Impossible Things

I saw an old boyfriend when I was in Chicago. We went to Gibson’s on Rush Street for lunch. The Eggs Benedict were scrumptious and the chocolate mousse cake to die for.

Budanyway, he reminded me of the one time in my life I was overweight and how shocked he was I was able to take it off. (I’m not particularly disciplined and virtuous. If cigarettes and pills had calories….)

Two things contributed to my weight gain of forty pounds at the age of 48.

I’d been taking Zyprexa for a while. (You really don’t need another reason.)

And my meds were no longer effective in helping me sleep, so after a year without significant rest, I drank ten to twelve Cokes a day to stay awake at work. That’s like how many pounds of sugar a day, right?

My old beau asked me what I did to lose the weight. I told him I worked out 2 ½ hours a day, five days a week for four months (70 minutes aerobic, 20 minutes hitting a punching bag, 40 minutes doing weights, twenty minutes lunges, squats, and crunches). I didn’t eat much. Mostly peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing else.

Here’s a strange thing.

I’d been 5’-6 3/4 “ all my life. Every doctor appointment confirmed this was my precise height from sixteen years on.

After I lost the forty pounds, I went to a doctor. The nurse measured my height.

5’-7”.

I said, “You mean 5’-6 ¾”?

She said, “No. You’re 5’-7”.”

“No way. I’ve been five-six and three-quarter all my life.”

She measured me again.

5’-7”

And 5’-7” I’ve stayed for the last twelve years per the nurses at every doctor’s appointment.

The only thing I can figure is that all the working out and stretching somehow straightened my posture and spine to bring me up another ¼”.

I was delighted. I love when something good happens that’s supposed to be impossible.

***

Around the time I grew taller, I read an excellent paper on PTSD that used the term “encapsulation” to describe a PTSD symptom. It brought back a memory.

One beautiful summer’s night when I was twenty-eight, I stood out outside my apartment in Chicago’s Old Town, waiting for my friends to pick me up. The sun was nearly set. There was a breeze off the lake. I stood on the pavement and felt suddenly strange. I didn’t have the words or a concept for it back then, but now I can say I felt encapsulated—as if I were trapped inside an invisible, weightless container that removed me from directly experiencing my existence. My senses had been involuntarily put at a remove. I couldn’t snap out of it. This feeling came and went as the years went by.

I think now it was a combination of derealization (the world seems unreal) and depersonalization (detachment within from one’s mind or body or being a detached observer from oneself. Dreamlike.) I’d get triggered by something and slip into this remote state.

Both the ideas of being encapsulated and impossible growth inspired my book Nicky Chase: Man in a Fish Oil Pill. (I’m plugging something new!!!)

It’s a short novel written in the first person, which tells the story of me finding a tiny man in a fish oil pill and how Jack and I helped him break out of it and grow into his full stature. It’s a metaphor for the experience of PTSD and its healing. I think literally two people have read it. Impossible I know.

There’s true life stuff in it, too, about Jack and me when we lived in Chicago and my dear uncle Roy when he was still living in his house on the golf course in AZ. He died a week ago Friday at the age of 100. I feel so fortunate I was there with him when he took his last breath. I know he is on the links with my dad every day—on the other side.

I’m happy to say I do not feel encapsulated anymore. For better or worse, my senses are rarely at any remove. In fact, most of my blogs have to do with releasing the energy of overwhelming feeling.

 

***

Ode to the Cotton Bug IV

 

Oh Cotton Bug, Oh Cotton Bug,

I came home last night and found you were gone.

I thought the whirling, swirling, twirling carpet-cleaning machine took you to the Eternal Cotton Fields.

I can’t say I shed a tear.

I might’ve even said, “Good riddens.”

Today around eleven a.m.,

there you were again

crawling up the side of my white couch.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you were encapsulated.

I could set you on the cocktail table

to watch the last 37 episodes of the Kardashian show

in your little, plastic bubble, which I’d puncture with tiny holes so you could breathe and still experience something of existence–however removed.

But this is an impossible thing.

I gently picked you up with a Puff’s tissue and sent you whirling, swirling, twirling down the drain.

Goodbye Cotton Bug.

Goodbye.

an

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Sensory Overload

I came back to Chicago to bring Jack’s ashes to his niche.

Underneath my gross fatigue, I kind of feel like screaming.

After living in small suburbs outside Tucson and Phoenix this last year where everything was so quiet and relaxed, it’s a shock to the system to be back here. I’m staying in a hotel off Michigan Avenue. The lights, the crowds, the noise, the smells, the cars, the movement—my senses are bombarded. Doesn’t matter I lived downtown over 40 years. After one year in the quiet, I’m parrying the shocks like a boxer.

And then there’s the emotional aspect.

We left here a year ago last month with hopes and dreams of a new life living in the foothills of Tucson’s majestic mountains. We were so excited.

But that’s life, isn’t it? It doesn’t work out the way we’d like sometimes.

It’s the human condition.

We had a great eleven years together, the greatest years of my adult life. I’m so grateful for that. So much joy after decades of darkness.

Feels like an avalanche of memories accumulate with each block I walk and I can’t release the emotions fast enough.

It’s hard to feel so much. After years of living numb, emotions buried, it can be overwhelming. Make me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.

Oh yeah, I’m stealing from the late great Marvin Gaye!!!

Loved that album.

You know when I really got sensory overload? (Here comes the plug for my book.) When the meds stopped working and I got off them. I wrote about it in my memoir PTSD: Frozen in Time.

My senses became Super Senses. They were so exaggerated, everything hurt. The worst was the sense of smell. Everything with an odor made me literally feel like gagging (except cigs, go figure). All the smells I loved from baking brownies to bath soap to the balmy summer wind off the lake made me sick. It was pretty disabling. I couldn’t go anywhere without feeling like I was going to puke.

My vision hurt as if I had a constant migraine. I had to wear sunglasses in the apartment.

Sound hurt, which was ironic since I’m severely hard of hearing. A fork hitting the kitchen floor was torture. Jack wasn’t allowed to speak. He had to write me notes.

Since I felt like puking, I didn’t eat a lot. I can’t remember much now about how sensory overload effected my eating. I do recall how loud it was in my ear. I had to chew really slowly.

The worst was a pain in my head like someone with a metal letter opener was stabbing me through my ear drum

I kept all movement and experiencing of life to a minimum. Most of the time, I was prone on the couch in the den with my eyes closed.

Oh man, it was nuts. Poor Jack. I’d just moved in with him.

All this faded in time.

***

I’m glad I’m here taking care of business, taking Jack off my checking account and replacing him with my brother, changing power of attorney and health, etc.

But I’m too pooped to pop.

Couldn’t sleep more than a couple hours the last two nights.

Met with an old boyfriend today. Went to lunch at a restaurant/bar with the tastiest Eggs Benedict. Walked through the city to the train. Went to the suburb I grew up in.

So many memories.

I’m glad I’m not numb anymore.

But it hurts.

Make me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.

 

***

Ode to the Cotton Bug III

 Oh Cotton Bug, Oh Cotton Bug,

hello.

It’s me writing from Chicago.

I know you did not die

When the carpet cleaners came.

You crawled up the side of the white couch in your perennially-relaxed fashion

And watched the cleaners whisk through the room

from your perch on the top of the pillow.

You felt quite excellent.

Do you miss me? Or is it the Kardashian Marathon you miss?

It’s frustrating not to be able to manipulate the remote.

You’ve come to depend on me, haven’t you Cotton Bug?

Oh Cotton Bug, I must say this:

Move off the couch by the time I get home

Or you will die squashed inside a tissue in my fist.

 

***

The last few weeks were stressful. My uncle, age 100, was deteriorating fast. I’d visit him in the assisted-living facility every night and come home sad and exhausted. Much to my delight, I found Keeping Up with the Kardashians the perfect stress antidote. There’s been a marathon going in the run-up to the beginning of the 14th season.

It’s not only been a great fantasy distraction, it’s given me oodles of ideas for reducing stress. You might like to try some of these, too.

For instance, next time you’re down, do a photo shoot of yourself!!! Not for a magazine or family or anything, but because you’re an insane, amazing hottie. Plus, it’s so fun!!!! This is best done in St. Bart’s. Bible.

 

***

I was too tired to workout tonight, but writing helped calm me down. I’ll listen to Binaural Beats on my iPod in a little while. That usually helps me sleep.  Thanks for listening and so long from Sweet Home Chicago.

PTSD Teeth

I’m putting off working out so I thought I’d write a quick blog about PTSD teeth.

I wrote a short essay about them in my book PTSD: Frozen in Time (That’s an Amazon link. Elsewhere: https://www.books2read.com/u/m0zzRl)

One of the things I said was that, statistically, people with PTSD clench and grind their teeth more than the general population. Surprise, right?

I clenched my teeth while I slept for decades. Sometimes when I woke up, I’d have to pry my teeth apart with my hands. I only sporadically went to dentists so I didn’t have one watching my teeth slowly deteriorate over the years. If I had, theoretically s/he would have suggested I wear a tooth guard. Unfortunately, this wasn’t suggested until I was nearing fifty and my front teeth had become so thin at the bottom, they were breaking off into little square chips that cut the inside of my mouth. That hurt, so I’d take a nail file and try to smooth the jagged edges. You can see the result of my fine work in the before photo below!

 IMG_0698 (3)

Anyhoo, I got a tooth guard, some implants (ow!) and began seeing dentists regularly about twelve years ago. I didn’t think there was anything that could be done to fix my raggedy teeth. Then about a month ago, I went to my new dentist in Arizona and he said he could bond them.

I don’t know why my Chicago dentists didn’t come up with that idea, but I was thrilled and immediately booked a bonding appointment.

Here is my after picture. Yay! Isn’t it nice that some things can change?

 IMG_0700 (3)

Looks like I smoked two cigars between the first and second shots, but it’s just the lighting. Those two pics were taken within an hour and a half of each other.

I also wrote in my book that according to peeps on earthclinic.com, black walnut tincture can strengthen teeth. I used it regularly after I was 50. My teeth seemed to get better. They didn’t get any worse, for sure, and they stopped breaking off. I didn’t get any cavities for a decade either, so it didn’t hurt.

 

***

So…

…I guess I’m going to have to work out now. Wah!

Here’s a tip. If you increase your workouts to two hours a day (weights, aerobics, core, balance), you will not lose weight if you eat a lot more. As in Milano Cookies. Lots of Double Chocolate Milano Cookies.

 ***

Ode to the Cotton Bug II

Oh cotton bug, oh cotton bug, where have you gone?

I know you’re still here. I feel your cotton-bug spirit.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself a cozy nest in the millions of fibers of my living room carpet.

You seek warmth for you are in tune with the seasons.

You sense the winter coming.

Well so are the carpet cleaners.

This Friday.

Unless you leave my space in the next forty-eight hours, you will die.

Goodbye cotton bug.

Goodbye.

PTSD As a Label

Last week, I picked up Darrell Hammond’s memoir: God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked.

Oh man, what a life. Talk about a living hell. He doesn’t go on and on about his childhood abuse, but when he does go into detail, I had to skim. Trigger territory for me.

Becoming successful and somewhat famous on Saturday Night Live did not, of course, change his internal quality of life. Wherever you go, there you are—even if you’re making a lot more money and everybody knows your name.

He self-medicated with drugs and alcohol and was hospitalized many times. Doctors repeatedly told him he was suffering symptoms as an adult which were the result of childhood trauma. They compared it to that suffered by soldiers in war and molested children.

Hammond’s experience of life is chock full of PTSD symptoms. He’s like a textbook case, but he never uses the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” or “PTSD” in the whole book.

I thought that was strange.

It’s so clear he has it.

But he won’t say it.

I wondered why.

I’m just guessing here, but I thought maybe he doesn’t want to be labeled.

Sometimes a label can have the effect of stereotyping people, minimizing and reducing their experience, tying it up with a bow, sanitizing it, making it palatable.

But the experience of trauma is, in essence, indescribable—and childhood abuse can never be made palatable.

Hammond’s book is written so well, you really get a feeling for the dimensions of hell he lived through.

If you have PTSD, you know what he’s talking about.

 

Ode to the Cotton Bug

Ode to the Cotton Bug

 

Hello little cotton bug.

You look so sad and slow crawling on my kitchen floor tile.

Why don’t you run when you see me tower over you?

Do you not value your life?

Or is it because you are in despair and are past caring?

How long in cotton-bug years have you searched for the cotton fields, which once filled this land?

Ten cotton-bug years?

Twenty? A hundred?

Now the cotton fields are gone, replaced—at least in my vicinity—by an apartment complex.

Your paradise is lost.

At least in this dimension.

And yet, you are valued by one you do not know.

The lady in the management office asked that I not squash you with my shoe, but gently sweep you out the door instead.

Oh cotton bug, I am not so generous as she.

Do not come here. Stay in the wild. Close your eyes in the fresh earth, remember all time is now and return to your golden vista.

Or come inside and die.

 

I am very tired and still recuperating from caretaking Jack and the sort-of mental decimation I went through after his death. It’s like my I.Q. exploded into bits and half were blasted billions of miles into the universe. Day by day, one or two return. At least, I think they’re mine.

Grief wakes me in the night in the form of stomach pain, which is a drag. It goes away when I cry. I have to release buried energy or I’m in trouble. It’s interesting to me that even in sleep, sadness has a life of its own. Certainly my buried trauma energy didn’t go anywhere until I released it decades later.

I’m so tired, I’m not even going to advertise any of my books here! Now that’s tired.

S’long for now.