Friday, November 25, 2005

Behind the Scenes As A Blogger.

I finally got my knowledge act together and my blog is looking more professional. It seems easy, but like with most things in life - "It Ain't necessarily So"! Blogspot does a fine job of keeping the technical end of publishing a blog out of the novice's way. I have no complaints with them at all. I am learning a lot about a diverse range of topics, now that I'm a blogger with an audience.

First. A definition of Blog. Blog is short for web log. A web log is technically any page on the internet, but blogs are updated much more frequently then say a business web log, or web site.

Indented because I'm going to get geeky, technical and use computer-eez. So, skip the rest of this indented material to avoid techno-speak.

Now, that its just us geeks and geek-want-to-bes, here is the deal. I had no clue about HTML, CSS, RSS or UFO's (sorry, I couldn't resist!) Now, that I've made a passing acquaintance with HTML tags, I have line breaks between my paragraphs. It's not perfect, but it now looks like I have some scant hope of becoming a professional! This wysiwyg editor seems to not like paragraph indenting, or line skipping. So, with the handy 'paragraph' command, I've solved that problem. Now, other more professional-looking blogs list their back posts. I finally got around to the hour or so of reading necessary for me to find the courage to mess with my blog template. That means I'm still only a geek-want-to-be, as I am not real happy about messing with anything I don't really understand, when it isn't broken!

The completely embarrassing moment this week was when I sent a detailed and researched email to a game developer who was waxing wishful about learning something. Well, I remembered a terrific tutorial on HTML and set out to find it. I did and made sure he had everything he needed. (Oh, God, did I feel stupid) when he politely and humbly informed me that he knew HTML, as he'd constructed his own web site! But was vaguely interested in XTML! Oh man, talk about feeling stupid! I haven't divined how to draw margin boxes around things yet and I'm telling a man who constructed an entire website about HTML! (And people ask where I get my sense of humor! That's it for techno-talk - CG.

Welcome back to the rest of you. I really enjoy the process of blogging, when I have something to share, I am well rested and I'm not up to my hips in alligators (forgetting my objective was: drain the swamp! There is a state of ignorance and self-delusion, that can be awesome in its lack of relation to THE REAL WORLD! I just didn't understand, oh dear MacPhilly. In theory, needing an entire month to post was ridiculous! I knew I could handle once-a-week, just because I'm an arrogant fool! I got my first grousing remark the other day. I was on day three of some serious housework, for Thanks Giving. I knew I was going to do a major blog overhaul and get it up to snuff, so I hadn't started that dreaded process. I was sweaty, tired and perhaps a bit peevish. Also, I'm pre-menopausal - and THAT truly is a trip to the Twilight Zone!

"Where's your new bloggy stuff?" The sweet voice of my substitute mother floats to my brain, after finishing my work on her home. We have been both boss / employer and friends for years. I don't play around when I work, and I've had the joy of working for many friends. I felt my entire body droop, as I remembered WHY I hadn't been blogging. The short answer: I didn't feel like doing it. The long answer is just like the short answer with the various excuses thrown in. You know, like: need to sleep, eat work, read email, news feeds, ebooks, listen to pod casts and have some time to do NOTHING! I wrote to Macphilly privately to apologize for being an ignorant fool. I have a suspicion that if I'd received a sarcastic email, like the email I invaded HIS inbox with, I wouldn't have been at all so nice! Props, props and more props to Macphilly. (That is short for Proper Respect, etc).

Now, on to the Holidays! I had a real pity party this last weekend. I had party favors and everything. See, I got twisted out of shape because I couldn't be included in on a friend's family get-together. It took me several hours to realize, that Thanks Giving wasn't created to hurt my feelings! Its not personal. There are private things and public things. A couple celebrating ten years of marriage isn't going to bring their two-year-old with them to THAT PARTICULAR dinner. I had a beautiful private moment recently with a close friend. We did a very lavish dinner at a wonderful restaurant. We have history together and it was special for US TWO people. Once I figured that out. I didn't feel bad any more. I have to remind the three-year-old part of me, that I can't have every cookie, everywhere and all the time. Yeah, I'm 52 and still wrestling with that three-year-old part of me.

Sometimes, if the holidays really bring you down, you have to do what YOU want to do. I used to be so upset by the entire time from Halloween through New Years Day, I'd take to my bed. I'd just stay sick for most of the season. I truly couldn't face some of the real grief work around this difficult season. Its all about unrealistic expectations. We all have 'em and we all do it.

I still have to guard against hearing an unexpected Christmas song, say, in late September. I'm likely to tear-up, if I'm not ready for it. There were some seriously sad times. Jesus wisely said to look ahead and not backwards. That is great advice, but it can be very hard to put into healthy practice. For those of you with the horror stories...

People see you are sad, (or worse). They get the scrunchies around your emotions, as they don't want to inquire too closely into their own emotions. So, they begin to 'advise' you on how to make the best of the holidays. Let old CyberGal save you some time, money and frustration.

None of the following will 'magically' cure depression:

  • taking a hot (or) cold bath
  • buying something
  • eating something
  • dealing with a pet (walking, grooming, etc.)
  • cleaning up your house
  • doing vigorous exercise
  • taking a walk
  • watching 18 hours of television
  • listening to 18 hours of radio, audio books, etc.
  • having more or less sex
  • radically changing your diet: as in, living on brown rice only
  • getting drunk / stoned / high
  • going / not going to church
  • being around people
  • being alone
  • volunteering

Sometimes you are going to feel crummy, and during and / or after all of the above, you may still feel crummy!

All of the above have their place, but I had to learn there is no magic to life. Some days are harder to get through than others. As my female-ness is departing my body, my hormones are going nuts. When they do, I become a bit over-dramatic, touchy and more immature than normal. I had to learn to start trusting my own judgment about when I had enough physical and / or emotional strength, to apply the tried-and-true methods of dealing with depression.

Sometimes, for me, the best answer was to let my body rest and sleep. If you really feel better and have some positive energy after a stint in bed, go to sleep. If it isn't getting better, or is getting worse, seek help. There is no shame in asking for help, from counselors, pastors and even scary professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists! So, I've given you my experience with this thing we call the holidays. I try to do something constructive each day, like putting money in my future bank account. I may feel crummy, but I'm actually learning programming and things I'll be able to use in inventing the product I want to invent. When tomorrow shows up, I have something to show for my not-so-hot, yesterday. Do I make it through like this all the time, Heck no! I refer you to my Ground Zero and The Terror of Relapse posts!

This year I really didn't want to be the only non-relative at a family get-together. I knew someone at my church would probably invite me somewhere. I had to figure out what I wanted to do with this very 'family' day, without a family. I chose dinner at my beloved Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland. I've been eating there for years, and have become friends with some of their staff. So, when asked what was up for me today, I laid out my Marriott plan. I was all dressed-up and ready to feast, after church. It was just what I wanted and expected. My waiter and I engaged in lovely silliness. He shared how he loved waiting on me, because, he knew it was safe to really joke around and play. Sometimes they have to be careful with humor. Some customers can dish it out, but can't take it coming back at them. It was a lovely meal, some good laughs and once full of salad, rolls, mashed potatoes, asparagus, turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and coffee with some Baily's Irish Cream. I came home and took an absolutely magnificent nap. Which is why I have created not one, but two posts for you all this week.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Commentary: What a bargain!

As the ecstatic owner of a new eMac, I've discovered the joy of on-line everything, including music purchasing. A friend seemed truly stunned when I refused to "lift" her music preferring instead, to actually pay for it! This situation deeply troubles me, as I'm a writer / Developer and need to earn something for my hours of labor.

Theft is theft period. If I submit this piece of electronic writing to some publishing source, I expect they will accept or reject it. It is illegal to publish it without my knowledge, or permission. That is, stealing my work to go on making a profit! Is it any different for our starving artists?

I had gotten a demonstration disc from a computer publication and discovered a song I just had to have! Since the contact information was on screen, I sent a pleading email to the artist, so I could buy his glorious song. I was shocked when within seconds of sending my request, he'd responded! I immediately went to the iTunes Store and satisfied my craving! I figure this poor man probably got a penny from my $.99, but that's business. I am glad to support his work, and the work of others.

I then remembered the really cheap clothes I scored at a huge department-box store. God, it was magnificent! I went home feeling like I'd really gotten over on 'en! Unfortunately, I heard a report about this store, showing their wages are so low that they freely and openly provide welfare and food stamp information to their full-time new hires! As an unemployed person on disability, I know the horror of welfare and food stamps. I cringe to think that someone would be thrown into those systems while working full-time!

The reason the huge chains are able to provide dirt cheap items to the US market is because the suppliers get their items from slave-labor-like arrangements in the third world. Sometimes, it is truly prison labor, as in China. I am beginning to question who I'm getting over on. Am I contributing to the abuse of fellow human beings, in a third world country? I attempt to avoid buying things from China, because they are at the bottom of the list, as far as how they treat their people, But the lust for the "best" at "next-to-nothing" is turning larger and larger regions of our world into employment nightmares.

It is a small thing, but when a magazine, newspaper, or some other service has a fee, I am willing to pay up, or go without, because somewhere, someone put their soul into creating something I am enjoying.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

10/2005's Absurdity Report: this is news?

(My special thanks to those tireless souls who located and reported on these stories.)

Some stories are so strange, even I have trouble believing them...

Although I do not endorse many of these suggestions, they are lovely to ponder...

Revenge against life's little annoyances.

A new book on life's little annoyances.

And people say that God doesn't have a sense of humor...

Saturn's moon is a giant loofah sponge

I just couldn't picture your average, or even weird PC user doing this...
Mac people ROCK!

Don't worry about the details, check out the pictures!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Terror of Relapse.

Those of you who dropped in recently discovered a completely different CyberGal. Thankfully, most of the time, that dreadful over wrought part of me doesn't rise up to rip my normal life out from under me. When it comes around, I am terrified, that I've made no progress and am hopelessly mentally ill. At these times, God finds ways to aggressively remind me of His love and care.

Sunday was a record. God provided a dinner on Saturday and a fabulous chocolate cake on Sunday. As neglect was yet another part of my childhood, food speaks to me when I'm too emotional to respond to anything else. What I lived through this weekend is known as relapse. As much as I'd like to forget that my brain chemistry is screwed-up, It is screwed-up. My medications keep me from falling into a vicious cycle of non-stop crying, screaming and blacking out. Occasionally, when something catches me off guard, a trigger, of a memory, I'm still quite capable of accelerating into a state worthy of being hospitalized.

I am what is known as a high functioning patient. I do not abuse, or play games with my medications. I follow directions. Since there are more people in need of hospital beds, than there are beds, folks like me, are given extra medications, for those times, when we go off the track. I did for myself, exactly what the hospital would have done. Since I'm not violent, or dangerous, I am safe to remain at home. Here's the process.

Something triggers a severe emotional reaction within myself. In this case, being reminded of my own two years of being battered. Being reminded of some other memories of my blood, as well as the blood of others being shed. I overloaded, which for me results in true hysterics. I start to cry and can carry on for days, or even weeks.

This is not the healthy type of release from a normal tearful reaction. I have those also, and I react normally. It starts and stops rather quickly. When my brain chemistry gets stirred up, I'm like a run away train. I can't be calmed down. One doctor explained it to me as a brain that has been so over stimulated via trauma, as to not be able to calm down. The part of my brain that calms things down isn't working anymore. It got overworked and stopped functioning. The medications I take restore my ability to remain in emotional balance. It is a true miracle. After several years of not having the run-away-sobbing-episodes, I forget they can happen. When they show up, I'm taken aback. Will power is non existent for this situation. I eventually realize that I need to shut my system down, chemically. I took two sedatives, that would have normally caused me to sleep for days. They only caused a few hours of actual sleep, and then a drugged sense of wakefulness, but at least I had stopped crying.

How to explain this to the normal people in my life? I have to resist the awful temptation to hide in shame. God helps me stay focused and gives me the courage to continue. I am making this blog as a demonstration to someone out there, who has been mystified by a seeming inability to grow up. I finally went to my family doctor at age 40 and pondered having myself committed to a mental hospital. I'd had another total breakdown. About every ten years, my life would just collapse. This particular trip into hell, I was unable to complete sentences. I am highly verbal, and when I can't talk, there is really a problem.

It was almost funny. My doctor's office was typical, totally busy. You'd call up and tell the receptionist that your liver has just fallen out. She comes back with the first available appointment in six to eight months. So, when my psychologist said I needed to get my regular doctor to proscribe medication, I was sure nothing would happen for months.

I didn't count on what actually occurred. I called up, stated who I was, that my psychologist had referred me.. Then I'd lose my train of thought and begin again. After my third attempt, this kind woman asked me a question which let me know that I was in one hell of a lot of trouble:

"Would you like to come in right now...?" (Oh, NO!)

The next day, lying on the exam table, when the doctor entered the room, I jumped, arced, actually. My entire body jumped into the air. I realized I'd hit the end of the road. I was going to admit that I was nuts and take it from there.

I was 40 and conducting my life like a three-year-old. I knew better, but kept crying and carrying on anyway. I will never forget how hard that kind man tried to teach me what the problem really was. I could sense that he was using all his energy to get me to learn what he was trying to teach me.

I didn't change because, without medication, I couldn't change. Part of my brain wasn't working right any more. Probably from all the years of stress and physical trauma inflicted upon my poor brain. I gave that doctor points. This was the first time I'd even thought about my brain!

I thought it was about will power, character and maturity (or lack there of). This wonderful doctor asked me if I thought someone with diabetes could will their insulin levels? I laughed, that was absurd. What about a broken arm, can you think that well? I saw where he was going. I was afraid of getting on the psycho pills.

Man, I saw a friend on Thorazine, she was beyond gone, it was scary. It was like she went from crazy to comatose! But, I couldn't continue as I was. I filled my two prescriptions, went home and wept an apology to God, for probably doing something I couldn't undo - I took the pills. Within minutes I noticed changes.

Muscles all over my body started to relax. I could actually feel my physical body, in space. I knew where I was in the room. I wasn't breathing hard and shallow anymore. I felt like something wonderful was happening.

Soon, I had to find my first psychiatrist. A psychologist has a Ph.D. in psychology, and as of now, is not allowed to proscribe medications. They are attempting to change that, but, for now, if you need medication, you have to move up the medical food chain. A MD, or Medical Doctor has 12 - 15 years of schooling and training, whereas a psychologist can complete their degree in eight years. They are different disciplines. They both have their place and value.

Generally, a psychologist treats patients who don't need medication. The psychiatrist deals with those patients that do need medications. They also deal with the more severely abused group. My childhood has the terrible ability to make your average psychologist weep. I've even gotten to a few hard-core psychiatric nurses.

Psychiatrists have seen my background and worse, on a regular basis. They don't like it, but it rarely makes them cry in front of me. I find that a true relief. It is a drag, when I need to run down some piece of garbage that happened to me, and I have to stop and help the doctor cope with it!

I started taking medication in 1997. I couldn't handle Zoloft, it made my memories so strong that I wanted to get violent. I was then moved to Effexor, and Depacote. Depacote is actually an anti-seizure medication, but it helps stabilize bi-polar disorder. I no longer felt like my blood cells were clanging together and causing me physical pain. I used to get so depressed, my entire body just hurt. It hurt to be conscious. I had more energy and my attitude was a whole lot better. I seemed to have an ability to deal with things without getting so totally upset. I felt like I'd been delivered from hell.

I then had problems with my vision and it looked like I would go completely blind. This inspired my roommates to evict me, as they "didn't want to have to take care of me". I did what every truly desperate woman does.

I found a man who appeared to be an answer from God. The kindest, most charming and considerate person I'd ever met. He was more than willing to take care of me. (This is a red flag, for all of you who want someone else to run your life, they're out there, but, you are better off WITHOUT them!)

I moved in with him, and within days the physical abuse began. If I hadn't been on psychiatric drugs, I'm sure I would have ended my life. I was too scared to tell my doctors, or anyone else, what was really happening. After two years I finally got out and have been alone (thankfully) ever since. I had a lust problem, but two years of getting m face re-arranged really put some iron in my soul, and the ability to not lie down with someone because I'm physically attracted to them. Being alone is not that bad, compared to being battered. Trust me.

Once I returned to Oakland, I set about rebuilding my life. I had a few rude awakenings around employment, blindness and available housing. God did get me out of the ghetto, but not until I'd learned to obey Him, and make the best of it, as it appeared He wanted me there. Within a week of actually being content to stay in the ghetto, the building was condemned, and I was on the road. I now live in a safe, quiet area. I hope I never have to return to a living arrangement, where someone trying to stab you in the bathroom was just another day in the hood!

My HMO kept changing the medication rules on me. My medications were expensive. I had acquired Zaprexa at $8/pill, Effexor at $2/pill, and Depacote, at $1/pill. That's $11/day, every day. I refused to go into debt for medications. I dropped the Zaprexa, and went generic on the Depacote. Then Effexor was no longer covered. I was told that I could take a generic Prozac with something else, and it would equal what I was taking already, but at far less expense.

I was terrified of Prozac. I'd heard about the suicides/homicides under Prozac. I heard a radio program with a psychologist, who swore the entire Bi-Polar thing was a lie. Just another scheme for Eli Lilly to make more money. And they really had a winner in Prozac!

I bought this woman's book and began the re-education of myself. One of the symptoms of an out-of-control manic episode, is grandiose thinking. Try this: My psychiatrist has almost 20 years of school and supervised training, before they cut him loose to do private practice. I had an AA in data processing! But, after reading ONE book, by a Ph.D. I was smarter than my doctor! After all, he, the HMO and the drug companies were all just greedy bastards, out to make money, but I had the WISDOM to perceive how brilliant this Ph.D. was!

I gave my doctor The Word, from on high, and got off all my medications, under his supervision. He let me know, he felt I was over reacting, but I had the right to stop taking pills, if I chose to. THIS WAS HIGHLY ILL-ADVISED, but since I was so smart...

I got off all medication by my birthday, April 2 - and was the sickest I'd ever been by October. I have always had mild to serious social problems. I just don't quite fit in. I have a feeling it has a lot to do with being raised in something like a Steven King novel, but my blindness, doesn't help, as I totally miss the subtle social clues which are usually non-verbal.

By the time people speak to you about their irritation/discomfort, things are usually beyond repair. I'd gone to a new church. I was hopelessly mentally ill, but didn't believe it. So, people literally cleared a path away from me! I went home and crafted what I thought was a brilliant argument for assisted suicide (my own). I figured that most people hate blindness, and react to it, just like they do to, oh, say, a Black Widow spider!

That was it! If being blind was that bad, I was off the hook, there was nothing for me to do to solve a prejudice like that! They saw me as a Black Widow Spider! From there it was a natural move to euthanize this pathetic creature. I mean, we don't make dogs suffer like I was suffering... Right? I actually called my HMO and made an appointment with my psychiatrist to euthanize me. (I didn't have a problem getting in either.) It didn't occur to me that my thinking had totally left the plane of reality.

I had a dog/house sitting job that weekend, this was Friday. My doctor asked me, in real short order, if I wanted to go to the hospital. Once in the office, I couldn't stop crying. I refused, because of the job. He then let me know that I'd once again, won the 'oops' medical lottery.

"Well, that's fine. Being with a dog, will help keep you calm. But... If you change your mind. Just go to the hospital and use my name. They'll let you right in." This is an HMO, not a resort. I had a feeling that there was more wrong, than I had realized. I've never had an offer like that before, or (thankfully) since!

All of this was a little over a year ago. A lot has been learned about the condition of Bi-Polar Disorder, since 1997. My HMO, first put me through something called "The Intensive Outpatient Program", where they could keep tabs on you, in case, you needed to return to the hospital. This was VERY serious business. I was in a room with about thirty other hospital refugees. Some of the most depressed, messed-up, people I'd ever encountered! What was I doing here?

We had a big group meeting and then the last two-thirds of the morning was devoted to smaller group meetings, to give each patient more individual attention and help them plan their next step in treatment. This was ridiculous, four lousy questions! Name, why here (what brought you to the hospital,) rate how you feel today: 1: real bad to 5: real good and what is your goal for today? My God, what was I doing here? Patients couldn't handle it. I saw dedicated doctors crawl on their hands and knees in order to make eye contact with these terribly depressed people. They didn't let you get out of talking either. It might take five minutes, but they coaxed people into some kind of interaction. I kept looking at a wall and forgetting where I was. I had to spend a lot of energy remembering where I was and why... Then it was old CyberGal's turn to ace this silliness...

"What...Oh, yeah, its 2004. What do you mean that's not the right question? They always ask that..." I finally got my name right and then did remember why I was there:

"I stopped all medications six months earlier and got really, really sick. I read a book from the alternative health industry..." I was angry with that movement. I could have died and that Ph.D. broad would just keep on selling books, tapes, interviews and spewing her stuff for idiots like me to buy into. As the morning progressed, another woman had a tale from the 'herbalist', who drained her bank account to the tune of several thousand dollars, until, like me, she ended up in The Intensive Outpatient Program.

If I'd had the money, I would have also done all that crap. The color lightbox therapy: $90, specialty vitamins from Canada $400/Mo., tape on getting off the medications $10, (I guess the $30 for the book is just a down payment)? Let's not neglect Noni Juice, mushrooms from Japan (only organic), music therapy, massage that cures cancer, blood/organ cleansing, magnets, personal affirmations, UFO channeling and your Spirit Guides.

Go ahead and drink chi tea, soup simmered from your lawn clippings and the juice strained from the testicles of the Hocomporappenaquesto frog. However, dear one, when you get weary of being broke and still sick -


Do you get it, that this innocent-sounding, religious idolatry damn near killed me? Yes, some of their stuff is truly beneficial. But, remember, if you have a headache, and I run over one of your feet with a car, for awhile, you'll forget all about the headache! (My book will retail at $29.95: A One Way Ticket to Your Bank Account.)

As the medication levels came up, we patients had a host of messes to clean up. The saddest story involved a woman who tried to "exorcise" all the demons out of a relatives home. She threw all the furniture out of a room on the second floor, until the police and medics came to take her away. She has been permanently disowned by her family.

I had amends to make also. I'd concocted that cute euthanasia argument, thought it was good enough to publish and fired off an email to a friend in Canada. He spend a week making emergency long distance calls trying to save my life. My close friend saw me at my worst and nearly wept while pleading for me to get help. I finally did get help, but I cut it really, really close. I'm darn lucky I didn't loose both of these fine people, as friends.

While attending my HMO classes in downtown Oakland, I got mugged for the second time in ten years. I fought to keep my purse and cell phone. I was thrown to the ground and acquired a new permanent injury to my right ankle. I had to stop carrying a white cane, as I only see about five feet in front of me. Now, due to really serious walking problems, I use a Rollator. A Walker with attitude. In a way, the mugging was a good thing, as it forced me to realize that falling down all the time, in the street, especially, is a problem. (Yes, friends, I also like to swim in that Egyptian River: DENIAL too.)

The new medication works better than what I had before. I had been so depressed, that any improvement felt like heaven. I still felt depressed, but it was so mild. Now, I know, that one isn't supposed to feel depressed, at any level all the time. It is wonderful. I have gotten used to being balanced, contented, able to think clearly, solve problems and occasionally shed a few tears of gratitude, or normal sadness.

I have a whole flock of friends, literally all over the planet. I am blogging, and actually have a small following. I've been invited to help produce a pod cast. I'm studying Real Basic and having the best time I ever remember having in my life. I completely forgot about being out-of-control. I'd long ago put my 'emergency' medication on the top shelf of my medicine cabinet, where I keep long-term storage items, like a container of salt. I'd only taken one pill in the last thirteen months.

I have an almost irrestible temptation to fire off an apology email to a friend, who got caught in my cross fire, but I know it's not necessary. He would say (and has said) 'SOK' And so it is. I have missed one day of work, and not months. I have the joy of knowing that my chemistry is now back in balance. I have absolutely learned that I'm not up for any more child abuse horror stories. It is a very bad idea for me, to stroll down memory lane.

The most wonderful thing I know is the fact that God saved me, when I was crazy as a loon, listened to my various episodes and still loves me. I am continuing to heal. I want that one person, who will stumble into this blog, to hear me very well. It takes time, its not a constant upward movement, in healing. You will do, what you have read about me doing. Every so often, you will take a few steps backwards.

It doesn't mean you aren't getting better, it just means you are human. Your true friends usually can see it coming before you. There is love and hope with God - He gets it, when you are too whacked-out to avoid panic. It is part of the process. If you need help, start looking for it. (I mean real medical help. Yoga by itself, ain't gonna cancel out major child abuse.) If you have horror stories, those suckers won't just go away. There is healing and hope. Give Jesus a look-see. Remember, even though some of His followers mess it up (as we are not perfect) Jesus got it and is still getting it right.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reporting From Ground Zero: A parade of child abuse refugees.

Warning: This is going to be difficult reading. If you are hoping for light-hearted fun, come back later. I now deal with the dreadful consequences of bad child raising.

Saturday began about 4:30 AM. I gulped down some coffee and went to my beloved computer. First the three-day news feed backlog. The world is in trouble, but no one has dropped an atomic bomb as yet. From there I dropped into MacPhilly's blog ( and to my surprise, he's been busy.

The first post was an humorous piece on our beloved coffee and all its variations. The second post caused me to have an unexpected collision with my past. He spoke of being a responsible parent. I quote in part from:

Parenting Is Not For Wussies.

Yes. I can discuss nail care. I can tell you what colors to wear to accent your skin, I can tell you and probably most women how to dress for success. However, topics of interest, general hygiene and a good eye for color do not make a man less a man or more a man. What makes a man is character. And when it comes to parenting - character counts. Parenting is NOT for wussies. (emphasis added.)

I've been wanting to tackle this topic for awhile now. And, I don't think this is going to be my last post - primarily because from what I've seen there are a lot of parents that DON'T. Parent that is. And it's criminal, these people are potentially ruining their child's life and that's not fair to the kids.

(emphasis added.)

So. Parenting. Rule number one: Parenting is not about you. Parenting is not about how other people perceive you. Parenting is not about what other people might think of you when they see your child (however that does not excuse allowing your child to go out in a slovenly fashion), it is not about making sure you're in the right mini-van or SUV. Parenting is all about the kids.

Specifically, parenting - real parenting - is about how much of you you're willing to lay down. How much of yourself you're willing to sacrifice for your child. Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about working 48 hours a day so your kid can have new toys. I'm not talking about being the world's greatest super-soccer mom and being the land ferry for hundreds of kids. What I am talking about is how much of your ego you're willing to lay down. How much of your convenience you're will to forgo. How much you can control your language, your viewing habits, your attitude and/or anger - all for the benefit of your child.

Let me give you an a few examples of what I mean. When was the last time you changed the channel when a commercial came on (other than possibly some ad for a slasher flick) to protect the modesty of your daughter or the eyes of your son? When was the last time you promised your child that you would discipline them if they mis-behaved, then dragged your butt off the couch to follow through on that promise even though your favorite show was on, or you wanted to research something on the web or whatever else you were doing? When was the last time you had a disagreement with your spouse - and held your peace until a time when your children were not present? When was the last time you didn't do something you found interesting, but instead happily did something your kids wanted to do with you? (emphasis added.)

All of the above are the types of selfless acts that I'm referring to. This type of behavior is not for wussies. Wussies yell at their kids and try to intimidate them - but won't discipline them correctly. This shows your children that you're also just a stuffed shirt or a bag of hot air because obviously you're not a man or woman of your word or there would be consequence. Wussies want to see a commercial that isn't appropriate for their children to see more than they want to protect the innocence or virtue of their children. Wussies make promises to play with the kids on the swing set, but then make excuses (I need to do my nails, work, build something, clean - whatever) and don't keep their promises.

You see - parenting is NOT for wussies.

Before I leave - DON'T confuse what I'm saying. I'm not saying that your children should be the center of the home. They shouldn't. Mom and dad should. And for those of you that are single parents - you are the center of the home. You are the anchor just like a mom and dad should be. Stability and love flow down hill from you. And I'll talk about that, and how important it is in another post. But for now I just wanted to clarify.

So. There you have it friends. Parenting is NOT for wussies. If you're a wimp, if you've got no spine (read: character) then don't be a parent. If you already are a parent, see if you can find some skelegrow for that spine of yours. It's a painful process growing a spine - but your kids will thank you for the rest of your - and their - life.

posted by MacPhilly

I fired off a grateful response for his gift to his children and then it was time for 6 AM phone prayer. Old Authority-Want-to-be stated we needed to talk before we began. Her voice became totally flat, lower and emotionless: "As my accountability partner I want to tell you that I lost it last night with my husband. I hit him until his face was bloody." I have both been a client in crisis and counseled others in crisis. I knew I had a serious problem. I had to make a speech which usually does no good. I've known this woman for 5 years and watched her life slowly deteriorate. Now, she was graduating into the fast-track towards: health, the morgue, prison, or one of several different hospital wards. I told her she needed to call her HMO IMMEDIATELY and tell them what she had just told me. I tried to be as gentle as possible, but I made it clear, that once the physical battering begins, everything changes. I then swung into prayer, where I pleaded for God's emergency intervention, His Grace and strength, for this lady to do what needed to be done. When I finished, her voice was back to normal and she said that she had a meeting to go to, but thanked me for my concern. I became nauseated. She had returned to that damned river DENIAL.

I felt my emotions churning and memories were coming back. Funny, I felt badly for holding hate in my heart towards her drug-addicted husband, who can really be a piece of work. But, now I had a fellow traveler in the Face-re-arrangement club. I cried, for him, for me and for Authority-want-to-be. I had set clear boundaries already with Authority-want-to-be. She had joined a 12-step group, but wanted me to be her accountability partner and sponsor. I said no. She was supposed to be MY counselor. Can't mix roles like that. Also, she needed to pick a helper from the group she spoke in. Someone who could catch her in her denial and cover-up. I wasn't a member of the group. She obviously felt she could push my hand by dropping this latest bomb-shell in my lap. I know I'd have to set some very strong restrictions on our relationship, as I was having serious symptoms of my own emotional problems.

As well as having a classic case of Bi-Polar disorder, I have an extremely mild version of what troubled my mom. Psychosis. It is the most serious and intractable of the mental illnesses. Serious cases can be sociopaths, mild cases just are prone to having an over-reaction to feelings. For me, it isn't the happiness side of things, but the sadness side. When I remember an incident from my past, I can get lost in time. I forget where I am, how old I am and have trouble realizing that the memory isn't actually happening to me. I also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A condition where one re-lives, over and over memories of trauma, as they try and resolve their mental turmoil. Thankfully, most of the PTSD has settled down.

I buried myself in music, but felt just a bit out of focus. I had to pick up my new shoes and didn't get to it until almost 6 PM. When I came home, my other new friend wanted to see me, to bring me a huge burrito, he'd been given. He had four of them. This seemed like a way to relax and get my mind off myself and onto something else, anything else.

We chatted for awhile and then he decided, he could trust me.

"You know, I was a male prostitute, until two years ago." (oh - ah, would you like some sugar with that coffee...?) I scrambled to not over react. I know from reading that people who drift into prostitution, in either sex have horrendous child abuse problems. I hoped he wouldn't continue.

He hiked up his pant leg to reveal an ugly scar.

"This is where my father shot me. He was trying to kill me. Most nights our family didn't know if we were going to live through the night"

Before I could react, he'd pulled up the right arm of his shirt to reveal serious tendon damage on his upper arm.

"This is where he through me through a plate glass window."

It was time for me to make my second speech of the day. He had no money (naturally!), no previous counseling, except to physically leave prostitution. (Just stopping that lifestyle is just the beginning of recovery.) This 27-year-old was reaching the age, when all the crap would come out and he'd get therapy before, during, or after having a breakdown. That is of course assuming, he doesn't get so messed up as to attempt suicide. How to say all of that in a way that keeps hope alive. I closed my eyes, prayed for God's help and words came forth. I felt I'd been heard, but his pain wasn't great enough (yet) for him to do anything). By now, my vision was going in and out of focus. I politely told him, I had to get up early for church, so I bid him good night.

I was angry, but couldn't get clarity. I complained to God, that I just couldn't listen to the horror stories any more. Re-telling me is not how someone gets healed. There is a whole complex relationship in therapy, and friendship isn't in the plan. A therapist, from time to time, has to confront you severely - in a way, a friend would be loathe to do. I turned on my Bible mp3 and went to sleep.

Sunday was a nice morning and I got dressed, with new shoes, a nice pair of earrings and the hope, that God would help me with some of the confusion still in my mind. I kept picturing my friends husband with his swollen and bleeding face... Church was a disaster. I wanted to officially change my deaconess, but no one was there to help me. I decided to go to Pastor. He's very familiar with Miss Authority-want-To-Be. Her claims of being suicidal were, apparently, based in stirring up drama, and not in a real suicidal situation. Not realizing that, I spent six weeks at my HMO in emergency crisis intervention. I was determined not to make that mistake again. I laid it out and let him know that I was bailing out. I had to protect my own mental health. He told me to continue to pray for her, but otherwise, he'd take care of it. I felt like I could breathe a little easier. Now, they were singing one of my favorite songs. I tried to rise above my roiling emotions to get into church.

The assistant pastor was on a tare. He wanted us to understand the importance of joy in the life of the Christian. Not about performance, or working harder, but getting closer to God, to let His love give us the strength for the 'longsuffering', etc. I tried not to get defensive. These messages usually lead into something which is not good for me. Then, almost as an aside, he screamed out:

"... and if anyone tells you what to do: you should, or why don't you... You know they don't love you, or they don't know any better!"

My entire body went numb. So, to direct people to counseling and set up personal boundaries was a no-no... ? Rejoice, always, and again I say rejoice! My mind returned to the last time I'd seriously tried following this advice.

I was in AA. I wasn't an alcoholic, but didn't realize it. I was sober for 2 years, still having active blackouts (sober), morbidly depressed, unemployable and wretched. People in AA are very sensitive to 'the pity party/pot'. They falsely assumed, I was having a pity party and slammed me with very rough 'tough love' confrontation:

"You act as if. When you want tot cry, you smile. When you want attention you give it to someone else, or no one will talk to you because you are acting like a looser. Around here, 'we stick with the winners'".

I went numb, but the threat of total abandonment drove me forward. For six months I did everything that woman told me. Then one night, I started speaking in a new voice with a Puerto Rican accent:

"I got to get outa the closet".

I tried to switch back. I had pretend playmates all my life, and took all the parts, like a play, but I never had one of my 'pretend friends' come out and take over before.
I mailed in my latest 30% check to Dr. Scott. (This act of faith/desperation, would heal me.) The next day I had a Social Security evaluation interview. I was still the new me. I went through a 45 minute interview as someone I didn't know and then tried to go home. I began blacking out, and when consciousness returned, I was in an intersection, walking into on-coming traffic! After six blocks of this, I went to the nearest AA group that knew me and they took me to a county hospital.

I was interviewed, prodded and examined. Highland Hospital in Oakland has too few beds for an entire town that could use their facilities. So, I was informed that there were no beds. I said, fine, I'd probably be back. I Need psych, but running into on-coming traffic will eventually bring me to emergency, where there is a bed. This doctor asked me if I was threatening him. I said no. Just stating facts. I was having blackouts, talking in a different voice and personality and kept trying to get someone to run me down in the street. It would be a matter of time... I got a bet, way down in Fremont.

Once in the hospital, more interviewing and I watched my entire personality collapse. I spoke every pretend voice I'd ever done in my life. I thought I was undergoing demonic possession. I was afraid to pray: would God interact with a psychosis? Which voice was the real me? I finally took the leap of faith that God would talk to my other voices and after seven days, I returned to my normal personality. The lesson there. I am not able to repress my emotions for your comfort. I will not do another tour in lock-down so you can convince yourself that your advice is 'right'.

Back to my tears at church this morning. I tried to leave the building, being stopped by another assistant pastor.

"How are you?"

(Are you blind...? Maybe he thinks this is joy.) When I told him I was having a bad day, he responded in a sing-song refrain: "rejoice in The Lord, always, and again, I say rejoice Sister!"

There is a proverb:
Proverbs:. 25:20 "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."

Now, I was really loosing control and knew I had to get out of there. But another male friend had bought a cake for me. He took one look at me, kissed a falling tear and said:

"Baby, what's wrong?"

I blurted out that I couldn't tell him because it was all confidential and then collapsed into his arms, sobbing. Now, I was seeing all the blood-based memories, cascading through my consciousness. (Hello, Grief Work, must we do this, NOW?)

Authority-Want-To-Be, pulled me into her arms. (She's the one battering her husband.) She started in:

"Baby, I'm really fine, really." I can't take that kind of bull and really started crying. I yelled back at her through clenched teeth that she was NOT alright. She then began using small-child, or puppy-talk.

"now, I'm gonna get help, just like you said... " (bull), "... but can you pray for me...? Can you? Please. Can you do that for me... "

I was watching the room spin around and the light level was diminishing. I was going under. I knew there was no one at this ghetto church that had a clue as to how to help me. Authority-want-to-be was now 'shush-ing' me. I reared back and screamed:

"You've been on my ass for three weeks to cry. I'm crying! Now, you want me to stop! I CAN'T!"

She had lost the color in her face and I was fading fast. I changed my tactic. I yowled:

"I wanna go home!" at which point, my male friend, snatched me out of Authority-want-to-be's clutches and half carried me to his car.

Arriving home, I discovered the burrito God had provided the night before, now having a cake besides. This is how God talks to me when He knows I've fallen over the edge. I guess at least He knew I was having a bad day. I let myself cry for a few hours and then was tired enough to sleep. I hoped that upon waking, I'd be back in balance. I was toying with making a medical appointment the next day, if I couldn't stop crying.

I'd done all the right things. Eaten, drunk plenty of water and slept. When I woke up, I thought of my friend back east. He just has a way of calming me down. I just wanted him to pray with me. I felt hearing someone else pray, who wasn't currently beating their spouse bloody, might help me regain my balance. He was available. I made contact. He sounded a little tired, but it was wonderful to hear him speak.

He asked me if I'd read his last post. No, he told me to go, read it and call him back. I felt my tears starting again. I gritted my teeth and marched over to his sight."Blessed Assurance". I had asked him for assurance, because I thought that would make more sense to him than to give the truth, which was, I'm in crazy-making pain and I think you can make me feel better.

His post was as example of a healthy, centered believer who felt assured! I'm getting dizzy again. I knew that if I tried to speak via phone, I'd come apart again. Text messaging while blacking out, isn't easy either.

I made a decision. I text messaged back, that I was in too much pain and had to take extra meds. to sleep through it. I cut the connection, gulped down two emergency sedatives and waited for unconsciousness, with the mp3 Bible in the background.My friend, was a bit put off. He let me know that he was willing to be there for me, in spite of having other duties, and that prayer like I wanted wasn't normally his thing.

(I'll remember that.) I hate child abuse. All of this post is an example of the fallout from bailing out on the children you sire. It is the father, not the mother that seems to have the strongest influence on the kids. With chemical assistance, I'm reclaiming my sanity. I'll be easily tired for a few days, but the hysterical, non-stop crying has stopped.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Lesson in Humility (again).

I want to introduce you all to an excellent blog and pod cast, both by MacPhilly.
blog: Metroman
Pod Cast: MacNation: Almost Live! (formally: MacPhilly: Almost Live!) Subscribe via iTunes.

Both brought to you by MacPhilly. Like CyberGal, MacPhilly is multi-faciseted, humorous and very smart. His creativity lies in bringing something entirely new into the world. My creativity lies in taking something already in the world and discovering its limits. When I meet people from the East Coast, we all know the rules of this game and I intuitively understand the clues involved in who is King of the Mountain. I've been in California too long. Here, my natural tendency to push people - to see what they are made of causes an immediate submissive gesture. I've had to learn the hard way, that California ain't anything like New York. I also forget that a man doesn't take challenge the same way most women do. At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned personal growth and regression... I took a few steps back to re-visit that wonderful lesson called HUMILITY! (again.)

I've only met one other person willing to stand up to me. She is a scrapper, born in the Projects. (I've lived in the middle ghetto, but never experienced the insanity of the Projects.) My roommate and I had gone to bed early, as we had a heavy conference day ahead. The Scrapper came in and demanded we get up and have some fun. I protested that I was in a nightgown and didn't want to get dressed. She dared me to take it off. Friends, I will always take a dare, unless it is dangerous, or illegal. I'm just like that. My roommate started laughing, because she is like me, but had the sense to remain quiet while others made fools of themselves.
I jumped out of bed, shed that nightgown, and revealed my birthday suit in all its overweight glory. I turned my back to The Scrapper, spread my cheeks and started crooning "Moon Over Miami". I fully expected The Scrapper to collapse in laughter, giving me a win by default. Boy, was I wrong!

She had a camera with her and began taking pictures! She claims she 'lost' that throw away camera. But CybeerGal knows that, when I become internationally famous: those pictures will magically appear! After all, Jesus said, what you do in the dark, will be shouted from the rooftops... I ended up collapsing in laughter and The Scrapper won that round.Returning to the present, MacPhilly has a very good blog. He said he'd post periodically. I like his work and after 31 days of waiting, I decided a bit of New York persuasion was in order. I fired off an email telling him to sit his fanny down and start blogging. I also indicated that I was doing a public service for all his other fans. Since I sent him a private email, he responded in kind, politely protesting that I was 'pushy'. (This was the first of several indications that I was biting off more than I could chew). I don't get subtle, so I ignored the gentle warning and wrote back that it was a New York Nugde. It was also my cat-and-mouse style of exploring what someone is really made of. Can I push them around?

Returning to his blog, he responded publically to me stating that I'd 'blasted' him, but that I'd won '...this time'. (This was the seconnd, less subtle attempt to let me know that MacPhilly is also a force to be reckoned with.) This time, I realized he was indicating that there might be another time, where he wouldn't be so nice... I figured I could take him to the mat, but didn't really want to, as I like and respect him. I laughed the whole thing off and we both went on with our lives.

His life circumstances took several unexpected turns and he blogged on his religious beliefs, parenting philosophy and marriage. I was very happy to have more of his talent to enjoy. So, I knew I was right to prod him into further creativity. By now, I'd started my own blog. Life is / was great. MacPhilly has three daughters and has made a decision to learn female things, along with all the male things he's learned throughout his life. He is secure in who he is.

When it comes to my female-ness, I am completely insecure. I didn't even begin to relate to it at all until about two years ago. I know more about sanding, nailing, raking and mopping, then I do about being a girl. I just can't work up an interest in it. I'm clueless at the makeup, or fragrance counter, but am at home in a hardware store. I feel guilty about this, like I'm missing something. So, when MacPhilly decided to go into painful (for me) detail on how to do a manicure and seriously care for chapped hands, I was on the defensive. Then he took me totally over the edge, ending his blog with: 'Remember, only use an emory board in one direction'. I reacted.

I had no female mentor, so when I had a hangnail, I'd chew it off and keep going. When I had the run-the-nylon problem, I bought a small steel nail file. What a waste of money, to get those popsicle sticks with sand grit on them. I've had my nail file for ten years and it still works just fine. I figured a nail is just a very thin piece of wood and I would sand it down. (Wearing nail polish did break me of chewing on my nails.) Well, by God, I was a registered blogger and I sure

had something to say...

MacPhilly has reproduced my comments along with his finely crafted response on his latest blog entry. I used humor, but I was absolutely intimidated. This is an example of 'ask a sarcastic question, and you might just get an answer...' I forgot a basic rule in human nature. When someone can type an entire page about how to care for nails and skin, you bet your butt, they know something. It was time to give CyberGal an education.

Holy Shit! (For those of you majoring in Cosmetology, I think he covered the first semester...) My nails have 'layers', (you mean, like a wafer-cookie?) The free edge of the nail should be a mirror image of my cuticle (what's a cuticle? I thought that was one of those single-cell things we looked at in Biology.)

Proper Respect goes to MacPhilly, a pecking order is being established.

Have I learned not to push and prod...? Probably not.

Curiosity almost killed this cat
but satisfaction has brought me back.

I will be coming to Boston next Oct. to see the Ignobel Prizes at Harvard. If you give me a proper steak dinner, with a glass of pink Zin, and a great chocolate desert, I'll be glad to help you out with the BMW.