Validation

It doesn’t always happen when you see your doctor, being validated. I’m not talking about your parking ticket here, I’m talking about being validated as a person, not just a diagnosis or a problem.  Even in the mental health arena, people don’t often feel as though they’re being truly listened to, especially in the American mental health system. It’s so broken, we’re seen just like every other doctor sees their patients — one after the other in a hurried fashion. There’s little time spent with you, so only the the basics are covered when you’re in for a medication consult with your psych MD. They’re not there to TALK to you…they’re there to prescribe your meds and make sure you’re stable and send you on your way. They talk to you just long enough to make sure the meds are working and whatever therapy you’re receiving from the talk therapists is helping and on track and that’s it. 

But my doctor listens. Or he listened to me. He stopped the usual banter we have, and listened. Granted, I had my journal with me, a bulleted list of points I needed to go over with him so he knew I meant business. And I’m also a suicide survivor, so when I say I’m in trouble…I’m in trouble. My ongoing depression hasn’t resolved, no matter what I’ve done – and I’m doing all the things. I’m doing all the healthy things, or at least trying to, as best as I can considering how heavy the elephant is that’s sitting on top of me. 

So I’m very grateful that my doctor took the time to listen to me, and validate my feelings. And not just throw some more medication at me, although we made some changes there. We determined that in one particular instance, I’m NOT crazy — or at least a specific kind of crazy — and that was a validation in and of itself. It feels like the elephant lost some weight – the depression remains of course, but a worry that was dumped in my lap isn’t mine to worry about anymore. That load can go, thank you. 

Feels good. Kind of. A step toward good. That’s good enough. 

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Is there more than one way to skin a squirrel?

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I have no idea. I’ve never done it before today. I’ve seen it done in movies, most notably “Winter’s Bone” where Jennifer Lawrence teaches her younger siblings how to do it – and quite graphically – so I followed what she did. Why? Because my dog killed one. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself, let me back up.

Yesterday, I let my big dogs out in the backyard. Shortly afterward I heard an unusual commotion, so I ran out to see Joker, my pit bull, at the side fence and Gypsy, my mutt running around upset. Panthera, the neighbor dog was also making a lot more noise than usual at this one junction in the fence. Then I notice that Joker is bleeding from his snout. Gypsy also has blood on her. THEN, I see the squirrel in between the fence and the tree that has grown around it. A-ha. I start to check Joker’s wounds and get him cleaned up, trying to determine whether he was punctured by chain link or squirrel and said squirrel shakily scurries up the tree with some major wounds of his own to tend to. Gypsy is fine, the blood isn’t hers.  Both dogs got a bath while the foster puppies cried outside the bathroom.

Oh yeah, foster puppies. They want to know why they can’t do everything the big dogs do. BECAUSE YOU’RE PUPPIES and only here for the week. Thank Gods.

Later that night, I have to kill a GIANT SPIDER IN MY KITCHEN. I have arachnophobia. It was awful. And the size of a spoon. OMG.

This morning I let everyone out, and everyone but Gypsy came back in. She’s focused on the squirrels. Fine. A couple of hours later I open the door to take laundry out to dry and look to see my garden shoes are covered in drops of fresh blood. The same garden shoes I’d worn the day before, hosed off all the mud and left to dry on the steps. WHOSE BLOOD IS THIS???? Gypsy isn’t bleeding. But why are flies all over her? WHAT? I start looking for the squirrel, it HAS to be the squirrel. Joker and Gypsy are now digging at another part of the fence by the alley. So I open the gate and go out into the alley and then I see it, covered in flies but not dead yet. Oh dear gods. All dogs go back inside but Gypsy. This is her kill. She has to finish what she started.  I put her on a leash and take her to it.

And this is where I discover that Gypsy most likely ISN’T the killer of the animals I’ve found dead in my yard. She’s likely the one that catches them, but Joker is most likely the finisher. I had to encourage her to finish, to kill, to strike the killing blow. I didn’t want the squirrel to suffer for however long it was going to take for it to die — I wanted her to do what a dog does: swiftly break a neck/back/skull — whatever.  And then I remembered what my neighbor said happened while I was on vacation. The dogs had caught one of the feral cats and killed it. He tried to get them off of it, and Gypsy let go as soon as he yelled out, but Joker was the one that held on and mauled until it was dead. Joker isn’t as fast or agile, he can’t jump as high (nor climb a tree the way Gypsy does). But they do team up and hunt as a pack (they ARE dogs) and I’ve watched Gypsy lead the hunt. So she catches, and he kills. Makes sense. She is the gentler of the two but has the stronger prey instinct — she enjoys the chase part, but once that is over, she’s lost interest.

AND NO ONE wanted it after I skinned it, either. My raw fed dogs turned their noses up to fresh meat. Fresh, bloody, warm squirrel meat. Now that’s just rude. Ungrateful beasts. So I had to put the body parts (and it’s parts. Skin, organs, ripped apart limbs…I offered all pieces to five dogs, puppies included and no one wanted any part of it – although the puppies licked up some of the blood) in some bags and store it in my chest freezer until next garbage pickup because rotting squirrel in Alabama heat is just stinky grossness.

AND THEN I HAD TO KILL A GIANT COCKROACH.

Can I be done being Madame Death now? Please?

 

All is as it should be.

A year ago, I was headed to DC to march against the incoming administration and EXACTLY the kind of crap that’s happened. Let’s shut the government down because we’re not going to fund children’s healthcare or keep DREAMers unless the WALL is built *among other things*.
 
Today — not one march planned in my city, Birmingham. I’d have to travel to attend one and after being sick with the flu for too long, that’s not going to happen.
 
That doesn’t mean the #resist movement or women’s march is over. Or that I’m done and have given in. I’m still resisting, writing, calling, etc. But I’ve also come to realize something:
 
All is as it should be. 
As horrible, painful, heartrending and downright dangerous as it all seems — there is hope underneath it all.
  1. Sexual harassment and predation is finally being taken seriously and the discussion, while triggering to many, will hopefully lead to changes in how we treat each other as human beings. That is good. But change hurts.
  2. Racism and white supremacy is no longer hidden in the shadows or 4chan chatrooms. It’s out in the open where we can see it, address it face on and come to terms with what we thought we had moved beyond. Even if a lot of white people weren’t outright racist, they were likely complicit in their behavior and they are learning now. That is good. But change hurts.
  3. Same for LGBTQ rights, disability rights, {insert marginalized community here} rights. (I should state that I am part of many of these marginalized communities…being on the LGBTQ spectrum, disabled, of Jewish descent, Pagan, Latinx, but also white as the fucking snow.) I admit to not even knowing about certain things as it related to disability, and I’m learning more every day. And sometimes — I feel a twinge when I realize that I have been complicit or judgemental. But it’s good, and change hurts. It’s supposed to. 

We as a nation are being shocked and shaken out of our complacency. I’m not pleased about our administration — far from it. I voted against it. I think what’s happening is absolutely horrible and fight against it as often as I can but at the same time: It is what it is. We do as we can. Keep on keepin’ on and all those pithy sayings. They all boil down to what my therapist called “radical acceptance”. I (and the country but I can only speak for myself and my perspective) am in a terrible position and while I am pretty terrified of the future, I narrow my focus down to “what can I do now?” and “what have I learned from the past?” in order to deal with the now.

I have hope that we as a society and a species will pull out of this downward spiral, but I may not even see it in my lifetime. Rather than letting that thought dishearten me, I put myself out into the world as a beacon of light and hope to those that will turn things around. Acting with compassion and kindness and love, even when all is awful and terrible and scary (and I’m just as scared and angry — and oh, believe me — I’m angry. I yelled at Trump on the TV the other day, scaring my dogs *again*) is hard. 

Forcing myself to say, “No, I will not give in to hate” when I say to to the TV, “You motherfucker, I hate you. Go to hell.” or some other hateful words is hard. Instead I take a moment, let the feelings wash over me, breathe and move on to focus on making positive change. Which is good. And hard. And sometimes it hurts.

And personally … I now have come to realize that my entire life … as difficult, and full of strife and hardship and loneliness and whoo boy — some major shit …. is as it should be. Hard. The lessons I’ve learned and am learning, are as they should be. Doesn’t mean I like it, that I’m happy or that I think all is well. (There’s a difference between “all is well” and “all is as it should be”.)

Radical acceptance. Because change is good. And it really, really hurts.

Three Years Later

 

CW: suicide talk

It’s been three years since my rebirthday and this is what I’ve learned:

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my re-birth. My FB memories for this day are deactivated because I don’t want to remember what I said or did — but it’s still an important reminder to me to LIVE every day. I faced the abyss 3 years ago — dived in…and got spit back out. “Not now”. So now I live and celebrate each day as best I can.

November is a weird month because of this — I’m aware of the encroaching “here we go — it’s THAT day but also holidays and …” And every November since, unconsciously, I seem to go and do something life-affirming. The first year after, I helped Ralph with Bandit and LadyBug and gained a new family. The second year, I adopted Pix. This year, I’m fostering Amada. So I’m alive, thriving (so to speak) and sharing it with others.

Thanksgiving has become a lightning rod holiday not unlike Columbus Day due to the mistreatment of Native Americans, both historically and just last year at the pipeline protests. But for me it’s personal. I am TRULY THANKFUL because I am still here. I’m not always — it’s true. Sometimes I’m still fucking pissed off that I have to watch my world implode and all the fires around me. I couldn’t just go out the way *I* chose. But still, I have now chosen the path of compassion and love and am doing the very best I can. One day, one life, one heartbeat at a time.

Love and life. Namaste and peace. These things have true and serious meaning to me. They are not fluffy buffy unicorn fart concepts. They are what my life is for and why I was pulled back from the abyss.

They are why I am here.

I just came back from a session with my therapist (talk about a coincidental appointment scheduling, huh? I didn’t MEAN to accept this date — I moved the original one due to having my wisdom teeth removed the day before my original appointment).

And when she asked how I was, I answered, “Well, kinda weird. I can’t really explain how I feel today because it’s both my death day, and my rebirth-day.” And then I showed her my FB post from which this blog post is based.

I’ve learned not to attach to others. Or attach to their perception of me. To live my life with as much kindness and love as I can put out, not worrying whether I’ll get it back (I won’t) because that’s not the point. To strive to leave every person feeling better for having talked with me, even if only for a brief moment.

To breathe. Fully and deeply. To love with the entirety of my soul. And to forgive those that have hurt me (still working on that — that’s a tough one because oh…i’ve been hurt so deeply and i’m human and get so mad).

That humans are deeply and fundamentally flawed. And yet we are some of the most creative and purposeful beings to have ever graced this planet. As disappointed as I am in the human race as of late — I still have hope that someday we will rise above our baser instincts and find the loving purpose of which we were put here to achieve. There has to be one, else why would we have evolved to be able to create such beautiful music and art?

There’s probably a lot more I could say — but the dogs are looking at me to play — and they are the purest souls and while I love y’all — I do love them more. Namaste.

 

 

Things Better Left Unsaid

There are some things you just do.not.do to a person who suffers from depression and anxiety. Some things you just do.not.say. Believe me, we hear it all the time as it is — from our own minds. Our “sock monkeys”, “jerk brain”, “psychotic roommate”, “demon”, etc. Many of us have a term for those voices in our heads that, if we’re somewhere close to stable, have managed to dial down to faint hum but are always in the background, muttering.

Muttering things like, “you’re not good enough”, “no one wants you around”, “why even try?”, “maybe you should make another attempt, and do it right this time”. A friend of mine had a bad day, and posted about her anxiety sock monkey giving her a hard time. Her friends commented, boosting her up, sharing their experiences with the same kind of thing….doing what friends do. Doing the RIGHT THINGS for someone that was suffering and having a bad day. Another friend posted about having a tough time accepting herself — and the same thing happened. Compassion is a beautiful thing to see, especially in relation to anxiety sock monkeys.

Then I posted about mine. I said I was feeling lonely – and whether it was loneliness caused by my anxiety sock monkeys working overtime or some other reason…I was also treated with compassion and other friends shared that they too also felt the same way at times. It helped to a certain extent, knowing I wasn’t alone — even though the loneliness remained. There’s no magic pill that suddenly makes everything better, especially when you’re already suffering a downturn in depression.

(I’m coming to my main point, but this is an important tangent. Part of all this is that I was told I “share too much”. Really…I wonder how many of my readers — those who are actually on my Facebook and consider themselves my friends — know just how deep into a depression I’ve fallen. Have I shared that? Can you tell? Have I actually said anything, to anyone? I don’t think so. Not until this very moment have I said one thing to anyone…that’s how close I play it. I post a lot but rarely do I “core dump”. This….this is a core dump.”)

Ok, where was I? Oh yes. So I made the post, went on with my life. I didn’t expect anything from it – I was getting something off my chest, letting out a little of the darkness and I felt better. Now, one of the cardinal sins in mental health is giving an actual voice to those sock monkeys — literally say to a person who is suffering: “Maybe you’re lonely because you really are {insert anxiety reason here}”.

*record scratch* *blinkblinkblink*

WAIT. WHAT? SAY THAT AGAIN?

WTF Jackie Chan

It’s taken me an entire day to process this entire conversation. I’ve slept on it. Talked about it with other friends. Gone over it in my mind, word for word. Made sure I didn’t take it the wrong way. Nope. Armchair psychoanalysis is DANGEROUS, man. Dangerous. And it’s a damn good fucking thing I’m as stable as I am (even though I’m struggling, STRUGGLING, right now). I realize I’m struggling. I know I’m struggling and that I’m hurting and depressed and freaking falling and I know the abyss is over there, in the corner, beckoning. That’s STABLE, because I KNOW IT. I’m so fucking aware of how close to the edge I am. I’m grounding and centering and BREATHING and meditating and doing everything I can to keep myself together.

And I’m suddenly told, “Maybe the reason you’re lonely is because {insert anxiety reason here}”. Jeez, lady. Why don’t you just hand me the fucking gun? Why don’t you just put a pharmacopeia into my hand? ‘Cuz you just freaking pushed a suicide survivor (and you know the recidivism rate on those?) two more feet toward the edge….and “I like to psychoanalyze people so I’m really just trying to help you.”

First off: I have a therapist and psychiatrist, thank you. Second: I have a psychology degree and post-graduate education and training. Only thing you’re qualified to analyze is rocks. Third: Fuck you. Really…fuck you. Seriously? ARE YOU SERIOUS? You actually thought that saying that to me was HELPFUL? How, exactly, was that supposed to be helpful? I’ll wait while you come up with an answer. Especially since I’ve ‘overshared’ and you already know my past and the reasons I suffer from PTSD and all the shit….so, come on. How was that “helpful”?

Whew. OK. I’m done being pissed off and writing about this because people — really — THINK before you speak. Chris Cornell just committed suicide, so all the memes and posts about suicide prevention are going around again. As a survivor, I can tell you that when someone is really, truly ready — they’re not going to call a hotline or a friend unless they have a moment of clarity and those moments are fleeting. And if a person is struggling with the decision, or just struggling in general and are having thoughts — a careless, thoughtless, “helpful” person saying something like what was said to me just might be the ammunition needed to push them over the edge.

This is a warning, so to speak. If you have a friend or acquaintance that is depressed and suffering and you don’t know what to say or do, and you’re afraid they’re possibly going to attempt suicide — GO TO THEM. Don’t wait for them to come to you because they won’t. Don’t berate them, don’t list all their character flaws or all the ways they make you crazy or frustrate you. Don’t criticise them or tear them down. DON’T use their honest Facebook posts against them. DO tell them they matter, that you care, that you love them, that you want them around even if they’re sad or anxious or feeling like a slug.

Words matter. How you use them matter. The people you use them with, and to, matter. Think before you speak.

Adventures in Dog Containment

As I mow my lawn and look at the disconnected electric wire fencing, I wonder why I’m keeping it. I could just take it all up as it would certainly make lawn maintenance easier. I disconnected the transformer after adopting an elderly chihuahua, because if the actual electric shock doesn’t kill her I think the shock of being shocked might. Gypsy, my whippet mix with the high prey drive and massive play motivation for whom I installed it still won’t go near the wire, even though she knows it isn’t working anymore.

It’s funny, really, to watch the interactions between dogs and the wire. Pix the chihuahua goes under it without a care in the world, touching it, doing her thing. Gypsy looks at her, aghast: “OMG, PIX! DON’T GO THERE!!!!!” Joker knows it’s not connected and ignores it. Bella the rottweiler has had her experiences with it live, and respects it but seems to forget it often enough that she has to be reminded so now that it’s disconnected it no longer registers. Only Gypsy remembers; only Gypsy is smart enough to realize that the tumbleweed of wire near the tree is safe while the straight piece of wire by the bushes might not be safe. Gypsy doesn’t take chances, she won’t go within a foot of the hot wire if her ball lands there on the off-chance that it’s live.

The transformer is a new one and it HURTS. I’ve tried to teach Pix about the wire, but since it was disconnected when she got here she doesn’t see it as a threat. “Why?” when I tell her it’s dangerous. There’s a regular fence behind it; she can SEE that so why should she respect some not-scary wire that does nothing? She’d have to experience the zap that all the other dogs have experienced to understand why it’s to be respected. But — there’s the danger that it’ll kill her. So I guess I should just be grateful that Gypsy is mostly still suspicious of it.

And also be grateful that Gypsy hasn’t jumped the fence. I’m pretty sure she knows she is able to do so. She knows she CAN, but she also knows she’s SHOULD NOT. The fact that she mostly doesn’t CARE that she SHOULD NOT is a REALLY BIG DEAL in Gypsy-world. Because she hasn’t.

REALLY. BIG. DEAL.

Do to Live

I got out today.

I forced myself past the pain. Past the desire to stay in bed and wallow. I pushed against it.

The abyss beckoned, said, “Stay here. It’s more comfortable”. (Such a lie. It’s not easier to stay in the dark with you. That is the lie you tell me to make me a slave to your whims. )

I got up, shut out the agony, closed it off as best I could. No, you will not get me today. I’m going. I am going to live today.

Out I went. Out into the world, into society. Which tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m NOT ENOUGH. Or maybe it’s me telling myself that. Either way, the abyss is always there telling me not to go out there, it’s scary and horrible and safer to stay home in the darkness.

No, I went into the world. Just for a brief moment, I went into the light.

I’m holding onto that small pinprick of light. For the next time the abyss beckons and lies to me, “Stay here with me in the darkness, it’s easier than going out there. Nobody wants you out there, but I want you here.” No. I have this… I went into the light and kept some of it. I have that. I DID that.

And I’ll do it again. You just wait.