The Blade: Part I

Deciding to talk about the (most) recent incident with my clinician has become a lot more than I had anticipated. It started because I felt the need to talk about the horrible place I was in when he first started treating me. I want it to be known the hell I was going through, and the amount of trust I put in this person to help me get past it. I need to show how insidious this was, and about the torture I put myself through thinking it was me or that I was reading more into his words and gestures than was there. Talking about that last part is where it started getting complicated because the reason I started torturing and blaming myself was that I was told by people that I trusted – that I love – that I was wrong about what was happening. In their defense, I’m very good at hiding pain, and I probably didn’t convey how much I was hurting. But, assuming that I haven’t lost my entire ability to write, this series would.

I’ve been sitting on this entry, wondering how much I really want to reveal of that ugly time, and I finally decided that talking about it all is what I’m supposed to do. I’m meant to just lay it all out. If there’s anything good to come from this – or any of the shit I’ve experienced – it’s always been my hope that by talking about it, I can help someone else to not suffer what I did, whether it’s mentally, physically, medically, or emotionally. I’ve fought against them all. And I know millions of people are battling them now, and they feel like they’re alone. I know I did. Maybe I can help someone else not feel that way. Maybe helping others isn’t as monuments as laying your life down for someone, but by laying your life out for them.

In deciding to be very, very honest here, I’m including this alert that:
TRIGGER WARNINGS include: Mention of domestic violence, death threats, sudden illness, death, suicide, alcohol, and cutting

I have spread my nightmares under your feet…

*******************

December 2015

“This has been a really bad year.”

The couch was way too soft. I shifted around uncrossing my legs and then recrossing them in the opposite direction.

“I used to say that 2008 was the most hellish year I’d ever lived through, but I don’t know if I could say that now. The only reason that I’m not calling 2015 that is because I’ve had seven years to heal from the trauma of 2008. But I did go through some awful shit. I mean, you were there for a lot of it so I don’t have to tell you. But I think the 2008 version of me would resent it if I invalidated myself just because I’m from the future. Wait.” I looked toward the ceiling as I thought. “Did anyone die that year? No, I don’t think so. Only my ex-husband threatening to drive to my house on Easter to kill me and himself. My poor grandfather slept on the couch that evening just in case.”

I sighed and looked down again. “But anyway, this year didn’t start so bad. My health took another turn in 2013, and they still don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’d started to feel a little better.

“And then Lily died. She was almost fifteen, but you’re never ready to say goodbye. I can still remember the day she was born. She was so small that she could fit into my one hand.” I was staring at the geometric pattern of the ugly carpet. It began to dance in nauseating swirls as remembered the tiny white puppy. I blinked the memory away before the carpet could make me throw up.

“Then my health started falter. Again. I passed out at work, and they carted me off to the hospital. Of course none of my bloodwork was ‘bad enough’ to explain anything.” I allowed myself the luxury of another sigh. “Whatever.”

“But then Kira got sick on the first day of July. She basically passed out the same way that I did and ended up taking her own trip to a hospital. She was extremely anemic. They thought she might have a stomach ulcer or…something worse. I couldn’t even consider that, so we just fought as well as we could for a full month. Medications and vet visits, two blood transfusions.” I squeezed my eyes shut. I would not cry. I bit my lip until the metallic taste of suppressed grief was on my tongue, but I did not cry. “But I knew she was tired. And I had to let her go. Within thirty days she was gone. She had only turned eleven that month. She was only eleven.

“In September, my friend killed herself,” I plowed forward.

The sharp intake of breath made me glance at the wizened little woman in the easy chair for the first time since I’d walked into her office and started spilling my guts. Roseanne was sitting across from me with an open grimace. It had been five years since my last session with her. She had never been one to hide what she was feeling, so her unhappy expression was a familiar one. Her office was different though. It was in the same building, but in a room on the opposite side. Apparently she didn’t find her new office any warmer than the previous one because she was wrapped in a sweater the way that she had always been before.

“How did it happen?” she asked as she tightened the sweater around her shoulders and huddled further into her chair.

“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I don’t think I want to know. We hadn’t been friends that long. She was just one of those people that you instantly click with. She was so beautiful and talented and smart and funny and kind, and so many people loved her. I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know why she didn’t reach out.”

“Does her – .”

“But a few weeks after she died the VP of my department at work told us that there was going to be a project to clean up the unbalanced accounts,” I said a little too loudly. I was doing my best to take her on the abridged version of hell that was 2015, and we’d never get to the end if we stopped to sight-see.

When I saw Roseanne’s mouth shut, I continued it a softer voice. “The Finance Manager was put in charge and she was going to take two people – one person from each reimbursement department – and assign them to work solely on this nightmare project instead of their regular jobs for the next three months.” I attempted a smile, but I couldn’t even muster the sarcasm. “Guess who she chose.”

Roseanne nodded. “You.”

“No. Not me. The Finance Manager wanted someone else from my department, someone who my immature supervisor wanted to be friends with. My supervisor told them to take me instead. And even better, I wasn’t allowed to work at my own desk. I had to move across the building to be next to the Finance Manager so that she could babysit me and the other girl on the project.”

“Ah.” A thin hand ventured from the confines of the sweater. It trembled slightly as Roseanne brushed a few frizzy stands of salt-and-pepper hair from her forehead. “At least we’re in December now, so you’ll be finished soon.”

“Yes, I’ve had a countdown for the past three months of when I’ll be able to return to my own work and my own desk. Only a few more days.” I repositioned my legs again and drummed my fingers on the knee that now crossed the other. “Or at least it was but then the manager called us into her office two days ago and said that there was still too much to clean up, so she had been approved to keep us for another three months.”

Roseanne frowned and leaned her head against hand.

” I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I can’t think about the holidays. I can’t think about work. I can’t take thinking anymore. I want it to stop. I want it to all just stop. I don’t have anything left in me.” I shook my head. “I don’t even have enough left to care that I’m admitting I’m weak.”

Another familiar look – one of annoyance – appeared on Roseanne’s face.

“You’re not weak. We talked about that before. The ones who seek help are not the weak ones.”

“I am weak. I can’t control my emotions anymore. And I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t.”

I looked into Roseanne’s face and saw a new expression, one I had never seen in my previous years of counseling with her, not even when telling her about the threats I’d receive. It was genuine concern.

“Kat…,” Roseanne stared at me, but her fingers were intend on plucking at the edge of her sweater. “Kat, do you think there’s the possibility that you could hurt yourself?”

I thought about the previous night. There was about half a bottle of rum in the cabinet that was leftover from making cocquito. I’d looked at the bottle and thought about how I wasn’t supposed to drink because of my heart. But my heart was already broken I’d reasoned, so I’d taken a swig, and then reached around in my tool bag until I found the box cutter. I was making a shelter for the feral cat that had taken up residency on the porch by cutting out the side of a rubber tote. The box cutter was new and extremely sharp, so I’d sliced through the thin rubber with hardly any effort. I was finished and my thumb had been on the lever to sheath the blade back into safety when I stopped and stared at the boxcutter. It was so much sharper than the cheap disposal box cutters. I’d wondered how sharp it really was, and it suddenly seemed logical to press it against the skin of my hand to see what would happen. I didn’t even register that I’d moved until I saw the blood. I was shocked. Of course the blade was sharp – why the hell had I done that? I started to become angry. I didn’t even know why except that it had something to do with me. It was all me. I was so angry at myself that I said I deserved what I’d done, in fact, I should keep going until…

“Yes. I do. That’s why I’m here.” I made sure to look at Roseanne, and not at my bandaged hand.

Roseanne gave a determined nod as if bracing herself. “Are you taking medication?”

“Yes.” I rattled off the names of the two antidepressants I had been taking for years.

“Who prescribes them?”

“My family doctor.”

Another familiar look of disdain crossed Roseanne’s face. “They don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to mental health.” She stood up and wrapped the huge sweater around her tiny frame. I registered that it was a different sweater from the one I remembered. “I’ll be right back.”

I wondered if she was going to call a padded wagon to come and haul me away in a straightjacket.

She returned a minute later with an irritated look. “He’s not there. I didn’t realize how late it was.”

I raised my eyebrows, but that was the closest I could come to caring.

“Ed,” Susan told me. “He’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He specializes in adolescents, but he sees adults too, and he’s very good. He knows what he’s talking about regarding the proper medications, and, even more than that,” she sat back down in her chair and leaned forward earnestly, “he listens.”

When I didn’t respond, she continued, “He should be in tomorrow. I’ll speak to him first thing, and I’m sure that he will make time to see you. Are you willing to see him?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

Roseanne looked suddenly looked uncomfortable. “He doesn’t take insurance.”

“Of course he doesn’t.” I dug into my bag and pulled out my checkbook. Roseanne didn’t accept my insurance anymore either. I was handing her a check when there was a quiet knock at the door.

Roseanne leapt from her chair and scurried across the room. She practically yanked the man on the other side into the room. “Ed! This is Kat,” she nodded in my direction. “She’s on medication for depression and anxiety but it’s not working and she could really use your help.”

He was taken aback, but recovered quickly. “Oh…well, certainly.”

I, on the other hand, was not certain at all. A moment ago, “Ed” had been idea, and now he was a person. A person standing the in the room. A male person. Also, I’d expected someone older, but Ed appeared to be about my age. He didn’t look like as someone who prescribed medication. Instead of business attire, he was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, and his hair twisted in unruly curls around his head like a toddler’s who had just woken from a nap.

“You weren’t in your office.” Roseanne gave him one of her disapproving looks.

“I’m so sorry. My wife called and needs me to pick up something for the baby.” He turned to me. “He’s teething, and I don’t expect to ever sleep again.”

I guessed that explained his hair. “Yes, I know that’s rough,” I told him in rote response.

“Oh you have kids?” he asked.

“Only the furry ones. Or I guess, one.”

“That’s part of the problem.” Roseanne looked like she wanted to box his ears.

“I’m…sorry.” Ed plucked a tissue from the requisite box on the coffee table and handed it to me. “Your lip is bleeding,” he said softly.

“Oh. It’s chapped,” I muttered. I pressed the tissue against my mouth. “And you know you can only use Chapstick once or twice before it disappears.”

“Ha, ha, that’s true!” He smiled and nodded his head, then cocked it slightly as if he were studying me. “I’m done office hours for the day, but I can find a place to squeeze you in tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” I could tell Roseanne wasn’t keen on the idea of waiting.

“Tomorrow’s fine,” I answered looking at Roseanne.

Ed looked at Roseanne and then back at me. His brow furrowed a bit as he reached out to put his hand on top of my fist clenched around the ball of tissue, and then he smiled reassuringly. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”

*****
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Don’t feel comfortable on the phone? Chat is available here.

I Don’t Know

June 30 was the year anniversary of doing physical therapy to try to straighten my spine.

Actually, no. At that point we didn’t know how badly my spine was twisted, so I had to do physical therapy for six weeks to satisfy my insurance company’s requirements to get the MRI that would reveal the damage in my spine, hip, and pelvis. It wasn’t until after the MRI and being told what kind of physical limitations to expect that I decided to prove them all wrong. Nothing motivates me more than other people trying to tell me what I can’t do.

So, I’d been planning on making a video about what the journey this past year has been like, but in true chronic health condition fashion, my kidney decided to flare up and that killed any plans I had about anything. To be honest, that in itself conveys the the road I travel better than any video of me sweating, swearing, and crying my way through a year of physical therapy ever could. I do know that I’ve made huge strides in the past twelve months, and I’m incredibly thankful to God that He brought me further than I ever thought I could go, but I feel like a video would send the wrong message – that there is an “end” to all of this. That seems to be the consensus of opinion based on the questions I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks regarding The Future. I feel like if I shared the details of how I built up enough muscle strength to stand straight despite my twisted frame it would only be met with a thousand comments of, “Great! Now what are you going to do with it?” And here’s the answer:

I don’t know.

“How many more hours can you work before it messes up your health insurance?”
“Not many, but I don’t know.”
“We might be able to compensate for it. What’s your medical cost?
(I wasn’t sure if this was a question regarding the cost of my health insurance, or how much it would cost if I had to take a cheap plan with a huge deductible, but it was the same answer either way.)
“I don’t know.”

“You’re feeling better and the world is opening up again, so what are we going to do this summer?”
“I’d like to go to the beach, but my heat intolerance hasn’t been tested in a while, so I don’t know.”
“You shouldn’t be out in the sun like that anyway. And you can’t ride the rides. Or eat the food, so what would you even do there?”
“I don’t know.”

“Kat, our bookkeeper is planning on retiring in the near future and we thought that you could take over for her. When do you think your health issues will be resolved enough to do that?”
(Ignoring the assumption that I even want this.)
“My health issues aren’t ever going away. They’re just coming under better control. I don’t know if I’ll continue to improve or if this is it.”
“Well, when will you know?”
“I don’t know.”

“That’s great that they finally fixed your GPA, Kat. When are you going to be done with school?”
“Well, it depends on how many classes I’m able to handle without putting myself under too much stress that I start to flare, so I don’t know.”
“Well, how much stress can you handle before that happens?”
“I don’t know.”

“We’re ordering food. Can you eat anything from Adolfo’s?”
“I’ll have to look at the menu because I don’t know.”

“The cabinet is overflowing with prescription bottles. Why doesn’t your insurance allow you to get a three month supply of your medication?”
“I don’t know.”

“You’re really thin! What size do you wear?”
“I don’t know.”

“I don’t want to waste my life with this job. I have too many other interests to explore. My dream is that you start working with me, and then I cut my hours, and then I fade away and you take over. But I don’t know what your dream is. What do you think?”
The words “I don’t know” were on the tip of my tongue. They swelled in my mouth, pushing against my teeth to get out, but I refused to say them another time. “I don’t know” became a lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow, and still I clenched my jaw shut, choosing to choke before I’d let that bloated phrase escape from me again. I pursed my lips together, trying to hide the effort in a determined smile when I felt “I don’t know” shiver up my cheeks and into my eyes, pooling and spilling over before I could stop it. The words streamed down my face in two plaintive statements.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

I clamped my eyes shut to keep them from saying any more, but they continued to seep on both sides.

I don’t know. I don’t know.

I blinked furiously trying to bat the words away, and instead it was an arm ushering them into the world, “Ladies and gentlemen…”

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

And then people became upset because they thought I was crying when it was only “I don’t know” running down my face, collecting into a puddle of uncertainty that seeped across my notebook.

“Kat, what’s wrong? What is it?”

I don’t know.

PT Session #117

Two Pricks in Three Weeks

I’m just thinking about if I was writing a post with that title ten years ago, the innuendos would have been off the chain. I’ve matured so much since then. I legitimately stopped to think before I decided to type out that I haven’t been on a date in nine years, but, as of tomorrow, I’ll have received two pricks in three weeks, and most likely by two different people. So color me precocious. *self high-five* Actually, I’m going to give myself one of those every time I see an opportunity for an innuendo, but don’t jump on it. *self high-five*

I’ll admit I’m nervous about my second COVID-19 vaccine. As I mentioned before, I did not react during my first immunotherapy session when I restarted treatment, but I now go into anaphylactic shock every time. My immune system is like me where you can attack us once, but that’s all you’ll get. Come over again to fuck around and you will find out. So I’m nervous that my immune system is currently preparing for a viral Battle of Helm’s Deep, and is going to let loose the moment it realizes we’ve been invaded by the COVID19 DNA again. *self high-five* It’d be one thing if my immune system was rambunctious attacking the “invader”, meaning a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and all of that misery, but for fuck’s sake does it have to start attacking my organs, too? Or even worse, take down the ship to kill the alien? I feel that my antibodies really did not think their plan through when… Nope, I can’t type it without making it sound dirty, so I’m just not gonna do it, but I’m giving myself a *self high-five* for restraint. *self high-five*

But speaking of thinking things through, I’ve already made a plan for if I do start to react. They have an EMT in the post-shot waiting area, so if I can just calmly walk over and tell them that my immune system is trying to kill me, then maybe nobody else will realize what’s happening. This is one of the huge things that’s upsetting me. Of course I don’t want to die, but I was just thinking that if I had a reaction and people saw it, then they would tell other people, and chances are that it would make at least one person refuse the vaccine. So I’d be responsible for not only that person, but whoever else they infected with COVID19 all because my immune system is haywire and had to put on a show. *self high-five*

I did consider that I might not be able to get to an EMT before I fell into a state where people would notice that I was having a medical emergency, even if I was calm. If it starts happening too fast I’ll have my EpiPen with me, and I can just jam it through my jeans (*self high-five*) into my thigh. (FYI – This is a completely acceptable administration of an EpiPen because in an emergency you can go right through someone’s clothes rather than wrestling them off.) Those shots hurt like hell though. But I’m pretty sure I can do it without screaming. *self high-five*

You’re probably reading this and wondering if I’m experiencing a lack of oxygen right now by the way I’m rambling. I’m doing this because there are so many emotions to process with getting this second shot. I’m nervous, and I’m happy, and I’m angry, and I’m excited, and I’m scared, and I’m relieved. *self high-five* Believe me, I have another post coming where I hash these feelings out, but I don’t have time to articulate it all right now. *self high-five* It’s almost midnight and I’m tired, but I’m too keyed up to go to sleep. *self high-five* What’s also a shame is that I’ve decided to not make this post public, so I’ve spent all of this time writing something that no one will read. Maybe I’ll password protect it, though that might be awkward. I can tell people who I’m uncomfortable reading this that it’s for my Patreon – which I don’t have, but think I should since everyone is selling themselves whether it’s through Patreon or FansOnly. What happened to just giving it out for free? *self high-five* I blame slut-shaming. There’s nothing wrong with writing like a slut, though I’ll be happy when I can be paid for my writing so that at least I can say that I write like a whore instead. (No *self high-five* here since I just laid (HA!) it out.)

EPILOGUE

I survived.

I decided to make this post public to celebrate (I’m starting to feel like hell which means my immune system is responding appropriately), and also because all of the stress I went through the last two weeks made me forget that I didn’t skirt around death for the millionth time to kill myself attempting to live up to people’s expectations – which somehow included mind-reading and anticipating people’s own mistakes so that I could correct them before they happened. This is the way I write. This is who I am. When I’m scared or upset I make jokes, and all of my jokes are either inappropriate, puns, or inappropriate puns, in that order. If someone wants to take my jokes too seriously then that is a joke. I’m laughing too hard at my own stupid nonsense to hear anything anyway.

finding yourself way too hilarious

Baby Got a Frozen Back

Before I begin, here is a little back – (ha!) – ground, so that you don’t think that this is just about my booty. The lower part of my back is frozen for a number of reasons, one of which is that the damage to my spine has caused me to lose the natural s-curve of a normal back. It’s most apparent in my lumbar spine where it’s very noticeable how flat it is. (Or at least it’s very noticeable to me, and it makes me self-conscious.) Part of my physical therapy is to strengthen my core enough to keep this from becoming worse. But just “keeping it from getting worse” is not good enough for me, so even though it’s a long shot, I’m working extremely hard to make my core strong enough to pull my spine – at least somewhat – back into shape. I’ve been doing the physical therapy since July, but I started taking pictures in December to document my progress for when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. I was comparing December’s pictures to my current ones when this conversation happened.

“Well, get ready for people to ask if you’re half reindeer,” I told my mother as she blasted past me on one of her laps around the first floor of the house to get in her steps.
“What?” she asked rounding the corner and going into the next room.
“Half reindeer,” I shouted knowing full well that she had no idea what I was talking about, but this is the kind of antagonistic shit I do.

Another bit of back – (ha!) – ground is that I have nerve damage in my spine that extends into my flanks. The right side is the worst, but the left isn’t exactly stellar either. The nerve damage made it so that I was not contracting my glutes and quads – which in turn contributed to weakness that further damaged my spine, and you can see how this is a vicious cycle… But when muscles are not contracting they start to atrophy. This is what happened to my glutes, however I need to point out that my healthy butt never actually got smaller, it just spread lower.

“Oh. Okay,” my mother answered as she turned the corner back into the kitchen where I was holding up my phone.
“Because of my ass,” I finally told her.
“There’s nothing wrong with your ass,” she said as she continued down the hall. “Would you rather have no ass? Those flat asses looks terrible.”
“That would be impossible for me, but look!” I yelled after her.
She went around the other room and came into the kitchen again.
“Look at what my ass looks like now compared to a few months ago.” I stood in her path so that she would be forced to re-examine the side by side picture I had created to compare the curvature of my spine.
“Wow,” she said taking in the picture a moment and then stepping around me to continue walking. “It’s like an Oompa Loompa,” she added over her shoulder.


“It’s like a what?” I gaped at her retreating back. My mind whirled with visions of Oompa Loompas. I could see them in their little white overalls. Did they have big booties under there? Is she saying that my ass itself looks like an Oompa Loompa? What the hell did she mean?
“An Oompa Loompa! You know,” she shouted back. And part of me wondered if this wasn’t retribution for the “half reindeer” I’d thrown at her a minute earlier except that, unlike me, my mother is not a tool.
“Yes, I know what an Oompa Loompa is,” I told her as she came back into the kitchen. “I just did not know that I had one for an ass. I gotta say that’s one I’ve never called before.”

And here is where I would like to pause and just throw it out there how much I take exception to all of the women who are now doing workouts to grow their booties after the hell they put me and my friends through for having an ass back in the day. All you Beckys can just sit down on your Spongebob asses and have a seat.

My mother paused in her stride and gave me a completely affronted look.
“I did not say that your ass looked like an Oompa Loompa,” she insisted. “What I meant was it looked like an Oompa Loompa should appear because of the way it blew up!”
I was dumbstruck.
“You know how they appear and sing a song after Violet blows up? Well it looks like they should be here to do that with how fast your butt blew up.” She didn’t wait for a reply, continuing her walk down the hall.

And that’s when I went rolling across the floor.

via Gfycat

And since it’s mostly just friends (Hi Joann!) that come on here now, I’ll even share the incriminating photo. And yeah, I’ll admit that, even though it wasn’t a goal, my booty does look better, but the reason that I made this side by side has to do with the doorknob behind me. The doorknob is the frame of reference I use to measure the curve of my back, and though it’s difficult to see…

My back is curving slightly more into place than it did three months ago.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

~fin~

If you want to read more ridiculous conversations I’ve had with my mother, you can click the My Family is Crazier Than Yours category. This will bring up stories with all of the characters in the asylum, or you can just jump to everyone’s favorite story about my mother, “When Mothers Yell to Bite Them“.

Fisticuffs with Ana Phylaxsis

The first thing I noticed was the pounding in my ears.

panic Pete, anaphylaxis

It wasn’t the dull throb of blood pumping into your brain like when you’re nervous or excited. I’ve experienced that pounding, and as deafening as it seemed at the time, it was nothing compared to the subwoofer that had been cranked up in my skull. I felt like one of those plastic dolls where you squeeze it to make its eyes and ears bug out.

I’m going to burst a vessel in my brain, I thought calmly. I think maybe all of the blood vessels in my brain are going to burst. I’ll have a stroke. I’ll be dead and they’ll say how I went just like my grandmother.

I was about twenty minutes into my second session of intravenous immunotherapy treatment when this started happening.

I think I’m having a reaction to something, I continued thinking.

No shit, dumbass.

But reacting to what?

Maybe the medication being pumped into your vein?

‘No, it can’t be my medication because I was fine for my last treatment two weeks ago. Maybe it was the peanut bar I’d just finished eating. It was probably that. Oh shit, I’m not going to be able to eat peanuts anymore. This sucks! I love peanut butter!’ I went to take a deep breath to sigh but found it difficult to accomplish this – which annoyed me. Scowling in concentration, I managed to suck a breath of oxygen into my protesting lungs.

I tried to say, “Ha!”, but all that came out in my exhalation was a cacophony of wheezing and whistling that sounded like a broken accordion. I registered this with surprise that I could still hear anything over the thundering in my ears, though it did make one thing apparent to me.

Well, ain’t this some shit, I thought. I’m pretty sure I’m going into anaphylactic shock. Great. I’m going to be the girl who had anaphylaxis. This is so embarrassing! Hmm. Maybe no one will notice.

I glanced around. Unlike my first visit two weeks ago, when nearly every chair had been filled with a person attached to an IV line, there were only about six other patients, and I was the only person in my row. None of the other patients were paying me any attention, and the lone nurse on duty was busying folding towels.

having anaphylaxis
Taking selfies while literally dying.
Bonus: swollen eyes.

Good! I can bluff my way through this. If I don’t, then they’ll blame the medication and stop treatment. I heaved another painful breath into my lungs to sigh with relief except this time I had as much trouble getting the air out of my lungs as I did getting it into them.

Wait, am I still going to have a stroke? Can anaphylaxis give you a stroke? I noticed that the pounding in my ears was beginning to fade. I don’t think I’m going to have a stroke. If I can just breathe, then no one will ever know.

I arched my back in an effort to manually expand my lungs that were not cooperating at all.

“Are you okay?” The nurse was holding a towel up in mid-fold and staring at me.

Oh fuck! She noticed! Now she’ll tell everyone I had anaphylaxis. I’m going to be that anaphylactic chick. I’ll be that anaphylac-chick unless I think of something. Think, stupid!

“I think…I…just…need my…inhaler.” My tongue felt too thick around the words, so I clawed at my backpack and managed to pull out my inhaler to show the nurse what I meant.

“I think that’s a good idea,” the nurse told me as she dropped the towel and ran over to me.

Now if I can just get this in me, I looked at my inhaler, then she’ll think I just had an asthma attack. I leaned my head back, compressed the inhaler chamber, and breathed as hard as I could. A trickle of air managed to make it down my throat.

To my dismay, I watched as the nurse cut the IV line to my medication. I wanted to tell her to leave it run, that this was just an asthma attack, but I felt too tired to bother – and there she was already injecting my saline with something anyway. I fumbled to put my face mask back on to hide my irritation.

“No, leave that off,” the nurse told me putting an oxygen mask on my face instead. She wrapped a BP cuff around my arm and clipped a pulse ox to my finger. The reading flickered across the screen: 80.

I’d been in medicine for years, and I knew that number was a trip to the hospital if I didn’t do something…I just couldn’t remember what. Then I flashed to a memory of when my brother had anesthesia for the first time and his oxygen was fluctuating in recovery. “I know you’re woozy, brother, but take a deep breath or they’ll never let you out of here,” I’d told him. That’s when I remembered I just had to get in one good breath and they’ll let me go home.

I clenched my fists onto the arms of the chair and exerted everything I had to pull air into my chest. It burned like hell, and my lungs screamed at me stop torturing them but I kept inhaling until I thought I’d explode. Finally, I let it go and dropped forward as the rasping breath raced away from me. The pulse ox on my finger jumped to 90.

“I’m fine now,” I wheezed.

“If that number hadn’t just jumped up you wouldn’t have been fine,” the nurse told me. “You’re having anaphylaxis.”

“Yeah,” I gasped as I fell back into the chair. “She’s a real bitch.”

She’s also really fast. The time between the pounding starting to my chest constricting was about 90 seconds. I’m extremely thankful that the nurse wasn’t at her station like she usually was because if she hadn’t been on the floor and seen that I was going into shock, I’d most likely be dead.

As you probably guessed, I did react to my medication. Due to COVID-19 I had paused my treatment, and my body had used that time to make friggin’ antibodies to the medication. It’s not unheard of, in fact, at my first therapy session when I’d resumed treatment, they started giving me a histamine blocker before running my medication line in case this happened. I was fine at that first session, but at some point in the two weeks that followed, my body realized what was happening and went all not-in-my-house-mother-fucker at the next “invasion”.

My immune system is not backing down either because, despite increased measures to prevent it, I’ve gone into anaphylaxis during my immunotherapy ever since, because yes, I’m stupid to keep putting myself through this. And my doctor is fucked up enough to allow me to do it, but he’s a whole other ball of wax.

My family and friends are not enthusiastic about my decision, as I mentioned in my previous entry. A few of them have had a brush with anaphylaxis themselves and cannot understand why I’d put myself through such a terrifying experience, though as you can tell from my writing, I wasn’t scared at all. I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen to my brain or if I’m just that cavalier about death anymore, but I was more annoyed than anything. To be honest though, I don’t have much choice. My treatment options are very limited due to my insurance, so it’s either suck it up or get sicker. It’s ironic, but in order to live I need to nearly kill myself every six weeks.

Yay, private healthcare.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow aka Thanks Again 2020!

I knew that the week of January 17th was going to be insane. I had immunotherapy on Monday, and then classes started on Wednesday, which was the same day as the inauguration – and I know I wasn’t the only one who was stressed about that. Given all of this, and the fact that the first two weeks of January had been insane, I said that I didn’t consider 2021 starting until after Biden became president. Well, that was a mistake because 2020 saw that it had extra time to do something shitty, and so it did.

On Sunday of that week I had my cousin* trim my “pandemic hair” because, even though I was growing it out, it was looking really ragged after not being cut for over a year. After my cousin trimmed about four inches of ratty ends off of my hair, I decided to cover my silver while I was at it since I was also going to be adding another year to my age that week too. After doing that I was too busy to pay any attention to my hair again until the end of the week when the dye had set enough to wash it. It wasn’t until I went to pull my hair back into a ponytail the morning after I had washed it that I noticed there was a lot less hair to gather than before.

“What the fuck?” I muttered as my hair band wrapped around my ponytail several more times than was required before to hold my hair in place.

Unfortunately I had been getting ready for a Zoom class at work and this was the moment that my professor decided to let me into the meeting and, though my video was off, my microphone was on. It was enough to take my mind off of my hair for about five minutes because throughout the entire session my hand kept reaching back to grip my thin ponytail, hoping it would magically feel normal. When class finally ended I ran into the hall to look at my hair in the mirror there, and it only took a glance to tell that something bad had happened to it.

In the midst of this crisis my phone was blowing up – because this happened to be on my birthday – and I could feel my abdomen beginning to cramp as I tried to field well wishes through my rising panic over my follicular situation, which meant the stress of everything was sending me into a flare.

A few hours later I was able to go home and show my mother my ponytail to get her opinion. I really, really wanted her to say that it looked fine, but she was honest and agreed that my hair looked a lot thinner. 

“Is it the way that it’s cut?” she asked.
“No, she literally just did a plain blunt cut to remove the dead ends,” I told her. “Nothing like layering that would change the way it looked.”
“Do you think it was from your immunotherapy?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough times, and never noticed any hair loss before.”
“But you’ve been having reactions during your treatment. What if it’s from that?” she asked.

My mind was racing as I tried to think of all of the things that might have caused my hair to suddenly disappear. Was it because I was underweight? Or because I’d been very anemic since Christmas? I did notice that I’d been shedding a little more hair than usual, but this was so dramatic it didn’t seem likely. Was it the hair dye? It was the same one I’ve used for several years, though in a darker color, so I didn’t think it could be that.

“I don’t think you shouldn’t continue the immunotherapy anyway,“ my mother pressed on. “There has to be another treatment that won’t give you anaphylaxis.”

I shook my head because we’d been through this discussion a number of times. “My insurance won’t cover another option. You know this. It’s either deal with the reaction, or rely on pills that make me feel like garbage every week when I take them. The immunotherapy is only one day of feeling sick every six weeks. And it hasn’t killed me yet.” I paused. “But if it is what’s causing me to lose hair then I might rethink it.”
My mother looked at me.
“Yes I will accept the possibility of having a lethal reaction to my treatment but I will not accept losing my hair!” I huffed, then stomped down to the bathroom and closed the door. 

It was the first time that I was alone and could really examine my hair at all angles. The mirror above the sink was long enough to see down to the tops of my legs so I twisted around to see how my hair looked down my back. I could easily see the grey of my shirt through the thin curtain of hair laying against it. And yet I still couldn’t believe I was really seeing correctly. I ran my fingers through the hair on my scalp. It didn’t seem any thinner there, but as I continued down just past my ears there was a dramatic difference in volume. It was like half of my hair broke off from there.

I took my hands out of my hair and just stared at myself. Staring back at me was a person with hollow eyes inside a gaunt face, with cheekbones that looked cadaverous, all framed by lank hair hanging in thin ropes like broken party streamers. Someone whose right hip was now noticeably higher than the other due to a crooked spine. Someone who was too skinny, and yet had an inflamed abdomen that was starting to distend like a starving child’s.

Someone who was now another year past forty.

I was too upset to even cry. I felt like all of the hard work I’d done, and all of the progress I’d made, and everything I’d been proud to have accomplished over the past six months to put myself back together, to try to be normal, was bullshit. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I was never going to be normal. I was never even going to look normal. I’d been trying so hard to become who I had been prior to my health crash, and now my long hair – one of my defining characteristics – was gone. It’d be at least a year until it would be long “enough” again. Another year to add to the nearly ten I’d already spent getting my health under something that resembled control.

But I’d never have control. And even if I’d found some way to be – or at least resemble – the person I’d been, I’d never have that time back.

I came out of the bathroom and threw myself into scouring the internet on the best ways to make hair grow faster, and though there are things I can do to facilitate its growth, the final answer was the one that I feel I’m always working against: time.

It’s been about six weeks now and I think I’m finally ready to make the jump and cut the handful of hair that did not break. (Explanation of what happened will be added separately since you’re probably already sick of hearing me whine about something so stupid as hair.) I’m not thrilled, but I’m trying to not be a big baby, and to keep it in perspective. I know it’s only hair. I know it’s ridiculous, and it’s vain. I know it’ll grow back. I know I should be thankful that I haven’t lost my hair the way that others have. I also know that I should be thankful that my hair was long when it broke because it could’ve happened right after I got sick and I would’ve had nothing. 

But it’s another aspect of myself that was taken out of my hands. And I’d been growing it out to donate, so if I’m cutting it then I’m going balls in and cutting the full 10 inches required. It’ll bring my hair up to about shoulder length which is “longish”, but shorter than I’d planned. (And then I just pray that my hair is still donatable because if it’s not then I don’t want to know.)

In a way it’ll be a relief to finally make the chop because I’ve done nothing but obsess over my hair these six weeks, and when I do that I ignore or disparage how much better I’m feeling and functioning today than I did a year ago at this time. Which horribly ungrateful of me. I’m honestly very thankful to have made it to where I am now. It’s not perfect or “normal”, but I’m blessed because I’ve come further than I thought possible. And I’m not done yet.

*Cousin is high risk, already vaccinated and I’ve lived in a bubble for a year now so we were following COVID19 safety guidelines.

The Last Heartache of 2020

I was in a car accident about a week before November. Thankfully – and miraculously – I was not hurt. My car, on the other hand, was totaled. The front end had been smashed in, and even though I was able to drive it the 1.1 miles to my house from the scene of the accident (story about that later), I knew that my beloved car of eighteen years was another casualty of this incredibly difficult year. The junkyard picked her up on Tuesday. I wanted it done before the New Year, making it the last heartache of 2020.

I bought “Zoey” at the end of 2002. She was a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer and the first “adult” purchase I ever made. My dad had gone with me to look at cars, and he was my cosigner on my loan. I found the paperwork for it when I was looking for the title. His signature is right below mine, with the little star he would always put before the “M” of his first name.

Zoey gave me a sense of freedom during the years with my ex-husband. We had lived with his family and the only time I would have any privacy was when I would take Kira out for a ride. I would always rest my hand on passenger seat for Kira to lay her head on. The nap of the fabric in that spot was shiny from my hand having been there so much. Our exertions consisted mostly of trips to pick up sushi, going to the bank, and most of all trips to Dunkin’ Donuts. In the five years since Kira’s passing, I would still look at the passenger seat and see her sitting there, prancing in place as she waited for a cookie from the bank, or a piece of doughnut.

My mom got the honor of driving the trees home.

Lancers are smaller cars, but I swear that Zoey had been hit with a “Capacious extremis” charm because the amount of crap I was able to fit in there was unbelievable. I moved an entire one bedroom apartment in that car with only a little help from best friend’s truck for the mattress. Every Christmas I would haul a 7ft tree and totes of ornaments from my mom’s. I drove to Trenton and brought back four 96″x16″ plant bench tops. The warehouse manager laughed when I showed him the car I would be taking them in, and then he applauded when I pulled it off. I bought nine 7-foot-tall fruit trees on clearance and fit them all my car. A woman was walking into the store as my mother and I as were loading them in the car and her jaw dropped when she saw all of those tree disappearing inside. There was admittedly no room for a passenger in the car but it was still pretty bloody impressive.

The car was so damn rugged too, so badass. This is the car that I turned into a teeter-totter at a hipster concert out in the stix, and would also plow through snow banks when I didn’t want to shovel. Unlike a lot of smaller cars, she never slid in rain or snow. I always felt safe and comfortable despite my back issues in my car.

I had managed to hold my emotions together immediately following the accident, but I became hysterical as soon as the police left. I was destroyed about my car, but I was in a blind panic that my back, which I had been working to reconstruct since June, had been injured. My mother took me to the hospital, but when I finally was able to calm down I was fairly sure that I had made it through safe and left. It was truly was miraculous considering how delicate I am – I still say thank you to God whenever I think about it – that I wasn’t injured at all. It felt like Zoey had given her last to protect me.

The night before the junkyard was scheduled to pick up Zoey I cleared out all of the random junk that had accumulated through the adventures over the past eighteen years. I found a “Commerce Bank” pen, a bank envelope with a dog cookie still inside, and napkins from Dunkin Donuts when I cleaned out the glove compartment. On the floor in the back were some stray pieces of straw from the 9ft corn stalks I had managed to haul home in October. In the trunk was a box with miscellaneous junk from the last day at my old job.

After I was finished cleaning I just sat in my car and listened to the radio for a while. The battery still worked despite the cold weather and not running for over a month, but it didn’t surprise me. I know it’s stupid to anthromorphize inanimate objects the way I have for this entire entry, and God knows I’ve experienced enough loss that I shouldn’t cry over a car, but it really felt like I was losing a friend. I sobbed as I thought about the past eighteen years – nearly half my life – and how much that car meant to me. When I was done I told her that she was the best car ever, there will never be another like her.

So thank you Zoey, not only for doing your part to keep me uninjured in the accident, but for eighteen years of memories. Of drive-thrus and donuts, overgrown fields and snowbanks, of fighting to get the temperature knob to turn on the console and fitting ridiculously large items into the cabin. I’ll never forget them.

I’ll never forget you.

Five Sentences

After talking to a friend who has, what appears to me to be, a nice, simple life – been married thirteen (?) years, has one son, one daughter, goes on vacations every year, they both have good jobs and they’re all healthy – I had a bit of a sulk where I thought that’s what I want and why couldn’t I have had that? It didn’t help that I’d had yet another disappointing appointment with a new doctor just a few hours before, but I decided that I was going to give up (again) on the road less traveled and forget all the reasons that I stopped working full-time because it’s not helped me control my health conditions any better and nothing is working out how I thought.

Then a neighbor posted in the community group that there was a baby raccoon in his driveway and what should he do about it. Most people suggested the wildlife refuge that was about thirty minutes away, but he said that he called and no one could come out for it. I asked if they would accept the baby raccoon if someone drove it there and to my surprise the guy said the refuge would if someone wanted to come over and get the baby and transport it to the facility.

So less than two hours after deciding to just trying being normal and having a normal life, I’m driving through the middle of the woods with a baby raccoon in the backseat looking for a wildlife refuge as daylight quickly fades away. Thankfully the GPS in my phone didn’t crap out – which it usually does in these cases – and I found the hospital with minimal incident. Judging by my semi-trained eyes, Baby Rocket somehow lost his mother and was suffering from dehydration and a slight eye infection, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get an update for 90 days.

I’ve had a few people ask me why the guy who found the raccoon didn’t take it to the refuge himself and to be honest I don’t know and I didn’t ask. There were two younger children in the backyard of his two story gingerbread house and maybe no one else was home to watch his kids while he drove thirty minutes into the woods with a wild animal. Or maybe he didn’t care enough. There are people who “do” and people who “do not”, and since we don’t know why people do not, it’s better to leave it alone. I told my mother – as usual she was drawn into this adventure despite my protests for her to stay home – that I felt like this baby raccoon needing help was God’s way of saying to me, Really? You want an easy, simple life? Or do you want to be a person who jumps in the car and rescues a baby raccoon on a Friday night? Of course we both already knew the answer.

Thank you to my dear friend, Stacy. Last night – even before the raccoon rescue – he encouraged me to write even five sentences a day. I gave five paragraphs this time, but yesterday was a big day. This is about the best readability you’re gonna get though.

R.I.P., sir.
Pic that was posted of Baby that started this all. Doesn’t give a good reference to his size because he’s only about as big as a large kitten.

20/20

You know you’ve been neglectful of your so-called blog when a friend who has been following your blog for nearly ten (holy shit!) years sends you a message to see if your blog has been hacked because she got an email that a new post has been published. It of course didn’t help that said post was one from ten years ago that I tweaked last month when I did my annual Year In Review and it somehow published as if it was new, but ultimately my protracted absence is to blame. And because I assured her that not only had I not been hacked, but was going to aim for a post a month now, I’m blathering this out now.

I’ll just put it out there: I’m in a weird place right now.

When I began checking out of the blogging scene in 2013 it was because the tip of gigantic iceberg of health issues had appeared on the horizon for me. I was, at most, marginally concerned, and only that much because I didn’t have health insurance. But the thought that it would change my life, that I’d have to adapt so much, that despite my astronomical force of will I wouldn’t still be able to do whatever the fuck I wanted didn’t occur to me. I’ve had health issues my entire life so it was old hat to me, in fact it had felt almost abnormal that I’d gone as many years as I had without an endless schedule of doctor visits, tests, and procedures. So, much like the Titanic, I cranked up the engine and plowed right into that iceberg, feeling the same shockwave as the ship felt when it realized it was not indestructible.

So yeah. Health could be better. But it could be a lot worse, so I always remind myself of that whenever I started to feel sorry for myself, which I will admit has been more than a handful of times particularly since early 2017.

Unfortunately when your health is compromised it pretty much means your entire life is compromised. My professional life is in a holding pattern because I don’t know what I’m physically able to handle. My beautiful flowers –

And that’s where I had to stop because I just broke down sobbing. Don’t feel bad; I needed to do it because, in addition to my physical and professional states, my mental state could be better. I’ve a problem letting my feelings out so when I break down like that – suddenly and when I’m alone and can ugly-cry without embarrassment – it means that the pressure valve on a pot that I didn’t realize was boiled has been released a little. This is definitely not the worst I’ve ever mentally felt though and that is a huge blessing – though my professional self might argue that at least I write better when I’m depressed. I will say that I’m just really tired and all I see every way I turn is work to be done. Physical work to try to get my malfunctioning body to perform better. School work to get a stupid degree that I don’t really need but just want. Emotional work dealing with the major changes that happened in the past two years. Spiritual work to know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

We’re two months out of this year already and I still don’t know which end is up, but here’s hoping that 2020 will be the year that I see clearer.

Dribs & Drabs

  • I updated the (anti)social media links in the widget. I sometimes still on Twitter but I’m not clever enough to be on there often, and I’m never on Pinterest, and G+ went down the tubes (big shock), and ironically the one on the most is Instagram and that was missing so those are updated
  • If you do follow me on Instagram don’t expect much. It’s basically dogs and cake. (Though what else do you need, right?)
  • I started baking. I’m going to be very un-hip here and say that it’s not a business, I have no intentions of making it a business, and I couldn’t make it a business even if I wanted to because I’m not very good at it since I’m adapting recipes to be allergy safe.
  • Thank you, Trish, for seeing if I had been hacked. Not only do I appreciate the concern, but by talking to you I was held accountable to write this entry which only made it into February because it’s a Leap Year. Hope you are enjoying your trip!

The Fail Sale: Buy One Set of Defective Genes & Get a Flower Free

Genetics has always fascinated me, in fact that was the field of study I was going to enter had I gone to college. (True story and is actually so bizarre and divergent from the road that my life ended up taking that it served as inspiration for a pivotal moment in the short story I’m finishing.) That was one of the reasons I was chuffed when my doctor suggested doing genetic screening to help treat some of health issues – the other reason of course was that I was sick of playing darts with random medications, hoping that one would get somewhere near the bullseye instead of putting more holes in the wall around it. It turns out that I have a fair number of significant mutations, and whether they were passed on to me by my parents or the result of the illness that was ultimately responsible for my not going to college to study mutations isn’t completely certain. What did become clear though is that I’m not losing my mind when I think I’m not responding to medications because, as it turns out, I’m really not. At first I was overjoyed because there was the scientific proof that not only can I not metabolize the majority of antidepressants but I wasn’t being a pussy when I was having breakthrough pain after my surgeries – and I really was feeling like that having grown up being told that only the men in our family don’t have a “high pain tolerance” aka “don’t take pain medication until you are about to bite through your tongue to keep from screaming in agony”. But then I started to feel bummed because it was another indicator of how much the deck is stacked against me ever feeling less shitty – both mentally and physically – than I do now. I’m not saying that it’s not possible but between Nurture and Nature, I have a lot of work to do. And I have been actively working on the learned aspects of myself that are toxic, but it’s not easy.

About a month ago I had the first open house for the plant nursery business I started (it’s a long story, don’t ask), and it was a complete bomb. The weird thing though is that I realized that part of me was almost relieved that it failed. I’m so used to being upset and disappointed that the thought of experiencing something positive scared me. Also with it failing I didn’t have to feel ridiculous when I was still depressed since feeling depressed when you have “nothing to be depressed about” really sucks. This is one of the learned behaviors though so I’m working on changing that, but when you find out that every cell in your body is fighting against healthy thinking it starts to feel overwhelming.

Another genetic-related thought occurred to me when I read an article about the first “three parent fertilization” where the defective genes from one parent were swapped out for healthy genes from a third party donor. It made me think that if I were to do this it wouldn’t even be my kid. I really think I’m defined by the broken parts of myself, and I don’t mean that nearly as negatively as it sounds. I think it’s obvious to most people that creative minds have more mental issues than regular people do, so would I be a writer without those defective genes? Given my interest in things like genetics, I’m not completely a fairy garden hippie so would I be all clinical? Because that sounds really boring. The other thing is that I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t have a lot of shit beat me down in my formative years that I would have been a real bitch. If you don’t believe me then give me an unsolicited critique of my writing and see if I don’t tell you to go fuck yourself. I am extremely arrogant when it comes to my writing which is why I have difficulty with editors. Half of the reason that I don’t have beta readers for my novel is because I don’t trust myself to not tell someone that they are a moron if I don’t like their opinion. The other half is that I’m insecure that my writing really does suck and that even if I think I write better than someone that maybe they aren’t not right if they tell me it’s awful. Also, depending on who it was speaking, the right slander against my writing would make me cry, and I don’t really want to cry. (Believe it or not I do actually have the perfect editor and it’s only procrastination that keeps me from sending her my work.)

I’m starting a new medication and I hope it gets here soon because I’m weaning off of another medication that, as it turns out, I overmetabolize causing a slight overdose every time I take it, so yeah, not feeling great at all. I should go back and try to edit and/or organize this entry since I know there’s a common thread that I could pull out to tie off the entry in a neat little knot like at the end of one of those friendship bracelets made with embroidery floss, but I don’t feel like it. As unorganized as this all is it makes sense to me. I used to write to get out of my own mind and then share what I wrote in a compartmentalized bento box as food for thought. I’m not writing out of my mind anymore, I’m inside it. If you’re reading it then you’re in here too.