Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Off to the Land of the Creoles

This is off topic, but it is my life. A group of my best friends and I are going to Louisiana  to inter the ashes  of the late husband of a good friend, into the family cemetery in New Iberia, LA.

There will be a large group.  A few are flying in, others are driving in, and we are traveling from Richmond,  Va to New Iberia  in an RV. The RV is stocked but we will be stopping for meals. There is no room in fridge given the space taken up by beer and other types of adult beverages.  There is a large "snack" drawer filled with chips, cookies, crackers, and other snacks. 

Luckily we have a driver who does not drink so we will be travelling safely. The women  onboard will spend the 20 or so hours remembering Fred, drinking to Fred, solving all the problems of the world,  enjoying each other's company, and making sure none of the of the libations in the fridge go to waste. 

So at 7 am tomorrow we head out.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Spirit of the Lord?

I often think of George and his psychosis. Before therapy, I had no clue what the terms "psychosis" or "psychotic" meant. Of course this tidbit is only helpful in a game of Trivial Pursuit  (in the category of "Science and Nature", not one of my stronger areas). It is amazing the things you learn while in a group of mentally unstable folks. But I digress.

Is hearing God calling from the overhead fluorescent lights in truth a sign of divine faith? Or is it an alternate fact put forth by the paranoid like the suggestion that the government can spy on you through your microwave?

We (well a majority of folks in my generation) have all seen Ernest Angsly on that odd TV channel early on Sunday morning, calling for the sick and suffering to come forward. Once he puts his hand on their head, says words of prayer, and then yells "Heal", the cripple can suddenly walk, the blind can see, and the body is rid of cancer. Rev Angsly preaches that the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, works these miracles through the Reverend himself.

Personally I cannot explain his power or the divine pageantry of his services. I always suspected if his power was consistent, whether it be the power of the Lord for believers only or the power to heal any soul, that a major research center (ie the NIH or Johns Hopkins) would have seriously studied him and his "powers" in search of a possible widespread use. Or, at least, the Mayo Clinic would have approached him to assist them as they handle patients with some of the worse medical issues. 
Whatever the case, he is quick to remind his followers, he cannot do it alone.  For a monthly payment of just 12.99 (call now) you can assist the Lord  (and the Reverend) continue his crusade saving souls, healing the sick, and comforting those who suffer.

A hymn of salvation is sung and a final prayer given. The offering plate is passed. The crowd leaves filled with the spirit of the glory of the Lord. The tent comes down, the traveling show moves to the next town as the Reverend counts his money.

Frankly, if I were a Godly person I would find more faith in the Spirit of the Lord, or at least the Holy Ghost, coming from the lights overhead or speaking to me every Tuesday and Wednesday through my television set on Channel 18. But, alas, I am not psychotic. 
Perhaps phycosis is misunderstood. It could be another person's connection to God. Of course that would only be for those who heard God's voice, not that of the devil, a game show host, or Keith Richards coming to them "live" in their head.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dedication Like No Other

There is a reason Dog is called, "Man's best friend" - undieing devotion. Even your best mate, spouse, significant other is not always going to be with you. No matter what your day was like, does your significant other meet you at the door thrilled to see you - every single time you come home? Only in the 1950's movies that promoted a woman's place in the home, devoted to her husband, meeting him at the door with a martini, not in reality.

If you are on the sofa feeling awful, in bed feeling blue, or just sleeping through the night, no matter what spats you may have had earlier (trash scattered on the kitchen floor, the pillow on couch being "de-filled of its stuffing", or so many dog toys strewn across the floor, a visitor would think that Hasbro blew up in the middle of your den), the canine friend is by your side.

Who else will listen intently to your problems, your rants, your dreams, your wishes, your fantasies, and your bad jokes and never argue, question, or judge you? 

Yes, a canine companion is an unabashed, dependable, adoring, dedicated friend. When your other relationships go south, he will be by your side, ready to move on with you. 

Everyone needs such in their support system. Anyone who questions this is clueless. They have either never lived in a household with dog, had a rare bad experience as a child, or is a germaphobe. All they need is to be exposed to a dog of a friend, of a child, of a grandparent, heck, in a shelter or pet store. Who can walk away from that face, that yearning to please. Well maybe a germaphobe, but then they have a 'hole 'nuther set of issues.

Yes, cats are fine. They will offer you love and attention on their terms. Their independence, indifference, and aloofness fail to offer you that dedication and companionship you may need.

Someone who doesn't like dogs is not willing to see unrequited love in front of them. They are someone who is missing out on the best friend they could ever have. Besides, without a pup, they always have to sweep the crumbs off their kitchen floor (another value of this dedicated pal).

Running Running on Empty

Ever had one of those days when the weather is good, your weight is normal, your house is (relatively) clean, you have plans to do something you have been looking forward to doing, yet you feel off. Your karma is not plumb. You have no energy. Yet there is nothing you can quite put your finger on. In a way you feel like you are running on empty.

If you have never experienced this, you are lucky that you cannot relate. But stay with me here, this still applies to you. I digress.

Now if you have felt this way, it hard to articulate this to anyone (except maybe your Dr.). Your friends and family, bless their hearts, try to be helpful and supportive. Yes, life is going fine. Yes, nothing is bothering you. No, there is no physical issue. No, for God's sake, you are not descending into a deep depression. But, so far, there is nothing that comes to mind that someone else can do to help.

This is a personal feeling. It is as if there is no foundation, no footing. Something is missing, but what? 

In my case, usually I move forward, hoping I will reconnect. If I have mentioned this to anyone, then I expend a lot of energy that I do not have, assuring them that on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being drowning and 10 feeling like life is swell) I am rating about a 7. This is when I question why I bothered to discuss this with anyone.

Jackson Brown put it well, "Running on, running on empty, Running on, running blind [ ] But I'm running behind"

If someone shares with you that they feel this way. Don't try to "fix them" with platitudes, "cheer them up" with Pollyanna optimism, or hover like a protective mother over her only son. Trust me, even though your intentions are good, it only makes it worse. Then not only do they have to handle their issue, they have to handle you.

Be a friend, listen, answer any questions you are asked, be available if they need you (but give them space). Let them share, knowing you will listen and not judge. Shit like this happens. They need to know they can trust you without fear of what you will do. 

This is the time when true friends can come through. If someone reaches out to you or you think something is amiss, don't storm the Bastille, just be there. That is how you can help.

And, no, I feel fine. This is not a cry for help. This is more suggestions of how one can be a better friend and one can trust their friends to be there for them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Don't Ask Them Anything Personal

Despite their wicked humor, impeccable manners, and their love of a good time, the British people as a whole initially come off as standoffish on first blush. It is not unusual for the ignorant and uninitiated to assume the British to be rude, cold, or worse yet - offended by something one did. (My Aunt would describe this attitude as "Being too big for their britches"). However in my case, coming from the warm welcoming south, I may as well arrived on Mars as we deplaned at Heathrow.

Now I expected this from the well known guards at Buckingham Palace where tacky tourists (mostly Americans) do ridiculous things to make the strictly regimented soldiers show some emotion - some sign of life. But not from the lady at the Air France gate, the attendant at the chippy, even the friendly looking gentleman queued behind us in the line for a black cab. One would have thought I insulted their mum or told them their shoes looked ridiculous. Obviously neither was the case.

Heck, I could not get one to engage in conversation with me. Was this the Britian/ England/ United Kingdom I had read about for years? These folks were nothing like the characters on the BBC shows I loved so much. They were just one cup short of rude.

I was to learn that this was my initial introduction to the well known "British Reserve". Unlike us who can make friends in the grocery store line, the Brits almost avoid eye contact. Where American personality is seen as loud, pretentious, and wanting everyone to look at them. Brits find drawing attention to themselves frightening. As Mame said, "It ain't fit'n, it ain't fit'n, it just ain't fit'n."

It is not that they are cold, standoffish, or even unable of being expressive or open. Rather it is hard for them to grasp the concept of talking to a random stranger, of being told, or even worse, asked about personal details.

Close friendships in Britain are thought of as few and very special. They are fostered slowly over time. One just doesn't rush into a close friendship without a long period of development. Oh, they have plenty of acquaintances and friends, but a "close friend relationship" takes time.

The main reason for this reticence - Brits have been brought up in a centuries old tradition of not showing emotions. And never call attention to oneself. So knowing someone enough to be able to drop that facade and share emotions and trust takes a while and is seen as a long and serious process. 

All this leads up to HRH Prince Harry. For someone who has been caught playing pool stark naked in mixed company and wearing a much less than PC Halloween costume, to name a few of his "infamous" headlines, the moniker "inhibited" does not come to mind. Unlike the Heir to the throne who is reserved and proper, the "Spare" seems to live life large. 

But this week, that image was broken when, in an interview, Harry disclosed that he had finally sought counseling to handle the tragic death of his mother 20 years ago. His comment was that not knowing how to deal with the grief lead to years of total chaos n his life. Just his bearing his soul was above the fold news in itself.

Then what followed could possibly change the British reserve. He said that the therapy that he received helped him finally deal with Diana's death and showed him how to go forward. He encouraged everyone who needed help to seek it. There was no shame.

Now this is a conundrum for the Brits. Here was the beloved son of Britian's almost sainted Princess, who had grown up in the public eye, not only saying he had sought professional counseling, bared his soul, shared his fears, and admitted his emotions to someone - a stranger at that, but he was suggesting, asking, and saying not only was it the right thing to do, one should do it if they think they need it.

The Rubicon has been jumped. The Queen herself could have stepped forward and admitted that she had been seeing a therapist for years to help her and it would not have had the same effect. After all she is the Queen and not "One of us". However, Harry having grown up under a watchful and adoring realm was more "real".  They can relate to him. He straddles the worlds of Royalty and mere mortality fairly well.

Well done Harry. Your mother would be proud of you. There are feelings and emotions in there after all. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Staying on the Farm

I often respond, when asked, "How do you handle that?" sarcastically with "Drugs and therapy". It sounds flippant, but anyone getting serious treatment knows that those 2 parts of help are a big component of the solution. There are also those who assume (some have commented) that the drugs should be great. They ask, "Are you on drugs? Don't they make you feel good?"

This is where there is a failure to communicate between the general public and physicians. My Daddy was a pharmacist. He always said if you felt different, like a drug was "doing something for you" while you were on  it, you should stop taking it. That was an indication that it wasn't the right thing for your condition at that time.

The madness here is that if a drug is doing its job, you should not feel a difference. Huh? You ask. Only upon reflection after several days /months should you realize, "Wait a minute, I'm not so depressed or anxious. " (or whatever ill has confiscated you karma). Folks get in trouble when a drug effects them immediately in a very profound way. 

Legally​ prescribed drugs are not developed to make you "feel better", but rather to treat a condition you are dealing with. A prime example is opioids. This has become a major national epidemic that often leads to heroin abuse. And research shows that doctors are over-prescribing these drugs to fight pain when there are other treatments/medications that will control the pain and not lead to the Hell of abuse and addiction. 

The two times I have been prescribed opioids for health issues, I either did not get the prescription filled and shredded it or if it were filled, safely discarded the tablets. It wasn't worth it. Yes, I was in pain but there are other ways to treat it. It is my personal humble opinion if doctors would restrict their habit of prescribing opioids or refills and patients would think, "Do I want immediate pain relief and take a chance of sending my personal, physical, and financial life down the drain?" or "Isn't there some other pain reliever that will give me relief without the possible attached destructive baggage?"

Fortunately (or unfortunately) nothing I have been prescribed (or have taken) allows me to live in a psychedelic funk. Not one thing takes me "high as a kite". None offer escape from reality. Rather after initially taking them for several days it dawns on me, "Wait I'm not as depressed as I was. I do not feel 'different', I just feel 'normal' for the first time in a long while. I had forgotten how this felt."

I cannot help but be reminded of Jim Stafford's song, "Wildwood Weed". 

My favorite lines from that song are:
   "Smokin' them wildwood flowers got to be a habit
     We didn't see no harm
     We thought it was kind of handy
     Take a trip and never leave the farm"

Yes, my prescribed medication takes care of me. But every once in awhile wouldn't it be nice to be able to "take a trip without leaving the farm." We can all dream . . . or hallucinate.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Soul Food

Music calms the savage beast. Actually the true quote is,  "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast” but who knew. Well, in my case I think of it more as "Food calms the savage soul". What else would you expect from a southern girl. After all, contrary to what the food snobs from New York say, we have the corner on the market of damn good food.

Who is going to argue with BBQ, fried chicken, hush puppies, collards, pound cake, peach cobbler, macaroni and cheese, to name a few. This is the one of the seven sins I plead guilty to. Well there was that one time I had pure lust in my heart for Clark Gable, but Mama told me I was forgiven because almost all southern women were guilty of that. I digress.

I knew I was not doing well when I stood in my kitchen and could not think of anything I really wanted to eat. Nothing struck me as tasty, nothing called "come hither" from the refrigerator, and not one thing came to my mind when I thought, "You can eat anything, just name it" - a rare time I attempt one of the seven sins.

Back to the issue at hand. The box of Godiva chocolates sitting on the table did nothing for me. I had no desire for the dark chocolate mint Ghiaraldi squares. But when the leftover macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator did not interest me, I knew I was in serious trouble.

Some people refer to "comfort food". Personally, that term brings to mind colds, fever, being snowed in, and heavy blankets. To me it also connotates soups, stews, and casseroles - just my thoughts. Perhaps our southern food could also be considered "comfort food", but it is MY idea of comfort. Food that is satisfying, well flavored with traditional herbs, spices, and sauces. And of course, I have to add very rich dark chocolate and the flavor of mint and citrus to that (my) list.

So when I need solace, when the world is not being kind, or it has not been a good day, I seek out those good southern foods that have contented, satisfied, reassured, and soothed my people for generations. 

And I don't need an entire pound cake, 4 servings of macaroni, a whole fried chicken, or pound of BBQ to fill my soul with consolation and solace. A small serving will do. 

The secret, you ask, of southern food for the soul? It starts with butter, bacon, and cream. Margarine, that turkey "stuff", and skim milk does nothing for anyone's karma. Bland flavors and watery sauces are the death of many a culinary effort. Cakes and other pastries made without real butter are unpalatable. It is true, you cannot fool Mother Nature. Trying to replace butter and cream with anything else will guarantee gastric failure. It is tantamount to trying to pull off Kraft Mac and Cheese (in the blue box) as the real thing. You should be ashamed of yourself. 

The bottom line is - my savage soul can be calmed and soothed by good southern food made with real butter, bacon, and cream. Anything else would just be empty calories that would make me feel even more remorse.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Take It Easy

For those of you from my generation, the lyrics "Well I'm running down the road tryin' to loosen my load ..[ ]" should be familiar. Now that you are singing along to one of the Eagles' greatest hits, the next line is :  I've got seven [men] on my mind ..." The song is 'Take It Easy'. Hearing those lyrics always take me back to one particular night my senior year in high school. Wait, or were they playing 'Hotel California'? I digress.

When I am viewed as upset, agitated, distressed, rattled, and/or antsy, the usual responses from friends, family, and therapists are "chill out", "cool down", "relax","get a hold of yourself". Easy for them to say. If it were that simple I think I could have handled it myself. I'm not out of control, I'm just pissed. 

And I have a right to be pissed. As an unhinged great aunt of mine once said, "I am due a nervous breakdown. I deserve a nervous breakdown. I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. And no one is going to deny me one." So there. 

Now what?

I asked my doctor just what a "Nervous Breakdown"was. He responded that it was a broad term used for many conditions, but the basic symptoms usually included:
-Severe stress related depression 
-Loss of interest in social and family life
-Weight loss (or gain)
-Feeling sick to the stomach

Humh, check, check, check, and check. Well the good news is that this proves that, contrary to what some folks think, I am not a petulant child, fretful middle age woman, peevish loner, whiny b*+ch, querulous victim, nor out-of sorts invalid. I am simply someone having a bad day. OK, I am someone going through a low time, rough patch, or the blues aka depression.

One thing I have learned that has helped me crawl out (albeit slowly) of my black hole is to take it easy. Going back to my teen years, when the world was my oyster, life was grand, and the biggest crisis imaginable was not getting a second date with that great guy, I pulled the words from the Eagles' song.

"Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Lighten up while you still can. Don't even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand ... [ ]  We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again ... [ ]"

So now I have bared my soul, identified my condition, and found a memory from my past that provides some direction. I simply need to take it easy and follow my mantra; live for the moment one day at the time.

Oh, and you are welcome for the song that you will hum all day. Hopefully it will take you back several decades and bring to light some memorable moments you haven't visited in a while.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Odometer of Life

I can always remember my Grandmother telling me, " Don't wish your life away." This would be in response to my incessant whining that Christmas would never come or school was going to last FOREVER. Ah, but youth is wasted on the young.

Two weeks from now I am taking a trip with some friends. I was thinking this morning - 2 weeks, Lord we do not leave for two weeks. That day will never get here. But upon reflection it dawned on me that  2 weeks is 14 days, as in 14 days of my life. And "Like sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives." After all, we are each only allotted so many days in the lottery of life.

If you can afford to cast 336 hours of your life into the wind, go right ahead. Be my guest. I can assure you there are few dead people out there who, when offered 14 more days, would decline and say, "No thanks. I'm just fine. After all it is only 14 days."

This makes about as much sense as the folks who watch the lottery and say it is never worth their money. Only when it reaches some ungodly amount, say 420 million dollars, are they willing to invest their dollar. When in reality the chance to win 10 or 20 million dollars (though their odds are the same) is not worth it to them. Trust me, I'd take Door No. 1 if Monty promised me there were several million dollars behind it. The hell with spinning a wheel for only a chance to win 420 million. But I digress.

Growing up is a bitch. We spend 20 years trying to grow up, 45 years dealing with the wraths of aging, until somewhere around 65 we finally realize time is moving way too fast and it is no time to worry about trivial things.

There are the southern women who take a "vacation" for a week or 2 and return not only looking rested, but years younger thanks to a nip here and tuck there, that one would never admit to. Excellence by Loreal can give some us the false sense that by keeping the gray at bay, we somehow are stopping the clock. But, alas Virginia, there may be a Santa Clause, but so far, no one has found the fountain of youth.

I have said live life in the moment. Well we should also live life day to day. My dear mother only lived to be 79 years old. According to my calculations (old math mind you) that is 28,835 days. Scary to think if I have been the dwelt the same ticket, and I manage to make it to that end, I am currently already registering 21,329 days old odometer. Those 14 days I was about to wish away could be .0018685% of my remaining days.

Of course, my mother's life was cut short by unforeseen consequences that in the perfect world could have been prevented. That said and math aside, time can neither be stopped nor reversed (despite the promises of Olay Regenerist serum). It is what it is. One never knows when one's ticket will be punched and it will all be over but the crying.

One of my all time favorite quotes came from HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother:

"Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night.' That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

She lived to be 101. And from all I have read she truly lived life for the moment and got the most mileage possible from her 36,865 days on Earth. No doubt her daily habits helped,  starting with a gin and Dubonnet at noon, red wine with lunch, a port and martini at 6 pm and two glasses of champagne at dinner. So live life as if you were dieing and beware of a big red bus. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Truffles and Sunshine

Get out there. Fight the fight. After all, it is the spring equinox, what better day to move forward. Seriously? I'm quite fine under my rock, thank you, enjoying myself. Like a mole in the dark, I am following life just below the surface.

It is so easy "they" say. Go forward, don't look back, enjoy life. Just step out into the sunshine. Smell the roses. 

However, in the light of a spring day (i.e. reality) I know better. But then what is the point of having a support group? Why did I bother with therapy? Why do I pay a doctor? True, I'm not going backwards, but stalling is not an option. Sure there will still be those rainy days, but after any grand flood, the sun has come out. 

Oh, geeze, now I'm waxing on about rainbows and unicorns. Forgive me, I will spare all of us from the world of Pollyanna or Strawberry Shortcake. Reality, as we all know if we are honest, is not a piece of cake. OK, I'm out metaphors.

Of course I'll get out, move forward. Who am I kidding? Truly, I enjoy the company of friends, the fellowship of family, and the wonders of the world. Life is good. It is short. I need to remember to live in the moment. But, good Lord, the light is awfully bright out there!

PS. Rereading this text, I realize many may not find this to be an uplifting piece, especially for the first day of spring. Please don't take it as negative. It is positive. It shows forward movement. After all life is a box of chocolates, I just need to select the lime truffles instead of the hard nuts. (OK, one more metaphor, but I just could not help myself.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Am Here, I Think

I am now a firm believer of parallel universes. No, I am not referring to time travel or some science fiction novel by Michael Criton. Perhaps I can best describe it as my world a lot of the time. (And, no, I am not taking some hallucinagic drug, nor am I now physcotic.)

It dawned on me yesterday (I am often slow to get the memo.) that many times I am present in a situation, but not there. Let me explain, as best I can.

Yesterday, being St Patrick's day, I was with a group of friends, folks I really enjoy being with and do not get to see enough of. I found myself often just mentally and emotionally removed from the group. It wasn't as if I were "zoned out", I was participating in the lively conversation and enjoying their company. However I felt removed in a way.

It was as if all of me was not there. I was not​ preoccupied or worried about any particular thing. I was not upset or concerned about some issue in my life. It was as if I had a split personality. Part of me was at the table having a good time conversing with friends. But a good part of me was just "hovering about", totally adrift.

By now, no doubt, I am sure you are thinking - "Duh, she is in an Irish Pub on St. Patrick's Day and not feeling normal. Spare me."

But my mental absence had nothing to do with alcohol or medication. This is a frequent state of my mind. It is as if I am preoccupied with nothing, my mind is almost blank. I am staring into an abyss. All the while I am in the midst of a lively social situation. Well, part of me is participating.

My concern is not necessarily my state of mind but rather what state or city or room or time my mind is in. If it is not here and "I" am here, where is the rest of me? If "I" am split between two universes, for God sakes give me
more information about the other one.

At some point I will get it all together. However the question is, would I rather be here or there?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Idiots and Anxiety

 Until yesterday I had never suffered from severe anxiety. Well, there was that time during my freshman year in college when I was tasked with finding a date for the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. Naturally I set my sights on a really nice looking junior boy. Oh, and then there was the last moment before a very important occasion when I realized the  dress I had chosen weeks earlier had a broken zipper. But I digress. 

Yesterday afternoon I was making my way back downtown when traffic came to halt. No one was going any where. After sitting in the middle lane on the Ashley River bridge for some time, I realized it was time for plan B. I pulled into the right lane, which was miraculously moving, and made my way across the river. Thank goodness I am familiar with Charleston and her peculiar layout of one way streets. Taking a very circuitous route through the neighborhoods, I found that the traffic nightmare was not limited to the Cross Town. There was traffic at a standstill everywhere. 

While sitting somewhere on Radcliffe Street, I pulled up Google Maps and saw that, instead of the streets on the peninsula being a lovely color of green,  the entire area looked like a basket weave pattern of red lines. On closer look, I saw that the traffic was not just indicated as "red", it was a deep "wine" color that I did not even know existed among the normal green, yellow, and orange congestion colors. This color indicated a large parking lot.

Suddenly I was feeling what I realized was anxiety. I remember reading somewhere that the three most frequent situations that trigger an anxiety attack are: having to speak before a large audience, being in the middle of a crowd of strangers, and heavy traffic. Bingo, C - Heavy Traffic. Memories of Diane, David, and Peter telling us in therapy about the anxiety attacks they suffered. Well now I could relate.

Did my anxiety bring on "Road Rage" (aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver ...) ? Certainly not. I think that only applies when traffic is moving. Right?

And "Going Postal" (becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment). This did not qualify simply because I was not in a workplace. Even in a state of anxiety I could justify not suffering from either of these, if nothing else due to my southern upbringing.

Whatever, these drivers were crazy and stupid. In my mind I became frustrated that I would never get home. I could see getting into a wreck (I failed to mention it was raining.)  I started talking to myself, "Idiot the light is green. Move it, it will not last long." "You have to be frigging me. You want to make a left turn here?" "I know you are not going to block that intersection? Can't you see it is imbeciles like you who are adding to this melee?" "Mister, just have some patience. Yes, I am going to turn in front of you. You don't like it? Fine, take away my birthday."

I needed a drink. That is if I ever got home. In the end, after an hour and 5 minutes for a typical 10 minute trip (in normal traffic), I reached my apartment. Through all this I learned several things (1) anxiety is a real and frightening thing, (2) there are a lot of stupid drivers down here, and (3) the exorbitant rent I pay to live downtown is worth every penny. If I had to commute every day (even without yesterday's nightmare) I would go postal and possibly develop road rage. And it would not be pretty. Then they could add "or heavy traffic" to the definition of "Going Postal".

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I've Not Enough Energy for Freud

"When no one's at home in the top of your dome,  then your head's not a head, it's a nut."
- Just a saying my father used to say.

(According to Wiki) "Psychiatrists are commonly referred to as shrinks due to the historical likening of a psychiatrist's practices to the practice of primitive tribes preserving and shrinking the heads of their enemies. The slang term "shrink" evolved from the longer term "headshrinker." "

Shouldn't a "shrink" make your problems smaller? Perhaps they remove the evils from my brain, then reduce the size of my cranium so what is left will not just roll around loose up there. If that's the case, opening my mind may be akin to Pandora's box. Do we really want to go there?

Lord help me, I do not need more devils to deal with - my cart is full now. Certainly a full "cleanse" of my head would bring out the ones that hide deep in the corners. And there in lies the problem. Drs always want delve deeper into my soul and pull out every painful memory in there.

I am not a Dr, nor do I play one on TV, but I am spending my energy going forward. Reliving the unpleasant times of my past are only going to bring on more pain. Oh, I know, I know, (according to Freud) I need to address all the unresolved  issues in my past before I can have peace and a sane life.

If I were to blame all my problems on an alcoholic mother, low self esteem in high school, Rhonda S. making my life miserable every day, and my life not turning out exactly like my Daddy said it would, I fear I would never recover. There is not enough time left in my life, energy in my soul, or emotion to fight those windmills.

Instead I will start where I am, be thankful for what there is left of me, and begin to  putting my life and pshyche back on course. Then, and only then, am I willing to lie on someone's couch, look at ink spots, recall my earliest memory of my mother, and relive every wrong done to me in 57 years.

It's not gonna happen.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Don't Mess with Stress

Stress is often not given the credit or blame for all it is responsible for. For years I have been told "That is due to stress", "You need to handle your stress better", or "Find a Stress Free Environment" (in this case mythical Shangri-la is about the only place that would meet that qualification)

It was only during the last 3 months, I have come to understand what stress is and how damaging it can be. Stress cannot only cause one to be tired and upset, but it can make handling everyday life challenging at best. I do not know enough to go into the exact medical mental/physical description, however I can tell you that stress alone can be dibilating. Often stress is brought about something inoquesios. It is not necessarily just the loss of a loved one, a new job, new situation, or new challenge.

My eureka moment came when I realized that I was being pulled into intra-family spats that I had nothing to do with - I did not have a dog in the fight. Yet both sides continually tried to drag me into the melee. I, therefore, became collateral damage. Once I announced that unless I have some skin in the game,  leave me out of it.

Stress is physical, not just emotional or mental. It will turn your hair gray, wrinkle your face, and can, possibly, lead to a heart attack or stroke. And, one person's stress may be no issue with another.

There is the southern lady who is totally stressed at the thought of not having clean white ironed napkins for her bridge club. There is the project manager who is stressed simply looking at a deadline, even though there is no reason to think that everything will not come in on time. There is the mother who is stressed to the point of hand wringing at the thought of her daughter not getting married.

One thing I learned was to rid myself of most of what stresses me out. Get rid of it, learn to handle it, fix it, or simply accept it. Then I have more energy to deal with the serious stresses in my life that I cannot easily walk away from.

I find I am asking myself "Is that really necessary?" (That all the towels match in the bathroom.) Or "So what?" (If the one dirty glass in the kitchen sink doesn't get washed forth with.) Or "What about that really brings me joy?" (Wondering why I thought that night course on Russian History was needed simply because my friends were taking it.)

Looking around I found many tasks I was doing one way simply because I have always done it that way. Instead of dreading the task, there is a simpler way to do it. There were so many little things that I could shed, put away, ignore, say "No" to, or simply accept as not necessary.

And dealing with people who stress me out? I have learned to ask myself, "What about her causes my stomach to hurt at the sound of her voice?" I always try to be polite but keep in mind that no matter who I am dealing with nor how powerful or important they are, worse case scenario - they cannot take away my birthday and, like me, they are human.

Now I am simply left with the major stresses that cannot so easily be done away with. But, like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You Take Pictures, Isn't That Special

I did have one therapy session with a group of people who were not muttering quietly to their imaginary friend, scared of their shadow, paranoid, or overly anxious.  The therapist was discussing handling every day life.

He talked about finding something to do that relaxed you, made you happy, and did not bring on anxiety, frustration, anger, or fear. Naturally he asked each of us what that activity would  be.

The first gentleman said he liked to fish. He had a small pond and a  jon boat that he could use anytime. He went on about the peace he found. The therapist was very interested and several questions.

The next gentleman said he, also, enjoyed fishing but he preferred salt water fishing from a pier. A conversation ensued among several people about fishing, equipment, boats, locations, and in one case, a tall tale.

A lady said she enjoyed gardening and went on to tell about the flowers in her yard. She described how much she enjoyed just having her hands in the dirt and the satisfaction she got from watching the fruits (or rather blooms) of her labor. Several folks had questions about what she planted, did she start with seeds or small plants. One person even asked her if she had a formal garden.

The next lady enjoyed playing the piano. She said she especially enjoyed playing at her church. There were questions about how long she had played, what was her favorite song, and did she play for weddings and such.

Another lady said she enjoyed cooking. And her favorite was to cook for her family. Naturally there were questions about what type of food she liked to cook, had she ever taken lessons, and what was her favorite dish.

Then it came to me. I said I enjoyed photography. Walking around someplace with my camera capturing the personality and beauty of the area brought me great satisfaction. No one said anything. No one asked a question. The therapist spoke up, "So you like to go around and take pictures. That's good."

With that he moved on to the gentleman next to me who said he enjoyed working on cars. There was much discussion about what type of cars he worked on, etc.

The therapist wrapped the discussion up, "This has been very valuable. Not only did each of you share your activity, but everyone was engaged and we all learned so much more about everyone's hobby. I know I learned a lot this morning."

I definitely felt as if I had been patted on the head and told - you take pictures, isn't that special. Next. 

Good thing the topic wasn't what each of us did that brought us respect and admiration from others. I would definitely be suffering from a loss of self esteem and a serious inferiority complex. But then I'm in therapy to make me feel better, right?

Friday, March 3, 2017

What's That Word?

Have you ever had one of those days when you couldn't pull a word out of your mind to finish a sentence. For example: " I'll use my _____ to send you that document." And you spend frustrating minutes struggling to think what in the hell is the name of that damn machine. (scanner)

Meanwhile my husband is saying, "Words, use words." Trust me this is not a parlor game.

Then there is, not the inability to remember a conversation, but apparently, misunderstanding what the conversation was about. And not being to able to get through the day without a list. Although, to my credit, I usually do not lose the list or forget about it.

Naturally the first fear that comes to my mind is watching Judge Williams' decline into the dark cloud of Alzheimer's. There was the total confusion, the lack of memory, and change her very large vocabulary into a simple one.

But, it is not Alzheimer's or dementia, according to my doctors, it is due to either the medication I am on or the effects of the stress I am trying to overcome. Gee, so the good news is I most likely will get better, the bad news is I may be a blathering idiot by the time I get there.

This is truly a warm and fuzzy feeling. Not!

And to make life even more fun, I now have a slight trimmer in my hands at times. Parkinson's? No, according to my doctors, once again, a side effect of my medication. 

I'll be patient right now and handle all these side effects and not let them add to my stress, especially since they are brought on by medications prescribed to me  by my doctors to relieve my stress. Ah, the miracles of modern medication. Unfortunately, I realize, the alternative could be deadly - literally.

All that said, when I start dragging my right leg, drooling, loosing my hair, or develop the nervous propensity to yell out inappropriate or obscene comments in public, I think we may revisit the list of medications prescribed for me. Just saying.

Maybe this is one of those times when having multiple personality disorder could come in handy. When you cannot think of a word, one of your other "personalities" may be able to assist and remind you. But, I digress.

After all, even though I want to get better, it is no worth losing my ____?___ in the process. (Damn it, what's that word?)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

No, It Doesn't Hurt

I was once asked, "When you are feeling really blue, having one of your darker days, how does it feel? I mean, do you feel sick? "

"No, this is not a physical illness."

"The only thing I can relate to is being very sad or upset."

I did not respond and left it there. This was obviously coming from someone who could think of nothing else to say but most likely had good intentions. However, I was going to spare him from an answer he probably truly did not want to hear and I definitely had no desire to get into.

Truth is when one is going south and the blues are going from indigo to navy, one retreats from the world. The darker it gets, the less one "feels" pain. Rather the desperation and hopelessness starts a spin that can lead into the death spiral.

OK, that is worse case scenario. And that answer will most likely get one committed. It is hard to explain the pergatory one falls into when one realizes depression is on the horizon like a bad storm.

The trick is learning to be aware of the oncoming storm before it strikes. And if one finds themselves in the rain, do not despair. Even when it is dark, be prepared. Take action. Fear not, the river Styx is no where around.

This is where one's coping skills and support system become invaluable. From the darkness there will be light coming through the clouds. The belief that the sun will rise again returns.

So I think it is a lot easier to say,  "No, this is not a physical illness."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Running Away From the Circus

I enjoy time alone. I'll go as far as to admit I enjoy my own company. "Down time", as I refer to it is simply when I need to step out of the three ring circus of life. And, no, I do not stay in my room with the shades drawn, curled up in bed. No, no Nanette, I just do anything I want to. I have no schedule, no appointments, no itinerary. And no one to deal with. (Unless I choose to.)

There have been times when my week was so frantic or the black dog was at the door, and I felt as if I may miss the trapeze bar slinging toward me as I stood on the tall platform. It was time. I needed a mental health respite.

To me this is akin to changing my life from 24/7 CNN to a 90 minute movie on the Hallmark Channel. Yes, I know how it is going to end. Just hold your sneers or chide comments, suspending reality is good for everyone every once in a while.

If your schedule prevents you from declaring yourself removed from "life" for a day during the week, certainly a Saturday or Sunday is a possibility. When I worked, there were times when the clown car was getting very full and I would just take a day off (always trying to choose a slow day that would least effect everyone I worked with). I proclaimed it my mental health day.

Go to a spa, get your nails done, visit that gallery that you have wanted to see but it never suited everyone else. Get together with friends you never have time to see. Heck, if that kitchen cabinet has been stressing you out, take an hour to empty and reorganize it.* Whatever you choose will bring you peace, enjoyment, and rest.

Yes, this is selfish, but if you don't take care of yourself, who will? If it doesn't suit those around you and they suggest that perhaps you can do it later - There's your sign. You need a day to yourself.

If you spend your "down day" worrying about what you should be doing, how you are going to justify this, or feeling guilty, then maybe you should just ask yourself, "Am I 'fitting in' to someone else's life, or living my own? Am I always juggling my time, doing things for family and friends because they need it or is it because I feel I have to? 

Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and try to clear your mind? Cannot do it? Feel exhausted? Take that deep breath. Do you feel better in the moment right after than you have in a while? 

If that did not work, perhaps the ringing phone, buzzing text notifications, (screaming children), traffic, and trying to plan supper after a hard day that is going to resume as soon as you open your eyes will convince you. 

Remember, as I said earlier: "Breathe normally. [ ] Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are [ ] with [ ] someone who requires assistance, secure your mask, and then assist the other person."

Of course don't forget it will always be show time tomorrow. Few of us have the luxury of running away for several days. In today's fast paced world, life is a circus. Just remember you do not want to fly without a net.

But do not do any housekeeping even when you feel overwhelmed by guilt. Just don't do it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

I Don't Vacuum my House in Heels and Pearls - Anymore

Forget what you learned about putting everyone else first. If you do not make yourself happy, eventually you will find yourself miserable and perhaps on the edge of self destruction.  That was the advice that was drilled into me by my southern mother and my old maid Aunt Kat that I should put myself last and remember to "Take care of my spouse, my children, and my elders." "Make sure my house was always clean." and "Never go out in public without my hair done and lipstick on." Of course as a southern woman this was akin to being expected to vacuum my house in heels and pearls, I would never question what I was told.

Then there was reality - the full time job, the hormone ravaged teenage daughters, the husband who was spoiled by his southern mother and childhood maid, weight problems, premature gray hair, varicose veins, a house plagued with dust bunnies, and 24 hour days filled with 26 hours of duties. (Yes, this is when I was convinced God was definitely a man.)

And look where it landed me? In picking up the pieces, I realized if I did not look after myself, no one else would. Oh, sure I have a loving family, supportive friends, and a gaggle of doctors. They are looking after my health and well being. But only I can look after myself. Just like learning that I do not have to clean my plate (due to all the starving children in China), I also need to shed the advice that molded my karma for so many years.

The world will not end if my house is not always spotless. If someone thinks less of me because my hair is not perfect and I am not wearing makeup then I know they most likely are not going to be on list of those I call in my time of need. So what. My husband and daughters are adults and can take care of themselves. I love them and support them but taking on their stresses is not going to help me a all.

I am not saying neglect your family and friends. Nor am I even suggesting you let your looks or your house go to Hell in a hand basket. I am saying prioritize your life and make sure you are on top of the list. Do what makes you happy. If at all possible, avoid what stresses you out. Live life for the moment. 

It doesn't matter what action you take today, nothing can change the past, so there is no point in worrying over what is in the rear view mirror. Stressing over what may happen in the future is not going to help you at all, unless what you are doing at that moment is going to directly effect it. 

If anything, take this advice to heart. Do not drown in your own self destruction. Put yourself first and live for the moment. Trust me, you'll be a much happier and healthier person when you do. My mother, bless her heart, was just doing what she had been taught. But then again, she never told me about Ultra-Brite.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Finding Light in the Darkness

Those with rose colored glasses see the world sunny side up. I cannot tell you the number of times some Pollyanna has assured me that life is wonderful and, sure, "a little rain must fall" but that makes one appreciate the good times that much more. So cheer up!

No offense to those who are true believers and have dedicated their lives to God. He offers comfort and salvation, but when the darkness descends, even his glory is shut out. Sure there are those wrapped in their chosen denomination who believe accepting Jesus will "save" you, don't worry your life is preordained, we are all sinners, your soul will continue after your body is physically dead, or the end of days will come and only those "believers" will be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven - everyone else will be damned to Hell. In other words God, alone, can solve all your ills.

If it were this simple all the pews would be filled with those seeking instant relief. There would be no need for professional assistance. The evils of depression would easily be managed by prayer. Trust me, I was in therapy with many God fearing dedicated Christians (as well as Jews and Mormons) who had not forsaken their God or their religious beliefs. They understood just believing would not take care of them.

All this said when the dark cloud descends the last thing one is able to remember is that "life is wonderful" and, (once again) no offense to those faithful to their religious beliefs, that there is a God (or a Son  or Holy Ghost for that matter) there to save you. Even those with strong beliefs find the salvation and comfort of their religion suspended. Life feels more like the edge of Dante's Hell than earth.

One cannot see anything positive, and when it gets bad - nothing to live for. The key is catching oneself before one slides into the unstable darkness. Thankfully I have learned coping skills to use the proverbial rope to climb out instead of hanging.

I do not write this as a cry for help, I have the skills, tools, and knowledge to keep me in the light. However, I realize I am the lucky one. If your dark days are becoming darker and you start to question the meaning of life, now is the time to face reality and get help. Having someone pat you on your head, tell you life is good and look on the bright side is not helping you. This is no time for patronization.

This is the time to painfully bare your soul to someone you trust. They in turn should assist you in finding the appropriate help. Even in Pollyanna's world rain falls and tears are shed.

What you need to know is: it is OK to cry, seeking help is a "must" not a "maybe", trusting the one trying to help you is necessary, and there are no easy fixes. Also, keep in mind you are not alone. There are many out there, often friends and family, also in the shadows. Take care of yourself then you can, in turn, help someone else.

Like you are told during the Safety Demonstration on an airplane, "Breathe normally. [ ] Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are [ ] with [ ] someone who requires assistance, secure your mask, and then assist the other person."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Age of Aquarius

One of the miracles of modern medicine is the progress made in medication to help and, in some cases, manage mental illnesses. Now, if you have ever been prescribed any of these medications, you are probably aware of the side effects some of them may have on certain people. 

The "fun" in all this is that a doctor really has no way of truly knowing what side effects may appear on any given patient. Trying psychotropic drugs, is akin to throwing spaghetti against a wall - if it sticks (ie works) then great. If it slides off (ie either doesn't relieve any symptoms or causes severe side effects) it is back to the drawing board.

To make it even more "painful", some drugs take as long as 4-6 weeks to take effect and provide any relief (or show side effects). In my case it took me and my doctor 2 years of trial and error to come up with an effective drug cocktail (combination of several medications) that helped me manage my issues without any severe side effects. During that time I suffered through weight gain, sleeplessness, agitation, shaking, lack of concentration, and total aloofness.

Paying attention to drugs ads, I wonder if the drug companies are quite sure of what they created. For example one drug (I will not give the name) is advertised to help make one's current medication for depression more effective. However, in the small print (or in this case mentioned very quickly by a calm and reassuring voice at the end of the commercial) it says:

Warning: If you experience any of the following, stop taking the medication and immediately call your physician:
  • Increased gambling, sexual, or other overpowering urges
  • Depressed mood, trouble concentrating, sleep problems, crying spells, aggression or agitation, changes in behavior, hallucinations 
  • Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Blurred vision, sudden and severe headache or pain behind your eyes, sometimes with vomiting
  • Fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms
In very rare instances, the drug has been known to cause the following:
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Constipation, flatulence, and vomiting
  • Hearing problems, hearing loss, or ringing in your ears
  • Seizure (convulsions)
  • Sleepwalking, and also eating, making phone calls, having sex and driving while asleep
  • Severe anxiety and depression
  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
  • Coma or death
Seriously? Wasn't the purpose of this drug to "help make one's current medication for depression more effective"? Uhm, Seizures? Anxiety? Convulsions? Coma? Suicide? Death? Define "effective". I'll take my chance with what I am currently taking.

No wonder it took 2 years for me to find something that worked. I'm surprised I survived without developing some additional physical or mental issue, such as a third eye, severe anxiety, or death.

But, I digress.

I was amazed at the attitude folks had with taking their prescribed medication. Peter (who was convinced no one liked him and his mother called him names) told the therapist he did not take his medication because it did not work. The therapist reminded him that he may have to take it for several weeks before he could see any results.

George (who was convinced aliens were communicating to him through the flickering lights and talked with Jesus twice a week on Channel 18) only took his morning medication due to his schedule, unless he was home for supper, then he would take his evening medication - if he remembered.

"And are they working for you?" asked the therapist.

"Well, yes and no. I think I feel better mentally, but I am having problems sleeping, I have headaches, and blurred vision."

Margaret (who wanted the aliens to take her children) said she took all her medication at the appropriate time. Although she said she had talked with her dear friends in her garden club and they seemed to be taking a more effective medication that she had seen advertised on TV. She was going to discuss this with her doctor.

Diane, Levi ("all" of him), John, and Ruth said they took all their medication at the appropriate time. They understood how important it was and had seen some improvement due to the drugs.

But my favorite was Judy's response. She said she took her blue and green drugs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The white ones she took on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Any other colors she took on Sunday. The therapists asked her, "Are you taking these as prescribed?"

"Well, yes. I take all of them."

"But, didn't the doctor tell you that your medication needed to be taken daily and that some may need to be taken in the morning and some at night?"

"We did not discuss that. I set up my schedule so I was taking the pills according to the astrological chart. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are under the sign of Aquarius, so those would be my blue and green days. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday fall under Virgo, so white is appropriate."

"And on Sunday?" the therapist asked out of total curiosity.

"Oh, I just had pills left over so I figured that was the best day to catch up."

"How is that working out for you?"

"I'm still having some problems thinking straight and now I can't sleep. But my doctor told me it would take some time for the medication to take effect."

"And when was that?"

"About 6 months ago."

"Judy, if you cannot see any difference in 4-6 weeks, you definitely need some adjustment in your medication. I'm really surprised your doctor hasn't already made some changes. Have you discussed this with him?"

"Oh, every time I see him I tell him I doing well because I have faith. According to the charts, Saturn will rise in the east in 3 more months and that will coincide with a near Lunar eclipse. On that day everything will come together and my medication will make me better."

The therapist hesitated, "Well, I think your doctor would be very interested in how that works. You should explain that to him next time you see him."

Let me reword my initial comments about the great strides that have been made in the modern medication, especially in psychotropic drugs. I feel certain that the drugs could be optimally effective if they are taken as prescribed despite Saturn rising and Lunar eclipses. But check back in 3 months, who knows, I may be "cured". But then my moon has never been in the 7th house and my Jupiter is not aligned with Mars.