Archive for December, 2010

But It Just May Be a Lunatic You’re Looking For

Friday, December 24th, 2010

So those of you who have been in therapy, do you ever look back on that experience and wonder if the therapist thought you were crazy? Or maybe diagnosed you with something really debilitating or awful, even if it was just to get your lousy insurance company to pay although – let’s be frank here – that’s probably just rationalization. I mean, if someone was secretly treating you for antisocial behavior disorder or any of the behavior disorders (famous for their doomsday-like prognosis: there ain’t no pill that will stop you from being a narcissist) then they probably actually thought you had said disorder and their reasons for not sharing your own fate with you run the gamut from protecting you from certain despair to plain old ‘just another not very good therapist.’

I have no idea what this is.

I remember I saw a therapist  just one time – before it became clear that my insurance would NOT pay for her and I was 100% on the line for her outrageous $226 ‘first meeting’ charge, which I paid in small $20 doses even though I technically could have afforded to do it all at once. It was the principle of the thing. And a misguided hope that she would drop the remainder of the bill out of guilt or a sense of not wanting to rip off some nice girl who truly got nothing out of that hour except a giant, unexpected  invoice and what I’m about to tell you.

So anyway, at some point near the end of our brief, but pricey meeting she announces that she had decided I was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), an off-the-cuff and likely worthless diagnosis that made me proud. I have no idea why. I guess because it indicates I’m a survivor. Or someone who did three tours in Nam. I mean, you have to be tough to have PTSD and not be a heroin addict, right? Oh, and it’s fixable, or so I’ve heard. So all in all, I was okay with the prognosis. It was a badge of honor, even. A pat on the back, and a “Better luck next time. You’ve survived your life thus far. Sure, you’re messed up, but you’re still among the living. Hey, at least you’re not schizophrenic.”

That stated. this morning, for reasons unknown, I found myself thinking about this other lady I saw for about six months. She was the only therapist in town that my insurance would be pay for (seriously) and for the hassle, the co-pay was nothing. It was $5.00 a session to see her, and the first five or ten or so were free. As with most things in life, it was a ‘you get what you pay for’ situation. In hindsight (and even at the time), she wasn’t much of a therapist, and she seemed almost impressed with me. I think most traditional therapies ascribe to the school of coping equals wellness, meaning as long as you’re more or less going along without any major blips or addictions or other acting out, then you’re doing well. The whole goal is to get you to cope, and the buck more or less stops there: continue coping for the rest of your life and consider it a job well done.

I wonder if this plate is available in the state of Washington?

So truth be told, and if you haven’t already surmised as much, I didn’t have much respect for the woman nor did I think she was helpful in any real way (and later she developed an intense jealousy of my hypnotherapist and even questioned why I kept coming to her for these talk-only sessions and forced me to reveal that it was a) because I liked talking about myself and b) it was cheap. For $5, I can’t even get a friend to listen to me for ten minutes uninterrupted.) So anyway, the woman (whose name I honestly can’t remember. Let’s call her Pam. It may have been Pam, but I”n not sure. Perhaps it started with a P? I recall her face, so it’s weird to me that I can’t remember even her first name.) had had a lengthy career working with patients with borderline personality disorder. For those of you who aren’t familiar, borderline personality disorder is a condition in which a person makes impulsive actions, and has an unstable mood and chaotic relationships.

As for symptoms:

Relationships with others are intense and unstable. They swing wildly from love to hate and back again. People with BPD will frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment.

BPD patients may also be uncertain about their identity or self-image. They tend to see things in terms of extremes, either all good or all bad. They also typically view themselves as victims of circumstance and take little responsibility for themselves or their problems.

Other symptoms include:

  • Feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • Frequent displays of inappropriate anger
  • Impulsiveness with money, substance abuse, sexual relationships, binge eating, or shoplifting
  • Intolerance of being alone
  • Recurrent acts of crisis such as wrist cutting, overdosing, or self-injury (such as cutting)

Books on dealing with these folks have uplifiting titles like “When Hope is Not Enough,” “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” and “Sometimes I Act Crazy.” Needless to say, it’s a wild ride, and probably not a very fun one. On a related note, I’ve been trying (in vain) to remember the name of this book the person we’re calling Pam gave me because I think I was hoping to see if if the methodology within (best described as Buddhist awareness) was the common treatment for some kind of dreadful mental problem that she suspected I had but never had the nerve to tell me. But then again, at the same time, I suppose worrying that you’re crazy is the first clue that you’re probably sane (or sane enough), as most crazy people rarely stop to take note that the voices in their head aren’t actually coming out of anyone’s mouth.

Just so you know I still care.

In other semi-relevant news, about a month ago (during the early stages of my four week-long sickness which is FINALLY more or less over) I had a couple glasses of wine and took half an Ambien and apparently got out of bed not once, not twice, but THREE times, the third of which I was found staring out the windows and muttering about how “they’re here.”

Very Poltergeist of me, no?

You hear these horror stories about Ambien (leaving your home, driving down the wrong side of the highway, or – worst of all – consuming thousands of calories and not remembering a single bite of the dry cake mix, beef jerky, raw eggs and shells, and two pounds of macadamia nut binge) and the first time I took it I was so wigged out that I put a chair in front of the hotel room door before going to bed in the hopes that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the room in the night and inadvertently become the lead story on the ten o’clock news.

To explain, I only have the stuff because when I used to travel East for work, I’d have a hell of time adjusting my sleep schedule, so I’d finally calm down and doze off around 4am, and then have to be up at 6am and work all day, and after about three days of this, I was more or less hallucinating.

Native Americans and their damned descriptive naming...

Enter a now five-year old prescription of Ambien that still has about twelve pills and is maybe used once a year. Also, it’s the old school kind (not the continuous release) associated with all the bizarre and unpredictable sleepwalking-plus behavior. It kind of brings to mind an idea for an experiment where maybe I’d booze it up and then take an Ambien and fill my place with motion sensor cameras and see what kind of trouble I get into? That could make an interesting reality show, at least in theory.

Finally, I do feel rather badly about neglecting the hell out of this blog (and you!) and have no real excuses minus my lingering illness and overall lack of riveting content, but presuming you’re okay with lengthy and pointless musings on whether or not a therapist I saw three or four years ago secretly thought I was insane, then I promise to provide much more regular, but still totally worthless, updates.

In fact, my intentions are so strong that I will come through on this promise that I’m not even going to wish you a Merry Christmas in the hopes that  I an conjure up some more cheerful, holiday-appropriate content and share it with you again then.

p.s.

But just in case, Feliz Navidad.

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Be careful what you wish for

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Or offer up.

Or open the door to.

Or making blanket statements of “analysis welcome.”

We're all such pessimists, aren't we? Why can't we just wish it and have a happy ending for once?

But make no mistake, I am grateful for the tough love and the unflinching mirrors and the harsh artificial bulbs highlighting my every wrinkle and flaw. In truth, I am sharing this in the most impressed and humbled manner: not only is this analysis of my dream thoughtful and intelligent, but it’s rather on-point…which again reinforces my feeling that I should not start a blog about my dreams unless it’s anonymous and I only read the feedback once a month when I’m feeling invincible and entirely convinced of my own convictions.

Let’s face facts: some of you are just too damn smart for your own britches.

ANALYSIS OF MY “SATAN STEALS MY SCISSORS” DREAM BY THE OBVIOUS REINCARNATION OF DR. FREUD OR SOME EQUALLY ILLUSTRIOUS AND INSIGHTFUL SOUL.  (***slight edits made to protect the innocent***)

If ostriches were wishes, this beggar would feast on giant eggs.

You are out (free…?), but in a destroyed world. Something terrible has happened around you, obviously, but you seem to be well. At least, alive…

The worst is over (!), and you have to move elsewhere. Begin again. You´ve lost almost everything, but you have carefully prepared for your next steps, you have everything you need with you (not much), and the company and of your good friend who is there to support you.

So there you go, and ready to “face the problems” and with “good chances to make it” (interesting, whatever you meant with “it”…)

This is quite seemingly your life.

Ok, but just when you start to face your new future, YOU walk into the devíl´s house. YOU do, my friend. He´s not stepping out that much, to stop you. Actually, you spend three lines justifying yourself of doing so.

Wouldn't it be cool if genies were real? I don't care what you say: I think it would be cool.

“I (FIRST PERSON) recognized the little lean-to shop owned by the devil (yes, THE devil) and we (LESS; BUT STILL FIRST PERSON) decided to stop. I honestly can’t remember why (YOU ARE EXCUSING YOURSELF). I don’t know if my friend wanted to (NO SHE DIDN´T: IT´S YOUR DREAM) or if I suggested it (SO IT SEEMS).”

Let´s talk about “the devil”. Let´s face it: it was NOT an accident that you met him. You consider his presence not your decission, but fate. Something BAD (your words), probably for the simple fact that in his presence you are NOT FREE. You are his puppet, and just can´t go on with YOUR life. There is a certain attraction to him, but rationally you know you should keep the distance.

“know you shouldn’t return his calls or let him keep coming around”.

But you´d be waiting, if there were no calls, or presence, right? There is an attraction. A knot. A robe that is keeping you tied up to that bad influence. (You must know….)

I chatted with the devil for a while and he was both teasing and flirtatious”, while cooking for you…

Attraction. He´s got a power to keep you interested. He KNOWS (he´s free from the kind of uncertainties that bother you). He knows about your friend’s future, and about yours! That´s why you are afraid to ask, and he laughs.

I love despair.com. Some funny people, those.

Interestingly enough, the questions you make about your future seems to be about love. And your point is interesting: if you are in love “enough”, you won´t notice your unhappiness.My goodness. You feel so unsure about your future that you accept to be a puppet as long as there are some strings keeping you up. Not letting you down.

There is a “devil” keeping you alive, and you are afraid of cutting the strings. But you know you are trapped. and YOU, the real YOU, wants the strings cut. So you need scissors….

Surprise, surprise! Who took the scissors from you? The devil puppeteer!!!! The truth is that you consider the cutting tools ”critical items for the journey ahead“. Your “main memory from the dream was my desperation to get this stuff back.” You were “DESPERATE to get at least one pair of scissors and the knife back. I began searching frantically through his shop, but couldn’t find them anywhere. I even started snooping through drawers and in piles of clothes looking for them, and nothing.”

This became a nightmare. Unfortunately, J couldn´t help you to recover them (she was helpless too against YOUR devil…), so solving the problem was YOUR own job.

Icky celery sandwich

I'm going to wish for the opposite of this: and I'm going to take my chances as to whatever that will manifest.

Not only your puppeteer (whoever/whatever you think they are) was impeeding your freedom, but also, remarked his power on you, playing with the strings. I was so angry at him for toying with me. I knew he didn’t need both the scissors AND the knife, but that he took them just to upset me and hinder us on our journey.

You KNEW you had to leave, and you hated to be a loser. But you cannot take your freedom without cutting the strings. So you bargained. YOU LOST!!!!!!! I knew he had me and there was no argument to be made. I could see it on his face that he was delighted to be both fulfilling my request and yet screwing me over so significantly.

The point is: now you can sew, but that´s not what you need. Bad deal. Now you are on your way to freedom (as at the beginning of the dream), but you KNOW you are still controlled by your devils. So when you finally have to decide which way to go, the fear chills you, and make the WRONG decision: I think YOU believe that walking is not the way to go. It is a compromise, not a choice. You have no option. Can´t chose the GOOD way to go (the river, difficult but challenging, fun and exciting, you know it….) because somehow you NEED the knife and good scissors to feel free enough to swim on the rapids. But with strings all around, the puppet will sink, helpless (as the devil/puppeteer is not really in the river to save you). Soo those strings kill your freedom, but aren´t really helping.

I have no idea what this is. Nor whether the sentiment is true as my luck centers more around coin tosses and door prizes.

So you started walking and took your chances on land leaving the river aside. And your choice was so boring that you prefered to wake up…  : P

I agree with this on many levels, except to say that the river was actually a certain death, so that decision I stand by! The rest of it (and whether or not we’re talking about a mere dream or my entire life here notwithstanding)….errrr….check back with me in a few years on that, okay?

Until then, enjoy your weekend, kids.

Hope none of you are in the throes of near-death sickness or if you are, at least know the comfort of a large idiot dog and a full bottle of Nyquil Cold and Cough and with those companions by your side, are able to keep on keeping on…

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What Fresh Hell is This?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Excuse me a moment while I run a quick equipment check.

Ears? Partially functional.

Throat? Raw.

Head? Throbbing.

Chest? Shattered.

Phlegm? Overflowing.

Diagnosis? Business as usual.

The moonshine of medicine.

Day thirteen of my super lame illness marks no real improvement and, in fact, a decidedly worse headache (rendered even more horrific every time I cough.) However, this level of sickliness combined with the not-so-subtle aid of an overdose of Nyquil Cold & Flu has lent itself to extended time asleep. I’ve been logging ten and eleven hours a night, embarrassingly enough. On the upside, I had a particularly colorful (and funny, in hindsight) dream last night I thought I’d share in the hopes of making up for my shameful lack of blogging the last couple weeks:

It was one of those ‘end of the world apocalypse’ events and everyone was moving out on foot with what they could carry. We were all in sort of an old wild west town: the buildings were made of wood and the roads were just dirt. I was traveling with a good friend of mine and had packed rather thoughtfully for a variety of problems down the road. I felt good about our chances of making it, and really didn’t have a sense that I’d forgotten anything important.

As we were heading out of town, I recognized the little lean-to shop owned by the devil (yes, THE devil) and we decided to stop. I honestly can’t remember why. I don’t know if my friend (let’s call her J) wanted to or if I suggested it. In hindsight, my vague sense was that the devil was like a bad man you can’t quite shake: you know you shouldn’t return his calls or let him keep coming around, but you just can’t seem to help yourself. It’s kind of fun in a twisted way.

Shack

Properly post-apocalyptic.

Thus, we were in the devil’s shack and he had a little kitchen in the back. He offered to make us some food for the road and my friend, J, wandered off while we waited. I chatted with the devil for a while and he was both teasing and flirtatious. At one point, he mentioned that J would soon meet a man and marry him.

“Will she be happy?” I asked.

“It won’t matter,” the devil told me, “She’ll be too in love with love to notice…at least for the first couple years.”

It sounded about right, and I could see things going down that way. I told him that I’d like to know what would happen to me, but I was kind of afraid to ask. He just laughed and walked away.

Later it was time to leave, and I opened my bag. I realized immediately that several things were missing, including two pairs of scissors and an exacto knife: critical items for the journey ahead. I confronted the devil about this and he smiled and told me that J had given him the items.

My main memory from the dream was my desperation to get this stuff back.

“Why? Why would she do that to us?”

“Because I asked her to and she couldn’t resist me. You would have done the same thing to her had I asked.”

Somehow I realized he was right, so I wasn’t mad at my friend, but DESPERATE to get at least one pair of scissors and the knife back. I began searching frantically through his shop, but couldn’t find them anywhere. I even started snooping through drawers and in piles of clothes looking for them, and nothing. I was so angry at him for toying with me. I knew he didn’t need both the scissors AND the knife, but that he took them just to upset me and hinder us on our journey.

I also knew we needed to leave – it would be dark soon – but I was terrified to go on without any way to cut anything. Plus, being incredibly stubborn, I hated to walk away from this game the loser. I went back to the devil and pleaded with him to return just one of the items he’d taken.

“If I give it to you, will you go away?”

Don't be fooled: these scissors couldn't cut through a marshmallow.

“Yes, but I need a pair of scissors or a knife. Just one. If you give me back just one, we’ll leave.”

He laughed and pulled out a tiny sewing kit: the kind you buy for $2.99 at Target that comes with those awful, miniature flimsy scissors that can barely cut through the sewing thread. I hadn’t realized he’d taken this, but since it contained a pair of (virtually worthless) scissors, I knew he had me and there was no argument to be made. I could see it on his face that he was delighted to be both fulfilling my request and yet screwing me over so significantly.

I took the sewing kit and we left. All the while I tried to console myself that at least I had a way to sew if it became necessary.

Down the road I came to a river, and saw that people were jumping it. The water was moving fast and there were Class IV rapids and children were leaping in and being swept along. Horrified, I asked what was going on and was informed that – if you survived it – the water would take you all the way to Astoria, Oregon in just a few hours.

Class IV rapids

It's probably better to stay out of this water...even if it is the expedited route to Astoria.

I realized that was much better time than I could ever make on foot, but it looked very dubious that anyone would actually live through that. Thus, I signaled to my friend that we should start walking and take our chances on land. We headed out (and thankfully I’d forgotten about the scissors…at least for the time being), and I woke up.

Analysis welcome!

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Reports of My Demise Have Been Relatively Exaggerated

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Welcome to day twelve of my “surely this has been manufactured in some kind of cold war lab” sinus-suffocating illness. I have been ridiculously sick since the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t know who did this to me, but I have my suspects, and I plan to name names below. In other news, did you know a human being can produce over five pounds of snot, phlegm, and mucus a day? Trust me on this: I am walking proof.

Random image from the Google search 'rumors of my demise'. It's appropriately gloomy.

In short, my absence has been mostly unpleasant, semi-worthless from a productivity standpoint, and physically draining, but I will focus on the positive as much as possible. For instance, coughing your lungs up seventy-five times an hour doubles as a pretty amazing abdominal workout! Moreover, for the last few days I’ve had the perfect voice to pull off a mean version of Bette Davis Eyes.

So let’s start at the beginning: Thanksgiving.

It was fine. It was what it was: a holiday centered around cooking one giant meal which is over very quickly and kind of pointless. I made the turkey and my friend’s family took care of the rest. All in all, it was uneventful minus the presence of three little kids, one of whom was taken to the emergency room later that night due to his cranky mood, low fever, and obvious head cold.

Another random image. Somersault-ish, no?

When my sore throat started the following night, and as an experienced Clue player, I immediately fingered one-year-old Blake, in the libary, with the candlestick as the Typhoid Mary of our turkey celebration. However, a follow up inquiry revealed that he has the croup. Seeing as that’s a childhood illness, I suppose I can’t really blame him. Thus, reluctantly, he’s off the hook.

The oldest child, a six-year old girl named Athena, appeared healthy, although she suffered from apparent mental problems. This wasn’t immediately obvious, but the damning evidence emerged shortly after she learned my age. Thinking thoughtfully for a moment, she exclaimed, “My mom’s almost your age! She’s twenty-six.”

I know what you’re thinking: that’s not crazy talk. The child is young. And bad at math. All adults are old to little kids. Once you get over twenty, you’re old. Hell, I remember being in first grade (this little girl’s age) and thinking the eighth graders were as old as my parents. Plus, if you brought them your impossibly scrambled up Rubik’s cube, they would fix it for you, something that bordered on the miraculous in my eyes.

Brief digression: remember how there was a formula that once you got a line of color or a few squares next to each other, you could fix a Rubik’s cube: reset it back to the beginning? My dad even bought the book on how to do it, although I didn’t possess the patience to get through all the steps. I do, however, have a clear memory of my even more impatient brother pulling the actual cubes off the frame and trying to reassemble it in some semblance of order. It didn’t work. Stickers were removed. Things digressed from there.

Final random image. I do it for you. Because I know you like pictures.

So anyway, later that evening, Athena confronted me outside the kitchen. “I can’t believe you’re thirty! You look younger than my mom!”

I am, as you know and to my own horror, closer to forty than thirty, but since she’s chosen to hear me wrong or remember it wrong, I couldn’t quite see the point to straightening her out. Thirty’s bad enough, and…wait…what did she just say? I look younger than someone twenty-six? Well, bless her little crazy heart.

And she didn’t stop there. When I thanked her for the compliment, she followed up that not only did I not look thirty…or twenty-six…but sixteen.

Yep.

According to a six-year old, I look sixteen. Thus my earlier suggestion that the child had a mental illness, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Admittedly, I was feeling pretty youthful and vibrant and youthful and vibrant-looking at that point, and I now think that’s how the con works. “Let’s have a dance off!” she proposed. I somehow weasled out. THANK GOD.

There's a train leaving town

Fair enough.

“Look at this!”  She executed a cartwheel on the living room rug, and I was appropriately congratulatory.

“Now you do it!”

“I can’t. The only thing I can do is a somersault.”

“Do it!”

I am 99% sure that the last time I did a somersault I was in high school, and I vaguely recall it as an unpleasant experience that received a poor grade, but before I could analyze the situation too much, I found myself attempting one.

It was harder than I would have thought.

It took about three false starts before I got the momentum to actually go over.

And I’m pretty sure I heard a distinct ‘crack’ sound come from my neck.

It was around that time that I realized that whether or not I look sixteen or twenty-six or sixty, I am too damn old for somersaulting on the living room floor. Attempts to cajole me into further performances (including proclamations that I do somersaults better than anyone she’s ever seen or that I MUST do it again so that the grown-ups could appreciate my gymnastic talents) failed as I wondered if they kept a neck brace or cervical collar around just in case.

It took about 36 hours before my neck felt right again.

As for my bird/swine/cockroach/space alien flu infection, there was a third suspect present: a three-year old with a third unusual name that I kept forgetting and can’t remember now. Cortland? Copeland? Coleman? Carlson? I don’t know. Anyway, he was sick too. Coughing and snotty and all over the place. And he brought me several empty Dixie Cups. And burst in on me in the bathroom after an intense screaming beat down on the door (in hindsight, a warning I should have heeded). And he hit me with the lid to the garbage can. And somehow made me incredibly, horribly, never-endingly sick.

Was it his fault for sure?

I don’t know, but in my court, you’re guilty until proven innocent and therefore Colton (I actually think the name was Colton) is to blame.

(Assuming I survive the night, more tomorrow on my ‘adventures’ from days three through six…)

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