Tag Archives: anxiety

Suicide Contagion

the furry hat

I haven’t been able to truly write in ages. I don’t even know how long it’s been at this point. I just started to write again before my brother died. I was starting to work on Suicide for Beginners and then I was thrown into such a terrible wave of my own shock, depression, and grief that I couldn’t wade through without getting lost. So I drifted further away from the page until it felt dangerous to try to access this project.

You can retreat from things that call to you for a while, maybe even for years, but eventually their noise gets to be so loud you can’t hear anything else above them. I don’t feel ready to write about suicide and all the people who opened up their veins to take my survey and yet I feel an incredible responsibility to my tribe to sit down here and find my way because it isn’t just my thoughts and experiences needing sharing, it’s so many other people’s voices and experiences that need to be held up to the light of love and empathy.

I just heard the expression “suicide contagion” for the first time and it makes me feel incredibly angry and protective of my tribe. This is the same ignorance that made people believe that listening to heavy metal could make you commit violent crimes. It implies that people are so suggestible that a song or a tale of suicide can inspire a person to do something completely out of character that they would never have done if it weren’t for someone setting the example for them first.

Let me tell you that no one, NO ONE, commits suicide to be cool or make a point or to cease to exist unless they already had the urge, the impulse, or lacked the self preservation of mentally healthy people. So check yourself and your fucking dreams of contagion to explain away your heartbreak at losing a loved one to suicide.

I don’t honestly know if finishing my project will make a difference but what I do know is that I can’t sit back and not fight for all of us who struggle with depression and anxiety. So many of us are more scar than flesh. So many of us are hanging onto thin threads for lifelines even though we have, collectively, such an incredible long list of people we’d give our whole selves to protect and love.

Not sure I’ve ever truly deeply loved a person who wasn’t mentally compromised to some degree and brilliantly lovely.

There are so many things to fight for. None of us can fight for everything every day. What an overwhelming burden it is to live in such a broken world. What an overwhelming thing it is to live at all. What a terrible burden it is to be born and have to carry this heavy mantle of imposed expectation to make of this abbreviated time on earth matter to other people.

Suicide isn’t contagious. Mental illness isn’t contagious. If someone you love seems to “suddenly” succumb to the influence of some depressed person or is inspired to kill themselves because someone they admired killed themselves – you need to get honest and understand that this person you love was already dreadfully conflicted and haunted.

“Contagion” is an ugly word. “Suicide contagion” is a hideous and ignorant expression.

I don’t know how to safely access enough of myself to work on Suicide for Beginners but it’s abundantly clear that the work needs doing.

Tonight I tried to open my Scrivener files for “Suicide for Beginners” and there was nothing. I have to start all over. Maybe this is for the best even though it makes me want to punch things.

Good night, tribe. I won’t abandon you. You’re always here in my heart. We meet in strange dream landscapes experienced sleeping and awake.

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When Self Care is the Hardest is When We Need it Most

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Cultivated purslane going to seed. I saved a bag of the seed. Hopefully it’ll grow true to the plant – not sure it will – this is what often stops me from saving seeds in my small garden, worries that the seed will not grow true. I don’t often plant hybrids, I do plant all OP (except for my beloved Sungold tomatoes, those are hybrids and might not even be OP) but I have a small garden space and often grow multiple varieties of a vegetable a year. Cross pollination in a small garden is a real issue. But I’ve decided to save a few seeds anyway. Purslane, red Orache, and summer squash this year.

I have not been taking good care of myself. For ten days we didn’t drink too much. Then we went right back to drinking lots of beer. I don’t exercise because of how much it always hurts my feet or something else. It’s always something. I have been eating way too much cheese. The only thing I do right any more is to drink lots of water. I also still eat a lot of produce, but this is largely cancelled out by all the cheese. I don’t sleep well (though I never do, so is that even worth reporting?) I’m depressed and anxious all the time without any breaks in it to come up for air. I wasn’t taking my meds regularly for a little while but at least I’ve really cracked down on that and for the last couple of weeks have been very consistent with taking them every day.

So little writing for all of 2016. This is the worst thing of all. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the desk and be disciplined about writing no matter what. That’s why I’m here this morning. Earlier in the year I was working hard on my survey and by the summer time, when I started to actually sit down to write, all the energy I had was sucked up by work, which I quit, and then sucked up by trying to re-boot my business because Philip got laid off and I couldn’t find a job. No writing. Then I tried writing but it was all about my brother and grieving. Anyway, I got on a single track before he died and couldn’t get off it. Every time I sat down to write I would end up on the same track, saying the same things every single time. No matter where I started off, I’d end up in the same place. So I just stopped writing at all.

Yesterday I woke up really late and felt like garbage  because I stayed up ridiculously late and drank an insane amount of beer while watching Leonard Cohen videos on youtube. I was angry with myself and then I had a very rich, way too rich even for me breakfast that made me feel even shittier. So I got out into the garden. For over an hour. I pulled up all my tomato plants, the dying zinnias, the summer squash plants, and the woody rosemary that never recovered its last trim. I planted a baby rosemary in its place. I picked the first few ripe radishes which my mom said were almost too hot to eat. They aren’t a hot variety so it must have been the growing conditions. I also harvested a bunch of our everlasting spinach. I planted my boxwood plant in the side yard bed finally (I will be topiarying it), got our cape gooseberry planted too. I got completely covered with soil and for the first time in a long time I felt a little better.

Why is it so hard to get myself to do things I know are important to my mental health? Once out of the habit it’s so tough getting back into it. Yet when I do – I feel so much better. It’s creating the daily habit that has to happen. Once you do, it creates a momentum.

My body is really craving greens and vegetables. More than I’ve been eating. The other night I roasted some cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots with some rosemary salt. I ate a big bowl of them with ketchup but no cheese. It was so good! Another dish I made is one I’ve been wanting to make for a while – I made pulau rice. My friend Rohini gave me some of her favorite packaged spice mix and told me two methods of making the rice and it turned out so well! I didn’t have any frozen peas which I really wished I’d had but it still turned out great with carrots, onions, and potatoes diced small. Then I made a palak paneer to go with the leftovers. I have made paneer before but didn’t feel like doing that and I don’t know where to buy paneer in my city (probably could get it at one of the Asian markets but I haven’t checked yet) so I ended up using this cubed feta I had in the fridge. I hadn’t used much of the feta before because it was really dry and kind of chewy. Good flavor, but not what I wanted for my salad or couscous. So I used it in the palak and it was so good! It was tangier than paneer, but texturally very similar. I used a garam masala blend I made from scratch last year but never used. So it was a little old but it was really tasty!

That’s the kind of cooking I’m craving. I can’t be attempting totally authentic Indian food or Greek food, necessarily, but doing my take on them is where it’s at. At least my spice blends were authentic. (The one I made was from my vegetarian Indian cookbook by Monisha Bharadwaj) I especially love spinach dishes. Palak paneer, spanikopita, and spinach quiche are a few favorites.

I can’t be on facebook as much as usual. I have way too many people I love on there to stop checking in and hanging out a little, but I’m skimming past political and ranting posts. I’m bypassing as many angry posts as possible. If I soak up any more of that I risk letting more passive suicidal thoughts to take root in my spirit and heart. I can’t afford it. If anyone thinks I’m a cop-out or don’t care about all the people hurting right now, all the scared people out there right now, all the abused and threatened people – then you don’t know me AT ALL. If there is anything in me to contribute to the world to make it a better place, to help people become safer – then I have to shut everything out for a while. Dead people can’t help make living people safer or heard or lift them up. That’s a fact.

Unless you’re religious, then I suppose you always turn to dead people to lift you up. But never the less, not even Jesus can vote or march or step in to literally give you a hand when you need one.

For mentally ill people to be of service to others, they have to take care of themselves and that often means shutting out the noise. That often means disengaging for long periods to recharge. Our batteries do not hold charges for very long.

I feel guilty so much of the time not being able to do more, needing to be in retreat mode so often. Honestly, when I’ve gotten myself to a better place, I don’t know that tackling political things is where I’m needed most anyway. I need to get back to my Suicide for Beginners book because those of us with serious depression and anxiety need intersectional support more than most people. We have a lot to offer others in empathy and action and support, but not when we don’t have enough of it ourselves. Depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, they hit people across all lines, across all borders both literal and figurative.

I have to keep acknowledging the guilt that I’m not stronger than I am and keep letting it go. I’m strong in ways that aren’t necessarily evident. But if I don’t take care of myself, that strength is inaccessible to everyone, including myself.

So, if you’re like me and struggle with serious depression and anxiety, please let me entreat you to do a little check – are you practicing good self care? Or have you been neglecting it like I have? What is the self care you need to practice? (Feel free to literally tell me in the comments) If you’re not practicing much self care at all, or worse, like I have been doing – you are being self destructive (even if mildly), how about doing one thing for yourself today that you know will help you feel better and stronger that you’ve been neglecting to do? Don’t worry about ALL THE THINGS you should be doing, how about just do ONE thing today that you haven’t been doing?

Today I got up, grabbed my cup of coffee, and headed upstairs to my computer to write a post. A post that isn’t about death, or politics, or the hatred that’s consuming the world. I wrote about the thing I did yesterday that made me feel so much better for a little while. And in doing so, I have (today) done something else that I’ve neglected for so long I don’t even recognize myself anymore – I wrote a post before doing anything else. No matter what else I do today (or don’t do), I will have done something today that I need to do every day.

About the writing – I believe that all writers (and I believe this is true of all artists) sometimes must go through fallow periods. Periods of time when they aren’t writing but are just experiencing life. You have to recharge your writing brain. It used to be that I would write at least a blog post or a journal entry every single day even if I wasn’t writing poetry, non-fiction, or fiction. It was a discipline that kept my writing muscles flexed. But regardless of whether or not you continue to write little journal entries, there are periods of time where you must let ideas germinate, or invite new ones in by going out and doing things and getting out of your head. Just as fields must lie fallow to rest in order to regenerate and be able to support more demanding plants in a later season or year.

But I have lain fallow long enough. It is now unhealthy for me to continue to eschew the writing. I have to find my way back. But I can only think about today or I’ll crumble. Today I wrote.

I Lie to Everyone Some of the Time

sky in my head

Don’t care where anyone else sleeps on their conscience. I can only ask myself how I got to this thought, this feeling, this judgement, and then ask myself if it’s who I am, if I died 60 seconds from now “Is this who I am, is this how memory will record me?” and cast my shadow against the wailing wall for all to pick at, discuss, and cruelly dissect. Because humans, no matter how evolved we become, are still creatures limited by our state of flesh and blood.

When I crumple in a heap of indigestible feelings and thoughts I would rather die than anyone see my face on which everything is writ in smudged chalk and ancient language. I would rather die than explain myself to other humans, but humans intrude cheerily and with love, so I lie to them with good cheer and equal love and everyone moves forward exactly one centimeter towards no gain.

I understand that this is how it will always be. Even if I were to tell all the secrets and expose all my arteries to the light – this is how it will always be. Hanging onto minutes like lifelines, waiting for the tide to turn, waiting for the waves to choke out idle curiosity. Can’t abide the casual eye on my aspirating valves, slowing to death under the weight of a nightlife I can’t control or escape. I’d sooner choke on the seaweed tangling around my feet than swim to the surface of this fight.

I lie all the time, every day. Whether it’s wrong or not depends entirely on how far into my world you’re entrenched. That I lie to everyone for my own protection is an incontrovertible fact. White or black is only one way of looking at it. Survival or death is another way. I lie to everyone. There is no one I don’t lie to about the core of my life experience. I parse out dark truths as much as those around me can handle them but never all at once, never more than a patchwork of truth. No matter what I say, there’s more I’m holding back.

We’re all masters at subterfuge, my spirit family. Almost everyone in my tribe knows better than to share whole truths. Our survival depends on the art of half truths and making other people feel good about our chances of survival. We spend most of our time making sure the people around us are as comfortable as they can be, we lure them into hope like mermaids calling sailors to cliffs that look like pillows of marshmallow gold.

I want to let the flesh fall and the bones talk. I want to walk the creeks with my veins open and my truth available to every curious mind. I want to share all this shit with everyone who thinks they’re ready for it, who wants to know, to understand, but –

I have a responsibility to tread lightly around humans more tender than myself, humans who still feel hope, who burst with spiritual optimism. I have a responsibility not to crush them with my darkness.

I have optimism too, but it’s darker and older and isn’t rainbows, unicorns, bunnies, innocence, mercy, or love.

My optimism is bloody survival. It’s war anthems being sung by the dead when there’s no one living left to rejoice in winning. My optimism is that the earth will reinvent itself without humans and be better and healthier for it. My optimism is that we will all be here forever as gasses and soil and sand.

This is good enough for me.

This is good enough for all of us.

 

62 Things That Keep Me Up At Night

all lit up 2

It’s important to have life goals. Here’s my new one:

To be eaten by a whale when I’m 60 years old.

Or, better yet:

Be lowered into shark infested waters in a cage with chum, except without the cage, when I’m 60 years old.

I actually wanted to be put in a pod and shot into outer space but my friend Sid pointed out how expensive that would be. That’s why all my goals now involve being eaten by big things in the ocean. Which is a weird life choice for someone who’s pretty afraid of drowning in the bigness of the ocean.

This day was so depressing and so full of fuckery and depressingness that instead of talking about the bleak nature of the day I’m going to write a list of everything that keeps me up at night:

62 THINGS THAT KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT:

1.  The lack of world peace.

2.  Other people snoring.

3.  Sound of dog licking herself.

4.  Husband’s breath on my neck or face.

5.  My own breath on my arms or hands.

6.  Total silence.

7.  The sound of leaves shaking when there’s no rain or wind to shake them.

8.  Thinking about un-caught serial killers.

9.  The sound of my heart beating.

10.  The sound of other people’s hearts beating.

11.  All the people crying at the same time across hemispheres and time zones.

12.  The thought of more people being born and the dwindling resources available to humans.

13.  The pressure of my jaw that I only feel when I can’t sleep that keeps me from sleeping.

14.  My feet being hot.

15.  My feet feeling dry.

16.  The weight of human life all around me.

17.  The belief that as soon as I’m just about to fall asleep I’ll need to pee even though I’ve already peed 5 times just before bed, then it really happens and I have to pee again and sometimes this goes on for two hours.

18.  The sound of beetles rooting through the soil.

19.  The thought of animals being hurt.

20.  The hideously large number of people I know who’ve been heinously abused in one way or another, most of them when they were children.

21.  That there are humans out in the cold dark corners of every town and city trying to sleep in alleyways or under freeway bypasses.

22.  The thought of all the abandoned babies of all species around the world struggling to survive bleak chance and I can’t rescue even a trili-fraction of them.

23.  That I have only a quarter to give when a homeless person asks me for change.

24.  Dry lips.

25.  The thought of dry lips.

26.  All the people whose lives my country has callously destroyed.

27.  The horrendous and unconscionable history of black slaves in my country and the far-reacing and current poison it’s spread across several hundred years.

27.  All the women scared to say “no” to almost anything.

28.  My own difficulty and guilt in saying “no” most of the time even if I’m able to say it when I need to.

29.  That thing I said hours ago that no one remembers but me.

30.  The slow grind of the earth turning.

31.  The thought of people wearing socks to bed. Particularly saggy socks. Seriously, now I’ll probably never sleep again because I’ve put that in print.

32.  The thought of Donald Trump’s creepy mug and toupee being printed on money.

33.  Any kind of itch.

34.  The feeling of my eyelids being too heavy, or not heavy enough.

35.  Other people’s skin touching mine.

36.  The ending of How I Met Your Mother.

37.  The thought of how many dull scissors there are around the world.

38.  Wondering if my child just died in his sleep.

39.  The thought of Netflix getting rid of Fringe.

40.  Worrying that I haven’t stored enough nuts away for the winter.

41.  Debtor’s prison.

42.  Thinking about how my son insists on getting dressed in the wrong order.

43.  Not wanting to wake up in the morning but knowing I probably will.

44.  The dread that my husband forgot to brush his teeth before bed.

45.  Thoughts racing 140 m/p/h.

46.  A snag in a fingernail or a toenail.

47.  Wondering if Jesus got corns walking through the desert.

48.  Wondering if Jesus ever had a necrotic sore.

49.  Wondering if Jesus wishes he hadn’t saved his faithful brethren.

50.  Worrying about having such Jesus-centric thoughts as an atheist.

51.  Thinking about what tomorrow will bring.

52.  Anxiety about the possibility of the phone ringing past 10pm because no one ever calls past 10pm for good news.

53.  The knowledge that people torture animals.

54.  The realization that white dirty stinky tube socks are too good for such people.

55.  Feeling my staunch non-violence and non- revenge beliefs be challenged by thoughts about people torturing animals.

56.  Leaving my mom in a skilled nursing facility tonight that is incompetent at best and negligent at worst and that represents the level of care is considered acceptable by a lot of insurance companies.*

57.  The sound of a mosquito.

58.  The memory of spider bites.

59.  Recent spider sightings and subsequent disappearances.

60.  Trying to understand what mechanism has gone wrong in men that makes them want to rape women, and why there are so fucking many men who think it’s okay.

61.  ALL OF THE THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE OVER WHICH I HAVE NO CONTROL.

62.  The fact that I can’t finish this list ever because it’s infinite and yet if I stop listing things it won’t reflect the perfect truth of all the things that keep me up at night because there are few things that don’t keep me up at night. In fact, that would have been a much smaller list.

Thursday Thoughts: an unnumbered list of thoughts

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Every garden is full of vignettes. Tight little scenes that have a life of their own. This is my favorite one in my garden.

List of Thursday thoughts as they come into my head:

My head hasn’t felt this clear for months. Which is funny because it’s actually still congested with a cold.

I just found a black bic ballpoint pen and I have no idea how it got in my pen jar. I NEVER use black bics. Ever. Only blue. So that’s pretty weird.

I got a pound of lye in the mail yesterday and my first thought was how hard it must be to buy enough lye to dissolve a whole human body without being noticed. Unless you have a business that buys industrial amounts of it for seemingly legitimate reasons.

Scared to have to find a new job. I don’t want one. I want to make fabulous potions that people buy enough of that I can stay home and make them and write and my family will still be okay.

My tooth problems are one of the reasons we need me working or making a living. Even with dental insurance I can’t afford the crown I need nor the wisdom teeth pulling.

Max wants to drive up to Tahoe for a night to see the snow. He doesn’t have a coat or snow boots.

Max’s grades are dropping. Normal teen thing or is he in need of help? I don’t have a strong line to draw in the sand about when grades require intervention. I was mostly a C student and tons of pressure didn’t improve those grades. I’m not a believer in punishing kids for mediocre grades. I think I’ll talk with him about this though.

I just got really stressed out looking up hotels in Tahoe for an overnight trip to see snow on Spring Break. We can never seem to afford to take Max to the snow since we moved back to CA and we promised him we’d take him. A friend just suggested I check to make sure there’s actually snow in Tahoe right now. It didn’t occur to me that there wouldn’t be.

I hate how easily I can be sunk with anxiety. It qualifies as a superpower I think since my ability to go from totally happy and calm to anxious-ridden-worm-hole-brain super powerfully fast. Which I can and often do.

I had a perfect Wednesday with my friend Sharon. We looked at roses and had coffee together. I brought two clippings home of favorite roses, one of which is no longer commercially available. Today I’m going to put them in pots to root them.

Feeling better now. I’m going to try and convince my guys to take a little trip to Salt Lake City to visit friends instead of snow for spring break.

I don’t love dishes but I always feel better after I’ve done some.

I’m still not happy with my company label. I’m not quite sure what it is. It doesn’t quite grab my attention the way other product labels do. I need it to be compelling. Can’t afford a designer for this but need advice.

I’m going to go transplant a sick rose and start a few seeds.

See all you tomatoes later!

Secret Messages on Pancakes

tiny GJ plane

The last thing I did before waking up was write a plea on a pancake to be broken out of prison. I signed my pancake note with spun sugar. Right before that there was a strip of desert and a bunch of people hunting snakes but the last pair of people who galloped after a snake ended up killing a deer. Before that there was an epic terrible time in a small Scandinavian town in the mountains that was also connected with the ocean. I was there to visit a friend and hide out from some bad people looking for me and I sat on a bench in her shallow pool surrounded by artwork trying not to be pulled over the edge of the pool into the ocean or the abyss or some sort of death related scenario. I returned to her living room, a cramped (cozy) little bridge of a room under which you could see her garage. Which was on fire. We couldn’t put it out. It seemed certain she was going to have to relocate and I knew she wasn’t going to. There was a point where I wandered into town for some shopping but it turns out the shopping center was in Australia or New Zealand.

I truly don’t have restful dreams. Maybe no one does. At least it ended with a note on a pancake, you know?

During this week of not writing much at all, again, I did come to the realization that I need to change a few details that mean going back and making a lot of adjustments. It means more rewriting when I haven’t even gotten past chapter 11 yet. I will be working on that today so I can move on to chapter 12. The changes are good and will make the story much better. Designing a post apocalyptic prison life is harder than you’d think.

I have been doing some serious thinking on so many things these days my head hurts.

Yesterday afternoon I started having sharp chest pains and joked about my end of days, as I always do, but after a couple people tried to convince me it was either gas or heartburn, other people were more alarmed and suggested going to the doctor immediately. This fed my initial irrational fears of having a heart attack and made me question my decision to not take it seriously. I’ve had this happen before and I was fine. As a person with clinical anxiety I have to constantly find the line between hypochondria and medical neglect due to fear of just being a hypochondria. When your very first thought with every single pain or weird body thing is: IT’S PROBABLY A TUMOR THAT’S TOO ADVANCED TO OPERATE ON AND I’M GOING TO DIE, or I’M PROBABLY HAVING A HEART ATTACK AND AM GOING TO BE DEAD BY TOMORROW MORNING, or THIS IS THE DAY I FIND OUT THAT WEIRD PATCH OF SKIN IS THE BEGINNING OF MY SLOW PAINFUL DEATH BY SCLERODERMA , you learn to stop and discuss with yourself the vast unlikeliness of any of those dire reasons for the little headache or the weird rough patch of skin.

I can’t afford to go to the emergency room unless I’m so obviously sick or bleeding out that the biggest medical skeptic in the world would be scared for my life too. In my big effort not to give in to hypochondria I am sometimes at greater risk of not going to the doctor when there’s a good reason to do it. Going to the doctor and being gently laughed at for what turn out to be nothings makes a hypochondriac feel like total and utter garbage.

I’m still having the small stabby pains in my chest this morning. I don’t really know what to make of it but since there are zero other signs of problem I’m still telling myself it’s just some kind of anxiety thing. I am simultaneously considering calling the doctor on Monday to see if I should be worried for real.*

The season of artificial cheer has already filled me with the desire to rip down all Christmas decorations I come across and blast Laibach’s “Let It Be” cover album in every place I hear horrible Christmas music.

Every time Philip tells the dog to be “Calm” and repeats it over and over I get increasingly less calm.

I sold 7 salves in the last couple of days thanks to being included in The Kitchn’s list of stocking stuffers.

15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck

I’ve sold out and am making a new batch. This reminds me how much I love making potions. Doing apothecary work is deeply satisfying. This fresh batch includes some of my home grown comfrey so that’s an extra level of excitement! Oh, and some of the plantain was wild harvested by me and Max. I’m finally going to make my lip balm this weekend too. The oil infusion has been ready for weeks but I couldn’t decide on a couple of other ingredients until now. I’m going to do a peppermint and a chocolate version.

In my wildest dreams I make an actual living selling my herbal remedies and my novels. This week the fantasy is pretty healthy. It frequently dies in my heart during bouts of uncertainty and depression caused by lack of sales or interest from others. But I always bounce back. Been bouncing back from crippling bouts of self doubt since 1980.

My mom goes into surgery again on Monday. They need to fix a hernia and also move her insides around to pull her abdominal muscles back together because they have separated. I’m not scared this time around. This is a much less risky surgery than the previous ones and it’s semi-elective. The hernia isn’t hurting her now nor causing any problems – but if she doesn’t get it taken care of, it’s a time bomb.

It’s been raining a lot in the last two weeks and I love it. I LOVE IT! I hope we get a lot more. I’m greedy for rain. GIVE ME ALL THE RAIN.

It’s time for me to sign off and prepare to get some writing done before switching gears to make potions. I hope you all are having a great Saturday!

Know someone with a bad case of book ennui? I have the solution! Get them a copy of Winter; Cricket and Grey:

Need a great wound salve on hand? Winters Apothecary 3x strength wound salve is the best one you can buy!

3x Wound Salve

*Do NOT attempt to diagnose me, or alarm me, or in any way interfere with the delicate balance I’m trying to achieve between my mental illness and my body.

Here We Go Again

barren of chamomile

This is how I feel right now: all hard scrabble, dried leaves, and a dirty flattened Q-tip.

Tomorrow my mom goes to Kaiser to get put back together from all the trauma of last summer. There are many reasons why this surgery should not be stressing me out the way it is:

  • It’s not an emergency surgery this time.
  • She’s not getting surgery with a broken back this time.
  • We know about her reaction to the anesthesia and pain killers and that they may need to try alternatives if she starts accusing nurses of setting the hospital on fire.
  • Kaiser does everything internally so there won’t be that head-exploding problem of trying to orchestrate all the different contractors that take care of different things.

I think there are more reasons but I’m having trouble focusing on them at the moment. Resectioning intestines is a pretty high risk surgery even when it’s planned due to risk of infection. They may go in there and find too much scar tissue from last time and not be able to resection her. She knows that’s a possibility. I know it’s a possibility. Because of who I am and the clinical anxiety that’s so hard to wrestle down, I can’t stop thinking about her going through all this only to find they have to close her up and she’ll have to face a lifetime of using a colostomy bag.

Obviously I can’t quite quell the fear that she’s going to die. I made her write a will this week. We talked about what kinds of decisions she wants us to make if things go wrong. Today while cleaning the bathroom I made a mental note to ask her to remind me if she wants to be cremated or something else.

I am the grim reaper.

Apparently.

I have to admit to a certain level of PTSD. This time last year she was in the hospital fighting for her life for a month. I don’t feel over it yet. The whole thing was awful. Not the way death itself is awful but all the not knowing and the paranoid hallucinations, the second emergency surgery, the abscess that formed, becoming obsessed with her white blood cell count, trying to get information from nurses and doctors. It was one long traumatizing nightmare.

Life is constantly reinforcing my anxieties, proving that YES, people can die at any moment and YES, everything can go wrong and YES, you can end up living in a small town in which you don’t belong where –

Oh, hang on, different nightmare. Different PTSD.

I collect PTSD like they’re Pokemon cards.

Life is constantly proving me right. That’s one of the worst things about having clinical anxiety. It just builds and builds because everything you’re afraid of really happens in the world. It doesn’t matter if there’s only a 1% chance it will happen to you.

That person who got killed by a serial killer – do they really give a shit that there was only a .000000001% chance that was going to happen to them? People with anxiety don’t give a chewy monkey’s ass about percentages or statistics. It’s enough that these things that happen to almost no one happen to SOME ONE.

Here’s the best case scenario:

  • She goes in tomorrow morning and they go in and find she doesn’t have too much scar tissue.
  • They resection her and she doesn’t react to the meds.
  • She doesn’t get an infection and she’s discharged in a week.
  • She comes home, we help her recover comfortably.
  • She gets completely back to living a normal life and we all get glass slippers. Or wooden ones that won’t shatter and cut an artery and make us bleed out on the ball room floor.

Cause that could totally happen.

That’s what I need to focus on now. I need to picture that. I need to send energy to that.

I’ll probably be watching Fringe on an endless loop. I’ll be sleeping in mom’s apartment (a unit in the same house as ours) to keep Rosie from getting scared or lonely. I expect to drink a lot of beer for the next few days.

But the minute my mom is on the mend and clear of delicate risk of infection or complications – I’m going temporarily sober again. Another 3 month stint. I have to do it. I can’t start it right now. I need the beer and the constant Fringe episodes. Then I need to get back on track with taking care of myself.

I may be edgier than usual for the next week or two. Please be willing to forgive me if I snap at you or get weird or horribly maudlin.

If you want to read about last summer’s hospitalization:

The Thing About Life

The Remains of The Day

The Longest Night Before The Next Longest Night

Coming Home: Goodbye Room 108 and 107

Out Here in the Weeds

musard in field

I keep telling myself that it’s time I stopped sharing my own personal meltdowns publicly and instead put them in books where fictional situations and characters can chew on them righteously without making me feel scraped out personally.  Time to truly become the puppeteer behind the curtain pulling the strings and making people believe in levitation and other untrue things.  I think my motivations for making my anxiety attacks and depressive episodes public aren’t particularly nice.  Mostly I want everyone to suffer – I want them to have to go through this shit too because I think there will be a lot less bullshit attempts to convince me that mental illness isn’t really an “illness” so much as a vitamin imbalance or a lazy person’s descent into negativity that is completely avoidable with daily positive affirmations, ditching wheat, ditching meat, ditching sugar, or whatever it is YOU ditched that changed your fucking life forever so that everything is coming up disco pants and summer days.

Fuck that.

Disco pants is #72 on the list of 127 Things That Freak Me Out.

It’s funny because my dad (not the biological father) and I had a great lunch together the other day during which the question of my mental illness came up and, typical of his generation of wishful thinkers, he wants to believe that this mental problem of mine was created by the fucked up start to my life (the commune years) that made me never feel safe.  And then the part where he and my mom fought all the time.  And then the part where they split up and my mom had a major breakdown at the same time I did.  He thinks that these circumstances are why I have anxiety, that I wasn’t BORN WITH IT.

We agree that experiences in life can play a big hand in a person’s mental state. Zero argument.  But he really doesn’t believe that people are born with different wiring.  Like so many other people.

Science has already proved that some brains really are wired differently – that some minds physiologically function differently or less optimally – depending on the brain you’re talking about.  I think it boils down to people experiencing existential discomfort at the idea that human emotions and thought patterns can be boiled down to little more than chemical conversations between the brain and the nervous system.  It implies a lack of control and it also implies that feelings don’t come from our spirits or whatever essence you think makes us uniquely who we are.

As if it’s somehow frightening to think that our chemical makeup, the quality of our blood, the size of our arteries, and the electric pulses in our brains are IT.  I have no patience for that fear.  I am much too busy fearing real things like being murdered or raped or ending up homeless with Pippa living inside my coat.

It’s all well and good to discuss the whys and wherefores and the origin story.  But when you’re in the trenches it doesn’t fucking matter one bit.  You know it isn’t good.  You know you didn’t do anything on purpose to bring it on.  You want it to not happen and you try everything in the world that people swear will change your life and in the end you’re still just in the head you were born with and its now got all the extra baggage it’s acquired from living life as a person whose brain doesn’t work optimally in the world it must function in.

The only part of this that I’m not sure about is whether I can claim that I’m not actually broken, that I’m just different?  When one is in the Autism spectrum it’s much easier to make a case for simply having a different operating system.  People with autism actually have different brains – differences you can SEE with EYES in imaging.  So do people with ADHD.  Their brains literally look different when functioning, work differently than the average brain.  Certain parts are less or more developed than in the average.

But mine – mine may not really be built differently.  If I’m being honest when I’m looking at all the data that’s available to me so far, it really does look like I’m not a different model of brain but a brain that came off the conveyer belt with some missing screws and a permanent oil leak.

What does that mean for my self esteem.  How can I frame my shortcomings as strengths?  How can I make it seem like having a few screws missing is a blessing?

I’m getting off the boat now.

What if I told you that I have no ego invested in being the top of the line model human being but I wish to fucking god the radioactive emotional meltdowns could be surgically removed?

They used to call that a lobotomy.

Today I’m all calm and post-meltdown philosophical but yesterday I wanted to tear my own heart out and if it weren’t for the mess, I would have done it.

If I’m going to continue being honest then I have to say that I AM a broken human with band-aids holding my pieces together.  It’s not popular to admit this.  Why am I not framing it in a positive awesome superhero way?  Probably because when you spend so much time using all your superhero powers to keep your violence from going inwards you become too tired to parse meaning nicely.

Us broken people and us people who are wired differently and us people who are neurologically atypical all have something in common.

We can see things the average person is blind to.  We know things the average person can’t know.  We feel EXTRA.  We smell MORE.  We hear EVERYTHING.  We see in the dark.  We understand your raw heart and we can fill it with empathy in a way you can’t describe but you’ll FEEL long after we’re just a blurry memory.  We can find answers that live in places most people can’t get at.  We’re intense.  We’re exhausting.  We’re pretty LOUD when we aren’t completely SILENT.  A lot of us die of drug addiction, suicide, heart implosions.  Our natural death rate is higher than yours because we live harder just staying alive.

We have gifts.  Gifts that have lit this world from its first experiments in agriculture and rolling wheels to the elegant quantum theory we take for granted now.  We are the wild ones who leap farther, swim deeper, jump higher, run faster, think more abstractly, and articulate the dumb-water from which humanity dragged itself to find the light.

I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t materially matter whether we were born whole but different or born broken and are therefor different.  What everyone else needs to recognize is that we are your storytellers, soothsayers, and collective memory.

Out here in the weeds is where I belong.  Out here with the body dumps and strong medicine.  Out here between the chain link and the luxury cars.  Out here with the homeless and the litter.

I know you can never be completely comfortable in my company unless you’re part of this wild tribe of mine.

I don’t mind if you lie and say you never feel out of your depth with my violent feelings.  I don’t mind if you lie and say I never trouble you.

Out here in the weeds there is no drowning.

The Devil’s Circus

hills from bus

I want to smash things.  I want to smash everything.  I want to destroy all the delicate beautiful things and all the arrogantly strong things.  I want to rip down the shades and tear the curtains and I want to stab pillows and throw drinks in all the faces.

Except that I don’t ever want to see another face as long as I live.  And please god, erase mine first.

I want to claw into my skin to drag out the toxic disease that makes me constantly self destruct.  I can feel it in my body like it’s got its own corrupt soul, moving around in my bones treating me like a goddamn marionette.  I want to rip it out of my body and smash it against the walls.  But I know, I still know that it’s really just me I want to smash against the wall.  I know I’m the only one in this suit of flesh and I just need to find something specific to burn.  I keep lighting my own skin on fire.

I see it all coming down before it starts.  I try to stop it and everything I do to stop it makes it worse and it happens slowly – this B movie scene I can’t rewrite – so I have to live each frame without mercy.  I give it different words and I make it wear a denim tracksuit but it’s still naked and now I am too.

The words coming out of my mouth are always the ones I definitely wasn’t going to say.

I can’t be around people.  I can’t be around myself.

So many people think all I have to do is meditate or change my habits or remind myself it doesn’t have to be this way.  That if life made me this way I can unmake myself.  Bullshit.

Go fucking unmake yourself bitches!  Tell me how that’s working out for you.

If it’s working for you then go fuck your smug self.

I was supposed to go to the city today but I infected my people with my stress, it seems, and then fucking pounded it into their skulls for good measure.  Because people like me do shit like that.  Then I felt so fucking bad I wanted to knife myself.  No matter what I do, no matter what therapy I get, no matter what meds I take, it always comes back to that inward thrust.  The desire to destroy what wants to destroy me first.  To punish myself for fucking everything up AGAIN.

I haven’t cut myself or intentionally harmed myself for 28 years but it’s always there.  Saying it out loud makes me seem more diseased than I want anyone to know.  I want people to think you can just will that shit away and OVERCOME.  Maybe some can.  I can only speak for myself.  That desire to garrote myself is my second shadow.

I don’t want you to know about it because it will make you see me differently.   It shows my illness more than any other behavior or obsessive thought I can share.  The only human deviance worse than one who wants to hurt itself is one who wants to hurt others.

But I do that too.

The spirals are fast and brutal most of the time.  I don’t have time for last rights or explanations until it’s all over and then I feel like such a loser I let myself slip down the sink drain with the black mold and the tangled hair.

I am not fit to be around people.  Or in the world.  Or in a body.

I get whiplash sometimes between the good days and the bad.  The good minutes and the stopped time.

Animals know when they’re sick.  I know I’m sick in the mind.  It angers me when people try to make excuses for my irregularity.  It’s insulting to be lied to for someone else’s sense of comfort.  So they can feel better about themselves.  If I’m sick it means there are others who are like me who are also sick.  If I admit to being sick they question whether they are obligated to admit they are too.  They fight so hard against it.  Because having my sickness is ignoble.  It’s not nice.  It’s pretty fucking ugly in the corners no outsiders can see.  It’s the devil’s circus in here.

I made my child cry.  My wonderful child who suffers from some of the same things I do.  I made him cry because I was hanging on by a thread to my plans and he had the audacity to be barely hanging onto his.  I lashed out at him for deciding, right as we set out for the city, that he was going to have a bad time.  I tried to help and inadvertently made things worse, as I do.  So I got angry.  He cried.  He was so stressed out and he’s new at this stress of the unknown.  Poor kid inherited my awful awful anxiety and I fucking lashed out at him for it.

I am having a hard time forgiving myself for that right now.  That kid of mine is pretty fucking amazing.  I have the opportunity to give him support and empathy and teach him to live in a world that doesn’t understand people like us, and what I did was make him feel like shit for being sensitive to stress and outings he’s no properly prepared for.

I already apologized to him when he came into my office where I was busy not breaking everything and said he was sorry for ruining my day.  I apologized to him for making him think my ruined day was his fault when it was really mine.

My guys have gone to a movie and are, I think, recovering from that madly awful hour.

I am not.  Not yet.  I lie in bed for a couple of hours forcing self harming thoughts from my head, listening to my cat purring on my shoulder.

I want to break things.  I want to break everything.

I think I’m going to go get more beer and some Chinese food.  How’s that for a strong shot of bathos?

127 Things That Freak Me Out

teeth 4

Things That Freak Me Out

A List

For Sharon Who Wants Me to Make This Into a Book

For the purposes of this list it is important to understand that what I mean when I say something “freaks me out” is that it causes an irrational panic, involuntary physical shudder or turn of the stomach, general distress, or in some selected cases an alarming bridge-jumping anxiety.  Most of the time you will never know I’m freaking out or diverting a panic attack.  In some cases it’s obvious why I might be anxious about something – like when people wear white saggy tube socks – and in other cases – such as standing on cliff edges – your guess is as good as mine. 

I have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, as well as misophonia.  So if you don’t have any of these things and you wonder what it’s like – this will give you a little taste of how uncomfortable a lot of ordinary things are to people like me.  On the other hand, sometimes I have a lot more fun than other people because everything is SO FUCKING WEIRD.

  1. Muscular spiders
  1. People drinking water or other cold beverages out of mugs instead of glasses
  1. Cheap poorly designed metal forks – I will admit that they offend me as much as they bother me to touch and eat with.  What excuse is there for poorly designed silverware?
  1. Returning merchandise – even if it’s faulty and clear that it should be returned and obvious that no clerk will fistfight me for trying to get my money back
  1. The sounds of people eating
  1. The sound of cotton balls being squished
  1. Vibrato singing
  1. Grown women who sound like little girls
  1. Putting clothes on in the wrong order
  1. Dull pencils
  1. People in socks without pants on
  1. Tube socks
  1. Saggy socks
  1. Baseball caps worn very high on the crown – very hard to resist the urge to blow on them to see  if they fly away
  1. Getting food from buffet situations – it’s not the germ factor, it’s something I can’t even explain to myself
  1. Group activities of almost any kind where someone calls them “group activities” – I can become ornery and dangerous when pushed to participate
  1. Spittle collecting in the corners of people’s mouths when they talk
  1. People wearing shirts but nothing else
  1. Turtlenecks – I’m convinced they will choke me to death the second I let my guard down
  1. Putting my hands in gloves
  1. When my skin gets really dry – makes me want to crawl out of it, as do many things on this list
  1. Feeling breath on my skin – so blow on it at your own risk and remember that I’m good with my fists
  1. The sound of people breathing – loud breathing in particular but sometimes it’s any sound of breathing, a very hard anxiety to live with
  1. Grown ups drinking milk – this is a sick and wrong thing.  It makes me shudder.  It brings to mind phlegmy mouths which ALL people get when drinking milk.  If you drink milk in front of my and then try to carry on a conversation I will either leave immediately or plot my revenge on you
  1. Pranks of any kind – you’ll be sorry if you play a prank on me and I die of a heart attack, though probably not as sorry as I’ll be
  1. Cutting off pieces of carcasses – in cooking applications.  I have never tried cutting pieces off of human carcasses or wild animal carcasses but I almost passed out cutting the tip of a chicken wing off
  1. The thought of people eating meat – philosophically I’m okay with it but secretly I find it really distressing
  1. Meat breath – it’s a thing people who eat meat get that I imagine only a lifelong vegetarian could smell but it causes me to back away
  1. The smell of fish – yes, even fresh fish smells like fish if you hate the smell of fish
  1. Finding half a worm on my dinner plate
  1. Using a cutting board that meat has been on
  1. Floss breaking in my teeth
  1. Visible tooth rot
  1. fuzzy teeth
  1. loose teeth – mine, yours, everyone’s – if you show me or you talk about it I will claw the walls to get away
  1. dentures
  1. getting dental x-rays
  1. cotton tubes the dentist stuffs in your mouth during root canals
  1. Squeaky noises
  1. people mindlessly humming
  1. people mindlessly whistling
  1. Repetative noises
  1. Competing noises
  1. long nails on men – especially when just a couple are long
  1. really long nails on women – it’s hard for me to stop fantasizing about what it would feel like to rip them off which makes me uncomfortable because things like that are called “assault” according to the law
  1. plastic surgery
  1. being pregnant – I still have nightmares about it
  1. other people being pregnant – for god’s sake don’t be offended, I have a very visceral panic about people being pregnant
  1. women having babies – the whole topic distresses me for a number of reasons both rational and unhinged
  1. overpopulation
  1. people who love having babies – I can’t even talk about this it weirds me out so much and presents the big unsolvable mystery of how I came to have one on purpose
  1. people who love spending all their time with kids – WHY? I can’t even talk about this
  1. People chewing with their mouths open
  1. crunching noises
  1. slurping noises
  1. squelching noises
  1. the feel of the shower water on my boobs – fuck you for being normal!  It hurts but it also gives me the same sensation that a snagged nail does
  1. dishes washed with dishcloths
  1. using someone else’s towel
  1. Taking off a pair of socks and then putting them back on – I have a lot of socks so I never have to do this even if I fail to get my laundry done at the appropriate time.  I don’t like to give you too much power over me or anything, but let’s just say that if you ever need to torture me for information, this is the thing to start with for guaranteed results
  1. Using pillows others have slept on
  1. snagged nail
  1. people I don’t know standing too close
  1. mullets – I have used exposure therapy to work on this and have used CBT to learn to “appreciate” them in the wild
  1. pants that are too tight – and no this isn’t because I’m a prude or an old lady
  1. Crossing bridges
  1. standing on bridges – because some day I’m just going to jump off of one the compulsion is so strong and creepy
  1. cliff edges in any situation – (see #67)
  1. taking plane rides
  1. being underground in close spaces
  1. windows that can’t be opened
  1. disco pants
  1. competition of any kind – I can’t handle competitive behaviors or games or sports or – you know – LIFE – anxiety is a real sonofabitch
  1. the sound of football games
  1. wind chimes – makes a black hole of nothing open up inside me when I hear them
  1. being aware of the moment you slip from consciousness to unconsciousness
  1. vomiting
  1. all things relating to vomit including the thought of vomit – emetaphobia is what it’s called
  1. Escalators – convinced I will be caught and killed by one some day and have never told anyone that before
  1. any unidentifiable rash, ache, pain, or medical mystery
  1. people who are super gentle and calm and quiet and never ever swear – I get the irrepressible urge to BREAK THEM which is a terribly stressful compulsion
  1. religion
  1. people yelling – PTSD
  1. hospitals
  1. being touched unexpectedly – come up behind me and surprise me with a hug at your own risk
  1. doctor exams
  1. any carpet that is tacked down to the floor
  1. wearing slippers
  1. the smell, taste, and texture of cold butter
  1. watching people put cold butter on bread and eat it
  1. wearing socks to bed – other people wearing them to bed also freaks me out
  1. wearing anything to bed that you’ve been wearing all day – particularly if such garments were worn outside
  1. dizziness
  1. nausea
  1. mayonnaise
  1. pulling – (oil as toothpaste and please let’s never talk about this again)
  1. the word giggle – makes me feel violent
  1. the word chuckle – see above note
  1. clowns of ANY kind – are there truly people out there who love clowns besides people who ARE clowns?
  1. balloons
  1. games of ANY kind
  1. magic tricks/shows
  1. Las Vegas
  1. potato bugs
  1. ticks
  1. anything that burrows under your skin
  1. stickiness on hands
  1. [redacted] – you can’t handle knowing about this one
  1. super saggy pants
  1. grown men wearing baseball caps backwards
  1. camel toes
  1. moose nuts
  1. kids with colds
  1. people spitting phlegm on the ground
  1. old sponges (more than one week old is pretty old)
  1. collections of teeth lying around – my child saves all the teeth he loses (see image at top of page) and I will suddenly see them and I can’t describe how it makes me feel which is why I can’t account for why it gave me so much pleasure to photograph them even though the whole time I was having the FEELINGS
  1. tongues –  all of them.  Let’s not talk about them ever again.
  1. gristle  – biting down on it, which I had the misfortune of doing when a relative who shall remain nameless forced me to try a hamburger (knowing I was a vegetarian kid) over 30 years ago and I’m still haunted by that experience
  1. Styrofoam squeaking – makes me want to kill people
  1. threads or fibers you can’t shake or get off of you no matter what you do – panic inducing
  1. flannel sheets
  1. sitting with my back to the door of a public place
  1. parties
  1. tasting condiments by themselves – don’t ever ask me to taste a spoonful dressing or dip please
  1. washing stemware and glasses in general
  1. sinks full of dirty water
  1. carolers – one of my most well-known anxieties

*Milk as an ingredient in baking or in black tea is fine.  Milk for babies is pretty much the thing mammals DO.  So those milk applications don’t bother me.