Where have I been the last few months? I’ve been depressed. I still am, but I’m doing better now than I was. It was bad. It started in December and peaked in February I think. Between crazy workload issues and packing and moving and selling the house and renovations and migraines and awful migraine prevention meds and Duncan dying and other stuff I just got overwhelmed and anxious and then I couldn’t sleep and I would wake up in the middle of the night and worry for hours. And you know how that goes, it’s always catastrophizing, imagining the worst things that could happen. And everything just kept getting worse with the lack of sleep and the anxiety and the exhaustion and the cumulative effects of everything.
In February I started antidepressants. Within a few weeks I noticed a pretty significant improvement. I’ve increased the dosage a couple of times since, but the depression seems to have plateaued. I’m a 12 on the depression scale, if that means anything to you (I was an 18 initially). Last week my doctor added sleeping pills to the mix, and that seems to be making a difference. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in six months, and now I’ve had seven of them in a row. I see two benefits: 1) I’m not exhausted, and 2) I don’t lie awake for hours stressing about work.
Anyway. Depression’s a weird thing, isn’t it? I always thought I wasn’t prone to it, but I guess that’s changed. This is my third depression. I had one bout as a teenager, and this is my second middle-aged depression.
At its worst it was really bad. I got to the point where I couldn’t handle anything else, so I was literally not opening my mail or paying my bills or answering my phone. My memory was completely shot. Even writing things down so I wouldn’t forget them felt complicated. I couldn’t keep lists. Everything felt overwhelmingly hard. I could feel gravity tugging at my face – it was an actual physical sensation. I literally felt myself aging. I cried a lot – many times a day.
GC was very supportive, of course. He was there for me, he made food, he didn’t tell me to cheer up, he took care of things.
It’s actually pretty amazing that I kept working. But I had a project I was very committed to, and that project had a looming deadline. (“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell.)
When I went off antidepressants several years ago, I said I would never take them again because of the difficulties I had with withdrawal symptoms. But you know what? This February I knew I needed them, and I didn’t hesitate. I wanted them. I have no regrets. I’d rather take antidepressants than feel that dying wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Here are some of the things we got and did at the Great Glebe Garage Sale yesterday:
- An authentic persian rug, 4×6, for $25
- A pretty leash for Rosie for $1
- 2 gorgeous light switch plates, painted with birds, 50 cents each
- 5 books for $5
- 2 sweatshirts and a t-shirt for $10 (yes I overpaid, but I loved the colours)
- An antique photo album of cabinet photos, most of which were ordinary but one of which had an antique bicycle, for $15
- A laptop case for $5
- A scarf for a nickel
- A stretching lesson for a handful of change (proceeds to Uganda)
- A pair of earrings made out of beer bottle caps for $5 (proceeds to Uganda)
- GC played a song on a Seagull guitar – it was filmed and he’ll be entered into a draw to win the guitar (free)
- The book Annabelle by Kathleen Winter – thanks to Bonnie and Len. (We ran into them early in the day and I mentioned I was looking for that book – I never found it, but when I got home there was a message from Bonnie saying she found me a copy!)
But our favourite thing of all?
Three pieces of advice for $1.50. We had to wait in line because these kids were in hot demand. We eavesdropped on the advice they gave the woman ahead of us, and it was good.
“Never be afraid to tell a guy you like him. Just go up to him and tell him you like him and ask him if he wants to go do something with you. He’ll like it. He’ll like you even more because you had the courage to do that.”
We were impressed not only by the caliber of the advice, but also by the confidence with which it was delivered.
Then it was our turn.
“We have three grown-up kids,” I said. “We want grandchildren, but none of our kids seem to want to have kids. What should we do?”
Girl: “How old are your kids?”
Me: “Twenty-three, twenty-five and thirty-one.”
Girl: “Okay, leave the twenty-three year old and the twenty-five year old alone for awhile. But the thirty-one year old: you could tell him some of the great things about having kids.”
Me: “Like what?”
Boy 1: “Like they’re fun….and they can help around the house.”
Boy 2: “Not when they’re babies.”
Girl: “No, but babies are cute.”
Boy 1: “And you could offer to help with the things that aren’t so cute or fun, like diapers.”
Girl: “Just focus on the positive. Like why kids are great and why they would make his life even better.”
Me: “Okay, thanks. I’ll try that. GC is going to ask the next question.”
GC: “My favourite colour is yellow and I’d really like to wear it, but it doesn’t look good on me. What should I do?”
They answered this question as if they get asked it all the time.
Boy 1: “Wear yellow undies.”
Girl: “Wear splashes of yellow, little pops of yellow. Accessories. Like a yellow handkerchief, yellow buttons or a yellow tie.”
Me: “You guys are really good at this. Here’s 50 more cents. Can you just give us some general advice?”
Girl: “Of course. Never give up. Just keep on trying. If life knocks you down, get right back up, dust yourself off, and try a different approach. If you don’t give up, sooner or later you’ll reach your goal. Here. Have a cookie.”
We asked them how they came up with the idea to set up an advice booth in a sea of lemonade stands. Turns out they got it from Peanuts. It’s modelled after Lucy’s 5-cent Psychiatric Help booth.
They charge more than Lucy, but their advice is better and it comes with a free cookie. I took their picture and told them that if I ever had grandchildren I hoped they’d be just like them.
So I kind of got busy there for awhile and didn’t write much about what was going on. Among other things, we fixed up my house and put it on the market. By fixed up, I mean painted the inside from head to toe, re-faced the kitchen cabinets, replaced the kitchen floor, refinished the hardwood floors, replaced the toilet and vanity in the bathroom, and fixed damage that the pets had done. And when I say we did all that, I mean we paid other people to do it, which is still a lot of work.
We then put it on the market, and a week later it sold. (It wasn’t quite that simple: there were negotiations, a home inspection, an issue with the insulation in the attic, wringing of hands, rolling of eyes, and writing of cheques to guys in Haz-mat suits.)
But as of April 25th, it will officially belong to somebody else. I have kind of mixed feelings about it. The house was nothing fancy, just your basic, down-to-earth working class house. Still, it suited me…I always felt that that house and I had a lot in common, including being of the same vintage. But once I started packing and moving and fixing it up and getting out, I just wanted someone to buy it so I could get the whole thing over with.
Anyway. It was a good house and I was happy there. I hope the new people are happy in it too. I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks of houses as having a kind of karma or character. Like…if you move into a house in which a miserable family lived, and where there was violence and abuse, I wonder if that energy somehow lingers in the house. (I’m tempted to delete that, because it sounds crazy. But even if I don’t *think* it’s true, I *feel* that it is. So I’m leaving it.)
I got an advance copy of Gender Failure, by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon. It’s not quite available in the stores yet, but it’s coming soon and I urge you to get yourself a copy. It’s an extraordinary book.
I loved the show Gender Failure so I knew before reading it that I’d love the book. The book is just like the show except it’s got a bunch of extra goodies.
Ivan and Rae take turns telling stories about their experiences of being trans throughout their lives. Some of the stories were illuminating, like “How to Be Gay When the Gays Won’t Have You.” Some were laugh-out-loud funny, like “A Cautionary Tale.” And some were burst-into-tears sad, like “Rosie.” (If you saw someone weeping into a book on the #95 during the morning commute last Monday, that was probably me, reading “Rosie.”)
Gender identity can be complicated stuff. What I admire most about Ivan and Rae is how they find the right balance – they don’t over-explain and they don’t oversimplify. They’re educational without ever being teachy. Storytelling is the perfect medium for humanizing theory.
I think the key to their success lies in their unflinching honesty. They have the guts to put their own naked truth on the page, and to resist the temptation to cloak it in extra words. There is something, I think, in all of us that recognizes and responds to the raw, naked, truth when we see it. I think it brings out the best in us – maybe our own raw vulnerable nuggets of humanity.
Anyway. Extraordinary book, and highly readable too. I recommend it to anyone who loves good writing and good storytelling, especially if you have an interest in trans issues but even if you don’t. Five stars, two thumbs up, worth a second read.
Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon will be in Ottawa on April 25th at the Ottawa Writers Festival. Details here
. Visit Arsenal Pulp Press
for more information about the book.
First picture of Duncan (OHS 2008)
I have such sad news to share with you.
Duncan Donut, the Glorious Dogcat, the big old Puddin’head, the best cat ever…Duncan died on Thursday afternoon. I know some of you were very fond of Duncan, and I’m so sorry.
He was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease a couple of years ago, but he weathered it pretty well. It was a gradual descent, and he was a trooper. He really only declined sharply in the few days before his death. On Thursday we took him to Dr. Hughes, and she said we could either throw everything at him in terms of treatment and hope for the best, or we could let him go. We decided to let him go. GC and my son and I were all stroking him and crying when he died. Dr. Hughes was sad too.
Duncan deserves a kick-ass memorial blog post, but I don’t feel I can do him justice right now. So I’m just going to link to some old blog posts about him, and share some pictures.
With the Zoom Blanket
Moving day – February 2014
Tank Top Tuesday
Snoozing with GC
Snoozing with Zoom
Duncan always loved bath time
Playing with yarn
Helping block a sweater
Just hanging out
Duncan in a sunbeam
So we moved! It was stressful, as moving always is, and we’re still digging out from under all the boxes, but at least the move is behind us.
The movers were great. We’d never heard of them but they worked hard and fast, they were friendly and nice, they treated our stuff and our home with respect, and they charged less than half of what we were quoted by the other moving companies we talked to.
Here’s my favourite line of the day:
The mover was taking the legs off a table to make it fit better into the moving van.
“Will you be putting the legs back on when we get to the other house?” asked GC.
“I can do whatever you want,” the mover replied. “I can even make you soup if you want.”
You know what? I don’t care how scattered or stressed I am, how many hours of sleep I have lost to insomnia, how many IQ points I have lost to meds, or how bloody awful I look and feel. The moving truck is pulling up to my front door in an hour and 19 minutes. In about 8 hours the move will be over. I will be able to stop dismantling my life and start putting it all back together again. Life will start to get better again. Right?
My neurologist switched me to daily Topamax for migraine prevention a couple of months ago. Topamax is an anti-seizure medication. At first it didn’t work. I had a non-stop headache for weeks. But then the headache went away. I haven’t had a migraine for a few weeks now, which is nice. But I still have the Topamax side effects.
The big one is cognitive impairment. One of Topamax’s nicknames is Dopamax, because it makes you dopey.
I have very little working memory. I can’t keep anything in mind long enough to make good use of it. I also have trouble with reading comprehension. Things I would normally figure out quickly – like instructions aimed at average people – leave me frustrated, because I forget the first part before I get to the end. I have to keep starting over. Everything seems too complicated, even things that I know aren’t complicated.
Then there’s the place in my brain where I store useful information, like passwords, phone numbers, names, and everyday words. This information is only intermittently available now.
I struggle with seeing how things relate to each other. I can only look at one thing at a time. I can look at one sentence, one object, or one idea, the simpler the better. I have a hard time trying to grasp the big picture, anything in a larger context, anything in motion.
I also struggle to explain things, or to ask a simple question. Writing takes much longer than it used to, and speaking is downright clumsy.
I used to be a morning person. Since I was sharpest in the morning, I’d plan my day accordingly. I’d use my mornings for things that required the most creativity or brain power, and my afternoons for other things. I’m no longer a morning person. I wake up exhausted and mentally sluggish, like my brain is full of glue, and I go downhill from there.
Also, I look like shit.
I know my impairment is noticeable to other people, too. Strangers are treating me differently. People who work in customer service are taking more time with me, they’re slowing down and explaining things to me, they’re offering to write things down for me. I think this is great. While it’s distressing for me to be noticeably ‘slow’, it’s reassuring that other people are accommodating my needs as required, and not being jerks about it. (Ironically, the exception is my neurologist, who kept me waiting for 45 minutes, then rushed me through my appointment and had no time for questions.)
The timing sucks. I need my brain to be working at full capacity – and then some – until the end of March. I’d rather have migraines than these side effects, but even if I were to stop taking Topamax today, it would take a couple of months to taper off, get rid of the side effects and get my brain back.
The neurologist says the side effects might go away on their own.
I’ve been crazy busy lately, at work and at home. The move is scheduled for February 1st, so I’ve been packing and decluttering and running stuff over to Value Village and throwing stuff out. (Remember that hair dye sample folder that I grabbed out of a hair stylist’s garbage five years ago and thought I’d make art out of it someday? Tomorrow is garbage day, and it’s on the curb.)
We’ve been meeting with real estate agents and contractors and movers and electricians and blind people (the sighted kind). GC has been learning how to install toilets and light fixtures and quarter round. We’ve been deciding on things like area rugs and light fixtures and blinds, and then second-guessing some of our decisions, and returning things.
Work has been insanely busy too, and will continue to be insanely busy until the end of March. The other day I found out that I will have to make a presentation at a conference in May, and I don’t even have time to panic about it even though I have a phobia of public speaking. I immediately scheduled myself for Toastmasters meetings on Thursdays at lunchtime so I can conquer my fear of public speaking by May.
Anyway, here’s something interesting. For about the last six weeks I’ve had a headache almost all the time. It’s a side effect of some medication I’ve been taking to prevent migraines. (The irony is not lost on me.) On Saturday night, GC and I decided to go out for dinner to celebrate six months of wedded bliss, using a gift certificate that a certain Dwarf and Woodland Creature gave us when we tied the proverbial knot. After enjoying a lovely dinner, we very carefully picked our way across the icy parking lot, and right in front of our car, I wiped out fast and hard. It was a two-part wipe-out. My legs flew up into the air, I landed flat on my back, and then my head smashed onto the ice.
I didn’t lose consciousness, but it was all very jarring. GC and several passers-by gathered around and urged me to stay put, and I didn’t feel like getting up anyway. Someone called an ambulance. (There were 40 calls for ambulances yesterday for people falling on ice.) I didn’t think I was hurt badly, just a little rattled, and after lying on a slab of ice for a few minutes I was shivering.
The paramedics arrived and sprinkled salt and sand and loaded me up and got me into the ambulance and once I was upright and warm I felt just fine, so I declined a ride to the hospital. At one point I noticed I was still clutching my fortune cookie fortune in my hand.
“What does it say?” asked the paramedic.
“When one door closes, another one opens,” I said.
“Hmmm,” she said. “It’d be better if it said ‘Watch your step.'”
You know what’s really cool? That headache that I’ve had most of the time for the past six weeks? I don’t have it today. I think that whack on the head cured me!
Let me just say this right upfront: I used to think bird people were a little odd. Bird people don’t hold a candle to bunny folk. I’m not naming names because I don’t know if bunny folk even know how odd they are. But ever since my charming little bunny, Ivan, came into my life, I’ve found myself crossing virtual paths with some awfully eccentric bunny folk. Maybe weird people are attracted to bunnies, or maybe spending time with bunnies turns people weird, but there’s clearly some sort of association, so I’m going to be keeping a very close eye on myself.
Sparkle wearing her engagement ring
I recently received an invitation to Sparkle’s Bridal Shower and Master Hope’s Stag Party
. I was too busy packing and renovating to go to a rabbit’s bridal shower. But this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things, and I try to give serious consideration to all once-in-a-lifetime things. Besides, it was a virtual party, so I only had to go as far as my couch.
It was a spa-themed shower, and this is a small representative sampling of the photos. There was music, food, gifts, videos, all kinds of interesting things.
The weirdest thing about bunny folk is not that they have pretend parties for their bunnies. (Where I come from – the land of guinea pig and groundhog people – that would actually be considered relatively normal.) The weirdest thing about bunny folk is that they talk bunny talk – and not just at bunny parties either.
Bunny talk looks like this:
“Twinkle ere, mez wanna toast da hoppy copule. Master hope yoz twreats ma twin sissy yike a princess anz ford dat mez lubs yoz. Sparkle yoz ib ma sissy we bins tagefether since birf mez lubs yoz wif alld ob ma heart. Ma wish ford da bof of yoz is dat yoz make eachoder smile ebery dez, makes eachoder laugh ebery dez, and shard a quiet momnet ebery dez ta tellz eachoder that yoz lubs dem. Raise yoz glass Cheers”
For some bunny folk, bunny talk is their language of choice. It’s their first language, the language they write in on Facebook. You can’t help but wonder if it’s what they speak out loud – at home, to their children, in bed, to their husbands, at work, at parent-teacher interviews, to the customer support technician at Rogers.
Anyway. As much as I adore Ivan, I don’t think I’m in imminent danger of becoming a weird bunny person. I have no ability, or even any urge, to speak bunny talk…although I have noticed that my comprehension is improving.
In other news, Judy (Robin’s Judy) came to visit during a whirlwind trip through Ottawa the other day, and look what she brought me! She made them herself! Bunny slippers! Aren’t they the sweetest things you’ve ever seen in your whole entire life? I love, love, love my bunny slippers. (And as you can see, Ivan likes my bunny slippers too.)