Imminent danger. Essentially, I felt euphoric this morning until the side effects hit me.

And then all I really wanted to do was cry.

I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t type, I couldn’t do anything involving motion of any sort. We were supposed to go to the Zombie Walk in Salt Lake City this afternoon. Strangely, I was a zombie. But I couldn’t walk.

Let’s go back to the very beginning (a very good place to start, sang Maria in The Sound of Music). Holy losing focus, Batman. Wait, what is Batman doing here?

This is kind of what came out of my brain when I got out of the hospital, when they had me REALLY high on OCD meds. I wrote enough to fill a book, but it was gibberish. Now I realize that I was still manic at the time.

This time, it only took a 25mg dosage increase for me to feel “off.” Once it accumulated in my blood, I was pretty much screwed. And I ask, how ever did I drive around on 150mg of this stuff running through my veins? I tried the increase up to 100mg and I feel…as they say, all the feels. Confusion mostly.

To quote my phone, which I used to record my thoughts earlier:

Hey I just realized I can take notes with this thing. Cool beans I wanted to write about how this medication makes me feel because the memories are flooding back of when I used to be on too much vacation and when I fell into my airplane seat and when I would Scooch my butt LOL when I couldn’t get down the stairs without falling. How was a functioning on that much medication I was driving around cracked out of my moon. That’s not safe. When you shake so badly that you fold-down that’s not a good thing you shouldn’t be out driving. No wonder I was nonfunctional and how can you benefit from the euphoria if you crying because the side effects how does this make me better? It’s the day of the zombie walk and I can’t walk because I’m a zombie.
Some of it was the microphone’s fault. Most of it was the medication. It made a lot more sense at the time. Now it’s time to pose a question:

“If wellness in this what in hell’s name is sickness?” Amanda Palmer, Runs in the Family, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, 2008.

EXACTLY, LADY. YOU ARE SINGING MY SONG.
*********

I’m free and clear of the majority of nasty side effects now. Realizing what a miserable, cracked-out bitch I must have seemed like to my husband all those years ago when I was (insert Bill Hicks’ voice) “Reeeeeeeaaaaaallll f***ing high on drugs.”

That bit about schooching on my butt? I would shake so badly that stairs became my enemy. It was either sit down or fall down. I chose to sit down, because when you’re playing mommy and daddy at the same time it greatly aids you NOT to fall down the stairs. This was the psychiatrist’s way of making me functional. But let’s face it: I really was that sick. The delusion of guilt for a crime I had not committed still haunted me daily.

Falling into my airplane seat? From the anxiety and the medication, I had an episode of shaking so severe that I collapsed into the seat on my first trip back from visiting family in Idaho. I remember seeing a young man, confused by this. My daughter was worried as well. My response? “Mamma’s got the shakes, baby.” It was nearly incomprehensible but it was the best I could do at the time.
Cracked out of my moon? Indeed. I used to randomly cut people off while driving. I blamed myself for bad driving. But it was almost certainly true that I did not recognize my limitations. I should not have been driving at all.

How was this my normal for so many years?

I had a seizure the night after my husband and I seriously discussed divorce. I thought it was the stress. The wool had been pulled so tight over my eyes that it was scratching my eyelids. And I couldn’t even feel it.

Read, if you will, the precautions listed here.

More than one percent of long-term Anafranil users have seizures. My shrink referred to my seizure as “that unexplained episode.” Knowing what medications I was on, it’s a miracle my health insurance paid for an MRI. Ignorant of me to wonder why it was so hard to get approval: they knew. They knew what had caused the seizure-like activity. My psychiatrist just wouldn’t admit that the medication caused it.

Why was it not considered a true seizure, you may wonder? In true seizure the sufferer passes out. I was conscious when I started shaking and lost control of my body. It was the single most terrifying experience of my life. It may not have been preventable. But I was under the care of someone who should have known the risks, and should have properly conveyed them.

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.

*********

It’s a few days later and I feel much better, though I do have a problem getting up from kneeling or sitting. I’ve contacted the doctor and asked to see an actual psychiatrist, which I hope will help immensely. Until next time folks, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel...