So that Christmas Sucked.

I had decided it was best not to go the family dinner.  I wasn’t upset about it.  But it bothered my coworker, so she got her brother, one of our bosses, to invite me to his house for Christmas dinner.

I would have been fine without going, but felt it would be churlish to say  no.  So I got in the car to drive to dinner and while I was driving my phone kept dinging with text messages.  I ignored them because I don’t pick up my phone while I’m driving.

I pulled up to the curb at my boss’s house and picked up the text messages.  My sister.  Telling me that my nephew had had a cardiac arrest on her kitchen floor and was being air-cared to a hospital near me.  They live in a small town about 40 miles outside of the city.  My nephew is 36.

I didn’t go to the dinner and spent the next week going to the hospital.  In the end he had a defibrillator-pacemaker put in for what the doctors think is a genetic electrical heart issue.  Long QT syndrome.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that we live in an age with modern medicine and technology.  I’m fairly sure my grandfather died of this.  Just suddenly with no warning at the age of 59, while waiting for a train.   My nephew on the other hand will be able to live a long, reasonably normal life.  Because he had his experience 60 years later.   In a world with 911, and CPR and those shock machines and air care and finally – an implantable defibrillator-pacemaker.

Of course none of that would have mattered if my nephew had this alone.  His event was witnessed.  People were there to help.  It matters – having someone there immediately – matters tremendously.  No one in the room knew CPR, but the 911 operator just walked them through it until the first police officer arrived and took over.  The EMTs had to shock him 4 times to bring him back from the flat line.   My sister said his eyes were open the whole time.

4 people who loved him desperately had to watch that, and as horrible as that was emotionally, it was their presence and actions that saved him.  I hope that gives them some level of comfort when those horrible memories intrude.

If you know a first responder, give them a hug.  They matter so much.

 

 

The Incident of the Chicken in the Office

So yesterday afternoon, I heard a driver walk in and say – “Traffic is backing up because a chicken is crossing the road.”  I assumed he was being facetious about the way idiots drive in weather.  It had been raining all day.  For days.

But as it turns out.  Nope.  A chicken literally crossed the road and began wandering around our parking lot.   Across the road is an empty White Castle building and a check cashing place.  Behind them is a shopping plaza.  Yeah – who knows where the chicken came from.   Someone suggested that some homeless people were keeping chickens in the scrabble behind the check cashing place.  Seems… unlikely?  But then again a chicken had crossed the road.

We are a transportation company, so it’s not a good place for chickens.  At least not ones that wish to maintain their healthy well being. But this chicken would not be caught.  Several people chased it to much comic effect, but no one caught it.  Chickens are smarter than city people is my takeaway from that.

So, as we had work to do, we left the chicken to it’s own devices.  Or I did.  The rest of the office was on full chicken alert.  Calls were made, plans were devised, various people with “chicken experience” were consulted.  Meanwhile the chicken made itself at home by hopping on a window sill to roost.  img_20191210_172839

After much debate, animal control was called but they wanted money to pick up a chicken.  I was pretty sure the boss would pay for it, so I went in to tell her about the chicken.  I think other than watching a chicken chase around a bunch of young men, that was my favorite part of the chicken incident.  She, quite naturally, was incredulous.  We had to walk her out to meet the chicken.

In the meantime, someone remembered that we actually had a coworker who raises chickens.  So the animal control option was dropped.

A dispatcher walked out and caught the chicken with literally NO FUSS.  In complete contrast to the city slickers who ran around the parking lot like a bunch of idiots.  Spending as much time being chased as chasing the chicken.

Someone who lives a few blocks away had gone home and gotten a pet cage.  We put the chicken the pet cage with bird seed and water.  A Bus Driver who raises chickens was going to take the chicken home to add to her flock.  And then sadly all the chicken chaos was over.

 

Tomorrow is Also a Day

I remind myself of this often.  In my previous position I always finished all the work on my desk before I left.  It was the standard and I can could on one hand with fingers left how many times I was unable to do that.

But now my job is not like that.  I find that stressful.  But when it starts to be like that I remind myself of my Mom quoting one of her favorite mystery detectives, “Tomorrow is also a day”.  The work will still be on my desk.  It’s not going to run away or explode if I wait another day.  And nearly always the following day I can wrap up all the odds and ends of both days.  Which is satisfying.  But it is distinctly NOT satisfying to leave work on the desk.

Today was a horrid day.  Following a fairly horrid Holiday Weekend.  Horridness created entirely by my brain, no one else to blame, although I did do a bit of projection and spent 2 days blaming 2 inept employees whose combined idiocy made my job significantly more annoying and time consuming.   They were inept, and did make many fairly ludicrous mistakes.  All of which cost the company less than 200 dollars. Probably.  Unless some long term potential karma on them kicks in.  But let’s hope not.

But my anger and reaction generally to their stupidity was outsized.   As is usual when my brain is lobbing grenades around.  I gave one old man such a verbal lashing that I rather thought I might have to go the principles office to discuss it.  But so far that hasn’t happened.  Perhaps because the Principle (company president) was off today.  Not that she is EVER anything but kind to me.  But honestly.  I treated that old man like a 12 year old who broke the rules. And I told everyone who would listen that the company is just paying him to breathe.

This kind of thing makes me feel even more shitty about myself.   I was on the verge of tears several times.  In fact a couple may have forced their way to the surface.  Which I find embarrassing and humiliating and deeply overdramatic.  A thing that can be said about the entire day.  Overdramatic.  Self Involved.

At several points today I became convinced that I just need to find a new job.  But of course it’s not the job.  It’s my brain.   I’m so tired of this brain.  It’s been on the attack for days.  It started on Thanksgiving and hasn’t given me rest since.  I feel like I’m back in the place I was 6 years ago.  Feeling alone, abandoned, worthless, off balance and without direction.   All the progress I thought I had made to mitigate a lot of those feelings seems to have evaporated for no apparent reason.

But tomorrow is also a day.  And hopefully it will not be quite so emotionally explosive.  A good night of sleep will no doubt help.  Perhaps if I allow myself some space, it will recede.  But I don’t have the money to give myself the space of time off and the weekend did not help so probably not.  If only I can come out of the trenches and act like a normal.  Pretend to be one anyway.  I miss my old self.  I feel like she was a better person than I am.  But maybe she wasn’t.  Maybe she was just better at hiding her horrid side from herself?

I wonder if I have any vacation left.  I should check.   Before I give any of these inept old men a stroke.

 

 

Brain Grenades

I suffer from depression and anxiety.  One of the most distressing symptoms is the arrival of what I call brain grenades.  These are unwanted thoughts that show up randomly in my mind.  They can be memories of things that trigger a shame response, or projections of my future where everything goes wrong and I end up homeless, or imagining that everyone who “pretends” to like me is actually stabbing me in the back, or memories of failures etc.

The thing about the grenades is they arrive, explode and then I’m left with the emotional destructive chaos.  And what’s worse is that once my brain has lobbed the first one, it’s likely it will keep lobbing them, in random and unrelated ways.   In the first couple of years after my homelessness, I used to cry on my way to work every morning.  Because my brain had decided that driving was a great time to bomb me with grenades.  I finally realized that I could cut the battle out all together by playing podcasts in the car.  Distract my brain and I wouldn’t end up bawling for 20 minutes on the way to work.

Yesterday I was listening to one of those podcasts, called the Happiness Lab.  And it was talking about how avoiding thinking about a thing is much more likely to trigger thoughts of the thing.  And as a related note – avoiding an emotion, makes the emotion come out later in more destructive ways. I had a bit of an epiphany with that information.

You see, I am something of a judgmental cranky pants at work.  I get angry at the errors and bad work that other people do, which ends up on my desk.  This is a new side of me.  Back in the days before my brain imploded and I lost everything, I was generally patient and positive at work.  I always assumed everyone wanted to do a good job and looked at errors as learning opportunities.  But the aftermath of the breakdown seems to have fundamentally changed that part of my personality.  It’s one of the reasons why I reject the idea that I am somehow a better person for having gone through such a traumatic experience.

I am not a fan of emotional experiences and I am always trying to tamp down and avoid them.  And as a result, they spurt out at work when I see errors.  I’ve long been aware that I’m worse about this at the end of the day, as I get more tired, but haven’t been able to figure out a way to not react with anger at these errors and the people who make them.  I think the fact that I try to avoid emotions instead of accepting them is causing my spurts of anger.

I think I need to not focus as much on self control in the moment of the spurt as much I need to be more aware of moments when I am corralling an emotion and refusing to acknowledge it.  That the emotion I avoided feeling hours before is the root of the spurt – and I’m better off just managing it rather than the eruption later.

And even more important – will it also help me eliminate the brain grenades?  I cannot tell you how distressing brain grenades are to me.  I call them that because it often feels like I need to find shelter from the shrapnel and on really bad days I spend most of the time on the verge of tears.

So.  the new plan.  Pay attention to my emotions – allow them to exist in their appropriate time.   I will turn to face the emotion as it is happening, recognize it and accept it without judgement.  Look at it with a bit of detachment.

Hopefully this will be successful.  Because it’s not like I’m aware of all the moments I push my emotions into their boxes.  But we shall see.  Perhaps with more practice, one recognizes them more often.

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Have I ever told you about Matt Brown?

Matt Brown died the other day from ALS.  I was gut punched by the news, although I hadn’t seen or talked to him in 20+ years.  When I think of Matt the word that leaps to mind is Laughing.  Not snickers or giggles or chuckles – screaming laughter.  When Matt was around the world’s absurdity was clear because he showed it to you.  And when Matt laughed, everyone laughed.

Matt was my first openly gay friend.  Mind you he never came out to me. I’m not sure he came out to anyone.  He was flamboyant but it was more than that.  He just lived his life openly and honestly and never curbed himself for anyone.  He talked about his romantic interests like anyone would, he wore the occasional dress on campus (no make up or glamour just the the dress and sneakers), was a very active participant in the campus LGBT groups.  And he did that on a very conservative college campus in the 80s during the un-treatable AIDS epidemic.

How unfair it is that he survived the AIDS epidemic unscathed and was killed by ALS.  It feels like he should have won the medal of survival to 100 for making it out of that nightmare alive.

When Matt graduated he fell in love with Dick, a man nearly twice his age.  They moved in together, had a commitment ceremony, signed all the various contracts that were needed to provide the sort of legal rights that just come part and parcel with marriage.  I was lucky enough to be part of their circle of friendship.  They took me with them on vacation to Maine, rented me one of their apartments, took me to ridiculously priced restaurants and had me over for Lasagna and TV.

When we were in Maine, Matt and I made a daily tortuous and joyful ritual out of going into the Ocean.  It was barely into June and the Atlantic Ocean was ice cold.  It hurt to go into the water.  We would hold hands and scream as each step exposed another part of us to icy water until we finally gathered up the courage to just dunk our entire bodies under the water.  That is the only water I’ve been in, where my body never acclimated itself to the temperature.  It continued to bite the entire time.  So we would try to see who could stand it the longest, generally agreeing to leave together.  We weren’t good at competition.  Dick would watch us from the deck and I’m sure thought we were just insane children.  And I guess we were.

When Matt and Dick broke up, I was heartbroken for both of them.  Looking back from my current age, I can see that a generation gap is a very hard thing to overcome.  They did it with grace and remained friends.  Matt told me he still loved Dick and didn’t think he would ever find anyone else to be that committed to.  I hope he did.  But I don’t know.  His obituary did not mention a husband or partner.  But it did list a whole host of friends who helped him during his illness.  Matt never lacked friends.

He went back to school after the breakup and got his PhD.  He moved to Colorado and taught college.  The last time I saw him he came back to visit and tried to talk me out of getting the gastric bypass I had scheduled.  He had done his research – in a time before the internet was omnipresent – by going to the library.  He explained all the risks and most likely outcomes.  He was worried about me.  But I was determined. Being 400 lbs is miserable in all the ways.   He was right by the way.  On every bit of it.  Not that I regret my choice but it was a far more informed one because he talked to me.  That was who he was.  He challenged my decision with facts that it took effort to find and took on an emotionally risky conversation to do it.  He wasn’t in our friendship just for the laughter.  He was there for the hard things too.

Matt lived a life of integrity.  If he believed something, he acted on it.  In a society where most of us are content to just feel right, Matt lived it.  He used to be a Planned Parenthood escort.  Because he believed women had the right to healthcare and choice.  So he volunteered once a week to escort women from their car to the door in order to ward off the assholes who hung around to hurl insults and worse at the women who came to the clinic.  He did this despite the fact that he had NO DOG IN THAT FIGHT.  Because he knew it was right.

I wonder why I feel so lonely now that he has died.  I hadn’t spoken to him in 20 years.  I think the knowledge that I could pick up the phone and reach him has been stolen and in it’s place is just the void.  Time and space separated us, but Death made the chasm unbreachable.

Timmy is HOME!

Timmy’s Big Adventure is over.  And I’m so grateful.  He’s thinner and dirty and has managed to grow a thick coat in just under 3 weeks, but he’s safe.

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He’s walking around the apartment crying like he’s still lost though.  And Bijou is WAY over him.  She was very worried in the first few days.  Looking out the window constantly.  But I think she quite liked being the center of my attention.

Anyway about an hour ago, my downstairs neighbor called me to say Timmy was eating the food I left out.  I ran down stairs and was told he’d run into the back.  I went there and called and he immediately answered with pitiful cries.  He was under a box truck and just cried and cried like an abandoned baby but wouldn’t come out.

I finally had to sit on the ground next to the truck until he came out and let me grab him.  Well.  I wasn’t going to let him go, but I was sitting on the ground.  An unfit, fat middle aged woman needs all her limbs to get up from the floor but I had my arms full of Timmy.  I’m still not sure how we accomplished it.  Hopefully there aren’t any cameras in the area filming that moment.

Once inside, Bijou began to spit and growl and he just could not have cared less.  He was home and he knew it.  He ate like a little pig and drank a whole lot of water.

I will make an appointment with the vet on Monday.  He’s probably got worms.  Possibly fleas, but I’ve combed him for them and didn’t find any active ones.  But that is easy to manage and I already have the drops.  His asthma is bothering him.  He’s walking around with his mouth just a bit open.

He doesn’t look as thin as I would have expected but when you pet him, he’s just bones now.  Poor thing.  He’s home.  If I ever let him out on the balcony again it will be with a GPS collar.  But i think we will just never go out on the balcony again.  Period.

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Still Missing

My little Tim cat is still not home.  He jumped off the balcony on October 1st.  I’m exhausted from the anxiety and despair.  It’s been a hellish 2 and half weeks.

The last Pawsboost blast I did got no responses.

I’ve put out about 200 flyers.  I’ve walked and called with an open can of cat food.

I’ve got water and food out.

I hear people say – my cat came home 2 months later… But all I keep thinking is Winter is Coming.

I miss him so much.  I can start crying about it just by spending a moment considering what plight he might be in.  Lost, hurt, scared, starved, thirsty…  I’m not particularly functional while I’m worried.  I am on the verge of tears at work quite often.  I’m so tired from lack of sleep that I don’t stay focused.

I want him to be home.  Safe and annoying me all the ways that I love him to.  It feels like as soon as he is home I will be released from the mental hell that I’ve been living in for weeks.

But I can’t help but feel like he won’t be coming home.  That I’ve lost him for always and I don’t even know how I can cope with that.

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Timmy, the Cat, is Lost

He jumped off the balcony Tuesday morning.  And he won’t come when I call.  I hope and honestly believe he is still within 2 houses of this building.  I don’t think he will head toward the busy road.  He’s an anxious cat and doesn’t like loud noises.  Mostly the internet backs me up on this, “unless the cat bolts in a panic”.  So naturally my deeply anxious brain is playing that scenario often.

I’m sure he’s terrified out there and has been in deep regret, but no matter how much I either call or sit quietly he is not showing up.

I’ve been up all night for two nights – going out every couple of hours to walk around and call.  I’ve been leaving work early so I’m around the house more.  I’ve opened canned cat food while standing in the yard and just stood waiting for the smell to call him to me.    Each time I go out but I come back without him and I’m filled with despair.  I can’t stop crying.  It’s awful.

Even Her Calico Highness is worried and looking for him.

I’ve posted flyers and put them on the doors of the homes for half a block.  I posted it on Reddit, Next Door and Pawsboost and my friend put it on Facebook.  I also put him on Pawboost.  I told every kid I see on the street about it.  Kids are the ones outside most and who notice animals.   I don’t know if any of it matters.

He has no skills to be outside.  And worst is that this yard and the one behind belong to a feral cat and I don’t think she’s going to be nice to him.  And might scare him farther away.

I just want him to come to me when I call.  I’m an idiot for not teaching that.  As much or more so than leaving him unsupervised on the balcony.

Why don’t we yet live in an age where the microchip comes with GPS?  It could use body heat for power.  If only I could track him.  If I knew where he is in all the damn brush and debris around here I could catch him.

He’s such a dumb little bastard.  I’m sure he jumped because the damn squirrel who lives on the building was taunting him.  Fucking squirrel.  tim

The Week that Was & The Week that Will Be.

Last week had it’s holes.  I fell into the abyss on Tuesday.  Hard.  And unexpectedly.  I was feeling like I had avoided the usual reaction to my failure to visit with family last weekend.  I refused to wallow in my shame.  On Sunday I got quite a bit done around the house in the Noticeable Improvement Process.  On Monday I had a decent day at work.

And on Tuesday the reaction set in.  Stillness took over.  I called into work, which then feeds even more shame to the depression.

However, routine and a friend saved me.  I walk 3X a week with a friend.  In the mornings before work.  And on Wednesday, I woke up feeling all the weight of the depression but also the standard of early wake up for the walk and the expectation of my friend.  And those two things made me move.  I was not a happy mover but I moved.  And I went to work.

The worst part of depression is how much risk it puts me in for my job.  I’ve already lost one job to it.  Which ultimately led to homelessness.   And I just cannot lose this one.  I feel like there isn’t another opportunity for me after this.

So.  Despite Saturday being a black hole of misery and stillness, today will not be.  I will move.  The primary thing I’m going to do is go to the Farmer’s Market and buy some tomatoes and corn.  Because that will give me pleasure all week.  It also will make me get dressed.  Which I find is key to me getting stuff done.

I’ve decided I want to do a journal.  Geared around my theme for life.  Better.  That’s it.  Just everyday – make it better than it was.  Whether it’s my environment, my routine, my job, my health.  Whatever.  Better.  Not perfect.  Not 100%.  Better than it was.

It’s easy to think I’m going to do that – but I find it’s also easy to forget.  If I journal then I hold myself accountable.  I listen to a podcast called Cortex that talks about living life around a theme and using a journal.  I think I will use their journal solution.  So.  That’s the plan.

Puppet on a String

I was supposed to visit with family this weekend and did not.  Cousins were in from out of town.  Another cousin, local, is recovering from a liver transplant.  It was a good time to touch base and connect with family.

I skipped it.  This is a side effect of my depression.  I isolate.  Also any change in routine is hard for me to do.  It’s like I’m riding in a rut and I have to jump over the ruts to get into a new path.  The problem is that the ruts are deep because my brain’s preference is for the rut I’m in.  And so what appears to be a simple change is actually the mental equivalent of an Olympic high jump for me.

It’s the same thing that keeps me still when I can’t seem to get myself moving.  When I can’t get out of bed at all.   But in those times it’s more of a jump across a chasm in the dark.

I use these metaphors because it helps me to remember that my thoughts and actions are not my depression.  My thoughts and actions are often a result of my depression and often feed it in a self sustaining loop of yuck.  But they are just the manure and fodder not the cause, not the disease.

This is why therapy works.  Because if you starve depression of it’s fodder by changing your thought patterns and actions it recedes.  It’s not gone.  I’ve pretty well accepted that it will never be gone, but if I can gain control over actions and choices,  I’m no longer a marionette enslaved to the depression’s pulled strings.

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Photo by Min Thein on Pexels.com

This weekend I let it pull my strings.  I know why.  I was tired on Friday night and when I’m tired my ability to use will power to change course is weak at best.  Saturday I let myself sit still for too long.  And the rut got deep.  Then I let my thoughts justify the stillness and feed the depression.  And in the end,  I didn’t do a thing that matters.

This morning it is easy to feed the depression all my shame and self loathing over not visiting my family.  But that just gives the depression more fodder.  So instead I’m writing this post to remind myself – this is how this happened, this is how to manage it.  Don’t feed the depression.  Move Forward.  Focus on the movement.  Don’t sit still and wallow in the manure.