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Feb. 27th, 2014 | 01:09 am

I hate to ask for money, but I feel I have little choice. Foster the Rabbit, the little love of my life and my Emotional Assistance Animal, has a tooth condition which requires $160 of treatment every three weeks. Without the treatment, he will no longer be able to eat and will die. I live on Social Security Disability and have a very careful budget. I save what money I can for emergencies, but $2,700 a year for bunny care is not something I can afford. $1,000 will not be enough, but it will last until I can figure out another solution. Foster has been more than my furry baby, but my lifesaver. I have PTSD, and he has brought me back from a dangerous dissociative episode more than once. I rescued him at the age of 2, and he has rescued me more times than I can count. If you can help at all, I appreciate it more than words can tell. I will be happy to send you photos and videos of my very special little guy.


Thank you all SO, SO much. If you can spare a dime, I will be forever in your debt.


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RIP Charlie the Dog, 1995-2013.

Aug. 10th, 2013 | 12:14 pm

On Thursday, two days ago, we put Charlie, our long time companion and beloved canine family member, to sleep. He was almost 18 years old.

We'd been talking about it for more than a year, but true to family form, he was too stubborn to give up. Despite severe arthritis, blindness, near-deafness, incontinence, bad teeth and a lack of bowel control, he kept going. He slowly wandered the house, settled on his favorite rug, wagged his tail and begged for treats. He would have bad days, strings of bad days, and Mom, Dad and I would convene, thinking it was finally time for him to go...and then the next day he'd be up and about as if he hadn't looked half dead the day before. Never was it clear that he really didn't want to hang around anymore.

Until the past couple weeks. He took a sudden downturn, no longer eating breakfast and sometimes even supper. For a dog that loved to eat, that was quite a shock! We realized walking all the way to his food dish just hurt too much. His teeth had also become unusable, and we had to give him nothing but soft food. Finally, a few days ago, he could barely stand. His back legs had long been badly arthritic, but now one of his front legs was so gnarled with arthritis that it was visibly twisted and he had trouble keeping weight on it. His mouth was in obvious pain, and he simply no longer wanted to move. We all discussed at the breakfast table that we should finally put him to sleep. My parents said 'after the party' (my brother and sister-in-law are visiting and we're having a party for them Sunday.) After breakfast, as my parents cleaned the dishes, I marched up and said no, we should put Charlie down tomorrow. I put my foot down like I rarely have before.

Because I just couldn't take watching him suffer anymore. There was no twinkle left in my poor dog's eye. I had to hand feed him. He would whine and howl for hours at night. He winced in pain at our touch. Charlie had always been a tough cookie, stubborn and eager and curious and joyous, but there was no question in my mind that he was finally done. The joys of his life were no longer worth the pains it took to acquire them. And I wasn't going to watch him lie around suffering, especially as the house filled with people trying to celebrate.

We went to Mystic Aquarium that day. Yes, it was an odd activity following a decision to put down one's beloved pet, but we had planned it ahead of time with my brother and sister-in-law, who are visiting from California. (This is our first time meeting my brother's wife, and we hadn't seen him in over a year.) I managed to enjoy myself with the whales and Spongebob movie and penguins, and took solace in the fact that Charlie would probably prefer some rest anyway.

Afterwards my sister visited, and we all sat with Charlie in the kitchen to say goodbye. Charlie lay on his side like a stone, his impotent back legs crossed, barely able to move and hardly interacting with us. When everyone went to bed, I fed him a hot dog roll, with great difficulty. Then I propped him into a sitting position so he could drink some water. I tried to make him comfortable, but no matter what position I put him in, he looked like he was in pain, his head drooping, his tail still. Upset, I finally left him half-sitting so he could reach his water and went to bed.

I insisted on taking him to the vet with Dad the next morning. I'd made up my mind long ago that I was going to see Charlie through to the end. After all the walks, all the late nights at my side, and because of the frustrated days when I didn't treat him as well as I should have, I was determined to see his life to a comfortable, loving close. I picked him up and held him in the short car ride to the vet. His little front paws clung to my arm and he rested his tired head on my shoulder. He had never done that in his life...just more evidence of how far gone he was.

Dad told me what to expect. In times like those, my father knows how to shine. I'm sure he would have loved to hold Charlie as well, but I think he knew how important it was to me. The vet brought over a chair and lay Charlie on my lap after the sedative was administered.

Slowly, I felt all the tension in his little body release as he sunk into my arms. I cooed to him that he had had a wonderful, long journey, and it was time to move on to the next one. A few tears escaped my eyes, but I also felt a tremendous sense of relief that my little buddy was no longer feeling pain. He looked more peaceful and at ease than...well, I couldn't remember since when. Soon he fell asleep and the tongue rolled out of his mouth. Still, I held it together.

The vet and my father lifted Charlie back onto the table and they administered the final shot. It was shockingly quick to me. He merely went from seeming dead to being dead. I pet Charlie's head and my father pet his side as the life left him, and finally the vet said she could find no more heartbeat. I thought to myself - 'It's finally over.' I'd been waiting for him to die for so long as he slowly deteriorated, and now there was no waiting and no going back. My father burst into tears and excused himself. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I held it together long enough to give Charlie one last hug goodbye. I held his limp body to register with myself that it was only a corpse now. His eyes and mouth opened, and I knew there was no Charlie left in that body.

My father opted to have Charlie cremated. I know he did that for my sake. I've had many pets die, but none that have been a part of my life as long as Charlie. I've known him since I was 19...almost half my life! Most of my rabbits have had burials...I wanted him to at least be returned to the earth he loved and lived on. I've decided we'll sprinkle the ashes on one of the gardens he loved to pee on. It's only appropriate ;) Plus, we have a little copper terrier staked next to that garden.

As soon as I left the vet and crawled in the car with my father, I began to cry in earnest. And when I got home, I began to sob. And the past two days, I've mostly been a wreck. You never realize how much someone is a part of your life until you see the hole their disappearance leaves behind. The day he died, I mostly dissociated from myself and my surroundings. His food bowl was gone, his diapers, his food, his rug. I wandered the house at night realizing I didn't have to beware of stepping on him, or look for 'leavings', or check his bowl for water. I would hear noises and realize no, that couldn't be Charlie.

That's the kinda shit I have the hardest time with. The loss, the permanent change, the adjustment sends me for an emotional loop. I become very prone to depression and dissociation, and I'm fighting both right now. I try to be social, but my heart's not in it. I keep bursting into tears when Charlie's picture appears on the digital frame, or like just a few minutes ago, when a condolence card arrived from the animal hospital. I just want to nuzzle his little nose, give him a hug, rub his belly. I know from past experience that it'll take me a week to stop bursting into tears, and I will adjust and process and reset as time goes on. I just have to experience it.

But Charlie had a good life, and I rejoice in that. I remember when my Dad brought him into the living room on Xmas Eve, a scared little puppy. He sat in his puppy bed all Xmas, terrified. I remember how he used to beg for treats with Harry, our house rabbit at the time. (Harry was about as big as Charlie!) I remember as Charlie grew, we celebrated when he finally could hold his ears up. I remember taking him for walks through the neighborhood, where he pissed on everything imaginable and embarrassed me by pooping on neighbors' lawns as they watched. I remember when Girl the Poodle came to live with us, and Charlie had an absolute crush on her (which she in no way reciprocated, as she was too fine a lady for such a scruffy boy.) Her constant rejection didn't slow Charlie down a bit, who followed her everywhere he could and started eating like she did, one bit at a time brought to the kitchen table. I remember when Girl passed away from cancer, and Charlie lay sullen for a week, confused as to the loss of his one true love. I remember when Charlie would wander the yard...and into other yards. When he sat in the middle of Main Street as a car barreled towards him. (He was never the smartest of pups.) When I found him with an Alpo can stuck on his nose...curious indeed as we did not feed him Alpo! I remember him traipsing about in snow as high as he was in the winter, and eating onion grass in the summer. I remember how he growled at thunderstorms, and would chase thunder back and forth on his leash until it started to rain and we brought him in. The one blessing of his going deaf was that I got to enjoy my thunderstorms in peace and quiet! I remember how, in his early days, he could climb up stairs but never had the courage to climb back down. I remember his fondness for cookie dough and Christmas cookies, his incessant begging at holiday meals and how he would eat fortune cookies and leave the fortune behind. I remember how much he loved going to the lake. He knew by the towels and beach bags that it was lake time, and he'd circle and bark excitedly until we let him run to the car. He'd ride in the boat and the paddleboat, eventually was pushed to swim in the water, would commune with the other lake dogs, and finally roll around in the sand to dry off. And he always got a hot dog off the grill afterwards, or pizza crusts if we went out to eat. And I remember how he liked to lie down by my chair as I worked late at night.

So, rest well, little Charlie. You weren't the brightest, but you were friendly, loving, scruffy, eager, loyal, determined and full of zest. Maybe I'll see you again someday, and I'll always remember you. I love you, buddy.
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almost time to leave...

May. 4th, 2013 | 12:13 am

Yesterday I had planned on walking at all my favorite local spots - the wetlands, the beach, etc.

But it rained. It rained and thunderstormed allllll day. Normally this would not bother me, except the timing was quite poor. But perhaps it was just as well. I was several hours behind for the month, work-wise, so I caught up on that and started packing. I also dyed my hair (fuchsia pink) and cut it again. I cut it badly...some strands in the back are far shorter than others, and not symmetrical. Well. If anyone asks, I'll just say I did it on purpose and it's fucking punk, thank you. But my basic desire - for hair longer in the front than the back - has been realized. I'm not sure what about that look I like better, but even from the front, it seems different. And better. I suspect others walking behind me may disagree.

Once again, though, I could barely sleep. I'm really fucking sick of this. Again, I only got a few hours of sleep and in the middle of the day. I forced myself out of bed to take at least one damn walk. I drove to the wetlands, and I could tell rain threatened, but what's a little rain?

I'm so glad I went. Due to the weather, the place was almost empty. Of course, there weren't many animals either, but I was ok with that. About a third of my way through the boardwalk, it began to rain. I tucked my camera into my voluminous skirt and kept walking. Since I had no purse or backpack with me, I felt relatively free. No sunscreen. No bugspray. I tucked my keys and phone in my bra, my camera in my skirt, and had only my water to carry with me. As I ducked under a pagoda, it finally began to pour, and I embraced the lovely little storm. There were only a couple claps of thunder, but that was fine as I didn't worry as much about lightning. I took some photos, danced in the rain, and finally went on my merry way as the rain subsided. Then I saw them - on one of the trees meant for birds to perch upon, I saw a trio of roseate spoonbills. I NEVER see those birds! They're pink like flamingos, but they have a spoon-shaped bill, almost like a duckbill. I've only seen one once before, farther north on Merritt Island, but here were these three spoonbills cleaning and drying their feathers after the storm. I hope they photographed as beautifully as I thought they did.

As I approached the visitors center, I caught sight of an alligator swimming across the slough - probably the last alligator I'll see this trip.

Then I joined Sharon and Neal at our favorite pizza place downtown. It was a zoo, and they messed up Sharon's pizza initially, but mine was as heavenly as I remember. I got something off my chest that I felt I needed to say...maybe I shouldn't have, in retrospect, but it's done. Everyone enjoyed their meals, and then we walked it off a bit on our way to Kilwin's Ice Cream. Kilwin's was the one thing I meant to do this visit but hadn't. We stopped in a shop on the way, I had my ice cream, and then I hugged them goodbye until July.

As I drove home, a beautiful lightning storm broke out over the ocean, but I couldn't find a good vantage point to watch it from. And so I came back home.

I feel...diluted, somehow. Not quite myself. It is PMS time, so that could be part of it. PMS while driving north would really, really suck. Grumbles. I'll live. Most of the condo is packed, except for that which must wait until morning, such as toiletries. Luckily I don't need to clean the condo too well since I'll be back in a couple months. As usual, I now feel rather comfortable here and am calling the condo 'home' without hesitation...and it is time to leave. With my mental health being so messed up, I didn't acclimate to the condo as quickly as usual, and this visit was harder. But it was still worth it. I bonded with Neal much more than ever before, and I think I've finally earned his full friendship. I got to experience some more of Sharon's life. And while I didn't get to go as many places as I wanted, I was invited to volunteer at Gumbo Limbo (maybe next year), became much more familiar with Green Cay, and did investigate some free new places nearby. I didn't go to the beach NEARLY enough, but I suspect that may be rectified come July.

Now, to pack up some of the food from the kitchen...

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(no subject)

Apr. 27th, 2013 | 08:32 pm

Yesterday I went to Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, south of Miami. This was my third time (or maybe 4th?) at these botanical gardens. While it has no fountains (I'll forgive it), it does have amazing plants and landscape sections and plenty of wildlife. And I made it there by noon - still not enough time to adequately see everything, but I still saw most of the gardens, including some new sections.

Animal-wise, I saw a snake, several African rainbow lizards, a brown basilisk running on its hind legs, oodles of brown (Cuban) anoles, Mediterranean geckos, some curly-tailed lizards (which surprised me, as I didn't know they were found so far south), and a lizard that I couldn't quite identify. Oh, and iguanas. Some big ones.

Plant-wise, I saw more than I could name or remember - cycads (which I learned were poisonous), banana trees, groves of palms from all over the world, a jade vine on the pergola, the baobab, figs, walking trees, cacao, jackfruit, mangosteen and other tropical fruit trees, date palms, lots of pineapples (the fact that they go from black to pink is adorable to me), orchids, the young rainforest, the spiny desert forest of Madagascar, the new butterfly conservatory (very well done, and the blue morphos kept landing on me), a carnauba tree, Bailey palms (I love those), wild coffee, rainbow eucalyptus, vanilla, a blooming jacaranda tree, flame vines, powderpuff tree, bat flowers (as gothy as a flower can get) and a bunch of other plants I can't recall because the names are unfamiliar.

I visited the hothouses for the first time - one for rare tropical plants and another for fruits and other edibles. The new butterfly conservatory was behind the hothouses and also incorporated the new cafe. The cafe was gorgeous. A glass Chihuly sculpture hung from the ceiling in clear and gold, and the dark tables and chairs were the most comfortable I've ever sat in at a restaurant. Glass window walls allowed one to view the butterfly garden while eating. My wrap wasn't that great, but the mango soda was divine. (I hope I'll be around for the mango festival. That sounds delicious.)

They had new art installations, including one of Zimbabwean rock sculpture in the lowlands by the lakes. They were really quite exquisite and moving. A very large iguana was eating near one of them, and it was kind enough to pose for photos. It was also a somehow surreal moment, as every element was somehow imported. African art and a Mexican lizard in a landscape of artificial lakes showcasing plants brought from around the world. Yet the result was so harmonious, a work of momentary art in its own right.

After the grueling rush hour trip back to the condo, I grabbed a small milkshake and then swam in the pool and hot tub for awhile. I was so exhausted afterwards I thought I'd fall straight asleep, but I was up until 3 a.m. Annoying.

So today I slept and slept. I didn't get out of the condo, but at least I showered and took my pills and got out of bed. I hope to do something tomorrow. Maybe the beach.

Only a week until I leave. I really, really miss my family and pets and friends, but I also really, really wish I could bring the palm trees and ocean and wildlife and pool up north with me. Still, how lucky I am to have these two worlds, even if having one means missing the other half the year.

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(no subject)

Apr. 14th, 2013 | 04:08 am

Well, I did go to the Everglades.

I did all the things I said I'd do. I made it to the Flamingo Visitors Center, which is on the Florida Bay near the western coast, allll the way at the end of the road. I saw an American crocodile in the wild, and while I didn't get to see it as close as I see alligators, that might be for the better. I ate at the cafe. I bought postcards. I walked the coastal trail. And I even rode a boat into the bay...the first time in years I've ridden a boat without getting seasick.

But wow, I totally overdid it. I forgot how long that drive is. I should've ponied up the extra money to take the turnpike, cause US 1 below I-95 is a long, painful, slow drive. On my way home, I had to keep slapping myself to stay awake.

I also managed to sunburn myself. I slathered it on when I got out of the car, but I made two mistakes. I forgot to put my hair up when I sprayed, so the sides of my neck are now quite red and sore. Second, I forgot to reapply after sweating during my hike. I always forget to reapply after getting wet. But there are no blisters, and only the neck is really painful, so overall I think I look worse than I feel.

I also just stayed awake and active too long. I pushed myself. My ankles and feet were killing me by the time I reached the end of the coastal trail, and then I had to walk all the way back. The upper 80's humid heat hadn't really gotten to me until then. By the time I hobbled back, I was limping, though still proud of myself. I also had a bitching dehydration headache. I can only carry so much water with me on a hike, and I needed more than I could carry.

Well, those are the choices one makes. Sometimes pain and accomplishment is better than sitting by and wishing I had tried.

While buying a drink at the marina store, I let the clerk talk me into a sunset boat ride, and spent the next two hours until the ride sitting in a shady area. I watched the crocodile for awhile as it sunned on the bank, and then watched it slither into the canal and disappear into the mangroves. It had the characteristically narrower snout than an alligator, as well as a lighter color and a somewhat differently shaped body. As it lay on the bank, it left its mouth wide open, just like one sees crocodiles do on television. Alligators usually leave their mouths shut. I know, this bores the shit out of most of you, but seeing new wildlife is an absolute thrill to me.

The boat ride was slightly disappointing. They promised dolphins, but no dolphins showed up. Still, I enjoyed the ride and got some lovely shots of ospreys on a nest. But at least I've seen wild bottlenose dolphins before, in St. Augustine. And I enjoyed the sunset and the spray of the sea and the wind in my face.

After the boat ride, I drove back through the dark Everglades, music blasting and a slim moon appearing. It was awesome. By the time I reached I95, though, I was falling asleep and slapping myself to stay awake. I finally staggered half-awake home and KNEW I would be sleeping a long time on Saturday. I underestimated just how long, however.

24 freaking hours. I went to bed at midnight and got up the next midnight. I was awake for maybe 1 of those hours, when a wonderful, wonderful thunderstorm blew right overhead and I could just lie in bed and listen to it. No constantly checking on radar. No driving. Just me, nestled in bed, listening to the rain on the window and the thunder booming.

But then I fell back asleep, growing more dehydrated and hungry and dreaming deeper into my subconscious until I finally woke up delirious and confused again. I know at some point I did get up and grab a granola bar because the wrapper was there, but I often wake up just enough to pee and grab something but not be fully aware. When I got up (at midnight) and turned on the light, my wrist hurt. I looked and there was a large welt - maybe whatever bit me finally brought me out of my stupor. There was blood on the sheets where my wrist had been, so...maybe I smooshed it? Maybe it left blood behind? I was pretty skeeved until I figured out the blood was probably related to the bite.

I must've had ten separate dreams or so, though I've forgotten much of the detail now. In the last dream, I was running for my life in a dark airport which was being attacked by terrorists. I notice I often have nightmares when my brain is trying to wake me up.

I've managed to eat and drink something (though not enough...I'll take care of that in a moment) and take my meds. I obviously missed my morning meds, which has me disappointed in myself. I also spent a good half hour sobbing. I still feel...sick. I'm trying to remind myself that this is just how things are...if I overdo myself, there will be consequences, and I have to expect that. And sometimes I'll underestimate those consequences.

Apply spoon theory here. Also, apply bipolar disorder here. Energy one day and dead the next.

I set alarms. I ignored all calls. I'm not sure what else I could do to stop the oversleeping, short of hiring people to stop by.

I'm going to eat some more and have more water. Then I'll write what I can remember of the dreams. One was particularly amazing.

Today I'll try to get some work done and maybe take a dip in the pool. I have no idea how I'll feel. I really have been up one day and down the next, emotionally. I still suspect the extra SSRI dosage has triggered the bipolar swings, and I'm just hoping it will settle down. But it would take at least another couple weeks. I'm still refraining from stressors and trying not to feel horrible about it.

Ok, ok enough writing.

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(no subject)

Apr. 12th, 2013 | 08:13 am

I'm going to try to go to Everglades National Park today.

Let's see how this works out.

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(no subject)

Apr. 11th, 2013 | 01:16 am

People like to imagine things as spectrums, as two-dimensional lines on which we slide back and forth or occupy one point. Sexuality, gender, spirituality, finances, health.

It's not bullshit. It's just inadequate. Things move in more than two directions. Side to side, up and down, diagonally, in circles. Pinpointing someone's sexuality or mental health requires understanding a great many characteristics, how they interact and how they move.

Right now, my mental health feels so convoluted and in the muddiest of waters that I don't know what to do with it. I feel like I am stuck in a corner, trying to tread out softly on the quietest of slippers because I'm afraid to make a noise. Until the light turns on, and I want to dance and drink the world. I am not one person, not affected by one illness, I am not my illness, and yet I am informed by it. I am a tapestry of complicated, and I say this not just because I feel it, but because others say it as well.

There are so many elements to mental health. Depression, mania, anxiety, obsession, compulsion, phobias, attention deficit, lack of concentration, jealousy, delusions, anger, hallucinations, panic, triggered behavior, dysphoria, flashbacks, paranoia, dissociation, multiple identities, and probably plenty of things I've forgotten. I've dealt with...most of those. Just in the past fucking month. Just constantly. Imagine trying to map and understand all of that? It's no wonder so many psychiatrists have turned me away. My therapist does my best to assure that I just have very complicated and unfortunate brain chemistry, and that's all it boils down to. Just unfortunate luck. Well, that and some unfortunate trauma. She reminds me I am not a monster, but just a human with an unusual mix of genes. I appreciate that, because I don't want to be a monster or a lost cause. At the same time, sometimes I want certain symptoms to be taken more seriously.

I don't have more to say than this right now. I want to map myself out, but I just feel a rush of confused tidbits that I have difficulty teasing out. Maybe I just have to wait.

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(no subject)

Apr. 8th, 2013 | 08:44 pm

I just killed 12 years of my life.

I'm so tired of struggling. I'm tired of trying. If I can't save myself, why bother trying to save anything else?

I had a great day yesterday. Today I feel dead. And scared. And hated.

I don't know the last time I was really myself. Unless you count being a quivering piece of fat whimpering and screaming on the carpet. Never do I feel more real than when I'm in absolute terror of reality.

Sharon told me to take a break from my work, volunteer and otherwise, to take care of myself. I'm terrible at that. There's always something I feel I need to do. And then, taking care of myself is a lot of work too, most of which I don't want to do. If only taking care of myself meant convalescing in bed instead of eating right, exercising, going outside, keeping busy, keeping up with hygiene.

Sometimes I would rather be a mess of flesh on the carpet.

I woke up after 16 hours of sleep today. I dreamed so deeply I didn't know where I was when I awoke. I thought I was in a dream hotel off a dream highway in an unknown state. I wish I had been.

I'm lonely. I'm crushingly lonely. Except when I'm glad to be alone. I go from 60 to 0 overnight. From dull to dazzled in one eyeful of color.

I haven't harmed myself. I have no plans to harm myself. I just don't want to be me anymore.

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Differentiating Trigger Types.

Mar. 13th, 2013 | 08:59 pm

One thing I've wanted to write about is the differentiation I have made between two types of emotional triggers. I use the word 'trigger' for anything that causes unwanted thoughts, but really, these experiences fall into two categories.

The first type is the PTSD trigger, which is the type most people understand. Hearing people eat is a PTSD trigger, experiencing unwanted touch in a close space can be a PTSD trigger, dental care is a PTSD trigger...at least for me. The other category is that of an OCD trigger, one that causes rounds of obsessive thoughts. The PTSD triggers cause great, immediate anxiety or panic, whereas the OCD triggers cause intrusive, repetitious, obsessive thoughts. Both of these emotional states are distracting, overwhelming and deeply upsetting.
I’ve been doing fairly well lately with PTSD triggers. The anxiety still occurs, but hasn't been nearly as obtrusive as OCD triggers have been, particularly in the past few months. The number of things that trigger my OCD has grown quite unpleasantly – I listed them in my private journal, but hesitate to do so here. Connecting with the outside world inevitably leads me to confront these triggers. In social media, dealing with people in general, looking at a newspaper, talking with family and friends…all can lead to OCD triggers in half a heartbeat, leading me to tread warily and sometimes avoid altogether.

I never thought about the difference between triggers before, but now that I can differentiate between the two, it's like a lightning bolt of serendipity. I hope it will help me communicate better with my mental health professionals, family and close friends.

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On a Car, a Disability, and Self-Esteem

Mar. 7th, 2013 | 07:39 am

Life is winding and weird. I never know what will happen and, when it does, what sense I will make of it. But I always do try to make sense of the unexpected and/or unfortunate, one way or another.

I left for Florida on Wednesday in my car Bullet. Bullet is a 2002 PT Cruiser which served me well on my cross country trip to the Grand Canyon, San Antonio, Florida and then back to Connecticut. Before and since that trip, however, Bullet has been an absolute lemon of a car. My parents bought it for me after my last car broke down in Delaware on my way to Florida. I was desperate to escape the Winter, so after Pete so amazingly towed back me and my dead car from Delaware, I borrowed one of my parents' minivans, and they bought Bullet in my absence. I've been paying them back ever since, and would have had it paid off if not for the massive number of repairs that it's needed. In the last year, it has needed to go in for repairs at least 8 times and it has caused me great frustration. I prize my mobility highly, partly for practical but especially for emotional purposes. Traveling, driving, being able to escape a stressful situation are part of what keeps me functional and relatively independent. It matters...a lot. And as Bullet kept breaking down and needing more and more repairs, I felt poorer, less mobile and more reliant on my parents, which I hated.

Why I thought Bullet could take me all the way down to Florida and back safely, I have no idea. Residual optimism, I suppose.

But it didn't. As I-95 and I-678 separate in the Bronx, I was in the wrong lane and sent onto 678. I took the first exit to turn around, and on Bruckner Ave in the Bronx, my front axle dropped and my car stopped dead. It was about 9:30 pm. And I EXPLODED.

I was calm enough to call AAA for a tow. I lost my words for awhile figuring out what to do, as I thought for sure I was beyond my tow limit. But, as fate would happily have it, my tow limit was 100 miles and I was only 90 miles from home. Once I hung up with AAA, I called my mom. Cause, like so many other people with wonderful parents, that's my first instinct. I managed to sputter out that my car had broken down in the Bronx and I had called AAA before I started sobbing, but then, I started SCREAMING. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and let me tell you that is a rare, rare thing for me to do.

I screamed about how the piece of shit car had broken down yet AGAIN. I screamed about how much money I sunk into a car that wouldn't work and how hard I had been trying to save a bit of money to improve my life. I screamed about how the front axle had fallen, and how I'd told my dad and the mechanic months ago that it was a problem, and no one listened to me. I screamed about them taking the car to the same shitty mechanic after I told them he was no good and, hell, I'd pay to have a better mechanic fix it even if I had to charge it. (Bullet belonged to my parents technically, so they made the decisions regarding its care. It had become a bone of contention.) I screamed about being stuck in an unfamiliar city at night that, frankly, scared me. (Though in hindsight, I soon realized I was right next to a Toys R Us, and somehow that made me feel safer.) I screamed about having to ride an hour and a half with a tow truck driver. I screamed that I didn't even care if I was safe anymore.

I made my poor mother cry. She didn't show it over the phone, but I know she did. And I felt horrible about that later.

But I've thought about it, and realized I wasn't really screaming about the car. That was just a catalyst, or the final drop in a very full bucket. I got out of the hospital in October, but my mental health has still been precarious. Even when I'm acting fine, it is acting. Even when I'm functioning well, I feel like I'm dying inside. And usually the more I hide, the more I act, the more I push myself to function without dealing with dysfunction, even if it's necessary for a time, all that pain just builds up. My emotional tank was full (and the fact that I had PMS wasn't helping!) I was hoping to safely relieve the pressure by being in Florida, and instead the pressure was released explosively when my car dropped to a halt on an unfamiliar city street.

I really was bad. I looked over at my backpack, with all my pills in it. I thought about downing a whole bunch and just ending the misery, but I didn't. I thought about jumping into traffic, but I didn't. I thought about abandoning my car, but I didn't. Once I established that no, I was not going to hurt myself because it was just a damn car, I aimed at taking care of my runaway brain.

My PTSD was kicking in. I worked on my breathing to slow down the panic attacks. I did have Xanax available, but I wanted to be coherent when the tow truck driver arrived. Some nice pedestrians and motorists stopped to ask if I needed help, and I managed to communicate that I was ok, though I'm sure I didn't look it! One aggressive tow truck driver stopped and tried to argue that I'd be there all night waiting for AAA, and he should let me tow him instead, but I fended him off with stuttering no's. Another tow truck driver stopped and just gave me his card. Everyone except the aggressive drivers were nice, but I still had PTSD OMG WHAT IF THEY ATTACK ME thoughts going through my brain, because my brain was malfunctioning, and that's the way it is.

And I know all of this was a brimming over of emotion, and not really about the car, because when Aquamouse (my old car) broke down in Delaware a couple years ago, in a much worse situation, I handled it MUCH better. I didn't even cry until two days later when told my engine was cooked.

My therapist and I have discussed that my new medication, which I started at the hospital in October, may not be working well enough. My psychiatrist is on vacation until March 27th, however, so I have to wait until then to ask if I can up it. My obsessive thoughts have been horrible lately, torturous, and as the medication is supposed to work on OCD and depression, it's obviously not working well. I've tried not to let people around me know, because I've become obsessive over something that's a touchy subject anyway.

My frustration, my anger, my venting, is about my mental illnesses. My disability. And the resultant fact that I need more help than most people do, financially and emotionally. I have always resented that, always prized my independence fiercely, and always felt guilty about being a burden on my parents and unreliable to others. When Bullet broke down again, I was reminded of all this, at a time when I was already feeling very emotionally fragile, and all that pain needed to come out.

But, as I said at the beginning of this long entry, I look for purpose and reason behind my misfortunes. As luck would have it, my tow truck arrived earlier than scheduled, in only an hour. And he was the best damn tow truck driver in the entire fucking world. A young man with a Jamaican accent, he smiled, calmly told me I could get in the truck and he'd take care of the rest. As we got on the road, he noticed I'd been crying and I said it was a long story and gave him the short version, sans the mental illness component. He played some Sade, one Poison song, a lot of Johnny Cash and finally some Bob Marley. Most of the songs were about making the best of bad situations...I wondered if he picked those out on purpose. I stayed quiet through most of the ride, after assuring him I was just tired (and god, I was), but we talked again as we neared my exit. He put on a Bob Marley song and dedicated it to me, saying that things happened for a reason and if there weren't any bad days, there'd never be any good days. He didn't preach it either...just tried to encourage me, and I appreciated it immensely. As we got off my exit, he recognized it, 90 miles away from his home. Turns out his tow truck had broken down once on this exit, and as he waited for his company to come get him, he fished in the Mattabassett River, the same river near my house. I felt like he was an angel sent to bring me home. I really did. His name was Roger, and I will never forget the comfort he gave me. I thanked him heartily as he unloaded Bullet, and went inside to pass the comfort onto my mother.

My poor mother was sitting in the kitchen, with a tired, worried face that had evidently been crying. I hugged her and told her I was sorry for screaming and extremely sorry if I hurt her feelings. I didn't mean it. She said she knew I was screaming at life, and not her, and said she was just as frustrated as I was.

She went to bed and I stayed up to watch some Spongebob on Netflix. Spongebob soothes the savage soul. Finally I unpacked my pillow and went to bed.

Only six hours later, my mother woke me to say that she and Dad had decided to probably lease a Toyota Corolla for me, but they wanted me to come along and make sure it would suit my needs. I'd pay them the same that I paid towards the PT Cruiser and they'd pay the rest, if I let them use the car to drive to Florida and occasionally in CT when necessary. I was stunned and exhausted and not much in processing mode, and I'd never really liked the idea of leasing, but they wanted to leave right away to beat the storm and I had the feeling it was now or never.

To make a long day short, we came home with a 2013 Toyota Corolla, black, with some nice bells and whistles on it, on a 3 year lease. I was too exhausted to be as happy as I should have been, and I think I'm still too shocked to fully appreciate it. I have a brand new car to drive - I always wanted to just get a new car, or gently used certified pre-owned car, because that way I wouldn't have to worry so much about breaking down on my long trips, but I never thought I'd be able to afford it. And, frankly, I still can't, but I have amazing parents who decided they didn't want me breaking down on these long trips either. My dad said he couldn't bear the thought of me traveling and not being in a safe car anymore. My father rarely lets his worry show, but I realized yesterday that, in fact, he worries all the time about me, and it wears on him just like it wears on my mother.

As we brought the car home last night, I cried again, feeling horribly guilty at all this money my parents had just spent. I know it actually doesn't represent a significant spending increase for them per month, and they get to use the car and will be saving money on gas when they travel to Florida, but I felt that emotional trigger of being a mentally ill daughter, a disabled burden on my loving parents. Are these charges I would level at any other person with a disability? Never in a million years. I'd tell them their disability/chronic illness is not their fault, their limited financial means are not their fault, and that they deserve every bit of love and support, emotionally and financially, that they get from others. I tell everyone else it's ok to ask for help and to receive it. But I beat the living shit out of myself for being disabled, of limited means, and not self-reliant, and I suck at asking for help. Absolutely, terribly suck at it. And apparently, I'm not all that good at graciously receiving it either.

I feel guilty when my neighbors feed me wonderful dinners just for getting their daughter off the bus, as I feel I'm not giving back nearly as much as I'm receiving. They insist otherwise, that my friendship has meant the world to them, but my poor self-esteem makes it hard to believe. I feel guilty when people pay for my food at a restaurant, even though I let them and frankly want them to, even when I know it represents a lesser hardship on them than me. Why should I deserve free or discounted food? Why should I deserve anything anyone gives to me? Why should I have deserved a boyfriend wonderful enough to drive to Delaware and tow my car back when it broke down two years ago? Why should I deserve parents who let me live with them, who help me afford a new car, who help feed me, all in exchange for helping them with their business and household and just...being their daughter? Am I really worth it? Can anyone as damaged as me possibly be worth it?

And now I'm crying because I realize the crux of it. I don't believe I'm worth it. I yearn to be completely independent partly because of the freedom I think (possibly erroneously) that it provides, but also because I don't think I can contribute enough to any relationship to be worth the help I receive. Not from my parents, not from my friends, not from any of the boards and organizations I belong to, not from anyone, except perhaps my pets. And if there are other persons with disabilities who don't receive as much help as I do, I think I must be receiving too much help, and others must be more worthy than I.

I talked to my mother last night about my feelings of guilt. She did her best to reassure me that I was not a burden, that the car lease was actually going to be helpful to the whole family and not just me, and that I definitely made a big difference in the family business. Of course, she also likes to remind me that I'm lucky and to count my blessings, which isn't the right thing for a person feeling guilty to hear, though I know she means it to make me feel better. (One of her happiness tactics is to realize she's better off than others. Which can work well, except when you're feeling guilty that you're better off than others!) Anyway, realizing the brand new, shiny car in the driveway is a help to the whole family did make me feel less guilty.

But the crux remains...how do I convince myself that I'm worth the help I receive, that I'm not damaged goods who should be relegated to poverty if I can't provide for myself? It's this internalized anti-disability sentiment. And because I have an obsessive brain that is not being well-controlled at the moment, I am obsessing over the sentiment. And because I'm bipolar, I'm getting depressed over it.

Bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Those are the big 4 that my mental health professionals have narrowed all my symptoms down to, from a list of ten diagnoses that I qualified for. I should be grateful I haven't offed myself! I should be grateful for the help! I should feel grateful and not guilty. But I guess I only feel grateful when I feel I'm giving something back to those who give to me. Maybe I should concentrate on what I give to others, or better yet, realize I don't have to give to others all the time to be 'worth it'.  I'm 'worth it' just because I exist, right? It's such a hard sell.

Sorry this is so long. If you read all the way through, you're a fucking champion and I love you. And you get to know the name of my new, shiny car.

Her name is Zuzu. Partly because the letters are in the license plate, but also because it reminds of the movie It's a Wonderful Life. That movie reminds me that beautiful things can result from adversity, beautiful things that are often possible due to the generosity of others. George Bailey apparently never felt he did anything truly worthy in his life, but he did, and the audience doesn't question whether George deserved the money everyone gives him at the end. So, I'm trying to take a lesson from that movie. Maybe I deserve my shiny Zuzu, even if I only get her for three years, because I really have had a positive effect on others' lives.

And maybe this whole mini-breakdown happened because I need to learn how to feel worthy of what I receive, for as independent-minded as I am, I will always rely on others, as do most of us. I think this situation is also a reminder to ask for help. I suspect I don't ask for help because I don't feel worthy of it, because I don't want to BOTHER anyone, because I'm afraid of revealing myself to be even more damaged and worthless than before.

Anyway, this is a lot to think about. It'll take some time. 

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