Tag Archives: mental illness

Life According to Statistical Probability

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flippingCoinChanging therapists resembles remarrying after a divorce or a spouse’s death. You lose someone who knows the most intimate details of the inside of your head, where all your buttons are to push, and the roots of all your issues lie and must start over from “Hi, I’m . . . .” with a complete stranger. It’s difficult at best and psychosis inducing at worst, which — come to think of it — really does make the marriage analogy apropos.

Early last year, my beloved therapist survived a hideous drawn out divorce from a man so thoroughly odious, so far beyond fecal-esque that monkeys wouldn’t fling him in a poo fight; as the dust settled, she got a butterfly tattoo over her heart, bought a little red Mazda Miata, sold “the scene of the crimes against humanity,” and relocated to a cute beachfront bungalow and a home office in the lower latitudes to start her life over. I completely understood, but was still devastated emotionally and not a little terrified because I was without her for the first time in seven years.

I have been most fortunate, however, to end up with an equally sage and compassionate — if not quite so flamboyant — new counselor. He helped me through the early days after my life’s greatest tragedy to date — Mama’s death — with coping techniques, good advice, and empathy. For the last fourteen months, I’ve managed to forge a bond with him similar to and maybe even more helpful than the one my last therapist and I enjoyed. In today’s session, he put a finger on the root of my core issue and the ramifications have kept me ruminating on his illustration ever since I left his office .

It started with our discussion of patterns.

We were talking about how our minds — in striving for maximum efficiency — seem hardwired to look for patterns in everything around us. It’s why we can read passages containing strings of words with jumbled or missing letters without much trouble. Whenever our minds encounter new data, we immediately see if we can fit it into something we have experienced before so we can make an informed and efficient decision on a course of action. Unfortunately, this automatic pattern-seeking has a dark side and, sadly, the same mechanisms our brains use to maximize efficiency in most things can also derail us emotionally.

For example, you know if you have a fair coin like the ones referees use before the Super Bowl or World Cup matches, the odds of it landing on heads is 50/50. That is a mathematical, statistical fact. Now, if you flip that same coin nine times and it lands on tails every single time, what are the odds of it landing on heads the tenth time you flip it? Well, it’s still 50/50. Flip the coin 999 times; even if it comes up tails every time, the odds on that 1000th flip? STILL 50/50. Take the example as far as you like. Go off into the millions of flips, but no matter how many times in a row that coin inexplicably lands on tails , the odds of the next flip will always be 50/50.

The implications for how we view situations in life are profound in some ways because the entire time we’re flipping that coin, the rational “us” knows the chances are 50/50 every time, BUT if we hit a string of tails or heads the pattern-seeking function in our brains starts to falsify documentation with some sort of interior monologue:

Pattern Brain says, “It’s been tails seventeen times in a row!”

Rational Brain says, “Right, but it’s a fair coin. The odds have to be 50/50”

“You’re an idiot!”

“Why am I an idiot? It’s MATHEMATICAL and even though you hate math, it still doesn’t lie.”

“You’re still an idiot! Can’t you see the freaking OBVIOUS pattern? It’s stuck on tails! OBVIOUSLY this coin is different from every other coin. It’s going to land on tails next time as well.”

“What logical reason can you give me for a fair coin defying the mathematical axioms of the universe and NOT having 50/50 odds? I know it looks like a pattern, but it’s not!”

“Piss on your logic, piss on your axioms, piss on you, AND piss on the freaking HORSE Y’ALL RODE IN ON! IT’S A PATTERN!!!”

“Look, Patty –“

“DON’T! Don’t you get that smarmy, condescending tone with ME! I KNOW WHAT I SEE!”

“Okay, take it easy. Listen, I know how it looks, I really do. We are seeing through the same eyes, you know? Big Dude’s only got the one set. I realize it LOOKS like a pattern has developed, but you HAVE to let go of the past flips. Each flip is a brand new event and no matter how the past flips turned out, there’s STILL the same 50/50 shot this time it’ll land on heads . . . let’s watch, Big Dude’s about to do the 18th flip.”

The coin leaves his hand. It flips over and over in the air, lands on the table, and rattles around. He smacks his hand down to stop it, slowly moves his hand away, and reveals the coin has landed on . . . tails . . . again.

“I TOLD YOU, YOU FREAKING MORON! IT’S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU.”

“But . . .”

“SHUT UP! Stop telling me to ‘ignore the pattern’ or ‘ignore the past events.’ It happened that way. It’s a pattern. IT’S ALWAYS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS.”

That’s life in a nutshell. We do something and fail miserably. Our pattern seeking brains log that data. The next time a similar situation comes up, even though the setting and players may be totally different, we stand predisposed — some more so than others — to believe we’re going to fail because “we ALWAYS fail when we do ____!” The most serious consequence is if we do enough things and have enough experiences to log a LOT of pain, blues, and failures, our brain starts to remove the “_____” and we run the danger of telling ourselves simply “we ALWAYS fail.”

THAT is the point I’ve lived at for over seven years. I’ve always struggled with “living in the past,” but somewhere around the time Papa John died, the pattern-seeking part of my brain went into overdrive and discerned an obvious pattern of failure, pain, and rejection. Even though the circumstances were unique almost every time, I’ve processed a lot of accurate data but drawn false conclusions from it. As a result, I’ve become deeply emotionally crippled. I just can’t seem to get my life into gear because my mind is screaming at me to not do anything else that’s going to HURT.

So, that’s where my journey’s brought me . . . now the question is “Where do I go from here?” At the moment, my honest answer is, “Damned if I know.” Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

 

 

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Howdy, I’m a Parasite!

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chd_tick_engorgedFor most of my life, I’ve believed myself to be a person.  Apparently, I was wrong.

I’ve recently become privy to the fact that I am, instead of human, a parasite. Specifically, I am a life-draining, blood-sucking, economy wrecking, nation dooming species of parasite. Apparently, I became a parasite a few years ago when I started drawing Social Security Disability checks. According to various authorities on arthropodology, among them Conservative talk radio hosts (Rash Limburger springs to mind), some more strident members of the faction of the GOP ironically called the TEA Party, and certain friends and family members who are unaware of my source of income, I am a parasite and if me and my kind could be eradicated from the face of the Earth, this planet (or at least the portion occupied by the United States) would be a much healthier, safer, economically sounder, and altogether more wholesome place where the “American Dream” could flourish as Providence, the Founding Fathers, and John Boehner intended it to be.

To make my personal lowly state even worse, I know now that I’ve been in various stages of parasitism for years. In my larval stage, I was one of the hideous brood known as the “unemployed.” As such, I partook of life giving substances like SC Unemployment Insurance. I was even crass enough to draw unemployment for longer than the 26 weeks this tremendously progressive state allows people out of work to find another job. Yes, gentle readers, when my SCUI ran out, I latched on — leech that I am — to the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation. I was lucky on that account. The exterminators up on Capital Hill have done yeoman’s work eradicating the parasites still clinging to EUC; I managed to metamorphize into my current form as a “disabled worker” before EUC dried up.

I hate it for all the now-hungry critters who were living so high on the hog on those massive $276 per week EUC payments. Lord knows I sure liked my payments so much more than I liked going to the job of my dreams every day as a school librarian (this is back when I was human, of course) and earning ten times that amount per month. It was nice to pare down and simplify life. People were really helpful too when they’d look away quickly before telling you they weren’t hiring. I REALLY enjoyed going on interviews 90 minutes from home just to be told the position was already filled. That was the highlight of my day!

I hope my fellow larval parasites manage to find a McJob before their nests get foreclosed on. If they are lucky, maybe they can take the advice on the old McDonald’s employee website and get TWO McJobs. Then they might actually be able to afford to choose whether or not to buy gas, food, or medicine. Who knows? With that kind of newly disposable income floating around, the country should be back on track in no time! Then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to pay the soldier parasites their full pensions for fighting our wars for us.

As for me, I love my life as a parasite. Nothing’s grander than staring out the window at a sunshiny day and only seeing rain. Yeah, I’m THAT kind of “disabled.” I’ve got one of those “conditions” no one can see so it probably doesn’t exist. After all, who’s ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder or Severe Dysthymic Disorder or even the elusive Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Can’t see it; must not be real. Shoot, that’s a terrific argument. Atheists have been using it for YEARS!

Oh and the things people say to us parasites — trying to be helpful, of course. Things like, “with all that free time you have, you should do X, Y, or Z!” Sure thing! I’ll get right on that as soon as the anti-anxiety meds kick in so I can go out in public alone for about an hour. Have to make sure to take extra or get home before they wear off. People tend to get really uncomfortable when they see grown male parasites with tears streaming down their faces for no apparent reason trying to find a short checkout line so they can get through and hurry back to the nest.

So, to all you hardworking humans out there, this parasite would like to apologize. I’m sorry for slurping up your tax money, ruining the future of the country, and generally just dashing all your dreams. I promise I’ll try hard not to flaunt my overly extravagant lifestyle in your faces as I drive by in my old truck on the way home to my singlewide trailer-nest. Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll even work up the courage to step in front of a bus or something and there’ll be one less blood-sucking mouth for everyone and Congress to worry about.Freshly pressed

For the rest of y’all, I really do love y’all. You keep me going. So keep those feet clean and watch were you step, we parasites are everywhere.

The Perils and Pitfalls of Prescription PAs

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EffexorIt’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I figured I owe my few but loyal readers an explanation of where I disappeared to for the past fortnight. Quite simply, my meds were screwed up.

For those who are late joining this party, I have some mental health issues that I’m not particularly proud of, but which I don’t make any pretense of hiding either. Without knowing it, I’ve followed the advice Tyrion Lannister sagely gives Jon Snow to “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” I’ve just supposed as long as I’m open about my issues, no one can throw them up at me and I may just help someone else along the way.

But I digress.

First of all, you must know I am thankful for my wife’s very good insurance coverage which allows us to buy medicines with only a small co-pay. I remember some years ago when we went through a period with no insurance at all and it gave me a tremendous appreciation for those co-pays as well as an equally tremendous hatred of pharmaceutical companies which is a rant for another time. During that stretch, my primary anti-depressant — Effexor XR — hadn’t crossed over to the generic side of the street and a bottle of 30 cost slightly north of $200 dollars. Luckily, Mama was still making good money then and carried me for about a year buying that expensive medicine monthly.

Now, though, times have changed a bit. I require two capsules per day to keep on a somewhat even keel. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our insurance company claims to know more about my mental health needs than my wonderful psychiatrist. According to them, I should STILL only need one capsule per day, and therein lies the rub. In order to get my two capsules per day allotment, I must obtain the dreaded “prior authorization” form and have Dr. Stephens fill it out and fax it to the insurance company.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with some ways insurance screws you over, here’s a jolly good one — they don’t keep you from getting as much medicine as you want. If you have a prescription with six refills on it, you can get ALL SIX refills at one time if you desire . . . but they are not paying for it. I can get 30 capsules (or fifteen days worth) for $12.50 but unless I get the PA signed and faxed, the other 30 capsules to finish the month will set me back over $100 — and Effexor IS generic now.

Oh look! It's a map of the Eleventh Circle of Hell!

Oh look! It’s a map of the Eleventh Circle of Hell!

I’ve had to do this moronic little dance now for over five years. My 12 month PA runs out in November and I have to get a new one pushed through so I can get my December prescription filled. Well, this year when I got my November refill, the pharmacist didn’t put anything on the bottle about my PA running out as she had done for the last several years. That got me to thinking I no longer needed a PA since this was the first year for generic Effexor.  I went merrily about my way and got a refill again on December 26, 2012 and still had no information about needing any forms renewed. When that bottle ran out, I called in a refill once again and picked it up. When THAT bottle ran out, I called in another refill and trouble started immediately.

Apparently, I DID still need a prior authorization back in December, but with no note or anything, I failed to notice the bottle only had 30 capsules in it. Furthermore, when I picked up the second refill in January, that bottle only contained 15 days worth of medicine as well. So when I went back to get refill two for this year, the computer shut me down. I couldn’t get my refill without getting a new PA on file.

Now in the past, the computer would shut me down in November so I would get the 15 day supply, download the form, take the form personally to Dr. Stephens, watch him fill it out, and fax it to them myself. This time, with no note, I didn’t pay attention — which is my fault — to either bottle I refilled so I found myself sitting at the window of the pharmacy being told I couldn’t get my meds without paying full price . . . well over $200, even generic.

I immediately went into a panic because I was OUT of meds. Now that might not seem terrible for any of you who have run out of cold medicine or cough medicine or some such before, but when you run out of psychotropic medicines, it’s a whole new ballgame. If I miss ONE dose of Effexor, I am lethargic all day. If I miss TWO full doses, I get a migraine headache that will incapacitate me for AWHILE, and those are the GOOD withdrawal side effects. Normally, if I see I’m going to run out, for whatever reason, I’ll take a half dose. I still feel like warmed over death on a stick, but I can carry on for the most part, except for the dreams.

Whenever I’m in full or partial Effexor withdrawal, my subconscious really has a field day when I go to sleep. Within a day, I begin having the most vivid, psychedelic nightmares you can imagine. I have been chased by Jason Vorhees riding a transmuted werewolf and leading a pack of orcs and zombies. I have been sacrificed, tied up for the kraken, and more other weirder and more terrifying dreams.

Sleeping. Is. Hell.

If you are here and don't know if you are awake or asleep, it's not ending well.

If you are here and don’t know if you are awake or asleep, it’s not ending well. Just saying.

Budge won’t let me sleep in the bed when I’m in withdrawals; not because she’s mean to me but because she’s looking out for her safety and the safety of our cats. I have woken up from a withdrawal nightmare in full combat mode punching the couch and stomp kicking the coffee table. I’ve woken up by diving off the recliner into the floor and hitting the coffee table on the way down. At a certain point, I start hallucinating and can’t tell if I’m dreaming or in reality. That’s when I stay away from driving and sharp objects. It is miserable and if I go too long and start back taking my meds . . . I get to experience the same effects while the meds ramp up in my system again. Did I mention HELL?

Luckily, the pharmacist on duty was a former student of mine. He fronted me ten capsules and by halving my dosage, I was able to make it til my PA went through, but it was a near run thing. I still had some kooky dreams but nothing like full-blown withdrawal. So that’s where I’ve been, everyone. I just haven’t had the wherewithal to make a post. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the high life again and can start up my former erratic schedule. Here’s hoping anyway.

Until then, keep those feet clean and know that I love y’all.

Rest In Peace, Mr. DuPree . . . and thank you.

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Seventy years ago today, the Empire of Japan launched a successful sneak attack on the US Naval Station at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Most of us know the bare facts of the attack. Most of us have heard of the USS Arizona and how she blew up at anchor from a well-placed bomb. Slightly over 2,400 servicemen and civilians were killed that day and the moment FDR had waited for — and some say helped orchestrate through intentional inaction — had arrived, America was entering World War II. We were over two years late to the party, but once we got the blood out of our eyes from Pearl Harbor, we made a big entrance.

As a young boy, I sat on a Coca-Cola crate in the back room of the Napa Auto Parts store where Papa Wham was the sole employee and listened as a group of older men lounging around on similar crates played checkers, told fish tales, and exchanged updates about their lives. These were members of America’s “Greatest Generation” who had grown up during the REAL Great Depression and who had marched off to battle in World War II. If I were quiet enough — difficult for me even then — so that the men forgot I was listening, I could get quite an education on some topics.

If, in between customers, Papa came back to the gathering ; however, to hear Mr. John regaling the crowd with a memory of a certain “ladies’ home” he once visited in France right after “The War,” Papa would clear his throat and the men would remember my presence and Mr. John, red-faced, would probably ask me if I would go across the street and get him a Coke and some crackers, which I was always glad to do. I was rather older and Mr. John had already answered the final muster before it occurred to me that I was being kindly “gotten rid of.”  One of the men who frequented those back room gatherings, though he seldom stayed very long, was Mr. Andrew Dupree — universally known, for reasons unknown to me — as “Gump.” To me, he was Mr. Gump, unless Granny Wham were around, in which case, Papa had instructed me to say, “Mr. Dupree.”

The men who gathered in Papa’s back room often reminisced about their service during the war. If the story was deemed mostly harmless, I would be allowed to stay and listen. Most often, however, I would be asked to go on a Coke and crackers run. One time, however, Papa was asked to let me stay for the story and that is why I heard Mr. Dupree’s eyewitness recollection of December 7, 1941.

Gump was a young sailor in the navy stationed at Pearl Harbor the day the Japanese attacked.

Papa Wham had placed his hand on my shoulder as soon as Gump said, “Today’s ‘boom-boom’ day, boys” in his usual low, sad voice, “been a long time now.” The hand on my shoulder was my cue to go to the cash drawer, get a fiver and go to Alverson’s Drug Store for Cokes. This time though, Gump looked at Papa and I remember him saying, “Frank, let Shannon stay if you would. We’re getting old and someone needs to remember this.” I remember Papa nodded slowly then sat down on the crate next to me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t tell your grandmother, okay?” I nodded and turned to hear Gump tell this story.

Please remember I was 8 years old at most and my memory is very good, but not perfect.

It was Sunday, as you all know, and I was on my way to chapel walking along the shore next to Battleship Row. Mother had worried that I would take up a bad lifestyle in the navy and made me promise her to always go to church whenever I could. We had all heard rumors about a possible attack, but that’s all we figured they were. I was just glad to be in Hawaii. None of us figured we’d stay out of the war forever, but we all thought when it got started for us, it’d be over in Europe.

So I had left the barracks about ten minutes before when I heard the first planes. I didn’t even look up because planes were always coming and going from the airfields around the islands. The first explosion knocked me over and that’s when the screaming and yelling started. I rolled over and looked up and saw the meatballs on the planes. The klaxon was sounding general quarters for the entire island. I wasn’t assigned to a ship because I hadn’t been there long enough. A marine sergeant grabbed my arm and pointed towards an AA machine gun. He and I jumped in with a couple other guys and started shooting at anything we could.

I was scared shitless and was looking around everywhere. That’s when I saw some torpedo planes making runs at the battleships. You could see the fish in the water headed towards the ships. Everywhere up and down the harbor crews were trying to get the ships moving and trying to fight back at the same time. Didn’t do much good though. One of the torpedo planes strafed us after he made his run. We all ducked down but one guy took one of those bullets square in the chest. He exploded all over the rest of us. I had blood and pieces on me. Two of the other guys had some cuts from shrapnel. I just froze, but that old sergeant started slapping all of us around — we were a bunch of kids and God only knows how long he’d been in service — and yelling at us to get with it. He pushed the dead guy over to the side and got us all back up manning the gun.

That’s when the entire world seemed to blow up and go silent at the same time. We all flew against the sides of the dugout and it kind of stunned us all, even the sergeant. When I stood up, I saw a big ball of fire where one of the ships had been. I found out later it was the Arizona. I couldn’t hear. I put my hand to my ear and came away with blood. Found out later my eardrums had blown out from the shockwave.

The attack seemed to last forever. Planes were everywhere, bullets were everywhere. I saw several guys get shot down by strafers when they tried to run across the parade grounds. We couldn’t breathe from all the smoke and oil in the air. You couldn’t believe the smell. The smell was ungodly. Burning diesel oil, hot metal, burning skin. The burning skin was the worst. If you’ve ever singed your arm hair, multiply that about a million times.

We stayed hunkered down in that dugout and shot back until we ran out of ammo. Once it was all over, the sergeant told us — we could hear just a little by then — to get back to our units. I got back to the barracks and it was still in one piece. We had muster to see who was still with us and who wasn’t accounted for. We were kinda lucky and kinda not.

Once things started getting better organized, I was sent out with about six other guys in a small motor boat to search the harbor waters for survivors. We found a few, but mostly, we found parts. The whole time we still had that smell hanging over the water. I think didn’t sleep or eat for two days. Just went around trying to put out fires, help find people, stuff like that . . . it was bad, fellas. It was real bad.

Gump’s voice caught a bit and Papa told me to “go get Gump a Coke.” I could hear the story of parts and gore, but Papa would spare Gump the indignity of a child seeing him shed tears. It was okay for the other men to watch, I guess. They had stories too. They understood.

Mr. Dupree served with distinction in the Pacific Theater. I wish I could say his horror at Pearl Harbor was the worst thing to happen in his life, but that would be a lie. Gump’s life was filled with horror and tragedy even after he came home. When Papa and Granny built their home on Weathers Circle, Mr. and Mrs. Dupree lived across the street from them in a small, tidy white house. They had a son, Jack, who was about my daddy’s age, and had just had a baby. One of the neighborhood whispers was that Mrs. Dupree was “nervous” which was code back then for any mental illness from mild depression to schizophrenia.

One night, Papa answered a frantic knock on the door to find Gump standing in his nightclothes covered in blood. He said Gump told him — rather calmly — to please call an ambulance, that his wife had “hurt herself.” As it turned out, his wife had taken a pistol and killed the baby in the crib, shot Jack where he lay in his bed, then shot Gump before putting the gun to her own head. I think she left a note saying she “wanted them all to be together forever” or something like that.

Gump survived; so did Jack. I can’t imagine the psychological scars they both carried. By the time I knew him, Gump lived in a small mobile home in a grove of trees off McCarter Road between Fountain Inn and Greenpond. Jack had moved away by then. I don’t know if Gump had any grandchildren. I just know he loved fishing. He fished every day except Sunday. Rain or cold didn’t stop him. Looking back, I imagine that’s the way he coped with all he had been through.

Mr. Dupree died May 7, 1983. I am certain of the date because it’s also my little brother Nick’s birthdate. Papa and Granny went to the funeral before they came to the hospital.  He dearly loved my mama; it upset him as much as it did Papa and Granny Wham when Mama and Daddy divorced. I know Gump never really got over the war or his wife’s suicide because the last December 7th before he died, he gave Mama a new purse with a letter in it. I’ve never read it, but it begins “Dear Lawana, Today is ‘boom-boom’ day.”

Mama said Gump was explaining some more things. That’s all she said.

Love y’all. Remember those who have fallen.

Black Dog Howls

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Trying to describe depression to someone who’d never experienced it is about like trying to describe a rainbow to a man born blind. Now to be clear, I’m not talking about a case of “my baby done left me blues.” I’m talking about “my baby’s right here and wonderful and I still feel like Keith Richards looks.”

First off, this crap is sneaky. I can be just Cadillacing along with everything shining and happy in the world and just like Mjolnir cracking a frost giant’s head, I’m in an unrecoverable flat spin — just like the one that killed Goose. Then you always think it’s going to be a short spell. Just sit down, play some Ugly Birds or read a funny web page or ten and it’ll ease. Unfortunately, when you try that and it DOESN’T work . . . you don’t go back to square one. You go back to square -1.

Then The Tape starts rolling. On good days, I can keep the tape stopped because once it ever starts, I’m in for a miserable ride. See, most people can go through a bad experience and it may bother them; it may even scar them, but normal people put that stuff behind them and over time its impact gets less and less. Normal people can read a news story about some tragedy with people dying or animals being mistreated and it may be a tearful moment, but they won’t dwell on it and obsess about what happened to that little girl or those puppies or whatever.

Not me. I have The Tape.

The Tape is in my head and it contains — in vivid Kodachrome and THX sound — all the bad experiences I’ve had, all the tragedies I’ve read about or seen on tv, all the worries and anxieties and The Tape is on automatic loop. All this garbage starts rolling through my thoughts. Forty years worth of “stuff” all trolling by in exquisite detail. It’s like picking at a scab over a stab wound, which would be fine if it only went by once, but I just keep reliving “the bad ol’ days” over and over again like some perverse uber-version of Groundhog Day.

Oh and I love it when I try to explain The Tape to someone and he or she says “Why don’t you try just not thinking about it? Wow! What insight! You should get the Nobel Prize for Psychology with a brilliant analysis like that! I am in awe of such mental perspicacity! I really appreciate that advice, Captain Obvious. What do you THINK I’m doing?! Seriously? I’m not a masochist in any sense of the word so if I were capable of “Just not thinking about it,” I wouldn’t HAVE this problem, now would I?

That’s what I love about mental issues like depression and OCD — they’re invisible so everyone’s an expert. Really. I mean, who would say to a paraplegic, “Why don’t you just try walking?” You wouldn’t go up to a blind person and yell in her ear (you know, because everyone YELLS at blind people since the apparently can’t hear either) “Well, why don’t you open your eyes and just TRY to see?”

It’s just the nature of the beast and this beast is a black dog who’s been on the Wild Hunt for a week or so now. After awhile, though, you learn to expect it and you pull out all your strategies that five years of therapy teaches you.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Love y’all. More to come later on.

Keep those feet clean.

Midweek Drama!

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It never ceases to amaze me just exactly what people put each other through. I look around and see all these folks eating at each other and tearing each other down and more often than not, the worst perps are the ones who claim to love each other the most. I’ve always maintained that if your family cannot drive you insane, you cannot be driven insane. Here’s my case in point about the painfulness of love.

I went to eat with Mama today at the Waffle House. After I had my waffle, hashbrowns, and Diet Coke, I headed back to the house. It was 9:30ish. I pulled into the neighborhood and was greeted by an interesting parade. A woman, looking around mid twenties, was booking it at a power walk pace up towards the main road. She had a small girl-child on her right hip and was clutching the hand of a slightly older girl-child in her left hand. This wee one had to jog to keep up with the woman’s frantic pace. To make the image even more surreal, a small dog — possibly a chihuahua or a Jack Russell — was cavorting madly around the two walkers’ feet, yapping its head off the whole time. The woman had what I can only describe as a maniacal look on her face. She was all wild-eyed and her hair was a disheveled mop atop her head. We made eye contact briefly and she looked possessed by some hidden insanity.

Twenty five yards or so back of her was a swarthy complected guy with a buzz cut, muscle shirt, and tattoos on his right bicep and right and left forearms. He had two clear plastic bags full of stuff thrown over his left shoulder and was obviously trying to catch the diminutive Amazonian who had just gotten to the entrance of the subdivision. His pace was steadier and slower than hers and he seemed to be patiently following.

I went by, pulled into my driveway, sat there for about fifteen seconds, then backed out to go see what I could do to help the situation. To anyone out there who may be contemplating a similar move, may I respectfully request that you refrain from doing so. I am a professional nutcase and have absolutely no idea what I am doing in cases like these, but I am driven by some inner Saint Bernard spirit to help — even against my better judgment. Just remember that of all the dangerous situations law enforcement officers find themselves in, the one they fear the most is a domestic disturbance call. Anything can happen.

So I pull back through the neighborhood and take a left. The woman is still nearly running on up ahead and the guy is still patiently plodding along after her. I pull up alongside him, roll down the window and ask “Dude, you need some help with something?” He turns and smiles wearily and says, “No thanks.” I jerk my head towards the woman and say, “Y’all in a fight or something?” He nods and I nod and drive on up the road. He doesn’t need my help. Things are well in hand. I pass the woman, who is now trying to flag down ANY passing vehicle, and pull through the local Stop and Steal to make a u-turn and head back to the house.

Up ahead, the woman has stopped a green Toyota Corolla and hurled both children AND Spike into the car. Now, both of those girls should have been in car seats, but I sensed that was the least of the issue at the moment. I could see the woman inside gesticulating wildly at the driver who stepped on the gas. The guy then stepped in front of the car. Luckily, she screeched to a halt in front of him and went to turn around him. He shifted to stay in front of the vehicle. At this point, the Tony Stewart wannabe driving the car throws it into reverse and comes barrelling back towards ME. I perform some sort of vehicular ballet to avoid being made road pizza as the Corolla executes a J-turn that would make a highway patrolman proud and zooms away.

I look over at the guy who has walked into the driveway of a shutdown business and dropped his physical burden. From the look on his face, though, what he’s carrying inside is much heavier than what he’s got in those two sacks. I pull over and roll the window down again and call out, “NOW do you need some help?!” He gives me a weary smile and brings the bags over. I give him a quick lesson in how to open the passenger door of a Honda Element and he’s inside and we’re all good, considering.

“So, ” I start, “where can I take you to regroup?” He smiles again and asks me if I can take him to the end of this particular road. Well, I’m not taking medicine and I don’t have a watch to stand, so I pull out and head towards where he points. I don’t say anything so he starts. Here’s the gist of the story.  He’s 27 from Puerto Rico via New Jersey (talk about a stranger in a strange land), out of work, and as he puts it, “having a really bad Wednesday.” Wild woman is 25 and is his children’s mother. The girl she was carrying was released from the hospital on Monday after a bout of pneumonia that nearly killed her. She still has a PIC line in her chest and as my passenger put it she’s “supposed to be on the way to the doctor right NOW for a followup”

One of the bags contained several dozen packages that I recognized as nebulizer packets for breathing treatments. The other sack held the machine, wrapped in a quilt. Anyway, the mother is supposed to be taking medicine for her “head” because she “goes a little loco sometimes,” but she’s “stubborn and won’t take it like she’s supposed to so she gets like this.” She had gotten into an altercation with her grandmother, whom the couple was staying with, that ended with her shoving the grandmother down, throwing a chair throught the sliding glass door, and storming out with the children. He said, “I’m just trying to get to her because my daughter has to have one of these treatments every 90 minutes and she’s due for the next one right now.”

I just listened. I’ve seen this before and I know what happens when a person who’s supposed to be taking anti-psychotics or anti-depressants doesn’t follow the prescribed regieme. A bad situation actually gets worsened by what was supposed to improve it. I told him that, in my opinion, following her was useless at this point and what he needed to do was get somewhere safe with people he could rely on and form a plan. He agreed and twenty minutes and a life story later, I dropped him off at what he described as his aunt’s home. I asked him what he was going to do and he told me of his intention to call his sister to come pick him up and the two of them would go find the mother and the children (and Spike too, I hope).

As he left, I gave him a $20 bill and said, “Take this so you can buy your sister’s gas. It’ll keep her in a little better mood while y’all are hunting.” He took the money reluctantly and thanked me over and over again. I told him not to worry about it, just find his daughter and take care of her.

I told Budge about it and she reminded me I was going to get shot one day pulling stunts like that. I told her I knew but when that time came to remember that I didn’t want to be buried in a suit and I wanted to wear my favorite pair of lime green Crocs.

So that was my Wednesday morning. Maybe what I did was crazy, getting in the middle of a “domestic dispute.” Still, I figure we are all traveling together on this little blue marble in space. We have to help one another out if we’re gonna make it. So wash your feet, y’all, and be good to each other.