Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Meds and Weird Side Effects

If you read the #Diagnostic and #Statistical Manual of #Mental Disorders, which is the psychiatric bible for those in the helping professions, you see a lot of medications. Google those medications and you'll pull up some fascinating side effects: impotence, headaches, nausea, #fatigue. The list goes on and on. Ad #nauseum. I've had a few side effects, which often border on the comical. On one antidepressant I had extremely vivid dreams. They involved a lot of physical movement, and several times I fell off the bed onto our tiled floor. Ouch! I have been really lucky not to have hit my head. I wouldn't want to complicate my chronic depression with a TBI. My husband joked that I should wear one of those bicycle helmets---at least I think he was joking--but with a change in antidepressants, the exciting, #aerobic-stimulating dreams vanished. I wouldn't have minded nearly as much if they were fun dreams like necking with Pierce Brosnan or sipping Merlot with Jerry Seinfeld (now that would have been a really funny scenario and I might have picked up a few jokes) Another negative side effect I've had is a cottony mouth. If I get nervous, this symptom becomes #exaggerated and I have great difficulty talking or even opening my mouth. It really gets bad if I'm nervous, and I'm nervous a lot of the time. The shrink has advised chewing gum as an antidote, but 24/7? That's a bit too much of making like a cow. Another side effect is orgasm. I can't remember the last time I could have one--either by traditional #sex or #masturbation. I know this should go under the heading of "Bite the Bullet if you want to Live", but it's a quality of life issue, and it's a loss that I don't see myself recovering from. Let's all bow our heads and say a prayer for your dysfunctional leader! What I'd like to see one day are #psychotropic drugs that have side effects you'd kill for. For instance, wouldn't it be nice to look on WebMD and find out that the latest #drug your shrink prescribed has a good chance of increasing your self #esteem? Or maybe take two #capsules of this #antipsychotic called Haldollar and you'll never have to shave your legs again. Your mood might not just chase the grey thoughts away, but might also double as a source of energy. Suddenly you'd be super-neurotic--able to clean eight rooms in a single morning and still have the #motivation to shop until you drop at the corner Costco or Sam's Club. In my imagined world of mind-enhancing drugs these pink and purple pills would really earn their high prices by keeping down your weight, whisking away facial wrinkles and slowing the aging process. At the same time, they would pump up your brain power by #manufacturing hundreds of thousands of neurons while you sleep so in your waking hours your #creativity would shine. Maybe you'd #invent the self-driving passenger plane or the cure for the common cold. You could be the first person to walk on Mars or create a new beverage that is non-alcoholic but gives you the same "lift." A girl can hope, right? The possibility exists because even as you read this article, there are scientists hard at work in their labs developing better ways to stop minds from breaking down. Just think, one day PTSD might be a non-event easily eradicated by a sip of a tea-like liquid that also stops people from perpetuating racial bias. Now that's something I could get behind!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Cremains of the Day

In a small oaken display case sitting in the hallway near my bedroom is a #shrine of sorts. It's not absurdly #morbid or over-#sentimentalized, but it does contain the cremains of all the pets I've cared for during my #marriage. If I continue to live on, there will eventually be eight more containers to add to the ones already there. The containers all are unique in that some are bedecked with favorite toys, leashes, and collars, and others have a winter coat or sympathy cards lying alongside. The cremains themselves are in separate receptacles, some plastic, others metal. Most are small since they house the ashes of cats and #schnauzers, small creatures that take up little space in the real world and even less space in the in #memoriam world. The #crypts give me some comfort, but nothing really takes the place of a kiss on a wet nose or a #vigorous shake of water from a terrier just out of the tub. One worry I have is not outliving my pets. In that case, we really don't have a friend or relative to dispose of the cremains in a loving way. Yes, we have wills, but even the most current one does not address that scenario. The woman I named as caretaker travels a great deal, and I wouldn't want her #responsible for my live or dead pets.So we've goofed that part of the will. As an alternate solution, we could leave the pets to a local #adoption agency with enough monies to give them an incentive to either find a great home for the pets or to care for them in a kennel-like setting. Finding homes for my living and beloved pet is a hard issue to address and we're working to solve the problem, but another related issue exists: What do I do with all the containers of ashes? It makes sense to dispose of them before I die so I have complete control, but the actual release of the cremains gives me the willies. It also opens the door to many other questions: How do I actually open them? Where should I dispose of them? Is there some local #ordinance that prohibits their disposal in a pond, lake, stream or public land such as a park? Is there some eco-friendly recommendation I should follow? Should I do this covertly in the dead of night? In that case my husband and I would then have to get dressed, load all the #cremain containers into our SUV and then drive to an already selected venue, at which time we would scatter the remains. Never having done this before, I am at a loss as to where to dispose of the ashes and bone fragments. In the movies you always see people disposing of human remains near the beach or from a boat. But what if you don't have convenient access to water? What then should you do? Get a shovel and pour the remains into a hole near a lovely evergreen or flowering bush? Trek to a cemetery and sprinkle the ashes over #headstones and other plaques? Hire a helicopter and execute the plan from 7,000 feet? There's a million possibilities, some humorous, others #grotesque. The problem is that despite their changed form, my pets are sacred to me, and I can't really imagine parting with them. As you can see, I'm really stumped as to what to do with the ashes already in my #possession, much less others that are destined to come down the pike before I leave this world. Since my #husband and I have chosen to be cremated, an ideal solution would be to co-mingle the ashes with our own, but I'm not sure if this is legal or that I could trust a funeral director to carry out such a complex task. The last funeral director I spoke to was not that nice. This has nothing to do with cremains, but my mother's funeral still leaves a #bitter taste. Since my sister had cleverly prepaid for a traditional burial--with all the trimmings such as a mid-range casket and escort to the cemetery--the director couldn't have cared less about the feelings of the bereaved. This particular director was in a hurry to move the service along and get the casket out and into the limo. She had allocated one hour, I believe, for our service, and any longer would intrude on time she had #allocated for another burial service. To put it bluntly, she had a casket jam. So when I approached her to ask if my mother's health aide could look at my mom before she closed the casket, she regarded me with annoyance and anger. Since it was a hot September morning in New Jersey, she fell back on a #mumbled statement of the body's exposure to the heat, etc. I guess she wanted me to reel in disgust with a mental image of my mother's face sliding down her neck and ending up onto the shroud which wrapped the bulk of her body. Well, common sense told me that delaying a casket's closure for five minutes was certainly not going to #decompose the body to any great extent. So I insisted that my health aide, who had arrived late to the service, be given the opportunity to pay her respects to my mom. The director and I "compromised," and she said that the health aide could take a look after they wheeled the #casket out and before it was rolled into the limo. Since my sister was in charge of this prepaid "circus," I knew I wouldn't be able to work out anything better. So we carried out the director's suggestion. Which only goes to show that #funeral directors not only get emotionally burned out or worn down by the constant stream of corporeal traffic flowing through their #mortuary, but also with dealing with the living in a rigid, formulaic way. They are well suited to their jobs except when a problem crops up, such as mine or a mix up in bodies, or, god forbid, a body that is still clinging to life. I haven't worked out a plan yet for what to do with the pet cremains, which actually pose a bigger problem than the human remains of my #husband and myself. With any luck at all, the pet cremains will be disposed of reverently and legally before their two human companions draw their last breath. If that happens, I really don't care what happens to our human cremains. Throw them out with the trash, bury them in the backyard under the rose bush, scatter them over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. Any plan would work for me, as long as my spirit doesn't lag behind.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Living Vicariously Isn't All Bad

Most #shrinks would discourage their clients' attempts to live vicariously--for instance, watching 1,200 slides of someone's trip to #Romania instead of getting on a plane and going there yourself. And I'd have to agree with a lot of the #objections. Taking risks and venturing into the unknown builds character much more than sitting #safely in your room and ruminating about sky diving, water skiing, or alpine climbing. But once in a while living #vicariously is a great way to taunt someone and at the same time identify with another individual's #expertise. Junior high provided several occasions for this. After all, most kids that age have not yet reached the point where cliques and social status define their role in the educational hierarchy.To put it simply, eighth and ninth graders have more of a pack mentality than their elders (high schoolers). Their cohesiveness permits them to agree to perform various group #behaviors that can complicate the lives of teachers. I recall times when one of the class leaders would suggest that students do something fairly benign at a certain specific time. For instance, a whisper would start at one end of the classroom and would travel from one row of desks to another, informing pupils that everyone was to drop their pencil at exactly 12:05 pm. The idea was that this #synchronised group activity would startle the teacher, make everyone #giggle and break the boring routine of another day at the thankless task of studying algebra, geometry or whatever. One day our class (which as a group attended all the same subjects) was excited to see a substitute in our elementary French class. Miss Baxman, from the old school of proper pupil decorum and discipline, was absent, and another teacher--a sub--was taking over the classes. Our class was comprised of an average number of good, fair, and bad students in the challenging discipline of French language and grammar, with the exception of one person, an attractive brunette who had lived in Paris several years and had a fantastic accent that put all the rest of the French students to shame. We all knew and liked "Starr," who despite her #linguistic prowess never lauded it over her colleagues. In short Starr was a good egg, or shall I say un oeuf bon. So when the class decided to shock the sub with our secret weapon, Starr was up for the job. The fun was in our group effort to force the sub to call on Starr for an answer to to one of the homework assignments. Then we hoped she would "discover" our secret weapon whereupon she would become flustered, embarrassed, angry and otherwise #discombobulated by Starr's eloquent recitation of French phrases. That was what we hoped would happen, but despite Starr's #acquiescence to the group gambit, she had her mind on other things. To put it bluntly, Starr probably had too much French wine at last night's dinner and was desperately trying to catch up on her sleep in French class. As a result, she was not actively volunteering answers to the sub's homework review. In fact her eyes were half shut, and she had opened her book to the wrong page. (I knew all this because I was seated next to her.) The whole point of the class trick was to force the sub to hear French the way the Parisians really spoke it, and considering Starr's drowsy demeanor, the trick looked to be headed south. Something had to give to make it work. Each of us had identified with Starr's French facility, so our individual and group integrity were at risk. We wanted to #astound the sub with our French acuity and to do this we had to live vicariously through Starr. But Starr had in a sense opted out of the trick. She was all but snoring, and we were fast coming to the end of the class #assignment. The bell would ring in a few minutes and Starr and the sub would go their separate ways never to know that 30 students were frustrated and disappointed over the turn of events. Luckily, however, #fate intervened when Starr's book tumbled off her desk and onto the floor. The class collectively gasped, but Starr was nonplused. The noise was sufficient to awaken her, thankfully. She quickly went about gathering her books and papers as if nothing extraordinary had happened. But the sub was not to be conned. At this point she recognized that Starr was at the least not paying attention and at the worst, acting bored and superior. So the sub called her on it. "Mademoiselle, veuillez lire le paragraphe suivant," she said to Starr, who had at long last awakened to the request for her to read the next paragraph in the grammar book. That was just the opening the class had prayed for. As I was seated next to Starr, I helped her find her place on the page. Naturally the sub expected to hear fractured French--Franglais-- pour out of the mouth of Starr, but just the opposite ensued. I couldn't help smiling as Starr hypnotized the class and the sub with her dazzling display of verbal #agility. Living vicariously never felt so good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sparklers and Other Things I Worry About

It's time to #laugh a little, maybe a lot, and I've got just the thing to stimulate strong guffaws. Here is a SHORT list of some things that #scare me. Maybe they #scare you too! 1. Sparklers--Last night we were outside with the dogs and all of a sudden I heard a boom and saw smoke. I was so confused by what happened that my mouth became instantly dry of saliva and my vocal chords were paralyzed. Finally I saw where the smoke was coming from: Our next-door #neighbors were setting off the remainder of their July 4th firecracker toys. My #husband kept insisting that all the sparks flying out in a million different directions were harmless, but I was worried that one spark might touch a dry spot on our house and ignite, causing a fire. So I said in a loud voice: JULY 4TH IS OVER. Then my husband in a loud whisper reprimanded me. "I don't want to fight with our neighbors," he said, wagging his finger at me. But as abruptly as the fireworks display began, it ended. 2. The other night a windstorm blew through town and I worried that my dogs might get valley fever, a #chronic lung disease. I hurried to get them into the house ASAP, but you never know since it only takes one spore.... 3. My memory is not as good as it once was. I never had a photographic #memory like some lucky folks, but it used to be pretty darn good. Now my most recent events sometimes blur. Like I might not remember where I went for dinner two nights ago, what movie I watched on #Netflix and other similar stuff. None of it is life-threatening but it's extremely annoying and makes me worry about my potential for #dementia. 4. Films--I hate watching films that don't have a #logical resolution. It leaves me wrestling with a lot of conundrums. Last night on Netflix my hubby and I watched a movie called "The Birthday Song" and at first it had all the makings of an exciting, who-done-it-style murder. It was about a 40-year old guy whose wife gives him a party for a #birthday gift. But she has to nurse "Granny "so she is absent while the Birthday Boy romances a guest. Somehow during the #lovemaking, he accidentally kills her. Now you figure the storyline is really ramping up, right? But wait! From here on out, you can't tell whether he's dreaming the unfolding events or they're happening in real time. By the end of the movie, my hubby and I were so confused we needed to go to the Movie #Helpline(which doesn't exist but don't you wish it did). The next best choice of help lines was Google, but either #Google was as confused as we were or it didn't want to share. I hate people or #inanimate search engines that do that. I may switch to #Bing if they don't watch out! 5. When I used to frequent bars as a way to meet guys, the music usually was so loud that I couldn't hear the conversation. Sometimes I would just shake my head--either up and down or from side to side--and hope the answer made sense. I worried a lot that I was saying yes to the wrong things and vice versa. Guy: Would you like to take a ride with me after which I'll murder you? Me: Head nodding up and down with a smile plastered across my lower face. 6. I really can't dance to save my life. I was too busy studying to pay attention to Dick Clark and his American Bandstand days and somehow I guess I faked the trendy stuff. I was so inept that I didn't even bother to learn the names of the dances. Why should I? I did the same steps to all the fast music and sipped alcoholic beverages during the slow ones. And, let's face it, girls, guys are even worse than we are. Actually the only guys I know who can dance are Fred Astaire, John Travolta, and Patrick Swayze. 7. I #hate it when people say "it'll just be a minute" and then they disappear for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Food servers commit this crime, but then so do best friends, doctors and dentists, and even my husband. I've seen him disappear into our bedroom (purportedly to wash his hands and change his socks and shoes) and all of a sudden, it's like he's been kidnapped by an alien or disappeared into the #Bermuda Triangle. He disappears into the stratosphere and I'm left wondering if I should call 9-1-1 or just chill out and order pizza. 8. I worry about hair dyes. My husband uses some brown stuff, and I used to go dark until I read somewhere you had a higher chance of getting #cancer if you used dark brown/black hair dye. So now I'm "auburn," at least that's what Clairol calls it. I call it risking life and limb for the sake of vanity. 9. I sometimes worry that I've missed the one thing in life that would help me make sense of it all.. Usually I figure that this ONE KEY TO LIFE is in a book that I have yet to read. And I'm not sure which category the book might fall under. Psychology seems too obvious, and religion or #philosophy is usually so contradictory that my brain gets twisted into a question mark every time I peruse these tomes.  And what if the ONE KEY TO LIFE is in something prosaic, such as cooking, yoga or how to build airplane models. I probably would never find it because I'd be busy looking in dusty esoteric corners instead of in a mundane device like cuisinart or espresso maker. 10. Like so many people, I cringe at the thought of my computer crashing and losing everything on my hard disc. No, I don't have everything backed up the way I should. You'd think a #worry wart like myself would be a backup addict. But backup is a mite technical, so my concern over possibly erasing everything on my hard disk during backup outweighs my fear of losing data the old-fashioned way--in a power shortage or via a virus. What do you worry about? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Remember what The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford} said to Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman)before their daring leap into a river? "Don't worry about drowning, Butch; the fall will probably kill you!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thank Heavens for Little Boys, Gigi

When I think back over the good times in my #life, I have to admit that many of them were #gifted by guys. No #surprise there, but worth mentioning, especially to those readers of the male persuasion and the gals who like or love them. Ladies: Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you're in such a #relationship. Here's a litany of the guys who stand out most in my #dysfunctional life. My #husband's partner, Greg, is the first good guy to come to mind. His #wisecracks and self-deprecating humor always enlivened any social occasion. We spent several Mother's Days and #Easters with him, and his polite #demeanor never failed to impress me. He had a wickedly dark side to his wit, however. Once in a while, he'd joke that "it was time for a good funeral." He meant he liked the energy of social interaction mixed with #storytelling. Greg managed to spread joy at many a somber gathering. Like Minnesota celeb Garrison Keillor, he'd stand at the podium and tell fun stories about the deceased until you couldn't help but laugh. Your mind might be saying that laughing wasn't the proper etiquette, but a grin would escape anyhow. So it was only just and proper that at his funeral, Greg's relatives tried to enliven a horribly sad gathering (Greg died in his early 50s of a massive stroke) with a medley of Greg-geared anecdotes. His spirit prevailed, and I, for one, gave thanks that Greg could inject a feeling of gaiety at his own #funeral. That's quite a trick, but then Greg was sort of a #magician. He transformed an uptight #Mormon into an urbane Duke University student and then morphed that same man into my husband's BFF. I also appreciate the male shrinks who guided me in the right direction. Not all of them were prizes, but one in particular got me through an especially difficult period when I was hospitalized for several months and angry at the world for my #OCD and accompanying #depression. This #gentleman soothed with his words as much as by his face. Extremely #handsome and always #compassionate, he was adored even by a sick pup of a young woman (me) who was hungry for hope and the need for TLC.Then there was the shrink who tried to help my father deal with his #dementia. A kind and gentle man, he counseled and comforted family members as much as he treated my dad. And I especially felt a connection with the shrink who recently put me onto #ketamine but had to bow out due to his own demons. These men balanced out some of the "wicked witches" I dealt with over the years. One NJ #psychologist, who I now think completely misdiagnosed me, conned me into going to her weekly group sessions. Every person there had a different malady--the only common thread was melancholia. I attended only a half-dozen sessions before I realized Lady Shrink didn't have a clue about me or my problems. When I called to officially fire her, she never wished me good luck or said anything that could conceivably pass as supportive. "You really should come up to group and tell them personally that you're leaving," she said in her stern official voice. This message left me with an emptiness I converted into self-blame. Now that I think about it, her solution to everything was textbook terrible. Another female psychologist, this one in #Arizona tried #hypnosis on me. I think she missed the memo on depression because lulling me into a calm state only made me sleepy but not less depressed. When I fired her, she also never wished me luck or helped me to find another therapeutic route. Instead she told me to return a paperback on behavioral cognitive therapy she had loaned me. Add cheap to her list of character defects. As a freelance writer, I've worked with many editors, and in general men are easier to deal with than women. One editor took a chance on me as a fledgling newspaper correspondent; another was kind enough to arrange a perk: a free ticket to hear Obama speak in Phoenix. The guys again balanced out some of the stunning offenses of women editors: those whose #reimbursement was never commensurate with their demands; those who changed just about every word you wrote; those who tried to see how many hoops you would jump through; and those who only criticized, never praised. Then there's the #miscellany of guys I dated. No, they weren't all charmers or even polite. (I especially remember the Columbia University student who blind dated me and was immediately turned off by my #academic #affiliation--sorry Snobby Guy, but the University of Pennsylvania gal you obviously would have preferred to date is my sister and she was already married.) Another guy boosted my spirits after a breakup. Aware of my propensity for #depression, he never brought up the split but tried instead to cheer me with music and #masculine charm. At one juncture in my life, I wanted desperately to breed my champion male schnauzer. Not one woman in my breed club would connect me to someone, but a member I hardly knew volunteered his time and, most of all, his female schnauzer. Little Maddie #birthed three boys and I kept them all--they were so cute and such pleasant reminders of a happy chapter in my life. I'd like to say there was a male teacher who inspired me to write, but I come up empty here, except for my husband. And although my father's #criticism and inability to express affection punctured many a dream I might have had of attending journalism school, I'll never forget the times he put an arm around me and showed me the warm person he might have been if he'd only let himself love openly. Even his dementia helped me become a little less of the cold-hearted daughter he had shaped. I #hugged him tightly on one occasion, promising to help him, and when his days grew short, I walked him in circles around the hospital, proud that I could do something to soothe his demons. I'm sure there's a man out there I haven't yet thanked, but when I win the National Book Award (ho-ho!) I'll try to make up for any omissions I may have made. And lastly, may I say thank heavens for the little boys in my life--schnauzers by the names of Ahab, Captain, Butch and Mork. May you live long lives and prosper.