theicingonthecrazycake

When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

61 bottles of Klonopin on the wall

I awoke this morning in the midst of a sweaty panxiety attack. (No, that is not a typo.) I stared up at the ceiling, feeling like a plane was going to crash through the roof at any given moment. It is not a good feeling, especially when I couldn’t rationalize how completely ridiculous this scenario was at the time. Panic set in, then anxiety-induced paralysis. It’s difficult to jump out of bed, to avoid disaster, when you’ve turned into one of those stone figures from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sixty-one days. I have 61 one days until the money well dries up. Take one down, pass it around, and by tomorrow I’ll be at 60 bottles of Klonopin, er, days on the wall.

Anyway, all I could think of, as the plane approached and before my brain turned to stone was this: If Morgan Spurlock could eat only McDonald’s for 30 days straight, effectively turning his liver into that of a 60-year-old alcoholic and thereby filming the brilliant Super Size Me, I can do something even more amazing in double that amount of time. Right?

It’s now afternoon, and the effects of my panxiety attack linger. I took medication, I went to acupuncture, I’m writing. Helpful, but not cures. See, here’s the cure: get off my ass, clean my house, figure out how to use up all my FSA funds before they go away on October 15th, refill every prescription I have and get every doctor’s appointment out of the way. Oh yeah, and find a job, build up my writing portfolio and figure out what the hell I want to be when I grow up. That kind of important shit.

But no, I’m a statue, afraid of my own shadow, my shortcomings, my bruised ego after being turned down for job after job. I feel like I should finish my Master’s degree – in snooty-ass Boston, an MA is “strongly preferred” or “required” in order to get some of the simplest copywriting jobs. Apparently my 15 years of experience counts for squat. I am tempted to send in a resume with these letters following my name: GAD, MDD. Wonder if I could fool the blue-bloods with my “degrees” in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder?

Sarcasm aside, though, I’m suffering from paralysis by over-analysis. And I’m suffering from the idea that you need to buy a new car if you get a flat tire, or get an MA because some jobs require it. I can’t afford a new car, so I won’t drive at all. I am not going to get my MA, so I’ll stop job-hunting. Totally fucking ridiculous thoughts. Bah humbug to you, stupid anxiety.

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Be afraid, be very afraid, of your iPad

I have rediscovered the Eden of my youth: The library. I can’t afford my ridiculously expensive Kindle habit, among a lot of other things, as my job grinds to a halt in 60 days. (The expense of my Kindle-downloading habit got to the point where I think being a coke-addict would’ve been cheaper.) And that’s good – austerity has made me creative and far more grateful for what truly matters in this life. Put a roof over my head and feed me and give me a way to take care of my pets, and I need little else…

…well, except for books. I cannot live without books. I not only want books, but I truly need them.

So I have decided in order to afford this need/want, I will never pay for a book again, if I can help it.

Last Friday, I went to the Rochambeau branch of the Providence Community Library system and got a library membership. I was as giddy as a little girl whose daddy just bought her a pony. The minute I walked through the door, the smell hit me: the smell of books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Hey mother ship, thanks for calling me home.

That musty, dusty, papery smell took me back to my childhood, where I would spend hours in the public library, carefully choosing my little jewels, the hardcovers and paperbacks that I would take home and read for hours on end, escaping the battleground that existed outside my bedroom door.

So how many books can I check out at a time? I asked the librarian at the circulation desk.

You can check out 99 books at time, she said.

Really?!? I replied with a gleam in my eye, raising my voice well above the library whisper threshold.

She looked scared. She should be. Because there will be a time when I will damn well check out 99 books at once, even if I have to attach a UHaul to the back of my car to cart them home.

This time, though, I checked out four books and two DVDs. Is it scary that it’s now Tuesday, and I’ve finished reading three of the books? And that I’m headed back to the library after I finish this post for more of the same? No wonder I don’t have a job lined up or a boyfriend…

But I digress.

One of the books I checked out – and devoured – last week was Robopocalypse. Although this is pegged as a science fiction book (I’m not a fan of the genre), I would say it’s a horror story instead. It’s a narrative of the near extinction of humankind following a robot uprising and subsequent war. I won’t tell you who wins, but I will tell you to read this book if you want to enjoy an almost guilt-free good yarn. And do it while your laptop, smartphone, tablet, even car, are TURNED OFF and your lights are TURNED ON. Read it in book form, not on your e-reader. Please, heed my warning.

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First Love – Part 2

Continued from First Love – Part 1

Note from author: The conclusion of this story may be a bit of a downer for a Friday… but try to look at the black comedy aspect of it. At the very least – laugh at my dysfunctional family – and love them dearly like I do. I would be a really lousy writer, otherwise.

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Mabel: 7 p.m., May 15, 2000

Mabel had been so busy lately with the fundraiser for her anti-abortion non-profit. And with leading the group who said the daily rosary outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic, she had been working long hours and could barely make it home in time to make dinner for George and feed the dog.

Speaking of Indy, feeding him had become irrelevant. She came home most nights to find the food untouched from the night before. Taking him out for walks had become a chore, too. Sometimes she used a towel as a sling, fashioning it under his stomach to hold him up while he peed.

Lately, George had started talking about putting Indy to sleep, using phrases like “quality of life” and “it’s the most humane thing to do.” She refused to listen; killing the dog was just wrong. Sure, she was worried, but he was old and nature would eventually take its course. George could be so infuriating; he always chose the quick fix and never wanted to get his hands dirty. She shuddered to think what would’ve happened if she had not married him. It was her lot in life to keep him in line and, well, prevent him from killing living things, like the dog or the rose bushes out back.

Mabel had just arrived home after another hectic day outside the clinic. She dropped her purse on the counter and propped up the signs, with pictures of dead fetuses and the tagline “Choose Life,” against the kitchen wall. George was at the table, nursing a cocktail and doing the New York Times crossword, no doubt waiting for dinner to be served (which at this point seemed unappetizing, as he glanced at Mabel’s signs). The doorbell rang; it was their neighbor Mr. Langston, holding a soaked and traumatized mass of fur in his arms

He wandered into my backyard and fell into the pool. I had to fish him out with one of those pool nets, he said, depositing the dog into Mabel’s arms.

Unfazed, Mabel said thanks, shut the door and went into the kitchen.

George pounded his fist on the kitchen table, upsetting his cocktail glass and spraying scotch on one of the doily place mats.

Dammit, Mabel, it’s time, he just basically tried to off himself in the neighbor’s pool. I think it’s time to go see Dr. Maxwell.

Ignoring George, Mabel cradled the wet dog in her arms and headed to the bathroom, to wash the chlorine out of his fur.

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George: Dawn, May 26, 2000

George was exhausted. He had been up all night. He had searched his medicine cabinet for the right combination of drugs, added water to form it into a paste and shoved it down the dog’s throat. Indy had been thrashing and crying out in pain all night; he didn’t put up a fight when George pried open his jaws and administered the lethal dose. George had wanted the vet to put him down weeks ago, but Mabel was against it. Now George’s Jack Kevorkian hat was planted firmly on top of his balding head, as Mabel slept soundly in the bedroom.

Euthanasia is wrong, it’s not God’s plan, argued Mabel when George had first brought it up two weeks ago.

Never mind she doesn’t think animals have souls, so what the fuck does God have to do with it? George thought. Jesus, if I get to the point where I have to be held up to urinate, just pull the plug.

His mind wandered back to Mabel, as he gently scratched the dog’s back. She had been a study in contradictions and stubbornness during their 35-year marriage. He had resigned himself to it, at times even laughing at the idiocy of it all. However, now, in the present, it made him angry. There was no humor to be found in killing the family dog with a cocktail of drug samples given to him by pharmaceutical reps, when it would’ve been far more humane to do it at the vet’s office. But this was his only choice right now.

He held the dog’s head in his lap, as both his and Indy’s crying and shaking began to subside.

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George and Mabel: 3 p.m., May 26, 2000

Okay, so I need to dig the hole at least four feet deep and wrap him in how many trash bags? George bellowed through the receiver at the Health Department rep. He refused to admit that his hearing was beginning to go.

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Plastic pyramids

Walking the dog last night, I heard the crickets, a later-summer soundtrack that soothes me but also reminds me of changes to come. This morning, the sun rose later and the birds weren’t in a noisy food scavenging frenzy to feed their young. It was eerily quiet. Yeah, I know it’s not even halfway through August and I’m already thinking about autumn. I have difficulty living in the moment, particularly these days.

I can’t be truly present because all I can think about is September 1 and October 15. (And believe me, the Keebler Elves in my brain – my anxiety – will NOT let me forget. They need a fucking vacation. A lonnnng vacation, perhaps in Antarctica.) Those are the days I will get my official termination papers and my last paycheck, respectively. So I have about 70 days to find a job, and I’m scared shitless. Sigh. If only someone would pay me to write book reviews and snarky blog posts and/or be an advice columnist and/or be a secret shopper for deep-tissue massage therapists, and I’d be all set. I would’ve found employment months ago.

Ahhh yes, months ago. The day I found out, along with 60 other people, that I was finished at a company to which I had devoted, on and off and then back on, 8+ years of my working life. I work from home, as did a number of other soon-to-be-fired folks, so we were conferenced in. Yes, I got fired on a conference call, where I couldn’t see my firers faces, nor the firees who were on-site, but I could hear stifled sobs and a bit of weeping here and there. Papers nervously being shuffled on what I imagined to be a large, lacquered table, lots of coughing and throat clearing. It is a moment I will never forget. At the time, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or stick my head into a bag of potato chips (I ended up doing all three, but not simultaneously; eating chips while laughing hysterically is dangerous, trust me on this.) It was time for me to leave, honestly. I had been miserable with my job for the past two years; I just wanted to leave on my own terms, not theirs.

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Is depression the new leprosy?

I have suffered from migraines since adolescence, and I remember my mother telling me that she had no idea what it felt like, as she had never had a headache – migraine or otherwise. She took care of me even though she had no frame of headache reference, holding a cold washcloth to my forehead and making sure I saw a doctor to diagnose my condition. She couldn’t be empathetic, but she was sympathetic to my pain.

During a bout of major depression in the past year – a battle that I am winning – I have experienced empathy, sympathy and compassion. I have friends and family, both near and afar, who have given me shoulder after shoulder to lean on and much encouragement and unconditional love. Some have been empathetic, having suffered from mood disorders themselves. Others have been sympathetic – like my mother’s response to my headaches – wanting to know more about what major depression feels like and how my treatment is going. I once had difficulty accepting that I was lovable. Excruciating difficulty. Now I know I am lovable even in my ugliest, lowest moments and when, at times, I’ve been incapable of being a good friend or sibling or aunt or adult child in return.

One of the most profound experiences happened two weeks ago. It made me cry. I went for a walk with a friend, whom I had not seen since last year. She had no idea what had happened to me in the last 12 months. I told her my story, and when I got to the part about the mental hospital, she stopped walking, gave me hug in the middle of the walking path and said “I had no idea, you are so brave to have done that.” No one had ever told me that I was courageous for seeking help, except my counselors and psychiatrist. Later on in the week, we went rollerblading together. As we were blading down the East Bay bike path, she said “I know you don’t feel like your old, athletic self, but I still see the spark and energy and soul you had when we used to run together. It’s still there. And I promise you, one day in the future, I’m going to be telling you to slow down because I won’t be able to keep up.” Pass me a Kleenex, please.

Conversely, I have been treated like a leper by uninformed fools who think that this is my fault or just a pathetic excuse for not being social or, better yet, that I just need to “snap out of it” or “be happy” or “change my mood.” How simplistic, how fucking easy. Duh, why didn’t I think of those easy fixes before I “chose” to be depressed?

Do you think I choose to “be” this way, much like people choose to suffer from, say, diabetes or heart disease? Do you think my wildest dream was to sit in a mental hospital for six days last November because it was fun and spa-like, shelling out $1,300 of my own money – money I was saving for a trip to Ireland – to get better? No and no. I saw and heard things in the hospital that I still can’t talk about to this day. People are really, legitimately ill, and thank God we have places where we can go to get help as well as the strength to admit we need help. Hopefully the patients who sat beside me in treatment have informed, non-fools at home to support them through recovery.

When I was hospitalized, I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as:

A combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.

I fall into the “multiple episodes” category, unfortunately. I have gone into very deep, dark places on and off for almost 30 year, places that I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to see, including starting to cut myself at age 11 and having suicidal ideations in my late 20s. I would look out the window of the equity research firm at which I worked and fantasize about jumping out the window, wondering if a seven-story fall would be enough to kill me. Thankfully, I sought help after having this recurring thought for a week straight.

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First Love – Part 1

Bea: 10 a.m., May 26, 2000

She heard a ding. She had a new email in her inbox. It had no subject line.

Bea,
 Indy died early this morning.
 Dad

She ran to the bathroom, hid in one of the stalls and cried. Public crying was frowned upon at her high-pressure, male-dominated job at an equity research firm. She could hear someone in the stall next to her puking, no doubt a victim of last night’s raucous party hosted by the coke-snorting traders on the fifth floor. She crouched on the toilet seat and tried to figure out if she was more upset by her dad’s sucky method of communication or the death of her first love.

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Bea: 1985

That spring, Bea started the great Push for a Dog Campaign with George and Mabel. She had already shown conscientious animal ownership by keeping a goldfish alive for nearly five years (unheard of among goldfish enthusiasts!) and nurturing her one-legged finch, Captain Hook, for seven years. And then there were the gerbils, which could go either way in the animal care plus and minus columns (but she was leaning more toward the PLUS side of things). It wasn’t her fault: Troy Henson swore the two gerbils he sold to Bea were females, but after 14 hairless, maggot-like creatures appeared in the cage two months later, Bea had serious doubts about Troy’s gender-determining abilities. She found out years later that he had become Tory Henson, after a sex reassignment operation, and was a hedge fund manager in NYC, having given up his/her dreams of being a rodent entrepreneur.

Once Mabel banished the gerbil breeding factory from the house, selling the surviving 12 to the local pet store (four were consumed by papa gerbil, a vision that years of therapy had yet to erase from her sister Meg’s psyche), Bea started campaigning for a dog. Dogs didn’t swim listlessly around in algae-encrusted prisons or hop around on one foot inside a tiny cage. They didn’t procreate like rabbits and then slap their young between two slices of bread and eat them for lunch. They were protectors of the family, tail-wagging packages of unconditional love.

Mabel and George did not want a dog; to them, a dog was a flea-filled, shed-a-holic germ factory that had no place in their home with its white-washed walls, gleaming hardwoods and expensive china. However, after incessant begging and pleading from Bea, they struck a deal with her: Do your research, find a low-maintenance dog and we may consider it.

Bea always played by the rules. She purchased The Encyclopedia of Canines and dog-eared the pages of breeds she suspected would meet Mabel and George’s approval: small dogs that didn’t consume and then defecate 40 pounds of kibble each week; dogs that needed less exercise than Greyhounds and Labradors; family-friendly, courageous dogs that would most undoubtedly save Timmy after he fell into the well.

Bea proudly showed Mabel the marked pages one afternoon, following a particularly long research session.

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