For Middle Aged Butch

Here, I found one thing to add to my list, just for you.

DSCN2042

And here is one more:

Some say Shane wasn't "really" Butch. I don't care. I want her anyway.

That’s all I got.

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Dear Robin

Things have been different around here since you left. As a person who knows the high and the low and has envisioned the step you took, I was greatly affected by your decision. Many seemed comforted to find out you were facing a serious chronic illness. As if suddenly it all made sense.

The People magazine with your face on the cover stared at me for too many days from its place on top of the bathroom trashcan. One day I picked it up with a huff, deciding People had retouched your eye color. They made your eyes look too blue, like a black and white movie with the colors painted in. It reminded me of that movie you were in that I can’t remember the name of.

There were a few retrospective shows, some repeat performances, yada, yada. Then with Joan and football as distractions, everybody settled back down into their relative existences.

Today I read a whole magazine about you while I waited in a really long line in Safeway.

Look, what I really want to say is this. I don’t know what was going on in your mind right before you did what you did. But, why hanging? Because you couldn’t take it back?

I don’t want to talk bad about the dead. And I’ve been feeling spiritual lately and thinking a lot about compassion and not doing harm. But I’m pissed.

Look, what I really want to say, and I hope you take it in the best way possible, is fuck you.

Fuck you for going through with it and fuck you for getting to go when I’m still here and fuck you for setting such a fucking bad example and how could you do this to your kids????

How could I do it to my kid? Have I not yet been where you were, in the space right after you cross every con off your list?

Fuck, I’m sorry, Robin. You don’t know me. You don’t owe me anything. You’re just on the receiving end of a lot of things I’m pissed about right now.

That’s about all I’ve got for now, Robin. Except, say Hi to my dad for me, will ya?

Love, T

 

What I’ve learned so far

© Justine Rae

© Justine Rae

After I received my test results indicating that I have Lyme disease I experienced a shift in consciousness that lasted a few days. Finally, an answer for the multitude of health problems I’ve experienced over the last four years, and something to call my illness other than “No, I’m still feeling really sick”. My announcement to the world that I have Lyme disease resounded with the thud of a single pine needle landing in a dense forest. Did you hear it?

Here’s the deal. Most people don’t know what Lyme disease is or even how to pronounce it. Some folks have heard of it and nod sympathetically. Some respond with silence like the person who does not yet know grief when you tell them your loved one died. There are questions, including, What is the treatment? What are you taking right now? Is there a treatment? One well intending relative sent me a web link warning that antibiotics don’t help with Lyme. No, How are you,? I’m sorry to hear…

Welcome to Lyme purgatory. It’s the period right after you’re diagnosed. Most likely you’ve been sick for a long time. You may have lost your ability to perform your livelihood. Your Lyme diagnosis is a doorway into a parallel universe where things will never look the same again. First you learn that Lyme has a group of diehard codependents who are invading your body and doing as much damage as the Lyme. Keep drilling down and you may find that you have systemic candida and a host of other problems associated with the fact that you have been ill for an extended period of time. The body is a web, just like life, and each twitch on the silky string affects the entire web.

As you go along, the Lyme plot thickens. My adrenals are like a couple of goat nuts that have been dredged in flour and left in the deep fryer for too long. I’ve learned some things about adrenals that will fundamentally change how I live my life forever. There are treatments for crisply fried adrenals. But the most important treatment is learning how to live in a way that doesn’t make your adrenals rapidly fire over and over. Now I understand just how many things I can no longer afford. For instance, mainlining sugar instead of eating meals. While I was still working I remained upright by living on Vicodin, Starbucks drinks, sugar and 16 oz bottles of coca cola.

I’m one of the original Achievers . I learned how to be teachers pet in first grade. After that achievement became my life’s guiding force. After high school I became a nurse after graduating with a 4.0 + GPA. I thrived on crisis and deadlines. To add to the mix I cultivated heartbreak and emotional drama by engaging in toxic relationships. Love and heartbreak are deviantly thrilling roller coaster rides. After being a nurse I became a graphic designer and worked in television. More deadlines, working all night, and unrelenting pressure. After 13 years of that I went back to school and earned an undergraduate in Psychology (GPA 4.12) and then a masters in Social Work (magna cum laude). Along the way I birthed a baby in a birthing center in the desert in Taos, New Mexico, without any pain medication.

push, push, push

And then my father died. And I cleaned out his house while wailing in grief wondering how it was possible that I could continue living without him. And then I started moving across the country. New Mexico to Washington. Washington to Oregon. Back to New Mexico, and finally to California where I accepted my first job as a therapist in an assembly line masquerading as a health care organization. Initially I thrived (their favorite buzzword) on the constant pressure to see more patients, to squeeze as much as possible out of yourself on a day-to-day basis, to work 10 to 12 hours a day whether paid or not. Go, go go, push push push. I tried to be more efficient even as I began to lose the ability to be so. The pain began. I switched work clinic locations to get away from a manager who had begun targeting me for my outspokenness about the system and its treatment of patients. I ended up in a clinic that was truly the underbelly of the organization, even though I had thought things couldn’t get any worse. My body was failing me. I sat with patients while in severe pain and with brain on fire migraines while trying to be attentive and compassionate. That’s when the Vicodin, Starbucks, sugar, Coca-cola cycle started. Push, push, push. I rushed around everywhere, and was always late. Usually I was late because even if I started out on time I would try to squeeze one more task into the space I had. It was only this last year I realized that this behavior was producing an adrenaline rush similar to what I received from the other stimulants I put in my body. I started feeling all the time that something really bad was going to happen at any moment, and it would be due to my burgeoning incompetence.

I tried to force my body to heal. My shoulder was the first thing to go and I would twist it in all different contortions trying to get it to go back into its former position. I was pissed at my body and I threw it around like a helpless abused dog. My scapula eventually slid down my back and became fixated, leaving the task of holding up my neck to whatever functioning muscles remained. Those muscles began to give out too, leaving me with no way to alleviate pain unless I was lying flat on my back.

I spent exhaustive hours on the internet trying to find out what was wrong with me. The HMO doctors were either dismissive or abusive, so I started seeking help from other well-respected medical institutions. There were MRIs, CAT scans, the whole nine yards. I wanted them to fix me. I was willing to do anything, just to have somebody cut my pain out and make me whole again. I had two surgeries that did not help and created another host of symptoms. I came close to suicide three times and would possibly have gone through with them if I didn’t have medical marijuana to provide relief from pain and from the mental anguish of battling daily pain. Before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease I blamed myself for my symptoms, sure that I had caused them by living in such a stressful adrenal draining kind of way.

On the first visit my Lyme Doctor said, Let’s get rid of the cure word, now. That’s a lie the medical profession has been selling for a long time now. I was not dismayed by her words. After four years of chasing a cure, I was ready for something different.

But just a couple of weeks after my diagnosis I was having a series of really bad days. Days when I would be surprised to see my reflection in the mirror because of how dead I felt inside. The weakness, the tired/ wired, the lack of ability to get anything done without having to take frequent rests, and the lack of ability to do some things at all. The lack of being able to string a cohesive thought together or accomplish a simple task like laundry. The buzzing in my brain and the sensitivity to noise that made the canned laughter on my son’s TV shows sound like jagged raw razor blades tearing through my skull. The feeling that my muscles are being torn from the bone. The unpredictable irritability and the sensation that I am breathing fire. The kind of things that cause my pre-pubescent son to say, You’re always sick, when I am begging him for some compassion.

I began developing these bright red blotchy lines on different parts of my body. I had my partner take pictures of them. I looked them up on the internet. Just one more symptom of one of Lyme’s evil step sisters, Bartonella. Even though I was already diagnosed with Lyme, I found myself surprised that I had these marks. My mind had gone back to thinking, What the hell is wrong with me?

A few days later I was talking with my partner on the phone and venting about how I was feeling and a million other things. I told her about how I’d gotten up that morning with so much pain in my right scapula that I felt like a one-sided Hunchback of Notre Dame. I took a bath and as soon as I got into it the pain switched to the left side. This is classic Lyme, by the way, the pain migrating around your body. My left hip is severely affected now too, extending all the way down to my left foot. I told her I was once again feeling like, What’s wrong with me???

She said, Do you want me to tell you what’s wrong with you?

Yes!, I said

You have Lyme’s disease, she said.

I didn’t correct her pronunciation.

Mold

I was molested by a school bus driver when I was in 2nd grade. It didn’t just happen once. I was in a new school and a new neighborhood we had recently moved to. It was the first year I was riding a bus. All the girls were given a turn at having the “privilege” of standing next to the driver and pushing the handle that opened and shut the door. It was a chance to be special and initially I jumped at it. Soon I was a favorite, perhaps because of my burgeoning eager-to-please-ness.

At that time, although it sounds archaic now, girls were required to wear dresses to school. I loved dresses. But that gave the Bus Driver Perpetrator an easy access point to get under our clothes. And that’s what he did as we stood dutifully next to him opening and closing the door, his arm hidden by our ruffled skirts. This asshole didn’t just use his bus driving to find victims. He also volunteered at the school and came to school festivals where he was one of those guys that makes balloon animals. I fucking hate balloon animals.

I didn’t tell anyone. But when the school announced that girls were going to be allowed to wear pants the next year, I silently cheered.

I’ve never really told this story, except to mention to therapists or partners, “I was molested by a school bus driver once”. I’ve seen the stats on the molestation of children in our country and I just figured that was just one of my turns. I thought of it today because I was thinking about touch. Wanted touch versus unwanted touch. When I was an adolescent and boys first started to touch me in an affectionate (nonsexual) way. I would freeze and hold my breath. For some reason I felt like I had to hold perfectly still or he would take his hand off my thigh or from behind my shoulders.

My parents weren’t touchers. When my mold me that she and my dad were separating I cried and laid my head in her lap. It was unfamiliar and awkward. She allowed me to lay there for a few moments, and she may have patted me. That’s the most affection I remember receiving from her.

I just noticed that in the second sentence of the last paragraph, I accidentally used the word “mold” when I meant to say “mom”. That’s frighteningly Freudian.

 

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California

English: San Joaquin Valley Tule Fog in an uni...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry I departed so abruptly without saying anything. As I breathed life into your physical form you started to become too real. It scared me. I even mentioned you to my therapist, startling myself by saying your name out loud as if I was confessing.

“What is her name,….K _ _ _ _?” she asked. “Is she safe?”

“No,” I answered without hesitation. Then I started to second guess myself internally, knowing I had provided the “correct” answer but not necessarily the one I believed.

My last therapist called you “a loaded gun”. That was after I told her how you had shown up drunk at your Ex’s house who happened to be a cop. You told me some story about why your car had been impounded. But you also told me you were sober. I had to research online and find you had been charged with domestic violence.

I know, I know, it was a long time ago. And there’s no need to rehash the past. You know how I love to explore sorrow in all of its depths.

Back to the present, or the story I wanted to tell you, about what happened after you left.

Two years passed. And miraculously for most of it, I remained single. Once R found out that I had contacted you after promising I wouldn’t, any possibility of a reconciliation between us evaporated. She decapitated my favorite cock with a hacksaw. I finished my graduate degree and moved to California without her, but with someone else I met online. She had a daughter the same age as my son. After a short time it became apparent that we wanted different things and I made the choice to end the relationship. Or I should say back out slowly, as I tend to do.

Finding work in California was not as easy as I hoped. The licensing process for therapists in California is more rigorous than other states. And a  psychotherapist without a license must either pay someone to supervise them or find a job that includes supervision in the deal. I was living off of credit cards and the benevolence of my soon to be ex-girlfriend. I sent out so many resumes and cover letters that when I finally got a few calls I had no idea who was calling. I  got a couple of offers for jobs I felt mediocre about. And then one day I was laying on the soon to be Ex’s bed when my phone rang. A friendly male voice asked for me by my full name when I answered.

“This is her,” I said hopefully.

“This is Dr. So and So calling from Big Box Healthcare. We received your resume and want to talk with you about a position…”. He went on to describe exactly the type of job I had been looking for. “I do want to mention that the position is located in the Central Valley of California, and I notice you are currently in the Bay Area,” he said.

I looked up the location after I’d agreed to the interview. It was about two hours away from where I was living at the time. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered at that point except that I was going to get that job, no matter what it took.

 

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Bits

Fuck, I’m scared. It’s like this most days now. There is little comfort, just increasing pressure and worry.

I’m amazed sometimes at the synchronicity of things. An old song just came up on my iPod that I put on there in the year following your absence. It’s a country song, of course. There were a lot of country songs attuned to my loss that year. This one was about the regret of not fully expressing love to someone who’d been lost. It was just one of the gut wrenchers that developed into your playlist that year. Music was all I had to cling to during that time. No drugs, no alcohol, no sex. Needing a distraction, I started a saltwater fish tank and imagined telling you about it. I still have the fish tank and one of the original fish, “Clownie”. Once a pleasant diversion, the tank is an annoyance now. It’s just one more thing on the list of things requiring my unfocused attention.

I feel as if I’ve been blown to pieces and bits of me have been scattered everywhere. Everyday begins with the idea and the thought that somehow I have to glue it all back together. I’ll put a few pieces together, but nothing ever fits the same way again. The edges of the pieces are jagged and ill-fitting. Most days I just try to find two or three that match. I fear I will never again be complete.

How do I even begin to tell you what’s happened to me?

I feel like crap today, and most other days too. It’s not just depression. I lost my health. It’s not black and white, like cancer, or something you could cut out. I haven’t been “well” for about four years now. I’ve had two surgeries. Tons of medications. There have been gains. But so many setbacks. Each day is spent chasing symptoms. Sometimes new ones. I’m never quite convinced that the mystery of my health problem has been solved. I’m not dying, but there have been so many times I have wanted to be. My son is the only thing that kept me from taking my life on so many occasions. I feel as if I signed a permanent suicide prevention contract when he was born. It’s not that I think he’s so much better off with me around.  It’s that I know he would feel responsible and perhaps consider suicide himself. I can’t bear to leave him with that burden.

He’s almost 11 now. You would be amazed. He has thick dark wavy hair and big brown eyes like a puppy. He plays baseball. You were always so good with kids. He thought you were awesome. I still have that picture of you holding him in your lap from that day we spent at the Pier in Seattle. What a beautiful day that was. I can still feel the sun on my face, the salty breeze blowing in off the Bay. We were in the place that always suited us best. Our own little world, together.