Inner Fiction Writer Awakening

A while back in this blog I started experimenting with writing fiction. I completed a series of writing challenges in an attempt to get more practice in writing. You can click on the “Fiction” or “Writing Prompts” categories to read some of these efforts.

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing author Chuck Klosterman speak about his prolific writing career, writing both novels and essays about music, sports, and culture. At one point he stated that writing fiction is about making the content feel real whereas writing non-fiction is about making the content feel fictional. I have written both, though on a much much smaller scale, and this insight rings true. I want to be able to write both.

Like he did when I first started reading his essays about ten years ago, Chuck Klosterman inspired me to try to get better at writing. Since I haven’t really been writing at all, getting better hasn’t been a possibility. So doing it, spending time writing consistently every day, is my first step in challenging myself to be better. I’m running with the inspiration gleaned from Mr. Klosterman last night, focusing on fiction, and I’m going to write a story or two a week based on writing prompts found out in the internet wild.

I don’t promise that these stories will be any good, I only promise that they will be honest efforts. I will gladly accept notes or constructive criticism at any point as well, assuming there’s anyone left who still reads this blog. If you are here, reading this, thank you. I hope my writing practice can translate into some enjoyable stories, and even if they don’t prove to be enjoyable, know that I appreciate you reading them.

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Why Retail Employees Hate You

When I work in a customer service capacity, like I do at the retail job I do a few days a week, I like to play a game I made up called “Take the Assholes’ Money.” Whenever a customer comes in and acts like an asshole (which is often, if you work retail), I challenge myself to convince them to spend money before they storm out of the store. The bigger the asshole, the stronger my need to take their money. If I get them to spend money in my store, I win, no matter what they say to me. My scores are pretty consistently high. In the following example, which happened in the store today, I only sold him a cup of coffee, but I still took his money and he didn’t ask for it back.

This is also an example of why working retail can turn a person bitter real fast.

CUSTOMER: What kind of coffee you got?

ME: We brew Guatemala coffee, which had a full body, rich flavor, and it’s fair trade and locally roasted.

CUSTOMER: Uh huh. I like it strong. I’ll take a cup.

[I pour coffee]

CUSTOMER: Woman! I didn’t tell you you could pour it yet!

[…the fuck did he just say to me?]

CUSTOMER: I don’t even know if you have the kind of sweeteners I want! I’m diabetic so I can’t use sugar!

ME: We have organic Stevia [gesturing to full container of Stevia packets]

CUSTOMER: What is Stevia? Where’s the Sweet N Low?

ME: We carry Stevia because it’s natural, made from plants. It tastes sweeter than sugar. Try it.

CUSTOMER: [opening and licking a handful of Stevia packets] I don’t like it. You got any hazelnut?

ME: Sorry, no, just the coffee, milk, Stevia, and sugar.

CUSTOMER: Are you kidding me? You must be new. You’ll be getting all the flavors and sweeteners soon, right?

ME: No actually, we just want to sell good, locally roasted coffee and support the local businesses that supply it.

CUSTOMER: FINE, I’ll use this Stevia crap. [opening every last packet I can find in the store and dumping it into his coffee] [sips coffee] It’s still not sweet enough. What else you got?

ME: Milk, sugar, and Stevia, which you just used the last of.

CUSTOMER: I can’t believe this. Do you understand that I have diabetes? I have to suffer every day of my life, and you are making me suffer even more right now because you’re not being considerate of people with different needs than yours! I’m from San Francisco, and they know how to do coffee. You could learn a thing or two from them.

ME: [somehow not saying any of the following out loud: “You said you wanted strong coffee, maybe using less than half a pound of sweetener would make it stronger?”
“Please, tell me more about how much you are suffering right now. Is it because you had to lick 5 Stevia packets like an animal, then put 30 more in the coffee, which tastes like coffee and not like hazelnuts or desserts…all of which will punch you right in the diabetes way harder than Stevia will?”
“Yeah, I’ve got San Francisco on the line now, they called to warn me that you were coming in today. Any message you want me to relay?”]

[finally deciding on] Did you want milk with your coffee?

CUSTOMER: I’ll take some half and half.

ME: We have whole milk, is that okay?

CUSTOMER: I said half and half, they call it that because it’s half cream and…

ME: I know, but we only have whole milk.

CUSTOMER: Are you kidding me?

ME: [still not kidding him]

CUSTOMER: Gimme it, then.

ME: [handing him the container of milk] [again, not saying, “Half and half is way worse for your blood sugar than whole milk, which is also not great for your blood sugar.”] Just push the red button while you pour.

CUSTOMER: No! I’m not doing that! [oh, the suffering!!] This is outrageous! Where’s your sugar at?

ME: Right there in front of you.

CUSTOMER: [dumping exactly 1/2 of the large container of sugar into his coffee cup] I have never had an experience like this at a coffee shop!

[knocks over the milk container on purpose and storms out]

ME: We’re not a coffee shop! Love you too! [waving goodbye like the fucking Queen of England]
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Y’all Ready for This?

Is there a forum where I can be artistically angry? I mean sure, I could write bad poetry (I have, and you’ll never ever see it), I could paint with total lack of skill, using a lot of reds and maybe a dagger to slash the canvas with when I’m done, or I could do something like cover myself in blood and stand on the street corner and scream about the patriarchy while throwing KoolAid soaked tampons at passing cars. Frankly all of that sounds fun, but none of it satisfies my need to express myself right now.

My particular creative medium is sitting down and writing the exact words that I am thinking. Doing anything else feels like blurring lines that I need to see with total clarity. I feel angry right now, and not even at the patriarchy like I mentioned before, though a version of that anger never really leaves. The intense anger I feel is juxtaposing some intense feelings of happiness and hope, which sounds about right because my brain has yet to let me experience any feelings in a straight forward manner.

One stem of my current anger leads to the usual suspect, diabetes. I want to break up and I want it out of my life by the end of this sentence. I give it a portion of my attention instead of my full attention, and it tries to kill me. I try to have a good time and push the envelope a little, and it tries to kill me. I do everything it wants and make all the right choices, it still tries to kill me. Diabetes somehow weasels its demands into every single decision that I make, big or small, and I will never have the freedom to opt out. This is a toxic and abusive relationship, and I want out.

I’ll leave the specifics of my recently failed marriage alone for the sake of this post, but I can follow another vein of anger to a rapid succession of major life changes that have occurred over the past 6 months. I went from working a full time job where I made more money than I ever had and was more proud of than anything I’d ever done to getting laid off from that same job in December because of budget cuts. So I had no job and had to get on my husband’s medical insurance. Then I got a part time job making less money than I had in over a decade (a decade of paying my dues and working my ass off to climb the proverbial ladder, no less), and for a few weeks, I didn’t mind how little brain power this job took. But only for a few weeks.

Then the husband and I split up and filed for divorce. I had no backup plan, no savings, no place to live, no full time employment, soon-to-be no health insurance, so I had to pull some shit together fast. I collected a few part time jobs, moved in with my parents, hired an expensive lawyer, and made a decision to go back to a career that I previously spent 2 years trying to leave. An emotional, difficult, intense, demanding job that I’m good at but unsure if I can afford…but they offer health insurance. Meanwhile I continue to work a second part time job.

Then my dog I’ve had for 12 years got sick and died. Because let’s let the shittiest thing I can possibly think of happen right now.

Then I moved into an apartment for the first time since my 20s, without my dog for the first time since my 20s, and I still don’t feel like anywhere is home. People come over to the apartment and I’m like, “Come in to whoever’s place this is that happens to have all my stuff in it.” I have to leash the dog when he has to pee. I have to make sure I’m wearing pants if I need something from the car. I get to listen to the neighbors have sex and yell at each other, sometimes at the same time. Less than a year ago I owned a house with a yard and a car length or two between the neighbor’s house.

And now I’m trying my hand at dating again, and I’m having a wonderful time, but also one year ago I was trying to get pregnant and raise a human being, and two years before that I was in a hospital at the very lowest point my life could ever get watching my worst fears come true, and every now and then I just want to shake someone (it doesn’t matter who) and yell,

HOW THE FUCK DID I GET HERE???

The funny thing is, though, that for the first time that I can remember, the people in my life who know me the best are consistently saying to me, “I am so glad to see you’re yourself again,” and, “It’s nice to see your personality back again,” and, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you!” It’s true too, somehow. I am not dragging the weight of the wrong life behind me anymore when I try to accomplish things. I have energy, I have a sense of humor, I have an inability to take life too seriously, I have compassion, I have all these things that have been just ghosts of memories to me for a long time.

When I was young and in my church days I recall a youth group leader once giving us a riddle that we were supposed to discuss and solve as a group. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it was something to the effect of, “How do you transport a fish in a truck across country and ensure that it arrives alive and fresh?” This entire line of questioning was irritating to me, and not just because my first natural reaction was (and is), “Who the fuck would waste so much fuel and use up so many resources to transport ONE fish across country and keep it alive? Is it a magic fish? Will it cure cancer?” (They didn’t let me talk much in that church group) It was also irritating to me because each solution we came up with was deemed “wrong” by the leader because it wasn’t what was written on the back of his card. This is really a whole other discussion on the ways religion has damaged me, and it’s not even my point here.

My point is that the solution we came up with has stuck with me to this day. Keep the fish alive and fresh and strong by putting a shark in the truck/tank with it for the entire trip. That fish has no choice but to constantly adapt and develop new skills to avoid being eaten by the shark and arrive at its destination alive. When that fish arrives alive, it will be one of the strongest, most capable, most interesting fish you’ve ever met. It drove across the country with a shark and lived to tell about it. There’s nothing that fish can’t do now.

Whether or not that was the “right” answer to the youth group leader’s riddle, it’s an apt illustration of life’s struggles, for which there often are no right or wrong solutions. I’ve had a shark chasing me for a while, but it’s only made me better at surviving. The better I am at surviving, the more prepared I am to thrive. So the anger can stay for now. I think it has earned a right to be here. All it’s doing is just helping me find better ways to move forward.

barracuda

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Goodbye, You

I was driving through a neighborhood where I had never been before, exploring. It was mere minutes from a bustling suburb but it was all horse stables and acreage and ancient farm houses. It had a more organic feel than the brand new, assembly line stamped houses crammed onto the flat streets that I had just driven away from. Happy horses and ranch dogs followed behind the hard working people that take care of them.

I rounded a bend in the road and came upon a sign for a city park. I saw one picnic table and an acre of dead grass and pebbles as I drove by, and laughed out loud. I drove another half-mile before my curiosity overcame me, and I wondered if there was more to this so-called park. I turned the car around, parked on the street in front of the picnic table, put my headphones in my iPod and got out.

Almost hidden between some dead trees on the border of the pebble field was the beginning of a paved path. I followed its curves through the trees to find that it became a walking trail that wound around a small lake. It was an oasis in a rural desert. People were on the trail walking their dogs and their children, geese lounged on the surface of the water, a cool breeze caused the clear blue sky and sunlight to twinkle on the lake’s surface.

This was a moment in time that was made just for me. I set off to walk the path, and soon time melted into oblivion. Apropos of nothing, you came to mind.

We used to talk about this happening. I was joking, you weren’t. You said that whenever you thought about me, I would feel it. Your birth date was also a number that appears on a digital clock every 12 hours, so you also told me that whenever I looked at a clock at that time, I’d think of you. At the time it was supposed to be sweet, but it soon turned into a curse. Because guess what time it always is when I look at a digital clock.

So maybe you really were thinking about me while I walked by the lake. Maybe you were high, again, and had the ability to communicate with me telepathically. I don’t know. My mind was closed to a lot of things before I met you. I stood up a little straighter when you mentally summoned me. I thought of the girl you knew who hated herself and always walked with her shoulders slumped and tried to hide everything feminine about her. I’m not that girl anymore (no thanks to you). I straightened with pride and swung my hips a little when I walked and it made me smile because I did it for me and not you or anyone else.

If we really were connected in that moment, then you were interested in the music I was listening to. Suddenly I heard every song on the playlist through our shared ears, like the hours we spent listening to each other’s playlists, one earbud apiece. I haven’t forgotten how we would argue about the meanings of songs, the power of us both liking the same song at the same time, and the way you either fell in love with or judged me based on certain songs. How I would beam with pride or hide my hurt feelings according to your words.

I smiled again, so much that laughter bubbled over, because I realized that I wouldn’t give a shit about what you thought anymore. I sung along to the forgettable machine manufactured pop song as I walked, and I loved it, my steps bouncing with the beat of the song. You would have hated this song. It made me so happy.

Then the songs on the playlist, shuffled and playing in random order, began to be about you.
Neon Trees, Songs I Can’t Listen To – it’s about a guy who has a list of songs that remind him of his ex. I never liked the Plain White T’s, but now that dumb song, you know the one, makes me so angry that I can’t listen to it, and it’s all because of you.
Garbage, Bleed Like Me – you were always trying to top everyone else’s stories of suffering. I smiled because I now know that you’re not special. We all suffer. I have gotten over myself, and I hope that by now you have too.
Sneaker Pimps, Spin Spin Sugar – this song is fantastic. I am a badass, and you knew it. You would rather have died than admit to it, though. Fuck you.
Alt-J, Dissolve Me – this song feels like everything good about what we had together. Yes, there was good, I wouldn’t have stayed around if there wasn’t. But but the song is pretty short.
Outlines, Dragonette and Mike Mago – you’ve probably never heard of Dragonette, and you have no idea how much they mean to me. You don’t need to know. I once gave you a significant amount of influence in my life. But my life is mine now, and you have no power over it. While the song played I imagined us running into each other and talking. At the end of our conversation you ask if you could call me sometime, and I say, “Nah. See you ’round,” and walk away from you.

The next song came on my iPod and you were gone. I soaked up the sun while I walked, immersed in my music, hips swinging with each step.

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10 Tips From a Rookie DIYer

I have become a self-proclaimed home makeover enthusiast. I am jumping into the world of DIY projects with both feet because I recently found myself with some time on my hands. A few weeks ago I lost my job. Shortly after that I learned about the unexpected death of one of my friends. Guess what a person needs after a double whammy of major life stressors – all the time in the world to be alone and think about it, right? I have nowhere to be, no schedule to meet, no daily structure, no reason to put pants on, and nothing stopping me from watching Saturday Night Live reruns for 28 hours a day. It’s just a recipe for squeaky clean mental health (mopping up pool of sarcasm). I needed a project to give my days a purpose and keep my mind occupied.

Recently the shower in the master bathroom was professionally gutted and remodeled due to some extensive water damage. Now that the shower is new and beautiful, the rest of the 1960 original wood/fixtures off-white bathroom looks drabby (drab and shabby). The shower is so new and clean that I want to live in it, but instead of moving into the shower, I decided to slowly make the other areas of my living space…livable. Since I now have the stunted income to bypass the professionals, I will figure out how to do it all myself.

I am starting in the master bathroom and will work out from there. So with the help of YouTube, my neighbor who probably regrets telling me she was a contractor, and the shard of common sense I have left, I set out to remove ugly wallpaper, repair drywall damage, prime, paint, update fixtures, and re-tile. I am about halfway done at this point, and I have learned a few tips along the way that I’d like to share:

  1. Enthusiasm does not make up for lack of experience. I’ve approached most challenges in my life with the “Show Up” philosophy: I almost never know what I’m doing, and I’m almost always terrified, but I show up anyway and I’m ready to learn. In many situations, enthusiasm forgives a multitude of rookie mistakes. This is not so in the world of home improvement. It helps to just accept at the beginning that this is going to take a while. There will be unforeseen details that will keep showing up long after your enthusiasm has worn off. Who knew that old caulk was such a bitch to remove? Who knew that there was a giant hole in the wall under that strip of wallpaper? Who knew that semi gloss paint was so fucking unforgiving and would require at least 3 coats to cover the crooked brush strokes and drips? (The jury is still out on whether more coats will be required.) At least with home improvement projects, by the time the excitement wears off, half of your house is destroyed so you have no choice but to keep going with the project.
  2. Drywall is an insolent bitch. It broadcasts every wrong you’ve ever inflicted, every rookie mistake, every divet in every ounce of joint compound you’ve ever applied. If you try to make a quick cover up, it will just crumble out of spite and make you go on another trip to Home Depot just because it can. I’ve been taken for a fool once, but it won’t happen again. The rest of the drywall in this house better prepare to become my bitch!
  3. Do not touch wet paint. When you paint an entire room, guess what, you will be surrounded by wet paint. You will get distracted and let your shoulder graze a wall while turning around. You will rest your hand on a wet wall while painting another wall. You will open a cabinet out of habit, forgetting that you just painted it and leave a hand print in the (fucking unforgiving) semi-gloss paint. Now you have to wait for it to dry and paint it again. You also have paint smears all over your body, and not in a sexy way.
  4. Common sense comes in very handy, even when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. I was able to establish an order for the tasks in front of me so I don’t get stuck doing double work. Remove handles and outlet covers first, sand everything before painting anything, etc. A life of diabetes has trained me well: I can sniff out a long term consequence in a nanosecond.
  5. Perfectionists, carefully consider your decision to start a home project. Having perfectionist tendencies means that you will be detail oriented in all of your projects, which is an asset. It also means that the section of wall that just keeps getting worse every time you come up with new ways to fix it will haunt you for the rest of your life. The first patch of drywall I repaired was near the ceiling on the wall facing the toilet. I enlarged, I sanded, I compounded, I taped, I compounded again, I sanded again, I primed, I primed again. Then I started the whole process over again four times because the tape wrinkled, or I missed a spot, or I didn’t sand a mountain of compound well enough, or it looked worse than the last time I went through this process. I finally realized that no matter what else I did, it wasn’t going to meet my standards of perfection. Now that spot is all I can see. Do you know how many times I previously looked at the bathroom ceiling while I peed? Almost never. Do you know how many times I will look at the bathroom ceiling since starting this project? Every goddam time I pee. You still have time – save yourselves!
  6. The Lazypaint stage is real. Even perfectionists get lazy sometimes. I spent 3 days searching the tiny bathroom for traces of leftover wallpaper before painting, and I applauded myself for being so thorough and methodical. After I finished the first coat of primer, I found a tiny piece of wallpaper adhered to the trim. Tools came out and the problem was solved. How the hell did I miss that over the last 3 days? After I was 7/8ths finished with the first coat of color paint, I noticed an identical piece of wallpaper still clinging to another piece of trim. I stared at it and hoped it felt shame. With tools in hand, I emotionally prepared myself to remove the intruder and redo the primer and paint again. Failing that, I said , “Fuck it,” and painted over the old piece of wallpaper. I’ll let the next person who buys the house deal with it.
  7. Don’t brag too much. People will be impressed when you start throwing around terms like “joint compound” and “putty knife,” and tell them you’re patching holes in walls, caulking, and painting. Just remember – they will want to see the finished project one day. This includes your contractor neighbor, who will zero in on the exposed edge of drywall tape that’s still visible despite her generous lesson on covering up exposed drywall tape. I mean sure, talking about the incidentals of a DIY project sounds impressive to someone who has not done it before, but that doesn’t mean that those same people, having invited themselves into your bathroom to inspect your impressive work, will be blind to the lumps of painted-over joint compound or the new caulk that you couldn’t make into a straight line so you just added like 3 more layers of caulk. They’ll leave thinking, “That was adorable.”
  8. Seriously, stop touching the wet paint. You finished painting the east wall 45 seconds ago. There is no way it is dry yet, so don’t touch it again. I don’t care if you need to steady yourself while reaching for a high trim, don’t fucking touch the east wall right now.
  9. Do not wing it when dealing with electrical fixtures. Get advice from someone who knows what they’re doing or hire that person to do the job if it is too complicated for you. I do not have a learn-from-my-mistakes disaster anecdote to tell here. Do you know why? Because I didn’t wing it when dealing with electrical fixtures.
  10. Don’t sit in wet paint either. Congratulations!  You got the hang of avoiding putting your hands in wet paint! But you forgot to look before you sat down, didn’t you?
    20151227_190205-1I didn’t think I’d have to add this to the list either, but let’s go ahead and say don’t wear your good khaki pants while painting. Go read Tip #4.

So I won’t be hired by the team at Extreme Home Makeover anytime soon. That is totally fine. This is the first tiny room of my house that I have jumped into. I have, like, three or four more rooms in my house to get through. My progress in the bathroom is making me feel happy and accomplished, and that’s what I wanted out of this whole thing anyway.

And fine, since you asked, I will post one progress photo of the bathroom (taken from a distance – don’t zoom, that’s unfair).
20151227_230315The tile floor will soon be black and white checkered, and the window will have brand new blinds in about 2 weeks. And the toilet cover will disappear as soon as I remember it’s still on there.

And since you asked, here is a picture of my assistant. She’s from Boston and she’s enthusiastic about jumping in paint. She’s not sorry.pixlr_20151230231758687

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Colors

I’m starting to believe that there are no psychiatric medications that can make me feel like myself again. Sure, they open neural pathways and manipulate chemicals allowing for significantly improved brain function. And I’m not complaining at all about that. In fact, that is pretty much the only reason I have been gainfully employed for the past 15 years. No matter which chemicals these medications target, however, there is another intangible part of me that is muted.

I started taking medication when I was 19, then I spent two years after that arguing that they don’t do shit. The I realized that they do do shit (heh) but they also made me feel like shit, so I railed against them again. Then I gave them another chance, albeit begrudgingly and was able to go to work consistently, keep a job for a long period of time, and even move up the work chain. I thought I was fixed, so I stopped taking the meds consistently.

After another in a series of terrible decisions (otherwise known as my twenties), I realized that I had a decision to make. I stick with the meds, keep my brain clear enough to keep working so I can have medical insurance so I can keep myself alive. That choice comes with a blurred sense of self and rounded edges, obscuring the scope of my emotions. My other choice was declining to take the meds, allowing for extreme mood swings, inconsistent performance at work, probably moving from job to job, and increased speed of self destruction. On the other hand I would know that I am purely myself, harried mess that I am. I would feel everything deeply. I’d enjoy sex again. Life would be colorful again.

I chose the former. I have worked hard and achieved a lot. I am able to be in a long term relationship, I have meaningful relationships with my friends. I have built a life with a future. But the colors are gone. I’m starting to miss the colors. I feel like there’s a piece of myself that doesn’t get to live.

I’m not saying I made the wrong choice, and I’m not saying that I regret any of the experiences I’ve had along the way. I chose productivity and I am proud of my achievements. But I miss the colors.

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Inappropriate Reactions

Everyone has a secret talent, and I am no exception. My secret talent is reacting to any given situation in the most inappropriate way imaginable. Attending a funeral? At some point I will find something hysterically funny and make a borderline tasteless joke in front of one of the bereaved family members.

Someone tripped and tumbled down some stairs? That. Was. Hilarious! It may or may not later occur to me to go over and make sure they are okay.

Someone struggling to multitask? Walking in front of me with 2 shoulder bags, a pile of books, a cup of coffee with no lid, a dog on a leash, and a donut in their mouth? I sip my soda (because let’s be honest, I’m probably drinking sodas again) and watch them, thinking, “Wow, how are they gonna get out of THAT one?” It’s not until they look at me with flushed cheeks, mouthing around the donut, “UH, can you help me, please?!” that I take the coffee and the books and help them.

You’re pregnant? With twins? And you weren’t even trying? Shut up, don’t talk to me.

Recently I have stopped myself before saying something really inappropriate to a few friends of mine. Sometimes people ask me for advice about their pets or about pets of people they know. I am always happy to help anytime I’m able because there are times when I really miss veterinary medicine. I like to still keep my finger on the pulse of animal health.

The inappropriateness comes in when someone asks me what is wrong with their pet, I make my best diagnosis, then the diagnosis is later confirmed by their veterinarian. A few years ago a guy I dated for a moment in time called me after a long stretch of not speaking to me (we don’t need to go into why right now) and said he was worried about his cat. The cat was urinating outside of the litterbox and hiding under the bed. I asked if the cat was drinking more water than usual. Yes. Is he eating a lot but losing weight? Why yes he is. Does he seem a lot more tired than normal? Yeah, totally.

He probably has diabetes, take him to a vet tomorrow. No excuses

The guy called me the next day to let me know that the vet reported the cat’s glucose was 450, and he was diagnosed with diabetes. I stopped myself just short of yelling, “DAMN I’m good! Over the phone too, high five!” I mean I was a millisecond away from saying that. I wasn’t happy that the cat had diabetes, I was happy that I was right (this never changes) and I was happy that I helped get straight to the root of the problem. I think I forced something out like, “Oh, I’m sorry, at least with treatment he will feel better soon!”

Earlier this week another friend wanted me to come over and look at her cat’s leg because it’s been swollen for 4 days and he’s holding it up when he walks. My first thought, that I kept to myself, was, “Jesus, and you’re just telling me about this now?!” I went over and looked at the cat, whose handsome face was talkative and purring. That’s a good sign. Then I saw his leg, felt a hard spot near the elbow and found the rest of the leg warm and swollen. No pain on manipulation, so I thought a fracture was unlikely.

It looks like he may have gotten bitten by a snake or a bee or something else that he pissed off, and it’s probably infected. He needs x-rays and antibiotics and pain medicine.

I saw my friend today and asked how the kitty was. She said, “They said he was probably bitten by something and it was infected. They did x-rays, and there was no break. They lanced the hard spot near his elbow and drained a bunch of pus then gave him an antibiotic shot and a pain shot.

I was right again! Infected leg, HIGH FIVE!

I did not say that out loud, because I’m not happy that the poor cat’s leg is infected, but I was probably smiling a little too much when she told me about it. I was also jealous of the techs who got to lance and drain the wound. The secret is out – veterinary staff love lancing and draining things. The more squeezing involved, the better. I did say that out loud, and now my friend won’t look me in the eye. I wonder what she thought when I started showing her Google images of cuterebra and I was really excited about it.

People have asked me before why I censor myself so much when I talk. Why do I spend so much energy trying not to say what I really think? I mean it’s a fair question, but I think it’s safe to say that if I didn’t censor myself I wouldn’t have any friends. I’m the one in the room that says out loud what everyone else is thinking. Then I wonder why there’s suddenly a huge backlash.

I’m always happy to answer your pet questions. I’ll try not to let you know how excited I am when I point you in the right direction.

scalpel

Ready, aim, lance!

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Mental

“I know you have cancer, and I am sorry. Really, I am. I thought I had cancer once, and it was awful. But look, your cancer is really starting to make it hard on everyone around you. You never want to do anything we used to do together because you can’t seem to focus on anyone but yourself. All I’m asking is for you to just get up and pretend you don’t have cancer anymore. That’s a lot easier for us all to deal with, and it requires way less from us personally. We have problems too, you know.”

I don’t have cancer. I have a broken brain, depression and anxiety. I hate using those words because it forces me to admit that I deal with something I cannot control. It’s not as understandable as cancer, not as inspiring to overcome, nor sympathy-inducing. You can’t necessarily see it, so it’s up to me to prove to you that it is as serious and debilitating as cancer? Cancer patients aren’t blamed for having cancer, and they’re not accused of trying to weasel out of responsibilities because of their illness. Why am I?

I’ve lost touch with my body, my feelings, and myself. Activities I used to love are painful and confusing, and I don’t know how to get back to who I am. All I know is that I’m doing what I can to keep moving. Grasping for anything to connect me to myself.

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I Risked My Job for This?

This afternoon I went to the psychiatrist that I potentially risked my job to go to. I didn’t tell my boss about the appointment until an hour before I left. I tried to tell her via text, but she hadn’t checked her phone all day (is that a thing people do?) so I had to say words to her face. There was some groveling and some tears, and hints that my mental health status was such that an urgent psych appointment was required. Apologies apologies.

She was annoyed but understood. It’s not really her I’m worried about, it’s what she’s required to report to the corporate office. But I took a risk and convinced myself that I need this, and that what I need is important. So I left work early and went to the doctor for help.

I’m scheduled to leave work at 4:30pm, and my appointment was at 4pm. At 4:45pm I was still sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, having an anxiety attack that they forgot I was there. Again. They’ve done it before and I waited almost 2 hours before saying something. I should mention that I have no balls when I am in this mental state. All the work I do teaching myself that needs are important, and I deserve to get what I need just fly out the window and within seconds I’m screaming in my head, “I was right! I don’t deserve it after all! Other people need this more.”

As I sat in the lobby, a man sitting next to me was having a quiet conversation with his armpit. He spoke mostly in numbers. At one point I cracked my neck and the man turned to me and pointed to my neck. “Was that a 3?”

I looked at him and said, “…It sure felt like a 3. Did it look like a 3?”

He was taken aback briefly and smiled before he faked a coughing fit and turned away from me. Fun unexpected connection.

Just as I was about to start crying and approach the front desk in hopes that I would say something normal to the effect of – it’s been almost an hour, did they forget about me? – the physician’s assistant opened the door and called my name. It was someone I’d never seen before, so I wasn’t sure how much back story to share. I should note that I haven’t seen an actual doctor in that practice in over 2 years.

The entire office is very intimidating. Actually it used to be intimidating, now it’s just irritating and maddening, specifically if you are suffering for an anxiety disorder and have trouble asking for what you need. I sat down in front of her desk, where she faced me but did not look at me or address me for quite a while. She typed on her computer and clicked the mouse like 870 times before she asked me how I was feeling.

I reported my recent anxiety attacks and depressive episodes and told her I’m willing to tweak med doses if needed. She made silent eye contact while I talked, typing on her computer the whole time and not reacting at all. I stopped talking and the mouse clicks started again. After what felt like an hour of silence she said, “Ohmigod! I totally just read that you were here on October 6 of 2014 complaining of the. Same. Symptoms! That’s so crazy!”

I said, “So I probably have some seasonal affective disorder. That’s…should I be the one telling you this?”

She giggled and talked about med dosage tweaking options. We decided on some tweaks, and I checked out, feeling slightly annoyed and settling in to wait weeks before I can tell if the new med doses are working. I’m thankful for Xanax in the meantime.

I climbed into my car, still fighting with myself about whether I just wasted everyone’s time with that appointment and put a black mark on my oddly specific employment record for no reason whatsoever. I settled on shutting that negative bitch down. I know my patterns well. If I leave this alone it will spiral and end with lack of physical hygiene, blood, and pretending from my bed that the rest of the world doesn’t exist. For weeks or more.

So I guess this is preferable. At least there’s still Xanax.

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I Wasn’t Supposed to Be Back in This Tunnel

About a week ago I got a clear message from higher ups at my job. Without going into too much detail, it boiled down to them looking for ways to cut overall costs. I have had several weeks where I had to deviate from my assigned work schedule to go to dr appointments or because I got sick. Each one of those deviations were approved, and I always made up my hours and got all my work done. Even so, they said, if I’m not going to show up when the schedule says I should, why are they paying me to be there?

Based on past trends, it’s possible that this will never be mentioned again, no action will be taken, and they may have even forgot that they said it by now. I can, however, think of a terrible thing to say to someone with a depression and anxiety disorder: We could decide at any moment that your job could be handled by the other 2 people in the office and we will fire you. And it’s likely that you’ll get no warning. And what you’re doing may or may not be quite enough to justify us keeping your job.

Sure, that puts me right at ease.

This happened a couple short weeks after my martini of imbalanced brain chemicals decided to invite the depression bitch to stay. It is also unsettling because overall I have little control over the many different ways my body fails me: I can’t stop food from trying to kill me. I can’t help that my immune system overachieves at fighting the wrong fights and ignores the right ones. I can’t make it through a week without at least one potentially life threatening event. Despite all of this I’m somehow supposed to still be a person and have a life.

I worked for months on something that failed me in the end. Now I feel like I’m living a series of failures and I want to hurt myself to get control over something. I am hurting myself in completely invisible ways. I’ve had increasing numbers of panic attacks and my supply of Xanax dwindles.

I decided to call my psychiatrist because I say yes to drugs. They could get me in in November, or they could get me in tomorrow. I don’t want to think about where I will be in my brain if I wait another month to adjust medications, so I took the appointment for tomorrow. Guess what time it is: it’s 30 minutes before my scheduled time to leave work. So I have to leave work early the same week I got in trouble for leaving work early for doctor appointments.

They might cut me a break if I tell them that if I don’t take this appointment it’s likely I will cut myself daily or eat the wrong foods until I can’t move and wonder if there’s anything I’ve ever done well before in my life and have to force myself to make every movement that I am required to make for the next month because I have no energy or willpower to be a person. Or probably longer than a month because the drugs that are supposed to help me are cheeky bastards that sometimes just stop working.

But I really don’t want to tell them that many details.

I’ve been in this position before, where my  health has interfered with my ability to meet my work attendance requirements. I hate this position. I know I was hired to do a job, and I know that means I have to show up in order to do the job. I used to think that I could control my health better if I had a less physically and mentally and emotionally draining. Working with critically ill animals for 14 hours at a time doesn’t leave much room for other life functions. Now I sit at a desk and have a stable schedule and no one dies as part of my normal day.

But I still have to deal with this body and brain, which are still broken. I’m having trouble matching my reality to the rest of reality. It will take some time to figure it out.

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