Tag Archives: death

The Very Distracting Elephant Has All Of My Attention

I almost never think about this because I kind of don’t really care, but it comes up now and then, at which point I’m forced to think about it, which often leads me to the conclusion that I still don’t really care.

I have ADHD as well as bipolar, which is pretty common. I often forget I have ADHD even though I’ve been diagnosed with it twice and treated for it twice, and I feel like maybe there’s a joke hiding in the fact that I generally don’t remember that I have ADHD. I guess part of it is that my ADHD is really mild and treating it with meds ended up exacerbating my bipolar symptoms a whole lot more than it alleviated my ADHD symptoms, so it’s really not worth it. Most of the time (but not all of the time), the meds you get for ADHD are stimulants, usually methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or amphetamine salts (Adderall). I tend to think of these drugs as “legal speed” much the same way that oxycodone is arguably “legal heroin,” because prescription stimulants can be a little intense and cause a person to behave in ways that are similar to their illicit, street-dwelling cousins.

Way back in April, 2006, a few months before she turned 19 and after an inexplicable plummet in academic performance at the beginning of college, Laura’s well-meaning dad brought her to a specialist to get tested for ADHD. Currently, Laura isn’t 100% sure why she’s speaking in the third person, but she’s gonna keep doing it for a sec, so deal. The nice doctor (he really was super nice) prescribed Laura 18mgs of long-acting methylphenidate a day. Upon beginning treatment with the methylphenidate, Laura did not sleep more than 4 hours a night for about 6 weeks (“night” meaning between the hours of 7:00 and 11:00 a.m., after the sun was up). During the day, Laura spent hours and hours playing guitar in her room and doing little else. She…fuck it, I’m done with the third person thing…I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes while it was still dark out because I was afraid of this or that faceless, gloomy specter, likely a shifting amalgamation of horror movie previews, posters, photos, and fucked up memories. So, I was almost 19 and so afraid of the boogeyman that I kept every light in my room on all night and tried to keep blinking to a minimum. Once the sun came up and I heard my parents moving around the house, I felt Ok to close my eyes and get some sleep, but I still usually kept the lights on. The point is that I got bizarrely paranoid of shit I don’t and didn’t actually believe in (demons, ghosts, the remaining peppery flakes of my gothic-ass Catholic upbringing – side point: I posit that growing up Catholic predisposes nervous people to deeply intense but irrational fears, or at least that’s what happened to me).

So I was getting by on 4 hours of sleep, hyper-focused on creative projects, and immensely paranoid of the dark. It was a weird time. Through those long nights, I watched a lot of shitty romance movies and replayed the sex scenes over and over (bonus points If the DVD had a cache of scenes deleted from the film for being TOO HOT FOR THEATERS!), because, at 18, I had done most of the sex things I was then interested in doing, but not all of the sex things I was interested in doing, and I wanted to make sure my orgasming visage would be the right combination of sexy and cultivated* when said visage would smear itself all over my face.** Pro tip: don’t explore your own sexuality by watching adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books, you won’t have any fun. DO masturbate more.

Shit calmed down a lot after that first 6 weeks, but the paranoia stuck around, kinda shapeshifting. I felt I could sleep with the lights off, but I was convinced people were watching me from their windows when I walked around outside. It should go without saying that by “watching” I also mean “judging” which is a little funny to think about, when I root around in that notion a bit more and realize how important I must’ve felt. I went back to school for my sophomore year of college (which, for like a dozen reasons was a total blast, despite the really bad cockroach problem in my apartment), but over the course of that year, my paranoias got worse. In quiet elevators or train cars, I was never sure if I was talking or thinking, so my brain would go off the rails, whipping up waltzing cyclones of hateful language that I never use in real life, like just to fuck with me. Did I really just call that woman standing next to me a [blank-ity blank blank]??? I would never call a person that! She has to know I don’t think she or anyone is a [nope-ity nope nope]!!! So my solution to this was to bite my lips. Like real hard. ‘Cause if I was chomping down on my lips, I couldn’t be also using them to hurl obscene epithets at elevator strangers, right?

In a moment of clarity, I realized that the shit that was happening to me re: this paranoia nonsense and the things I was doing to cope with it were stupid and making my life needlessly stressful. So I called my doctor and told him I was gonna stop taking the methylphenidate and he said Ok. Fun thing (and my psychiatrist has told me this more than once): sometimes when you stop taking a medication, the side-effects you experienced when you were first taking it that went away after your body adjusted can come back. And mine did SO HARD. I became completely hypomanic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time). I may have told this anecdote before but for like about 2 weeks, my poor, poor roommates had to deal with my assertion, nay, my insistence that the floor was a trampoline. Thusly, I would often start screaming, “THE FLOOR IS A TRAMPOLINE!” while jumping up and down in the living room (which should’ve scared the roaches at least a little, but totally didn’t, those fuckers are hardy as hell). I was bathed in awe, and the object of my awe was skyscrapers, which was pretty convenient since I live(d) in a major city. I haven’t had a hypomanic episode with that awe component in it for a really long time, but it’s not unusual for a person experiencing mania or hypomania to feel an intense reverence for X thing. People often land on stuff like trees or mountains or bodies of water, but it can really be almost anything. I considered skyscrapers to be these magnificent testaments to human ingenuity – from the minds of the architects who envisioned them to the hands of the workers who made their integrity incarnate. It was all very poetic, etc.

Then my dad died. I was reaching this unbelievable psychic climax when, without warning, my dad was felled in seconds by a faulty heart. I was still hypomanic during the first week or so of grieving my dad, which may be the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me, if you don’t count psychedelics.

All this weirdness ’cause of some ADHD pills. When I returned to college post-graduation to study more Philosophy, I was put on Adderall, but this time, I was also taking mood stabilizers, so I didn’t have any significant episodes, none that I can readily recall, anyway.

So, it comes up in therapy now and then. The ADHD. My doc will occasionally remind me that I have it by suggesting it may have a minor role to play in such-and-such event/feeling/endeavor. My response is usually along the lines of, “Well, whatever,” and then I just move on. I don’t know exactly how to express the fact that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD…except, I guess, by saying that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD. But it’s probably fair enough to say that it has me sometimes, as in, by the short hairs but so what? Is it Ok to say “so what?” here? It doesn’t feel especially un-Ok. Plus, ADHD seems to fall into that category of Silver Lining Disorders where people who have it may experience some trouble, like in school maybe, but that trouble is often (sometimes tremendously) offset by the facets of the illness that are fucking great. People with ADHD are often more adventurous and creative than the average bear, and, I’ve been told, more easily think outside the box (sorry…) than their unaffected peers. There’s also a theory that ADHD may be the result of an evolutionary advantage re: hunting vs. farming, essentially making people with ADHD traits better suited to certain scenarios and more prone to hyperfocus, which, when aimed at the right target, can be really fucking fun. Look it up, it’s cool.

So, 1,500 words say that I have an illness about which I don’t really care. But maybe that I’m better than you (I am…on some days, on other days I’m less preferable than hemorrhoids, but this whole parenthetical is pretty typical of what I know and feel about myself as a person with bipolar, not as a person with ADHD). So, long story short, uh, comorbidity is a thing, it can lead you to some weird crossroads and…maybe not all disorders need treatment. I think I’m getting along Ok. The hand I drew doesn’t allow a ton of room for perfect, functional normalcy, so why try to force it? In this case, I insist for myself, that it’s better not to.

-LB

*This doesn’t exist. Humans, with little exception, look ridiculous when we come. That doesn’t make it any less hot, though.

**Yes, that phrasing was intentional, thanks for noticing!

You Understand, Don’t You?

When you invite friends to come over at 8, are excited about it all day, then, at 6:15, you’re overcome by inexplicable tiredness, mental and physical.

When you hate all your clothes and try outfits on for a solid hour, just to decide on leggings and a comfy t-shirt which you will grouse about internally all night ’cause you look boring.

When you were filled to spilling with thoughts to share but got struck down by a puzzling silence when you finally got the chance to share them.

When you realize the imaginary conversation you were having in your head on the bus is not imaginary ’cause you’ve been gesticulating the whole time.

When one half of you can’t hold the other half up.

When you don’t know what to say next, but you know you want to say something.

When your birthday dinner becomes a depressing reminder of your and your loved ones’ mortality, prompting you to take a ponderous walk through your old neighborhood that does nothing but leave you feeling totally fucking impotent.

When you can’t take a nap in your contacts.

When someone sends you a bouquet of flowers as a gift and the bouquet has lilies in it, the smell of which is intensely evocative of funeral homes and just makes you think of death.

When you feel like an ungrateful shit for nitpicking a gift of flowers.

When you visit the athletic track where your dad collapsed and died and think poetic garbage like how a bunch of college students are now stomping all over his final breath and have no fucking idea.

When you notice that the neighboring church bells never adjusted for daylight saving.

When the only things you really want are completely unreasonable.

When other people treat you like their therapist because they can’t be bothered to get their own.

When the line between becoming someone’s unwilling amateur therapist and simply being a shoulder to cry on is too goddamned blurry so you either let it nourish your messiah complex or start making up lies about needing to get off the phone.

When you know what you know about yourself and know that you’d rather not know it, but still don’t care whether or not it’s true.

So, I can’t be 100% Laura this evening. But I’m gonna try really hard, K? Careful, though, this introspection is pretty catching.

-LB

Live! From An Implausible Afterlife!

Yeah, fuck it, I don’t have a fully formed post in me today. But I’ve been missing. Kinda. Sorta. I’m not dead. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m not dead. I posed a hypothetical to a philosophy buddy of mine (never do this) where I asked, What if when we die, we don’t know we’re dead, we just keep on trucking like normal, but, over time, things get incrementally better and better in ways too small to feel implausible, into infinity, each day getting slightly better than the one before but not so much that we legitimately wonder if we’re actually dead and in heaven?

Which is just bananas, let’s be serious. But wouldn’t that be kinda cool? I think so. But not grounded in reason, as are not most (all) conceptions of a human afterlife. Feel welcome to disagree, but, after having given it like a decade of thought, the notion that human consciousness survives the death of the body strikes me as wishful thinking in the best cases and a manipulative threat in the worst (Hell). But I’m an atheist, and I will see your Pascal’s Wager and raise you a Russell’s Teapot every time, up unto the point where doing so is illogical, but that has yet to happen, not to me, at least. When I die, I’ll be dead. Like, I’m pretty sure I’ll be dead after I die. But I can’t prove that so much as ponder it deeply, so I welcome any arguments to the contrary. I like to be proven wrong when I’m wrong, but only when there’s actual proof (see: necessary truth and my further abuse of Wikipedia’s watery philosophy articles today).

ANYway, you can close your textbooks ’cause I mostly came here to tack up the following stray thoughts in a lazy, disorganized manner because I’m fucking depressed and my motivation’s in the can, and words, more words, larger words, showoff words, curse words, edited words, reedited words, precisely selected words, words I don’t mean, words I do mean but not as much as I’m making it seem, words I mean more than I’m making it seem, and then close with a curtsy.

AHEM:

– The Welbutrin dosage increase is fucking with my already fucked appetite and it is SUCH A GODDAMNED PAIN IN THE ASS. I want my protein pills, Bowie. Will supply own helmet. Don’t let me down, dude. I’m hungry.

– I started journaling again. It seemed like a good idea. Plus the journal I bought is really pretty and accommodates my stupid, gigantic handwriting nicely. But the best thing is that it’s intended to be completely private, so I don’t need to edit anything or spellcheck anything and I can write down the things I probably won’t ever say to anyone but which do weigh on me uncomfortably enough. You guys, I’m totally cheating on you.

– I’ve been having panic attacks and then getting mad at my Klonopin for making me feel better – erm…mad at my Klonopin because I sorta need it to make me feel better. Which, I mean, that just further underscores the reality that I probably can’t have a real life without my meds which makes me even more depressed. There are like a dozen reasons why we bipolar folk are hard to medicate. This is one of them, for me anyways.

– I’m pretty busy being a bigger pothead than usual, but I semi-promised my psychiatrist that I’d stop getting stoned so much once I ran out of weed, so it’s gonna be a few minutes.

– My aforementioned stoniness is not helping my aforementioned appetite problem as much as I’d like it to. So, the only logical step here is to smoke more weed? Uh…

– I’ve gotten even better at rationalizing my vices and I was already really good at that. Depression will absolutely do that to you. I feel a twinge. I shouldn’t walk on this leg, I really shouldn’t. I did plenty of standing and walking and bathing and speaking yesterday, better nurse this mystery twinge. I taught my husband how to use the French press. The coffee I’ll badger him into making me will not be as good as if I’d made it myself. Sub-par coffee is the second or third worst thing human beings do to each other, now I’m doubly wounded. Go on without me, just go. I’ll make sure to turn myself periodically to avoid bedsores.

– I recently bought body lotion that’s supposed to smell like a mojito, so it’s probably good that I don’t drive.

– I told my psychiatrist that I’ve been having problems feeling secure in my identity, or that I feel like I jettisoned my identity five or six years ago and have been basically a nobody for several years. She recommended that I read Oliver Sacks ’cause she says that he discusses ideas of personal identity a lot in his work. Anyone wanna back her up on this? I’ve had him recommended to me before but that was when I was still on lithium and couldn’t read very well because of it.

– I wanted to jump rope today. Jump roping is fucking hard. I have to do it for 5 minutes at the beginning of each of my MMA classes, so I thought I’d do it at home some so I wouldn’t tire out so easily in class. I’m not gonna jump rope today. My belly hurts. And I’m sad. And twinge. There’s always tomorrow. Unless I am dead.

Words, curtsy, shut up, bed.

-LB

God God Damnit Damnit

Well, there went June. I mean I was in California for half of it, and I’ve been pretty sad for the rest. My grandma died the evening following the previous post, so, like 5 weeks ago at this point. It got really ugly. The last few days she was in hospice, we were all kind of hoping she would just go. Watching her struggle to catch her breath and then feeling my stomach drop in between breaths as the pauses got longer and longer and I thought, this is it, she stopped breathing was pretty brutal. The last 2ish days she was really loaded on morphine and lorazepam so she wasn’t really even there, but there was a really brief window when she was still lucid and I got to say goodbye to her.

Fuck saying goodbye to your loved ones forever so hard. It’s the roughest thing I’ll ever be grateful for. At this point, I’ve lost 2 really important people in two different ways. My dad died without warning and the shock was unbelievable…and the regret and the guilt and the wondering if I had a hand in it and the accusing other people of having a hand in it, but not to their face because: You’re a fucking backbreaker who worked your husband into the ground (I’d say “literally” but my dad’s not buried in the ground, he’s in a mausoleum with mostly strangers and now my grandma)…is like maybe the quickest way destroy a relationship with someone. Probably. Not that it was great to begin with, but at the end of the day, we were all shellshocked and miserable and shitty to each other. I had to watch my grandma die. I saw her shut down piece by piece. I saw her fingers turn blue as she got less and less oxygen with each breath, I watched her chest heave reflexively in a morphine twilight, I saw tears of pain gather at the corners of her eyes that she didn’t even know were there.

I heard her whisper in Sicilian: Mama, I’m coming to be with you.

God god damnit damnit.

I’ve been ignoring how unsteady I’ve been since she died. I went back down to my normal dosage of meds because the extra olanzapine was making me really tired. I had a panic attack in San Diego. I cry when I think about this, so I don’t think about it a lot. I’m motivated to shower and drink gin and impulse buy shit off Etsy. I made a Pinterest board of things I wanna put on my back deck. I won’t ever actually put them there, but in my mind (and on the Internet), I have a killer back deck. I haven’t picked up a guitar since I borrowed one in Carmel like over 2 weeks ago. Sometimes, without provocation, my heart pounds real hard for several minutes and then goes back to normal. The last thing my grandma ever ate was a pancake and they had to stop feeding her when she started to choke on a piece. When I think about pancakes, I cry. That reality is 100% not workable.

I missed 3 MMA classes in a row, but the third time was to see Serengeti at one of my city’s myriad summer street festivals/glorified block parties with sponsors, which, at the time I decided was worth it, but I’m gonna be like, cursing his name at the gym on Sunday when I barf on the floor after 90 seconds of jump roping. I’ve been trying to work out at home. I’m not a self-motivator. I need my class. For many reasons. But live music is also a tonic, so it wasn’t a loss, really.

I’ve been smoking cigarettes kinda. I quit 2 years ago, but watching my grandma suffocate slowly warranted a number of cigarette breaks in the hospital parking lot with my sister. The cognitive dissonance was not lost on me. But I really needed some timeouts, so whatever. I have an e-cig. I have more than enough vanity to keep me from using it in public. Nobody looks cool smoking a e-cig. It’s not really the same anyway. I had intended to go home after the Serengeti set last weekend because I had no other reason to be at the festival. I hadn’t slept much so I wasn’t drinking because I didn’t wanna fall asleep in the grass. But I hung out for like an extra hour just to bum cigs off dudes which is really easy so I made the most of it. I bought a few packs in California – which were unnervingly inexpensive compared to here – but I purposely left them behind places so I would only smoke like 2 or maybe 3…which I guess means they were sorta, kinda way more expensive than they are here cause I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. I’m not real worried about it. What I am worried about is that I made my husband promise not to let my buy any more cigarettes but I very frequently want one. Like right now would be one of those times. I just feel like smoking a lot, which is generally indicative of: a) I’m drunk b) I’m anxious or c) I don’t know what to do with my hands right that sec. Thanks to all the weed in my life, I can have orgasms again and my husband has been out of the house a lot the last few evenings which are the only times I watch porn ’cause we don’t like the same kind of porn so “c” is not really a problem. (Trying super hard not to think too much about that last sentence, ’cause it’s just depressing.) So I’m sitting here puffing on my e-cig. I am unwashed and I do not look cool.

So, here’s something that’s fucked up and terrifying and one of the gifts you get when you come from a line of mildly inbred Italian hill people: my grandma died because her lungs shut down. She never smoked in her life and she never let my grandpa smoke in the house. She was rarely sedentary and spent a lot of time outdoors. She ate really well. She took care of herself. But she got a cold or something sometime this past spring and it triggered an autoimmune response that resulted in her lungs overproducing heavy mucus and basically strangling her from the inside out. The reason this is so scary to me is because so many people in my family are carriers of autoimmune disorders, including my mom who’s a type 1 diabetic. There’s actually this freaky subset of couplings among my grandma’s cousins wherein the children of those couples have a 1 in 4 chance of developing an autoimmune disease. 4 kids came out of that batch, one got diabetes, one got MS and one got scleroderma. I wanna say the 4th one is safe, but my grandma probably thought she was too until a fucking cold turned her lungs into rocks at 89, which is exactly my point: this shit could happen to me too. And, as with my grandma, I might not know until I have 2 weeks left to live. So from now on, I’m gonna be massively paranoid every time I get the sniffles ’cause they may be my last. Or something. I’m not a doctor. I could be wrong about all this. Paranoia is part of how I grieve.

I’ve been subject to this weird glut of deaths in the last 8 years and the thing we all keep telling each other is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It doesn’t matter how well I understand this concept or how threadbare that platitude has become by this point, I always think I’m fucking it up. My grandma lived a good life. She was happy and virtuous by her own measure. Unlike me, she was a person of faith, so she probably felt a brand of comfort and homecoming in her last days that I’ll never know. She was industrious, humble, sweet and nurturing. She always put herself last. When relatives came to the hospital to say their last goodbyes, they’d say, “I’m gonna pray for you.” My grandma would respond, “No, I’ll pray for you.” And she did. When she died, she was the most beautiful person at her funeral. She was buried in the dress she wore to my wedding. She was stunning.

I’m bothered that I’ve been able to keep as much together as I have, which isn’t to say I’ve been keeping it 100% together, obviously, as evidenced by the panic attacks and low motivation and nicotine cravings. But I still feel like I’m not giving my grandma the reverence she deserves. I asked my therapist what’s the weeping equivalent of a standing ovation. She said she didn’t know. But I hope I figure that one out because my grandma earned it.

-LB

Fuck, Fuck, Shit, Shit, Fuck, Etc.

Super brief:

I’ve been MIA for the last few weeks for a handful of reasons, the main one being my grandmother is dying. She was moved to hospice this morning. We’re not sure how much time she has left, but it may be as little as a few days or las long as several weeks (the former looking more likely). I won’t have time to be here (which sucks ’cause I miss being here) because I’ll be out in the suburbs with my family. This is a massive, massive loss for me. My grandma practically raised me. Watching her suffer is agonizing. My doc upped 2 of my meds to help me deal with the anxiety, distress, sadness and panic attacks that come with losing the person who sang me lullabies, tucked me into bed for about half of my childhood and shared cups of coffee with me over Italian soap operas. This hurts so fucking bad. I feel like I’m gonna snap in half. But I won’t be here for a little while. Then I’ll probably be here about 11 times a day for a bit, then things will return to a shittier version of normal. I miss reading your posts and your comments. I miss your support. I miss my blog. But I can’t do this right now.

Ci vederemo qualche giorno in avvenire.

-LB

Helping…ish?

Goddamnit. I would think that in the 3 weeks I’ve been going to therapy half as frequently, I’d be writing here constantly because I’m filled to spilling with all the feelings and my tendency is to want to articulate them, but I’ve been busy as fuck with the goddamn sky falling this past week, and even though I know it’d be therapeutic to hammer out a post, I’ve mostly been hanging out with my favorite guitar (its name is Calvin. For 3 separate reasons).

But the sky is most certainly falling. My uncle-in-law died ahead of schedule (he was given 6-12 weeks and only made it 2) so almost nobody got to visit him and say goodbye, the thought of which make me sick to my stomach with regret because when someone’s dying that fast, like, don’t fucking tarry. Just make room and go. Lesson uncomfortably learnt. So This past Thursday was the wake and Friday was the funeral. Both events lasted most of the day. My husband and I each brought a flask of whiskey to the funeral. This is not something I’m accustomed to doing, but it is something I did do and getting buzzed in a cemetery on the most beautiful spring day that ever happened anywhere was moderately surreal and probably not the classiest thing I’ve ever done. But funerals are hard. And I kept my shit together, so whatever.

The sky is falling on Colorado too, in case that’s of interest to you. My sister has strep and her roommate brought home bedbugs and 2 nights ago, some drunk strangers her other roommate brought home almost broke Big Sis’ new couch by fucking super loud and hard on it within earshot of the entire house. Like, what the hell is wrong with you? Go screw in the bathroom like a normal person. Idiots.

But the most disconcerting was the 50 minute phone call I had with my stressed-to-the-breaking-point mom last Wednesday. I called her ’cause I needed someone’s address and it should’ve been a 3 minute call, but ballooned into this…thing. This thing that required me to avoid being an asshole to my mom which can be a genuine challenge because sometimes she just plain invites it. My grandparents are doing very poorly and my mom is shouldering way too much of the work needed to keep them comfortable and not dead. She’s been sleeping like 2 hours a night, dealing with my grandpa’s dementia, my grandma’s failing kidneys, the horrible pain resulting from my grandma’s failing kidneys and – between the two of them – this ancient, stubborn Sicilian couple who refuse, out of pride, to consider dialysis and/or a night nurse.

My mom very obviously needed to unload so I let her talk, and when she started talking, she started crying and it was really evident by the tone of her voice that she’s basically a raw nerve at this point. So I let her talk some more and mostly just listened. Like many people in crisis do, she shot down most of my suggestions as logistically impossible. I don’t know why people sometimes react this way. I think when you’re that shot you need something to lean against and, in some cases, you end up leaning against your last shred of control by way of an exasperated argument angled at whoever might be trying to help you. I think if she deemed any of my ideas doable, my mom would internalize them as an indicator that, despite working herself down to the marrow, she could have been doing it better. The mind recoils.

But in all the years I’ve been in therapy, I’ve learned that being heard is more important than almost anything, so I tried to keep my mouth shut. Which is another thing I’m not accustomed to doing, but hey, week of firsts. When she was out of things to say and things to cry about, my mom told me she felt better. I done good. Like not even by accident. I mean, the phone call was happenstance, but everything else was me acting like a decent human being to this person who has the peerless ability to topple my wellness in a fell fucking swoop. I was nice to my mom and it was weird.

So there’s a part of me that’s deeply resentful for the things that happened re: my mom in the weeks and months after my dad’s death. I moved home temporarily to take care of her (nobody actually ever asked me to do that, the whole family just assumed I would). I guess my dad would’ve appreciated it. But losing my dad the way I did was arguably the worst thing that ever happened to me. I say “arguably” because there are some super unfortunate contenders for that #1 spot, but, in terms of flashbang tragedy, Dad’s sudden and untimely death left me like…concussed…in the soul. Is that a thing? It sure felt like one. The summer after he died was hard as fuck. My mom regressed into this awful, helpless state which left her 100% unable to support me emotionally. The whole summer she kept asking me why this horrible thing was happening to our family. I didn’t know. Nobody that close to me had ever died before. I was a grief neophyte. She never asked me how I was doing or if I was Ok or if I needed to talk. She did cry a lot and refuse to eat, fucking up her blood sugar but still giving herself insulin so that I’d find her passed out on the floor occasionally. Dunno if you’ve ever tried to lift a person who’s gone completely slack but it’s not very easy. It’s pretty hard to tell what the worst part of that summer was, but a candidate might be the limited symptom panic attacks I was having. I’d be sitting in the class I was taking or just listening to music or bumming around and my heart would start to race and pound and I’d get really nervous. My dad died of a heart attack so the shit my heart was doing as a response to bereavement and shock was twisted into firm evidence that I was next on the list and that I was, at all times, one misstep away from a heart attack of my own. I got kinda into morphine that summer, which probably didn’t help things. Good stuff.

Anyway, after a while I got so angry with my mom’s behavior that I stopped talking to her for 8 months, 5 of which I spent in Rome, so that made it a lot easier to avoid her. I got SO much shit from my family for cutting off my mom. To this day I still think that 8 month cold shoulder was justified. In the years since then, she’s been many flavors of difficult and frustrating. I’ve spent way more time in therapy talking about my mom than my dad – Dad being the reason I sought help to begin with. So being a shoulder for my mom to cry on last Wednesday felt a little like a betrayal to myself. That’s kinda fucked up. It also goes against everything I believe in about treating other people empathetically, but I frequently jettison my integrity on that point when I deal with my mom. Cognitive dissonance, man. (Cognitive Dissonance Man would be the worst superhero. Or the best. I can’t really decide.)

But she really needed someone to talk to. She really needs some sleep. I’m not a monster. I’m also not a martyr, but I’d like to think, at this point in my life, I can actually refrain from being a dick to my mom even if it’s sort of my natural state. So I think she’s a little better now. I’d call to check in, but that just feels weird to me. This isn’t a vengeance thing. If one person in my family is suffering, we all suffer. My mom will, quite likely, be losing one or both of her parents soon. She wasn’t there for me when I lost one of mine. There’s a juvenile part of me that wants her to know how that feels, but to what end, really? Forgiveness is hard, but the discomfort is likely temporary. Regret, on the other hand, never really goes away. And anyway, isn’t it technically a win for me if I manage to be compassionate here? Or, at the very least, reassurance that I didn’t grow up to be my mom? There. I think I made it palatable for myself.

-LB

What I’m Actually Upset About

I’m having a hair problem. It’s bugging the crap out of me. I stopped straightening my hair like maybe 10 years ago because I realized I actually really liked my natural texture. I had these really nice, uniform, loose spirals that behaved perfectly with almost no styling. Like I’d just wash it and forget about it and be left with this awesome head of long, flowing curls that changed colors according to the season: strawberry blonde in the summer and a deeper auburn in the winter. Killer. Loved my hair. Embracing your natural hair texture is kind of a big deal for girls and women because so few of us have tresses that align with conventional, Western beauty standards, so we torment ourselves with expensive products, cumbersome tools and wasted time to achieve attractiveness (which is ultimately bullshit, but really hard not to buy into). I was pretty haughty about my ability to skip that nonsense.

So my curls are gone now. I dunno how or why. I started noticing it a little over a year ago and started going to greater and greater lengths just to get my damned Adonis hair back, but it’s gotten to a point where it just kind of hangs in these sloppy, uneven waves. It looks dumb. My hair looks super dumb. I’m pissed. I asked my sister-in-law about it because she’s a hairdresser and she said that sometimes it just happens. She said it’s usually meds or hormones, but for some people, your hair texture just changes. She followed her comments up with, “I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear.” It really, really wasn’t. But I appreciated that she took those feelings into account. Since it’s been so long since I’ve had to style my hair, I don’t really know how to do it anymore. I don’t have tons of hair and it’s not very long anymore (about to get even less long next week when I actually let a professional touch it, which I rarely do because I NEVER HAD TO WORRY ABOUT IT BEFORE), but it takes me like a full hour just to blow dry it into a shape I can live with, only to have that shape unfurl into a sad, limp mess 30 minutes later.

I’ve tried every weird tip and trick I could dig up on the Internet. In the last week, I bought a curling iron, a diffuser and some way too expensive products, all of which was a waste of money which I know I can’t really afford this month, but I’ve become obsessed. Last night Husband had some of our gaming friends over to play D&D. I didn’t participate. I didn’t even greet them when they showed up. I holed up in the bathroom with a whisky tonic, some T. Rex and a curling iron trying not to burn myself and trying not to cry and then lamenting my choice of tunes because Marc Bolan had this going on:

Marc At The BBC

And the whole while I was grappling with this searing hot curling iron, I was like, FUCK YOU SO HARD, MARC BOLAN WITH YOUR GODDAMNED CHERUB CURLS, YOU ASSHOLE. Because at that point I was starting to forfeit some of my rationality, which was probably resultant of the whisky and the iron burns. Good. Productive.

But truly, I am becoming obsessed. And, in my estimation, my hair is too frivolous to spend this much energy on, but, as I’ve said many times before, I’m pretty vain, so my fixation is becoming emblematic of everything in my life I see as a failure. Things could be so much worse.

Things are so much worse.

Last week, we found out that one of the cats needs surgery to correct a badly healed femur she broke when she was a stray and probably still a kitten. She has arthritis (she’s only 3) and is probably in a good deal of pain. The surgery will cost us about $3,000. That’s a lot for us. Realistically, we might have to cancel our honeymoon which we still haven’t taken even though we’ve been married for over 6 months. We already bought plane tickets and planned a 5 stop itinerary from central to southern California. Awesome. My grandmother was admitted to the hospital two days ago because her kidneys decided to take a nap or something and the buildup of whatever your kidneys are supposed to filter out (I’m not good with human anatomy, I’m just relating what I was told) caused her to develop type II diabetes, which has its own set of complications because she weighs 98 pounds and has almost no body fat, so there are very few places on her frame that can support an insulin injection. Awesomer. One of my uncles-in-law was, this past weekend, given 6-12 weeks to live after years of battling brain cancer. He does not want to be resuscitated. He’s going and very soon. THE MOST AWESOME.

I’ve been crying a lot. I reached a breaking point the other day after a phone call from my mom became an exercise in masochism as I let her start yelling and arguing with me when there was nothing to argue about. Mother’s day this year falls on the 8th anniversary of my dad’s death and my mom just can’t handle it.So we agreed to celebrate the day before, primarily for my grandmother’s sake who really, really deserves to be celebrated this year. I mentioned to my mom that my mother-in-law pointed out (without resentment) that last year my family got my husband and me for both Easter and Mother’s Day and she’d really appreciate it if we could be with her family for one of those holidays this year. I also pointed out that she’s about to lose her brother, so it’s important to me that we spend time with my in-laws. Even though there was no scheduling conflict, Mom started raising her voice as if I was trying to weasel out of something, even though I made it clear that we will be seeing her for Easter, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her on May 9th and Mother’s Day with my in-laws on May 10th (I declined to point out that this arrangement is going to be extremely emotionally taxing for me because I didn’t want to give her another foothold in her concocted conflict that she didn’t seem to realize was completely one-sided). What I did say was that, while I recognize that May 10th will never be a happy day for anyone in our family, over the years I’ve learned to cope. Her response: WELL I HAVEN’T.

Oh yeah, and as long as I’m enumerating my current misfortunes, I just remembered that 4 days from now will be the anniversary of the death of my childhood best friend who was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Afghanistan while she was working as as diplomat for the State Department. She was on her way to deliver books to some schoolchildren when her caravan was struck by a car bomb. She was 25 and was moving up the ranks in her department at such an unprecedented rate that I have little doubt she could’ve been Secretary of State or even President one day. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and the world is a shittier place without her.

So I’ve become fixated on my hair. Because my hair is superficial. Because my hair doesn’t yell at me. Because I can waste time fucking around with it, channeling all my frustration into garbage pile that’s hanging off head right now and not think about the forfeiture of my honeymoon, my grandmother’s faulty organs or my uncle’s impending death. I don’t have to think about how I lost my dad and my friend prematurely if I’m focused on avoiding another curling iron burn. That shit gets REALLY hot.

There are 2 things I wish I had available right now. I wish I’d bought a 100lb heavy bag (punching bag) for the basement like I was gonna so I could practice my MMA technique (i.e. punch and kick the crap out of it) to blow off some steam. And I wish I still had therapy twice a week. I had to start going once a week because, in light of the money problems we’re looking at this month, I can’t afford two sessions every week. I would be getting out of therapy right now, actually. I might be running into one of the homeless dudes I chat with when I’m in that neighborhood. Those dudes are so goddamned friendly and so goddamned positive and I almost always get a hug and I could really use a fucking hug right now, even knowing that it would probably make me start sobbing, but I know they’d be cool about it.

So, right now, because I wasted most the of day in bed recovering from a migraine, I’m gonna finally get into the fucking shower. I’m gonna try to avoid fucking around with my hair. I’m gonna try to spend some time playing my cajon (it’s a Peruvian box drum that you can play with your hands, if you didn’t know) because I think the tactile sensation of hitting something coupled with the aural sensation of the massive booms I get out of that thing (my cajon kicks ass) will do me some good. But, frankly, I’m probably gonna cry in the shower because I’ve been feeling a monolithic sob welling up in me the whole time I’ve been writing this and if it doesn’t come out soon, I might end up barfing instead of crying. If I had a dollar for every time in my life that I said, “when it rains, it pours” I could probably afford that second day of therapy. I guess I just have to stick it out.

-LB