Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jared Loughner and mental illness

So, the guy who shot former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, taking around 20 other people out with her (dead, injured), pleaded guilty today. It means he gets life without parole instead of the death penalty.

I am NOT going to argue the death penalty here. I don't happen to believe it's a deterrent and I find it pretty well useless. (Hey, that's my opinion and this is my blog!) What I *do* want to work through is how I feel about this -- this case, my case.

Nope, I haven't gone on any shooting sprees, and I wouldn't -- if I kill anybody, I will limit it to myself. But this guy has spent over a year being force-fed psychotropics, after he was dx'd schizophrenic, and supposedly that's part of what made him competent to plead.

His psychiatrist said "he's become human" and has cried and apologized and shown remorse for his heinous act. The U.S. attorney general said he thought a trial would have just kept the wounds open, and that Loughner's "significant mental illness" was cause enough to toss him in the pokey, as my dad would say, until he dies.


You know what? I have a "significant mental illness." Bipolar is considered up there with schizophrenia as one.

Better yet, my bipolar comes with psychotic features, meaning that yep, just like Jared Loughner, I hear voices. (Mine haven't told me to go on killing sprees, though, they just annoy me by having inane conversations in my head.) I don't know whether Loughner's psychosis also involves visual hallucinations, but mine does. (Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're creepy. I loved the black dog one, though. Winston Churchill called his depression the black dog. I, currently in the midst of an episode I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through, saw a friendly big black dog at the top of my stairs the other night, even though the neighbors don't have any of those and my housemate and I have cats. I figure it's my fucked-up brain's way of trying to commiserate with Winnie.)

I just wonder if it's really an excuse. If I somehow snap and go do something evil, will my "significant mental illness" score me a get out of jail free card, so to speak? Will people dismiss it as "oh, she's just crazy, she can't help it"? Most of all -- do I really want to be defined that way??

I'm pretty sure the answer is no. The question is whether it's avoidable.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Trying to Decode an Email

For the love of all that’s holy – or irreligious, even: Why does it have to be SO. FREAKING. DIFFICULT to find someone worthy of a relationship? Have you noticed that it gets worse as you age, rather than better? You’d think that’d be the other way round, based on life experience alone: I know I certainly know more at 47 than I did at 17 – but there’s not really a built-in pool of possibilities like there was in high school, if nothing else. People have made their choices, for better or worse. Most of them have baggage in the form of some sort of “ex”: Ex-spouse, ex-job, ex-home owner. Often there’s shared custody (kids, pets, season football tickets). I can handle all that.

You know what my baggage is, was, apparently will forever be? I’m the “buddy.” I’m the chubby (I can downgrade myself from fat now that I’ve lost some weight), nerdy girl who gets decent grades and writes really well and grows up to be a print journalist-slash-grammar freak, to no one’s surprise. I get called on to help make sure master’s theses and course papers and journal articles and news items sound OK and are properly punctuated. And I genuinely enjoy that stuff. And I genuinely enjoy afternoons or evenings at the stadium, no matter the sport. I don’t even mind the occasional movie, or trip to a bar. But goddammit, when is somebody going to notice me for being more than a geek?

(That's me. Am I really that big a dog? :-\)

I got this email from someone I know really well. I'm not going to quote the relevant part, because that would give it away. Let's just say that I thought things were crystal-clear between us a couple years ago, and it turned out they weren't. So I backed off, and I went back to being "the buddy," and then something happened over the last few months. And I got this email a few days ago that made me wonder, but I don't want to go back there, you know?, because it was really painful the last time to find out I was still basically an unwanted piece of shit. I don't want to find that out again, even though the wording of this email was .... hard to decode, I guess. It might really have said what it said, or it might really have been my wishful thinking again.

I know I’m asking a lot. It hasn’t happened yet in my entire life to date. Everyone I’ve ever been interested in has only been interested back “as a friend.” I have no idea how to get around that, or I would have done it by now. Even my mother has given up on my getting married. (She’s 83.) Me, I’m not averse to the idea, necessarily, although I’d be content at this stage just to cohabit – but first, somebody has to tell me WTF is wrong with me. Because I genuinely don’t get it. :-\

Monday, June 25, 2012

the anti-gratitude list

well, sorta.

My intent here is to do it backward -- that is, piss and moan first -- and then see if I can, as the shrinks call it, "reframe" it.

So, OK. So:

-- I got lied to by TWO people who told me a shot they suggested I get wouldn't hurt like the flu shot or something, even though it was going in a muscle.

-- I am 47. The shot is only recommended for people under 65 in very specific circumstances. I don't smoke and I don't have asthma, which are two of them.

-- I have a clotting disorder. It led me to the ER Friday night for an ultrasound, to be sure all was well in my right calf. Because of the med I have to take, I am limited to Tylenol for a painkiller.

Tylenol sucks. They gave me Oxycontin, or whatever it's called now. It was delightful to drift along in a dreamy, woozy state ....

.... until I woke up the next morning covered head to toe in a huge, red, itchy, hot rash.

Got in today to primary care. Everyone seemed to agree it was a drug interaction. Nobody could agree which drug.

-- They forced me on the scale, of course. I am actually UP a pound from my low, despite shaking up my exercise and all that. I suppose probably it would help if I stopped making regular runs to Dairy Queen, but I make sure I can afford them calorie-wise first.

This means I haven't lost a bleedin' thing besides my mind in somewhere around 2 months.


-- Went to gas station, paid for small bag of ice (I go through a lot of ice). Someone had left the door cracked open and half the ice was melted. I had about half a full bag, less when I got it home. They didn't offer to replace it. I go to this gas station every single day and they know me.

-- Pharmacist and tech both went out of their way to say hi. Pharm knows my name and everything I take by heart. This, I suppose, should make me feel all warm and fuzzy. What it makes me feel is pissed off I take so many meds.

On the positive side, ....

-- the cat still loves me. (Dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.)

-- One of the things the pneumonia shot is recommended for is people with compromised immune systems. Although mine's been just ducky for 6-7 years now, better safe than sorry, I guess. And now I don't need a booster till I'm getting Social Security for retirement instead of disability. ;-)

-- I didn't have a clot. If I had, one of the options would have had to be going in and putting in a filter that would block them from traveling any farther than wherever the filter was placed. Uck.

-- Of the two meds I rely on most heavily, one of them can cause rash. It didn't. (Values for both came back normal.)

If all I'm allergic to is a pain med I take once every 5 years or something, I can dig it.

-- There is no good way to reframe being a pig. Sorry. That one's all on me.

-- Good customer service would have entailed apologizing and finding me some ice that wasn't melted. If this place weren't so convenient, I'd bag it. OTOH -- would that have occurred to me either? You shouldn't be working retail if you aren't a people person, which lord knows I am NOT NOT NOT. Presumably, though, these folks can at least fake it. (I couldn't even do that.)

-- It's nice to have people recognize you and know you, though I can't help but wish it were for a less crappy reason. :-\

So how'd I do?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the gratitude list

When you do find humor in trying times, one of the first and most important changes you experience is that you see your perplexing problems in a new way - you suddenly have a new perspective on them. -- Allen Klein

Probably I've mentioned somewhere, or you might have noticed on your own, that I am not necessarily the world's most cheerful person. In fact, a lot of times I'm just downright cranky and depressing.

I chalk it up to a severe, chronic, long-diagnosed mood disorder. Others chalk it up to incivility and general pissiness. I welcome you to think what you please.

But a friend studying positive psychology got me doing these daily gratitude lists. And in the midst of what was a fairly crappy day, I wanted to point out some pleasant, or fun, or thoughtful moments -- to show that I can do it, and to show *you* how to do it. Today was Day 67. I haven't missed a day since I finally decided to do them. (He'd been after me for awhile. :-)

Today I apparently was especially scatter-brained, and so I am especially thankful for:

-- The older lady who chased me through the Gonda Building subway (all the Mayo buildings are connected underground and indoors) to tell me I'd dropped a dollar.

I don't know what a dollar is going to buy me in this world, but hey. She didn't have to do that.

-- The charming young MD on his way to lunch who, as I was preparing to pull out of my parking space downtown, grateful that I didn't get ANOTHER parking ticket (fucking vultures in this town, they are) because of an expired meter, gently said "Ma'am? I think you're forgetting something" and handed me my checkbook off the top of the car. (All together now: DOH!) I thanked him profusely and he held up his iPhone and ruefully said, "One time I left this on the top of my car. It wasn't pretty."

-- The maybe-13-year-old kid who stopped me on *my* way to lunch and asked if I wanted a free paper. I didn't hear him say "free" and told him I subscribed, but I'd buy one off him anyway. He told me again it was free, I said far out, sure, and he looked me right in the eyes and gave me the most grateful, genuine smile I may have ever seen. It's "Rochesterfest" (as lame as it sounds), it's something like 902% humidity to go with the high temps, and I'm sure he'd rather be doing stuff with his friends (or at least hanging in the a/c) instead of taking on this job where he's likely to get tons of rejections.

-- 2nd Street Joey. Joey is going to get his own blog post one of these days. He's in his early 40s and has a variety of disabilities, mental and physical, and yet more days than not, he gets his ass out of his apt. and stands on the street corner by where he lives and waves at the cars that go by. It makes me cry, seriously, to think that people think he's a freak. I guess maybe us misfits have to stick together. Too, I know what it takes to make yourself get up when you don't want to -- not just the "ugh, I don't want to go to work today" variety of "don't want to," but "god, I never want to get out of bed again, I just want to lay here and hate myself and wish for death" variety. Joey deserves a lot of credit.

-- The laugh I got at the (very obviously) tourists who walked into Downtown Book and Video (despite the innocuous name, it's a porn store) -- right by the place I went for lunch.

Girlfriend: (Glare.)
3.25 seconds later, they walk out....and if he was getting yelled at, I couldn't hear. LOL

I dealt with nothing but bureaucrats all day, guaranteed to ruin your mood even if it isn't permanently disordered -- but as I keep saying in awe to the person who introduced me to this idea, if you look around and just notice what's going on, there's invariably something funny or weird or cool or just worth filing away for the next day that's excessively crappy.

When you're in the muck you can only see muck. If you somehow manage to float above it, you still see the muck but you see it from a different perspective. And you see other things too. That's the consolation of philosophy. -- David Cronenberg

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anne Frank and Mom

Whoever is happy will make others happy too. -- Anne Frank

If she had not perished at the hands of evil, Anne Frank would have been 83 -- the same age as my mother -- today. It got me to thinking. One is absolutely miserable and does nothing but complain about not being dead yet and how much her circumstances suck. One had the most unsinkable spirit in human history, in the face of unimaginable horror. Who would I rather be?

I had to leave a lunch gathering early yesterday to meet with someone who wanted me to do some editing work for him. He handed me the most well put together document I've ever seen from someone who thought he needed work done :-), and a generous check.

Last night I had to go somewhere with the same group of people, largely, from lunch. One of them asked how my meeting that afternoon had gone. I told her, and she said "I know you're going to be all cynical about this somehow, but I really think your luck is changing. It's time you accept it."


I don't know if I'm willing to go that far just yet -- the other shoe can always, always drop in a heartbeat -- but maybe those gratitude lists are causing an attitude shift, incrementally, and the universal powers that be are sensing it. Who knows.

It's not "I get by with a LITTLE help from my friends," BTW -- I get by with a ton of it. I'm very fortunate that way, and that I am in fact aware of. So many have been so thoughtful or come through with practical help or even just hugs (never discount the power of hugs) during this time of transition for me. I'm not always as kind as I could be in return, and I do feel bad about that, but they put up with me anyway -- and I invite anyone to spend a couple weeks living in my brain and see how well they handle it. :-\ Bet you wouldn't be unfailingly pleasant after that experience, either.

And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren't any other people living in the world. -- Anne Frank

Friday, June 8, 2012

so it's not November.

So sue me. And then (since you'll lose, as I have absolutely zero money) let me tell you about gratitude lists.

I have this friend, Dan. I met him when he started doing some work for this website I also work for. We have very similar senses of humor (though his tends to be more genuinely funny and less biting), he's the best storyteller I've ever met -- including myself -- he can make me laugh and cry at the same time and I adore him.

Dan is a psychologist. I have gone through phases in my life where I collected people from certain walks of life. At one point, no shit, it was priests, or wannabes. (I was chatting up this REALLY cute guy at a picnic and he said something about the road to Emmaus. I looked at him and went, "Wait. Don't tell me. Seminarian?" He said, "YEAH! How'd you know?!" Sigh. But really, for awhile there, that's all I met.)

And for awhile there, all I met was psychologists. I have another one I count among my very good friends, but that's a story for another time.

Dan contracted me to do some work on a book he was writing, and through that we got even closer, and yadda yadda.

In the last year and a bit, he's formally been studying positive psychology through a program at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn is where Martin Seligman, widely considered the founder of the field, teaches. In the midst of my reading and editing all his papers, etc, Dan spent for-frigging-ever trying to get me to do daily gratitude lists. The premise (which I tweaked) is that you sit down every morning when you wake up and write down what you're grateful for, and it'll color the rest of your day. I do mine at the end of the day instead, so I have something potentially positive to say, because I am NOT a morning person. ;-)

I resisted and resisted and thought it was a stupid idea. Then, for whatever reason, one day I did one. Dan's response was "THIS IS EXCELLENT! I can't wait to read tomorrow's ...."

I asked him why he thought there would be a Day 2, but there was.

Today, I believe, was Day 55.

Dan is well beyond tickled pink and I am, if not entirely converted, comprehending the value of doing this. As a journalist, I pride myself on noting details nobody else does. Most of the stuff that goes on my daily gratitude list isn't huge. It's just the little details of a day in the life, and when you get a bunch of them together, you see how they add up.

Here's one from a few days ago, for a sample:

Today I am grateful for:

-- Someone who took a gigantic chunk out of her last two workdays to bail my sorry ass out so I could get gas, a little food, and the one med I was about to run out of covered while I wait for the insurance company (which admitted it screwed up) to sort things out. It took me a long time to warm up to this chick, because I adored my previous therapist and really haven't ever gotten over him, but man -- this is devotion, and compassion, and a lot of work on my behalf. It's hard not to appreciate it.

-- Knowing someone with a decent vacuum cleaner. Damn black cat hair all over the carpet. ;-) She's good company, though, so she gets away with pretty much everything. :-)

-- Ice cream. Especially ice cream that is portion-controlled because it's on a stick ;-). I could do a gallon in a sitting without thinking too hard about it, especially if it's mint chocolate chip.

-- Homegrown strawberries. Nuff said.

-- Ray Bradbury. I read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" when I was in 7th grade and never got over it. Dude could write. 91's a good, long run, but it still sucks.

-- People who let me be me without feeling the need to browbeat me for it. It took me a LONG time to learn to stand up for myself. Don't like it? Totes not my problem. Could I be gentler? Sometimes, maybe. Am I going to swallow what I have to say in order to keep from pissing you off? That would be ..... no. I don't need the ulcer.

The funny thing (at least it amused me) at my disability hearing was that the psychologist serving as the medical expert told the judge she determined my social functioning to be "markedly impaired." It took everything I had not to laugh. I was like, really, lady? You could tell that from a 6-inch stack of paper without ever having met me or even having spoken to me? Huh. I think that makes my case. :-p

-- And yet somehow I have friends, including the one who told me today that he wouldn't take me out back and shoot me even if his aim *didn't* suck, because he likes having me around. Not sure how many other people feel that way, but at least I have one.

See what I mean? None of it's huge, but altogether, in the course of stuff that makes up a day, you find the day maybe wasn't really so bad.

Today I *jokingly* said someone should buy me an Eeyore phone case I saw online and a friend immediately went and bought it. Blew me away. Also put a gigantic smile on my face for the first time this week. That was the first thing on today's list. :-) I am definitely Eeyore, and ever will be, and Dan, god love him, will always be Tigger. But Tigger and Eeyore were good buddies. I hope the human versions stay that way too.

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. -- Albert Schweitzer

Friday, June 1, 2012

a true Hall of Famer

A friend posted on Facebook the "30 most iconic sports photos of all time." Somewhere in there was Lou Gehrig crying as he spoke to fans at Yankee Stadium during his retirement ceremony. Underneath the photo they printed the text of his speech.

The only part you ever hear -- at least the only one I've ever heard -- is how he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. But it turns out there's a good deal more. The last line blew me away, and I wanted to share it with you in the context of the opening, too.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. ... I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.



Lou Gehrig had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It later came to bear his name. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, rapidly progressive muscle weakness, muscle atrophy and spasticity, and difficulty speaking. Eventually you can't walk, get out of bed on your own, or use your hands and arms. It's not a fabulous way to die, which you can expect to do three to five years after it begins.

If *you'd* been given a terminal diagnosis, could you be grateful for it? Be honest. I will: If a doctor tells me "you have this weird, rare disease we don't know WTF to do with and you're going to die, sorry," I am going to be the most depressed, pissed-off person on the planet.

Here's the thing: I have a weird, rare disease -- a genetic mutation which causes me to clot overmuch. It can in fact kill me via heart attack and stroke, as both those events are caused by blood clots.

In 2005, I damn near died from complete bone marrow failure, known as aplastic anemia -- also weird and rare, and which can yet return.

I promise you I will be furious if any medical type writes me off. They do that with my mental health all the time, but *that* I'm in control of, personally -- if I die from being desperately bipolar, it's going to be be at MY hands, on MY timetable, and fuck the doctors.

Wow. Kudos to Mr. Gehrig. Maybe he was the first positive psychologist. :-)

PS: A bit of trivia: Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS on June 19, 1939 -- his 36th birthday -- at the Mayo Clinic by Dr. Charles W. Mayo (son of one of the original founders).

Monday, May 28, 2012

my story is much too sad to be told...

but practically everything leaves me totally cold --
The only exception I know is the case
When I'm out on a quiet spree
Fighting vainly the old ennui
And I suddenly turn and see
Your fabulous face.

-- "I Get A Kick Out of You," lyrics by Cole Porter

Sung by Frank Sinatra

One of the many troubles with this is I have nobody's fabulous face to turn and see. But oh, lawdy, that is another 100 posts or so. I'm not getting into it now.

It's a beautiful day. Sunny, warm, bit of a breeze. I spent a leisurely amount of time at the gym, got a nap, played infinite rounds of Words with Friends, did a little shopping. So far there is absolutely nothing wrong with this day.

Except that I woke up.

Except that I made myself get up and do stuff, rather than wallow.

Except that this sunny, warm, beautiful day would only be perfect for me if I could spend it in bed, curled in a ball, rocking back and forth and wishing the misery would just END, please.

One of my dearest friends is a psychologist who specializes in positive psychology. (Yep, happiness has its own subfield. Says a lot about the emotional state of mankind these days, n'est-ce pas?) For the past 40-odd days, I've been doing a daily "gratitude list" -- looking back over the day and trying to figure out what was good about it, and how to reframe it if it sucked.

Doing those lists *has* shown me there are things to be grateful for. I know a huge one is that I have a lot of people who love me and would be upset if I checked out.

It doesn't matter. I figure you all will get over it. Me, I'm tired of hurting. I am beyond tired of mood swings that occur within the same day (whatever happened to getting weeks, at least?). I am tired of having to put on a happy face when I'm not happy. I am not wired to be happy. Chalk it up to chemicals or conditioning or whatever you please, but I got life's short end of the stick when it comes to love and success and peace and happiness. I got abuse and hate and pain. *Other* people got happy.

So no matter how many of those lists I do, I can't see it the happiness sticking. Right now, all I can see is that everything hurts, and bad stuff sticks around longer than good stuff, which to me appears to be ephemeral.

I have lost, or never even gotten, many of the more enjoyable things in life because of my mental health. I mean really, all things being equal, would you want to get involved with someone -- in any form -- as big of a mess as I am? Who would voluntarily consider the pros and cons and find the pros win, come hell or high water? So far the answer's "no one." I suspect that is where it will remain. Nobody ever wants the defective ones....and I pretty much define the word "defective" in most major areas.

I am putting this out there because I feel like I need to explain what it feels like when I get this way. I don't know how to describe just how much it hurts, but I need to try. It's like I have boulders tied to the outside of my body, and something between a permanent fire and a twisting, very sharp knife on the inside. That's why I cut, actually -- the physical pain takes away the emotional pain. Briefly. I'd still rather not be here.

I don't buy into the whole heaven and hell thing, but if there is a god cruel and capricious enough to send people to eternal torment simply for deciding when to call it a life by themselves -- hell isn't going to hurt any worse than life did for me, so bring it on. My conception of what happens after death is eternal nothingness. I think it sounds blissful. Peace and blackness ... no one can touch me, no one can hurt me, including my brain.

I don't think anyone will be able to turn me permanently to the happy side. My bad wiring is going to keep dragging me down like this at intervals. So it goes....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

so now what?

Yesterday my official "notification of decision -- fully favorable" for my disability claim came in the mail.

It's really true. It's really going to happen. I'm really going to be forcibly retired before I'm out of my 40s.

Why, you are probably asking, did I file a claim if I wasn't interested in having it come through?

Well, there's the need thing. I haven't been able to hold a 40-hour job in years now. The only way I've survived is through the kindness of a very generous man who also happens to be a psychologist, so he understands mental health (or lack thereof) and what I can and can't do. He's let me work as I can for him. Someone else I met via that website has also employed me from time to time. I've written off and on for the weekly newspaper here, did a brief stint at the Bullseye (plenty of previous blog entries on that), one serving lunch to old folks at a senior center -- lots of things.

But as my mental health has deteriorated, so has my inability to do much that's meaningful. When you can't even get out of bed long enough to take a shower and get dressed because you feel so damn bad, much less clean your apartment or fix yourself lunch, work isn't really a priority.

My psychiatrist thinks I need this. My therapist thinks I need this. Everyone on earth thinks I need this, and I'll even grudgingly admit I do.

But you know? At the same time, I don't want it. I'd rather contribute than mooch. I earned it -- I worked for decades, paid into the system, am now getting my tax dollars back out -- but nevertheless, it's hard on the pride. Not to mention it's hard to figure out WTF I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I wasn't set to retire till I was 67. That's another 20 years. So now what do I do with my days, since I officially have nothing to do and nowhere to go? Should I take up an instrument? Learn to bungee jump? Play Words with Friends 8 hours a day? What is out there for me?

I can work a little bit and still receive benefits. I'm told that I can have a trial period to test it out if I ever decide I'm healthy enough for full-time again. I can't see that ever happening. Just over the last two years things have declined so badly that I can't see them getting better, just continuing to get worse.

WTH am I supposed to do with myself now?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

it's not just a state, it's a state of mind

Two significant things happened to me last week: I won my federal disability case, and I got to see Kansas – a gigantically important band of my youth – in concert.

The disability thing kind of sucks, to be honest. I won in record time because it was clear to all involved that yes indeed, I am severely mentally ill and no longer able to work, or to function as well as the average 40-something adult.

I can assure you that this is not the way I intended my life to turn out. The guys from Kansas kind of nailed it with this song, which originally came out in 1976. I was 11. It saved my life more than once. I’m not exaggerating.

I'm woven in a fantasy, I can't believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
And with each passing day I feel a little
more like something dear was lost
It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between,
All I am, and all that I would ever want be
It's just a travesty, towering, marking
off the boundaries my spirit would erase

There was a beautiful young girl in my area, 13 or 14 years old, who a few weeks ago decided killing herself was a good response to being bullied.

I was nearly that girl.

Kansas and their counterparts, Styx, got me through. I was a sensitive kid, loved to write, loved poetry, and these songs spoke deeply to me. If I could just get up to my room, close the door and crank the records, I would be OK for awhile. It’s not like anyone would listen to me (my parents blew off my depression as teen angst), so I had to find help somewhere else. Help from complete strangers who had no idea they were helping me worked fine.

To pass beyond is what I seek, I fear that I may be too weak
And those are few who've seen it through to glimpse the other side,
The promised land is waiting like a maiden that is soon to be a bride
The moment is a masterpiece, the weight of indecision's in the air
It's standing there, the symbol and the sum of all that's me
It's just a travesty, towering, blocking out the light and blinding me
I want to see

Mercifully, I had one teacher who tried. Would you believe we’re still in touch? Eighth grade was many decades ago. I don’t think he even really knew the depths of the problems I was having, whether with my peers (who were pretty heartless) or my parents. But he was the best mediator ever, and he listened. It helped.

Life went on, again not as planned, nor as most people get through it. I quit college to chase after a guy who claimed to love me. (I was beyond wrong.) I did finally get a degree – two of them, actually – and then kept getting jobs that, for the most part, I enjoyed but didn’t pay. My mental health – battered by years of maltreatment and a rotten sense of self-worth – continued to deteriorate. And now, while my friends who grew up to be doctors and lawyers and architects are advancing their careers, I no longer have one. It’s hard. I was good at what I did, and now I largely have to give it up.

Gold and diamonds cast a spell, it's not for me I know it well
The riches that I seek are waiting on the other side
There's more that I can measure in the treasure of the love that I can find
And though it's always been with me, I must tear down the Wall and let it be
All I am, and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross

That last verse? Always left me sobbing. Did last Friday, too. How can you rightly say you’ve lost nothing when you’ve lost everything? These guys have been singing this song for 36 years now. They must have a clue. I would love it if someone would find one for me.

But, unlike that 13-year-old girl – I’m still here. There are plenty of days I wish I wasn’t, but I am. I am totally unafraid to die and totally unafraid of what lies beyond. Maybe that’s my clue: I’ll unravel my purpose if I figure out why I’ve stuck around. It’s not a bad challenge for anyone: Is there loss or joy behind your Wall?

... plus ca meme chose.

Sometimes -- as in, when I have the $10 to do so -- I take my laundry to a laundromat by my house. It's in between an Indian restaurant and a place where you can get things like turkey hunting permits. Very eclectic little group of businesses there.

There is both a washer and a dryer in the basement of the house I rent, but they're elderly and small and slow and laundry is a task I'd just rather get over with.

One day, rather than read the inevitable Jehovah's Witnesses magazines, I chose to play on Facebook on my phone. I posted a status saying where I was and that my Oxi Clean stain stick had failed me for the first time -- and it failed on my Ryan Braun T-shirt. (Ryan Braun is the left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, my favorite team. He was embroiled in some controversy this past offseason but was vindicated.)I asked if that should be considered justice or irony.

S., who I met in CCD class in second grade as they got us ready for First Communion, and who is a giant hockey freak, immediately posted: "All I want to know is, do you still have your Bernie Federko jersey?"

Bernie played minor league hockey in S.'s and my hometown for a couple of years around 6th or 7th grade. I loved him, though I couldn't tell you why. So I saved my allowance, and I bought a cheap jersey (the kind you couldn't put in the dryer or it would melt PCBs all over everything), and when it came, I walked up to the T-shirt shop at the mall and had his name lettered across the back. And then I wore it to school every chance I could find, because I thought I looked cool as hell.

I was blown away that S. would remember that. I sat there with my head in my hands for a solid 10 minutes, trying to pick apart and process my feelings. When I felt like I could properly respond, I simply said "Wow -- I can't believe you remember that. Thank you for not thinking I was a dork."

His reply was almost instant: "Remember it like yesterday. And I *never* thought you were a dork. I always loved the way you represented."

Let's review, shall we? 13-old-girl. On what then was considered the larger side, though it now is considered the ideal weight for my height. (I took a lot of crap for my weight as a kid, and none of it was justified, if you look back at old pix. But that's another post.) Glasses. Dressed funny, for a girl. Heavily into sports instead of nail polish and hair goop. (One friend said he wondered later if I were a lesbian because I was into sports and wore a lot of flannel.) Stood the entire rest of my 7th grade English class to a spelling bee -- and won. In other words, pretty nerdy and not a little outside of the mainstream.

And somebody didn't think I was weird.

I wanted to say, "WHY didn't you say that then?," but realized that there isn't a 13-year-old kid on the planet who doesn't feel like an alien.

It's been 30-odd (very odd) years since 7th grade. It blows me away to know how people *really* thought of me as opposed to how I *thought* they thought of me. I could have averted so much depression....but, live and learn.

plus ca change

Well! Welcome back, little blog. It's been awhile. I emphatically do not wish to revisit 2011, not one bit of it, so I'll not be telling why I essentially blew off an entire year (and a half). That's not to say it wasn't eventful, though, not by any means. And if I tell you the ultimate end result -- that I'm now on disability because of 2011's goings-on -- you'll understand why ye olde blog here is making a comeback: I need something to do. I've not yet figured out how to cope with being forcibly retired at age 47. In the meantime, I do what I always do -- I write. So read on.