The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

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What I’ve Been Doing

I was sitting here drinking the coffee that my roommate L has made for me and I realized that you don’t know what I actually do with my time while I’m demobilized.  I’ve done a fair amount of complaining about things and I’ve certainly shared my (mis)adventures, but really life is pretty good and I want to share some of that.

I sleep most days until 9 or 10 in the morning.  I usually wake up with my cats cuddled up to me, which makes me happy.  If you have pets, you understand this.  Or children, I suppose, though as a mother I dislike comparing pets and children.

I get up and check facebook and email and other online things I’m working on.  I take my morning meds and eat some peanut butter toast.  I like the way the hot toast melts the peanut butter.  Usually by then L is up so there is coffee.  Now you may ask why I don’t make my own coffee since I certainly know how.  The truth is, we use a French press and the thing is just a pain to clean.  I am lazy.  That’s my big secret.  If L makes the coffee, she cleans it up.  Yup, that’s it, silly as it is.

Most days I go to a support group.  I use a peer run support group cluster that is available through a local mental health facility.  It’s free.  Mondays is DBSA, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and we are working out of a book about managing life while struggling with a behavioral health concern.  Tuesday is Recovery International which has a very formal method.  It does however teach you to deal with daily life, something I don’t always do very well.  Wednesday is the PTSD group.  I don’t have PTSD but nobody is without trauma.  Thursday is a depression support group.  Friday is ATTA, which stands for Achievement Through the Arts.  It’s for artists with brain differences, so there is a mix of people with issues ranging from schizophrenia to injury.  Most of these groups meet for 2 hours, so that gives me a whole lotta free time.

I have been writing letters.  I have an extensive mailing list that I am trying to send everybody something and see who writes back.  Then I’ll keep up with the respondents.  I like getting mail and to get mail, one must send mail.

I also have been working on the 100 Hats project.  I want to sell them but I suspect most of them will wind up donated.  And that’s fine, for me the joy is in the making.  Speaking of making, I am working on some art pieces as well.  One of them is based on my friend K’s living room.

I stay up with my roommates until around 1 in the morning, then I lay in bed on the phone until 2 then I sleep.  So 10 am is really 8 hours of sleep, which is good for me.

I do see friends and go out to eat and run errands.  It makes for a pretty full life, but I would like to be deployed again.  Not that I wish for bad things to happen, but when a disaster hits, I am ready.

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What I Did Today

Today has been a rather eventful day. Especially considering it was supposed to be a relatively slow day.

The plan was to start the day about 8:30 or 9:00, take a shower, go to Recovery International, and have lunch with a friend. I did actually wake up at 8:45 but it all went to hell after that.

It started with a text message from my daughter: “Dude the last 12 hours have been ridiculous and a waste of $100.”

I knew she was serious because she doesn’t usually call me dude. It took a few messages, and you need some back story to know what was going on.

Daughter is on a road trip with some friends. They went to Rainbow Gathering in Georgia, then spent a few days in Naples, FL and were headed to New Orleans. At 5 in the morning they hit Pensacola and decided to stop. They were going to sleep in the car under a bridge but they found out that someone else had tried the same thing about 10 hours earlier and got shot dead. Now we are talking about 3 girls in a car who don’t know anybody. That means some random person — and in my head it’s a homeless guy bumming a cigarette — told them this story that made them uncomfortable. They decided to rent a hotel room instead. This is the $100. Check out time was 11:00 so they didn’t even get showers.

Then before hitting the road again, they went to a dog park. One of the girls had brought her 2 dogs which seems like a lot but personally I’m glad they had the protection. One of the dogs got off the leash, and someone pulled a gun on the girls. I asked my daughter about this, because I thought the whole point of a dog park was to let the dogs off their leash. She replied, “THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD THINK, HUH?” And followed it up with, “Fuck Pensacola!”

The problem of course was that they had no money and no food. Uh huh. I’m surprised I didn’t get this call sooner. I’m on unemployment right now and I hadn’t gotten paid for the last two weeks yet, so I said there was nothing I could do. My roommate F gave me $60 to send her. We spent an hour trying to figure it out, and finally I paypal’d it to her. She is in New Orleans now, no further incidents.

The girls lucked out in New Orleans, too. They got an Air BnB a couple blocks off the French Quarter for 3 days for under $150. I might be jealous!

All of this took the hour I had for getting to my meeting. I still had to take shower before I could go and get dressed. I made it to RI but I was an hour late.

What is RI? In this case, Recovery International. It’s a sort of rational recovery program for mental health issues. Dr. Low developed the method back in the 50’s, so that was early days for psychiatry in a lot of ways. He referred to his patients as “nervous” rather than ill. He believed that getting worked up was an expression of either fearful or angry temper. He defined fearful as internal and angry as direction outward. His method is basically to have people talk themselves down using sayings and adages that he calls tools. They might be as simple as “peace is our goal” or as complicated as “people do things that annoy us, not to annoy us,” or even as pithy as “Try not to take your own dear self too seriously”. We meet weekly as a group and talk about how to use these tools in our daily lives.

I was so late, I missed the reading for the day and about half the discussion. At least I got to check in with everyone.

Afterwards I caught up with my friend R. He is the president of the local chapter of DBSA ( Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance )and he was delivering flyers around town. He wanted company while he did it, and basically he bribed me with lunch. It was a good day. I met several people in the mental health field, ranging from EAP workers (employee assistance plan) to the folks at Prism Health (AIDS Arms) .  I really feel like, when I get done with the government, I can find a place in mental health, which is where I want to be.  Eventually.

Lunch was at a place called Henk’s which does German food and has a European bakery and chocolate shop in the restaurant. We got the lentil soup, which was amazing. I also got a salad. R got a side of sauerkraut and a beer with his. Turns out the bakery provides the treats to the Black Forest Cafe, a coffee shop that’s in my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. Later we stopped for coffee. I had an iced cold brew which was very refreshing. R paid both times, which I thought was very kind of him. Basically, it took us all afternoon.

On the way home, I got a message from my roommate. His meds were ready at the pharmacy so would I pick them up? I ended up going to the pharmacy, the grocery store, and a local chicken joint. I stopped at the mailbox because I was hoping either my new headphones or my book had arrived but alas, no such luck. I finally got paid my unemployment, so I ordered some stamps online. I really like the current round of stamps, they are becoming very creative.

It is finally bed time. I have group tomorrow afternoon so I can sleep in a little. The cats are sitting on the bed waiting for me. All I need to do is take out my contacts. It’s been a busy day, but a good one.

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I am learning to love drinking water.  Oh I know, what a cliche, water is good for you, blah blah.

I am a soft drink person.  Honestly my favorite is strawberry Kool-Aid but I also like sweet tea and Diet Coke.  Not to mention coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

While these things are tasty, they don’t really resolve the issue of thirst.  I can drink a soda and still feel thirsty.  I have had a glass water with my coffee.  Sometimes water is the only thing that actually quenches my thirst.

I like my water cold, and I mean cold.  My favorite water is melted ice, that’s how cold I like it.  Some people like it room temperature or even warm but for me it should be frigid.

Even as I write this, my trusty water cup is next to me.  I have this wonderful travel cup, designed for coffee, that keeps my drink so cold sometimes there’s still ice in it the next morning.  Yep, a 95th anniversary State Farm travel cup.  It was even a gimme, and it does the job perfectly.

What got me into water?  Well it started when I moved to Texas.  The heat in the summer just takes it out of me.  Water puts it back.  I want to be clear that I mean the heat.  Natives complain about the humidity but it’s not that bad.  I come from a place where in the summer it can get to 95 degrees with 90% humidity.  There’s so much water in the air that you feel like you can’t breathe.  You sweat and there’s so much humidity that it doesn’t evaporate, your clothes just stick to you.  Texas is not humid like that, but it IS hot.

Then several years ago I worked a Renaissance fair in the late spring.  In Texas, that’s still in the 90’s.  At a ren fair, everything is outdoors, there is no air conditioning.  You do get used to the heat.  One of the unspoken rules is, you should drink enough water to need to pee about every hour.  I have a problem with retaining water so I drank like a camel and seldom needed the privvy.  People worried that I wasn’t hydrated enough.

Now I just carry water with me wherever I go.  It’s cheap because I drink tap water.  Finding ice is the hard part.  I can go to QT and get a huge styrofoam cup of ice and water for 28 cents.  Can’t buy bottled water for that little!

In conclusion I want to say, I don’t drink water for health reasons, although there are many health reasons for drinking water.  I drink it because these days, I like it.



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I Have No Words

Let’s see if I can even wrap my brain around these things that are floating around the politisphere.

The president has commissioned 5 new child detention centers.  Private of course.  So now there is a money trail for what’s going on.

The US is separating young children from their parents at the border.  Now let’s be clear that these are illegal immigrants, and the illegality is part of the asylum process.  The adults are sent to jail; children can’t go to jail so they go someplace else.  But we are still pulling families apart.  It’s a shame.  Have we done it in the past?  You betcha.  Doesn’t mean we should do it now.  The past is not our destiny.  We can choose to do something different.

We wtihdrew from the UN’s Human Rights Council.  Withdrew.  What are we hiding or embarrassed about?

But apparently we will have a 6th branch of the military.  The other 5 are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  Number 6 would be the space force.  My gawd, really?  As the meme says, who needs health care (or an infrastructure, or good public transportation or free education) when we can have a space force?  *sigh*

You know, it’s not like I follow politics all that closely.  It’s just things like this that keep coming up again and again.  Fred reads them off the internet.  My Facebook feed is full of pro-Trump propaganda and liberal rebuttals.  The news covers it.  I can’t get away from it..

So here I am, worked up and no idea what to do.  I’m pretty sure I’ll figure it out and then, look out.

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Finding a Schedule

I seem to be blogging every other day, which is good until I go back to work.

Sleep hygiene is suffering lately.  I was somewhat manic and I’m not working, both of which push my sleep time later in the day.  Yesterday I slept until 1:30 in the afternoon so I just wasn’t tired at bedtime.  I wasn’t tired until after 4:30 am.  In the meantime,  I  heard from a friend that she needs help getting to work early tomorrow.  I am going to sleep at her house tonight so I can be there in the morning.  Well, I need to get up around 5 am, and I didn’t see me getting any kind of sleep if I went to bed late.  So I decided to stay up.  I figure I’ll be ready to crash right about the time I should go to sleep to get up in time.

It’s Fathers’ Day which is a non-event for me.  My grandfather’s and father have long since passed away.  My ex husband has also died.  I suppose I could call my uncle and wish him happy Fathers’ Day but that seems like fishing for inclusion.  I owe my uncle a call anyway, I just think I’ll put it off until Monday.

I filed my payment request for unemployment.  They say I have been awarded nothing at this time, but I will keep filing.  They should have all the documentation by now, but I will call them Monday as well just to be sure.  I should have something in my payment column since I worked until the middle of May.

Hawaii has been declared for individual assistance.  I hope that means deployment.  I’m dying to work!  Several other states have requested assistance, so maybe soon.

My roommate says the cats were glaring at me to go to bed, but I doubt it.  They probably wanted a snack or some attention.  My other roommate made coffee, so I am soon going to be sufficiently caffeinated.  Then I will clean out my car so my friend can be comfortable in it.

Today will be busier than planned.

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Thinking About Spade and Bourdain

Handbag maven Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain have both died from suicide this week.  Very sad.  Any death by suicide is sad and touches my heart.

The usual “if you’re depressed, please get help” noises have been made.  Someone I follow online  has angrily and rightfully reminded us that sometimes the help people need, well, it’s me.  They need an ear or a babysitter so they can get a break for a while or a place to take a shower or someone to bring dinner over.  There is real concrete help that we can give each other, that might just be the break someone needs, or the reminder that their life is valuable.

Here’s another thing.  When successful people commit suicide, the response tends to be, “They had everything to live for, they must have had problems we don’t know about.”  Odds are, the problem they had was depression.  When life is good, when things are going well, when there is no obvious cause (grief, for example, or stress) and you still feel like life is not worth living, well that’s depression.  That’s pretty much the definition of depression.

Sure there are things you can do to combat depression.  You can take medicine if you’re so inclined (I take it myself).  You can try prayer or meditation or biofeedback.  Physical activity is good.  Being sure you are properly fed and hydrated is good.  Do some things that you enjoy, for me that would be making art or spending time with my cats.  Be kind to yourself.  Socialize if that helps, spend time alone if that’s better for you.  Be sure that you are doing what’s better not simply what’s easier; easier could reflect your energy level which is likely low when you’re depressed.  Sometimes you have to make the effort.  Not always, but you know for yourself when you’re just too overwhelmed and when you really could do it.  Balance, balance, balance.  Not pushing yourself too hard to socialize but not isolating either.

Depression is when getting out of bed seems like too much.  Have you ever had a flu so bad that you are just physically worn out and it feels like your brain isn’t working?  You don’t need any stimulation, just breathing is enough?  Depression feels like that.  You just don’t want to do anything.  Only it’s worse, because the illness lies to you.  With nothing to distract you, you find yourself thinking what a failure you are, how socially awkward you are, that you are all alone and will be alone forever.  Why am I here?  I am useless.  I am a drain on people.  I can’t even take a shower.  I wish this was over.

And often “I wish this was over” feels like “I wish I was dead”.  The idea of being dead feels like a relief.

I’m thinking of my ex husband, who also completed a suicide, about 2 years ago.  His life looked good.  He was married to a woman who loved him, he had a nice house full of children, he was driving a Porsche, he had a job he enjoyed.  What’s not to be happy about?  Except he wasn’t.  His relationship with his daughter was strained, he was searching for his place in an industry that was changing around him, he’d had to file bankruptcy with his second wife, he felt his financial responsibilities keenly.  And he was bipolar.  So the stresses that make life difficult met his depression and he couldn’t see his way out of it.  I believe he could have handled the stresses if he hadn’t become depressed, though I also believe the stress exacerbated the depression.  For him it was a deadly cocktail of emotion, one that felt like there was only one way out.  But really I am speculating.  I can only guess, I will never know what was actually going on for him and I choose to believe the thing that gives me sympathy for him.

Why guess at all?  Because suicide is such a drastic solution and to a person who is not depressed, it seems like life is not that bad.  Maybe it’s not good but it’s still worth living.  And with these two famous people dying so close together, we are looking for answers.  We want to know why.  We can’t know why, because each suicide has a different root cause.  So we are shocked and saddened.  We think, if that fabulous life was not worth living, what about my average life?  I have it worse than they did.  Maybe, but your inner self is probably resilient in a way theirs wasn’t.

Because the opposite of suicide is resilience, the ability to bounce back.  Bad things happen to people, to all people, but many of us manage to get along anyway.  I have a friend who says I am an inspiration because of all the times life has kicked me in the teeth and still I keep going.  I don’t feel inspirational.  Sometimes I feel like quitting.  But what I am is resilient.  I am an optimist at heart.  For all the times I’ve battled depression, I know it will pass and I don’t get suicidal.  I’m lucky.  And I work at maintaining that luck.

How do I do that?  Well, that goes back to my list above.  I try to eat and drink enough, to get the right amount of sleep, to exercise.  Yeah, I suck at the exercise part of it, but I still try.  I pet the cat and write letters, make art and visit friends.  The things that make me happy.  For me the meds are the biggest part, but not for everybody.

So that’s what I’m thinking.  So long, Kate and Anthony.  I believe we’ll see you again.  I hope you found what you were seeking.

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Tummy? No Troubles

Part 2 — this picks up in the middle, so do read the previous post first

I did figure out how to make the bathroom work so I wouldn’t have to use the one in the master suite.  Yay for not bothering the roommate.

Second round of cleanser was at 2 in the morning.  Now just think.  It takes about 3 hours to work its magic so I will be awake until about 5 am.  I”m supposed to be at the facility by 7 am.  It’s an hour away so that means leaving by 6, and I want a shower so that means up about 5 or 5:30.  When was I going to sleep?

So up all night it was.  I studied some Japanese.  I wrote the previous blog post.  I watched some tv.  I went to the bathroom.  A lot.  You know that feeling your nose gets when you have a cold and you keep using kleenex, and your nose is just so chapped and sensitive that the idea of a kleenex makes it hurt?  I went to the bathroom so much, that my butt felt that way about toilet paper.    The phrase “that really chaps my ass” has taken on a new significance.

My roommate Fred took me to the doctor.  The staff was very concerned that someone was going to come get me.  They don’t like you to drive after anesthesia.  I explained more than once that my friend is disabled and won’t be coming into the facility.  They finally understood.

The staff were very nice, although they did keep asking me who I was and the date and my birthday.  I know it’s to make sure I was lucid.  They hooked me up to an IV and it was very cold running into my veins.  They brought me another blanket.  I was glad I brought several magazines.  The waiting is the hardest part.

I finally got taken back to the scoping room.  Doctor was very nice, but then I know he is.  That kind of practiced nice that comes from saying the same things to every patient.  He explained the procedures again (scoping from both directions, just to be sure).  The anesthesiologist told me, “You might wake up at the end of the procedure and hear us talking.  That’s very common, and we’re actually done at that point.”  Which turned out to be a good thing, since I did wake up and hear them talking but fell right back to sleep.  I’m just paranoid enough that I wonder if they didn’t have me very far under, and if I really did wake up in the middle but since they prepared me, I wrote it off.  Probably not.  But you never know.

I don’t even know when they drugged me since they didn’t warn me.  I’m used to them having you count backwards from 100 by 7’s.  One hundred, ninety three, let’s see now, eighty something, and I’m out.  This time, bam! out cold, no warning.  Which is okay, just unusual.

Anyway, I woke up afterwards, still groggy.  Drifted in and out in recovery.  The nurse brought me apple juice.  I farted like a camel on a bean and cabbage diet.  And yes, I felt better afterwards.  Finally they decided I was good to get dressed.  Putting on pants was hard, I kept losing my balance.  I didn’t tell them because I was ready to get out of there.

One more time with the doctor.  Well, no ulcer, no bleeding.  A few polyps but he left them in place.  I do however have a hiatal hernia.  My dad used to say he had one and we gave him shit about it.  Now I think, of course he had one, that’s why I have one.  A lot of my physiology takes after my father’s side of the family.  I am also developing diverticulitis, which my ex husband had.  I used to give him shit about that, since he used it to avoid healthy food like vegetables.  I mean, you’re an adult, just admit you don’t like tomatoes.  Don’t tell me you’re allergic to them when you’re not.  Well those little tomato seeds no doubt hurt like hell during digestion.  As soon as he was diagnosed, I felt remorse.  You’d think I’d’ve learned by now that whatever I don’t take seriously in other people, the universe has a way of bringing back to me.

So today is Sunday.  Thursday I have a follow up with Gastro Guy.  I’m sure he will say two things:  I need to lose weight, and there is a whole list of food I’m not supposed to eat any more.  I know you’re just dying for the details about all this.  Haha.  No, it’s just a good place for me to do a brain dump.  I know this is boring.

Later this week I will post some fun things I’ve done, because there have been good times too.  This just freaked me out because it’s how we found out my mom had cancer, and it killed her.  I have too much to do to be that kind of sick yet.